Monday, June 30, 2008

Climbing Mt. Rainier

Kurt and his friend Mary are climbing Mt. Rainier right now, they should be leaving camp at midnight to summit. The weather is supposed to be awesome, a bit on the hot side. I can't wait to hear the trip report!

If you are curious about Mt. Rainier, check this site out. Its really cool, its a blog written by the rangers!

The last few days have been much needed hard core family days. And today was a total rest day. I may also rest tomorrow. I feel like my body needs it, or I may get into over-training mode, which is not fun, and totally unproductive. Its SO hard not to go outside and play, tho!!

Right now, I am looking for a used stand up paddle board to work out on in the reservoir and maybe take down the Madison. Anyone have one?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Primal Beer Quest

What did YOU do today? These guys went SKIING! They did some insane amount of laps up Sacajawea peak today, after skiing Slushmans on Tuesday and the Great One on Thursday.

Today, in honor of all those poor, exhausted suckers stumbling down Rouse on the way BACK to Big Sky, these four dudes went on a Primal Beer Quest!

Mobile Post: Ethan says HI!

Ethan says have a great day, he's helping me test my mobile Blogger!

Mobile Post: Bodhi in the Field

This is a mobile blogging test!


This morning, troubled as usual by all things financial, I walked out to my computer to continue listing stuff on ebay. I'm slowly accumulating funds to dig myself out of the hole I made by going to Mammoth, and Jakson... and... you get the picture... I have been hoping I can pull it together quick enough to make it to both sessions of Dave Lyon's race camp in August, as well as a trip to Aspen and a trip to Jackson in July. But it hasn't been looking good.

I sat down, opened my email and saw this message from PayPal:

"You have $xxx (insert insane, unbelivable amount of money here, exactly how much you need to catch up and pay all your medical bills!) donated to your training fund by This Lovely Person."

Thank you. Thank you so much for thinking of me, for sharing with me, for helping me achieve my goals, for helping me continue training with the folks I have to travel to to train, for being so incredibly giving. Thank you!!!

I feel so incredibly supported and well loved by my entire community, and it just makes me want to work harder to keep going! THANK YOU!!!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Climbing at Allenspur, near Pray, MT

Today was a very unusual day!

This morning, all the boys camped out on the couch together watching Power Rangers Turbo, the Movie, and then...

Tom and I went climbing together for the first time in eight years. It was unbelievably fun. We drove down to Livingston, and then headed toward Chico. We parked just over the river (which was at VERY high water, all the fields and part of the parking lot and road are flooded) and walked through a soggy field and past some beautiful horses, and then climbed up this very narrow, steep, scree filled climbers trail to the rock.

The rock is limestone, and it has such beautiful texture! It's pocketed by the run of, so it has all these little spurs you can stand on, the feet are plentiful! I led a 5.7 right off the bat, which I was psyched to do, it was my first time on a rope in, god, five years? And my first time in climbing shoes in about a year.

I top roped the 5.7 next to it, and then Tom led a beautiful 5.10b on an arrette around the corner, and I top roped it! I had to take a couple of times on the bottom, but then I linked a bunch of moves together, and kind of remembered how to climb! It was GREAT!

Tom climbed a couple more 5.10s around the corner, and I was psyched to try more, but my arm, where its still a little broken, was kind of sore from pulling on the rock, so I gave it a rest. We had an awesome, energetic hike out, and hopped in the car hot, soggy from the adventure in the flooded field, sunburnt, chalky and pumped! What a great feeling.

For more photos of Allenspur, click here!

More test driving of various and sundry broken body parts

I thought I'd truck up Kirk Hill and see if my knee could handle hiking up a steep pitch, as it did alright running on the flats for about 2 miles yesterday. I put on my iPod, cranked up this mix that I made for a friend of mine, and powered up the hill. It was a BEAUTIFUL evening, and I felt really good, but I started feeling my knee at the first vista point. I decided to keep going and see if it intensified, I really REALLY wanted to go all the way to the fire road, and then, if it felt good, do the full loop.

