it’s like that
July 17, 2009
I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned in this space that I like to backcountry ski. I’m no mountaineer, or even a very talented skier, but I get out once or twice a week in the Winter. I’m also no safety expert, although I’ve never had an avalanche incident in the backcountry, and I’ve even taken a level 1 avalanche course.
Wait, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, backcountry skiing. So when you’re heading to the top of a mountain in Winter, you spend quite a bit of time on ridgelines. And ridgelines are often directly above places that are awesome to ski. But you don’t want to center punch a steep, powder covered slope without some beta. Cuz you might die.
Well, one way to get beta on a steep, powder covered slope is to drop a cornice on it.
You carefully ensure through the use of E.S.P. and sometimes by looking and yelling, that nobody is on or below the slope you’re looking at (natch), and then you just lift the cornice over your head, give it a little heave, and let it go, see what happens.
Ha ha ha ha. Okay, sorry. Anyway.
No, of course, you KICK the cornice off, or, if it’s really big (like, van, or bus sized), you get out a long length of cord, and SAW it off. Then you watch it fall on the slope below and see what happens.
Like this (photo stolen from here):
If the slope doesn’t avalanche when a bus cartwheels down it, it probably won’t slide when YOU ski down it. Probably.
What’s my point? Do I have a point? Well, sometimes, we’ll just be hiking along a ridge, and there will be a nice cornice just sitting there, minding its own business, and I’ll just kick it and make it fall. It won’t be doing anything to me, I might not even plan to ski the slope, but I’ll send the cornice down the hill, just the same.
Why? WHY would I ever do that?
Um. Just because. Cuz it’s fun to watch the cornice fall, and fun to see what happens to the slope below when the cornice explodes on it, and the snow slides.
You know what else can be fun in the backcountry? Especially when it’s not Winter, when it’s like 100 degrees outside, and you’re a 4 hour bike ride, or a 3 day wilderness hike from ANYWHERE (like, you know, away from climbing routes, or hiking trails, or other places where people have ever been or are ever likely to be)? Double especially when you’re on a ledge that overhangs by 20 feet, staring down into a remote horseshoe canyon that you can very clearly see the bottom of? And when there are big, cornice-like rocks just laying around, begging to be, er, nudged off the cliff? You know what’s fun then?
But you know what else it’s like? It’s kind of like drinking milk straight out of the jug. You know what I’m talking about, you eat a cookie, you gotta have some milk, there’s absolutely nobody around, you don’t feel like crossing the kitchen for a glass, so you just lift the jug and chug.
Sure it’s a little gross. Sure you don’t do it all the time.
But I bet you do it sometimes.
And here’s another way drinking milk from the jug is kind of like the rock/cliff thing–I’ll never do it again. When someone is watching.