So the summer snow hunt continues with the claim for the first riding day of the season on September 8th. Russel and I headed out to Mt. Hector to see if we could find any pow up high, and hopefully get some turns in. We didn’t get a summit in, nor did we get any powder, yet somehow our 12km day in the mountains (we stopped 1km short of the summit, as there were too many holes to really make the ride down worth the effort) gave us an awesome Sunday with a bunch of good laughs. The season is off to a good start.
I start giggling. Somehow the situation is just comical enough that the whole thing just gets me laughing. I stand up from where I had been perched beside the crevasse, camera in hand, and grin at my friend. Reaching down I pick up and then proceed to shake the red bull can upside down over my mouth in the off chance there is anything left. This is the kind of day that we lived for. I mean the take off sucked and the snow was garbage; all rutted out by the heavy summer rain. I glanced down the glacier, clouds were rolling in and out, the valley floor a couple kilometres below us drifting in and out of sight. Russ was likely right, the gap was bigger than you expected when you came flying down the slope in this low light that seemed to be always bordering on white out. Yet this was my idea, so I was still going to get the shot. After all, sometimes we go to the mountains for sunshine and great views. These days I go to purge my soul and abuse the body. So far the knee already hurt, so this seemed like the time to get on with fulfilling the first goal. I stomped back up the glacier as Russ crossed the thin bridge over the crevasse, setting up poles so I had a rough idea of the landing zone that I was aiming for. Goggles on, pack strapped tight, and then dropping in towards the abyss. Of course I did the same thing he did, I saw the gap, realized the error I had made in gauging my speed. A quick slash and a slide to a stop that had me teetering on the edge got me berated with a host of violent language from my companion on how I was an idiot. Now that I knew exactly where the edge was, I stomped back up the slope, board in one hand.
It’s in these moments where you find satori though. Here we were just around 9000ft; sitting on a rapidly vanishing glacier, a sea of floating ice that seemed to balance on thin stalks above the never ending abyss that revealed itself in gashes across the landscape. The holes varied from dips a few feet across, to gaps that could swallow buses at the top and hold planes in their depths. It changed ones perspective to see the terrain naked of its winter dress. This glacier has claimed lives in the past few years; unsuspecting skiers not knowing the depths that lurked below them. Here in the summer the sense of danger and the immensity of the place was more than apparent. In many ways made all the more bizarre that up here you get caught up in this strange dream world of swirling clouds and ice; the walls of rock on either side of the valley coming in and out of view. There is something ethereal out in these mountains that I can’t put a name to; and it is that that I keep coming back for. Today we had come hunting the opportunity for early season powder. We had been shut down, so as a great second option I had convinced Russ that airing crevasses would be a good time. So here we were.
That is where we get to satori. The moment where everything seems to slow down and your awareness fills up eternity. I take a few deep breaths and settle my mind. Buckles get tightened on on the right foot, left boot into binding, ratchet the bindings tight on the boot and then it is one last deep slow breath as I look down towards the launch point. I push myself up, shout a comment to Russ, and then point the board downhill. We have all been in that next instance. It is all feelings. I’m not thinking about timing the take off just right to get my nose up to clear the gap. There is no thought about whether or not I can speed check. In fact it is extremely quiet. That is just it. For one small moment everything is still and peaceful. Board and snow and me and a damn big hole to get over.
Then I am airborne, board clears the gap with space to spare, landing is clean and I crank a hard stop and give a shout of excitement. It is fist bumps, and some cheers, and then the confirmation that we got a good pic of the foolhardiness. Then we are off, cruising downhill amongst the cavernous mine field on our rutted snow. Riding in September within a couple hour drive from the city. Another ten minutes of navigating around holes and linking turns and we start getting splattered with rain as we reach the tail end of the glacier. Its time to break down boards and skis, rack everything on to bags and hike back down for 3km to get back to the car. A couple scree fields, some down-climbing by a waterfall, a chance to meander through a gorgeous mountain meadow. Sure, the lack of rest I have been giving my knee is going to mean that it hurts like hell on the way out. Yet somehow 15 minutes of snow and a hundred linked turns has made it entirely worth it. So as the rain comes down we make smart ass comments about gaiters, and harnesses. The dream is now. I guess it just comes down to how far you are willing to walk to find it.