But I am trying TRYING to be conservative, and listen to my body so I don't over train, which I am prone to, especially when I have a performance jump, like I just did (which also often coincides with injury for some reason!)

So I turned around before the fire road and went home. I talked with a friend in need on the way down the hill, connecting again, which was lovely, and am sending good thoughts to them today: Hang in there, this too shall pass!

I'm off to go climbing with Tom at Allenspur today, its our first time climbing together in EIGHT years, we figured it out exactly. Incredible.

Have a beautiful day, go find your BLISS!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Mobile Post: Evening hike up Kirk Hill

Beautiful evening hike!

Welcome to Command Central

Testing mobile blogging From command central.

If they are coming at you and they look REALLY tired, cheer for them!

Greetings from Bridger Creek:

The Primal Quest is happening right now and coming to Bozeman. You may have seen bits of this on the sports page, but if you want to see the real story go to the official website map:

Imagine finding your toughest 3 friends to make a 3 man/1 woman team, pay a $10,000 entry fee and go on a 500 mile adventure race in the nearby mountains? Do you like orienteering, rock climbing, white water and mountain biking? Good. You’ll need all of those skills and more not to mention the ability to endure sleep deprivation and tired feet. The race is well underway and the top 2 teams have passed through Bozeman after starting at Lone Mountain, trekking to the Paradise Valley, then the Crazy Mountains, now down the spine of the Bridgers to the M and then through the Spanish Peaks to Ennis Lake, hence back to the point of origin at Big Sky. If you see some tired looking teams coming down the M, riding their bikes into town or on the Story Mill Spur trail headed south of town this weekend, cheer them on. They don’t call it adventure racing for nothing. One of the top teams had to scratch this morning and helicopter one of their teammates off the Bridger Ridge with acute tendonitis. Each team carries a GPS locator, so the teams actual position is shown on the website. Sounds like fun. Right?

Happy Trails,

Adventures in exercising after a couple a beers...

A friend of mine was out golfing all day in the sun. Drinking beers, playing golf, hangin'out. When he got home, he really felt like he needed to get some exercise, but he was a bit wasted.

He posed the question to me: Should I pass out on the couch, or go for a ride? (On a fire road, not in traffic)

My answer: If you are feeling sober enough to ride, you should go get some exercise!

A few hours later, this is what I got back:

So tonight we learned that I should have:

A) not tried to ride after drinks on the golf course
B) removed the clips
C) gone out on the cruiser bike instead

Took a few photos, most show snow, which totally justifies why the 1 hour uphill took way longer than that.

I downhilled through a wedding rehearsal (oops), I'm sure the photog got some shots of that as well.

You shouldn't stop the wedding party where they cannot be seen from above. I guess they don't know the code. . .

Angela skis the Gardiner Headwall - the hard way

Awww, unfortunately, with this resolution, you can't really see her. Its too bad, its a pretty sweeeet ski.

That little dot next to the cornice is Angela Patenode, she's going to drop down and ski the chute skiers right of the main headwall.

The snow is very very soft and deep, wet, so I made some edits where she had to pull up a couple of times and wait for about two minutes while all her surface slough (about 3 inches deep) moved past her.

Angela skis "Chicks that Rip" chute in the Beartooth Pass off Reefer Ridge.

In the Beartooth Pass, near Red Lodge, Montana, Angela Patenode skis the chutes off of Reefer Ridge. This is the chute to skier's right, which we've named "Chicks that Rip" chute.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Super Art Fight with Bodhi and Kate!

After watching 's awesome SuperArtFight at the Otto Bar, Bodhi and I have had our second Art Fight in two days! Video by his big brother, Ethan.

Day 4 of Beartooth Trip: In which we get a late start, and meet a ledgend!

Yes, I will eventually get this entire trip written up! Hang in there...

