the best of times, the worst of times (and back again)
April 10, 2008
This morning had the fixins for being the perfect storm of perfectneses–12 inches of fluffy new snow up Little Cottonwood Canyon (on April 10th!); Kim wanted to hike and ski with me, so she arranged for the kids to get to school late; and a whole big crew of the dawn patrol was coming. It had epic written all over it (well, if epic means one 2500 foot shot in Scotties B0wl–maybe not epic, but certainly sweet).
Unfortunately, fate had other plans. Everybody met at the LCC parking lot, nobody was late, only Jon James bailed, the table was set, and cars started heading for White Pine. About a mile up the canyon, Jay realized she had left one of her socks on her front seat back in the parking lot. Oddly, nobody had a spare. Tyler and his brother pulled over and waited while we went back and got the sock.
I’m guessing that if Jay had known that the five minutes retrieving the sock would mean the difference between getting up the canyon, and being turned away because they were closing the road for avy control, she would have skied barefoot on one side. But she didn’t. I wonder if this was like when the mom at the beginning of Doomsday puts her child on the helicopter and then stays behind. Or when they weld the wall shut and that guy has his fingers in there. Maybe that’s overstating it a bit. (Read about Rick’s morning in Scottie’s here.)
How bad could it be? Little Cottonwood wasn’t the only canyon to get snow. We just turned around and drove to Big Cottonwood Canyon, halfway up, to the Spruces campground, to hike up Days Fork from below. I would call where I live the best place to live if we only had ONE cottonwood canyon. We get TWO.
So me, Kim, Jay, Tyler, and Tyler’s brother (Quin) headed up Days. But bad luck comes in threes, right? After about 45 minutes of skinning, Kim’s hip flexor started acting up. This has happened before, and once it gets bad, there’s nothing to be done. So just as we got to the base of the steep skinning up Days Draw, Kim had to bail. But, like the mom in Doomsday, she insisted that we go on.
From there, the skinning was incredibly steep, about as steep as I think I’m capable of, and the powder was very deep. But in conditions like that, the pain is a good hurt. About halfway up to the Reed Benson ridge, the sun came out. In April, that means it gets warm fast, and on fresh powder, that means the little red clock on the bomb starts counting down before the new snow starts heating up and moving.
We stopped a few hundred feet short of the ridge and de-skinned, smacking our lips for the tree powder shot below.
And then we hit it.
I exited the trees at the bottom first, then Jay, and we waited, wondering where Tyler and Quin were, since they both were much better skiers than Jay and me.Finally Tyler made his way out of the thick trees, visibly limping (can you can limp while you ski?). He had tumbled hard into a tree, and was bleeding from his hip.
After getting him to promise not to tell his wife that he was with me this morning, and that Quin had pushed him into the tree, we headed down, Tyler going first so we could make sure he made it down alive.
Was that three (unlucky things)? Oh, and my skis had developed a thick coating of ice, which then collected several inches of snow, which acted like a pretty good set of brakes. That sucked.
Which just goes to show, even when the backcountry is bad, it’s good. If I knew the same bad luck would happen in exactly the same way tomorrow, I would get up at 4:45 and do it again. Not sure if Kim or Tyler would though.
I’ll post the pictures that Quin took later (these are Tyler’s). Tyler is back from the hospital. So far, x-rays say no breaks or internal bleeding. Though I’m not sure you can see internal bleeding with an x-ray.