SO... when we last left our intrepid heros, they were laying around eating bonbons in bed and blogging rather than getting AFTER IT in the back country, thinking that the pass was closed... and, as you no DOUBT remember, we left you, perched precariously on the edge of your seat... Kurt comes running in... "The Pass Is OPEN!"

Cut to: dressed, car packed, hotel checked out of, in the truck, windows open, Grateful Dead playing, heading up into the glacial cut of the Beartooth Wilderness on the Red Lodge side...

We went up and got on the Gardiner Headwall at about 11, and skied it once, then moved over to the shallower aspect and skied there till about 2. It was frustrating, like skiing in cement that was setting up... it demanded absolute attention to touch, and the snow changed almost every three turns, so you better be paying attention!

It was, of course, truly spectacular. When I had been up there the year before, it was almost melted out, but the epic snow year we all had blanketed the Beartooths with beautiful, thick coverage, that teased you with its potential... but because we went straight from the dead of winter to summertime, we never got freezing temps at night, and therefore the snow is thick, grabby, wet, manky and challenging, not to mention prone to wet slides.

I had to talk my way through it in order to make any turns that made sense; concentrating hard on retracting my old outside leg to begin the next turn, steering strong through the whole turn, but nothing abrupt, and crossing my body over my skis slowly, patiently, let the tips seek the fall line while steering hard...

I got ahead of my skis several times, wanting to stay forward and keep moving down the hill, and it was VERY OBVIOUS that that tactic was too much in this snow. This, of course, is how I met Mr. Gary DeMille and Mike Taylor. Because I followed Kurt down this super slush fest, and he made these tiny little hoppy turns that looked so much more athletic and fun than the deep, waterski rooster tail, gonna die turns that I was struggling with, so I watched him carefully, and then thought I'd give it a try.

Well, the first eight turns WERE, indeed super fun. The next one right after that resulted in a full cartwheel on loose mank. The next two turns, same deal.

COMPLETELY soaked in snow and a bit dizzy from flipping upside down so many times in a row, I followed Kurt's laughing advice and meekly headed further out into the bowl where the snow was firmer, and made some fun turns down to these two characters laughing it up on the boot pack.

Kurt ended up further down the boot pack, and I started strapping my skis onto my pack, shaking my head at my ever optimistic outlook that if I really thought I could make those turns in that snow. "Man, it looked so easy when he was doing it, I forget that what it looks like when he skis it is not actually what it will feel like when I ski it." I said, sheepishly to the laughing characters.

"Well, YEAH, its hard when you are doin' it wrong." said one of them. This would be Gary DeMille, ladies and gentlemen. Sage of the snow. Just wait, there's more. This guy is absolutely prophetic, prolific, and likes to show off his belly button.

"Nice cartwheels, though, those were pretty." said the other one. This would be Mike Taylor. The ring leader. The Commander in Chief. The trouble maker.

Gary DeMille and Mike Taylor, ladies and gentlemen. The Lost Boys.

After a couple more laps, we ended up eating some incredible gourmet pizza and drinking beer at the top of the boot pack with the whole crew of Lost Boys, and I knew right then and there that Kurt and I had found the essence of skiing in Red Lodge, we had found the Lost Boys.

That night, after finagling our way into their Reefer Ridge shuttle and ski the next day, we headed down to Sam's Tap room for some of the best beer I've ever had anywhere, in an absolutely lovely, relaxing atmosphere.

Emily, 11 years old, a racer from Red Lodge, was tending bar and washing dishes with Ross, and lamenting the fact that we wouldn't take her on the Reefer run the next day (This little pistol is the future of women in skiing, I kid you not. She is beautiful, vivacious, and she RIPS. And she wants to hike and go fast. Ingrid Backstrom, watch your back, HERE SHE COMES!)

We sat on the back porch drinkin' beautiful beer, watching the sand volleyball, and getting ready for pizza at Natalies in town. It was a day full of perfect moments, good friends, and the promise of yet another great ski the next day!

Other Insane Women Exist

Check out this blog, this chick ROCKS. She's smart, insane, funny, and as addicted to training as you and I are!!

140.6 miles: An Ironman Training Journal

A girl who likens herself to a Water Buffalo (both in body type and disposition) trains for Ironman triathlons, attempts to become a gogo dancer in Manhattan, and generally tries to this life with the Blazeman spirit. You're invited along for the journey!

Super Art Fight!

Super Art Fight!, originally uploaded by KateHowe.

Bodhi and I watched Jamie Noguchi's Super Art Fight and then had one of our own. Bodhi remembered EVERY round, and we had to draw the same. It was SUPER fun!! Most of the words were written by Bodhi, 4 1/2.

Visit the Angry Zen Master Here!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Perfect Moment

I learned this from Spaulding Grey, an amazing actor, known for his role in The Killing Fields, but who truly shines in his monologue "Swimming to Cambodia" all about the insanity that was his experience going to work on the film.

During the monologue, Spaulding talks about "The Perfect Moment". He can't leave any country he travels to until he has a perfect moment. Its a moment when everything suddenly feels magical and right. He doesn't know if he will have his perfect moment right when he gets there, he may not have one for months. But he doesn't leave until he has one.

One of my favorite things to do is to acknowledge out loud when I have these perfect moments, because sometimes, you don't even realize you are having them until you look back on your day. But if you are really paying attention to what is going on in your day, you can find that it is littered with perfect moments of one sort or another. And sometimes, its pretty heady to realize that even when you're having money troubles, or relationship troubles, or whatever troubles, there are still these insanely bizarre moments when everything feels... right.

So now I try to share, out loud, when I have one, and its funny, because other people are doing this, as well, and its interesting to see when a bunch of us all simultaneously experience a perfect moment.

And then, at the end of your day, because you noticed you were having perfect moment, you have this beautiful collection of satisfying, fulfilling moments that you can flip through, like a picture book.

One of my new heroes who I just learned about, Stefano De Benedetti talks about the Perfect Moment in the movie Steep, and its incredible to hear.

"In the Perfect Moment, I was so concentrated there was no space fr other thoughts. When you want to make a turn, and you are at the top of a steep vertical wall, I mean, when you are in the situation that if you fall you die, everything changes. You think very much about turning. You think very much about WHERE to turn. And you do all this in a very special way.

You act like a different person.

You act with all your self.

You are making a completely different experience, and in some way, you are discovering yourself.

This is the magic of the mountain. You can except to die for this. You don't wanna to die. But to live so close to the possibility of dying, you understand what is really important, and what NOT.

And this makes you a better person. Its probably the highest moment of my life because in the perfect moment I was, or I felt to be, a little superman."

Thursday, December 14, 2006: ONE and a half years ago this was me.

Here is a blog post from one and a half years ago. I came across it looking for a photo of Tom from when we moved here, and thought, its really important to share the fact that I was overweight and unsure of myself ONLY one and a half years ago. That the struggle back to fitness took years and years. That AFTER this post, in January, I gave up on ever making it back to fitness. Then I started teaching at Bridger a month later, and my life turned around.

I failed to see that this period was NOT a demand: you will now be a victim of your mom body, but that it was a beautiful, natural time when my body accommodated the miracle of the two children that it grew, then nurtured. So eager to get back to feeling like an independent, healthy person, I was impatient with myself to get there. This article was my first step.

This year, I made a commitment that I would race in every Nordic race held at Bohart Ranch, an awesome cross country facility here in Bozeman. My idea was to do the 3k classic (in groomed tracks) and just to finish.

After having ballooned an awesome 80 pounds with my pregnancies, I have, for the last three years, been slowly whittling my weight back down to some semblance of personage I can recognize in the mirror.

Lets rewind a tad. A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away in a land called Truckee, lived a girl named Sue. This Sue was like a sparkplug on redbull. For fun and entertainment, she worked on the back country ski patrol, where, every weekend, she would climb this huge peak and ski down it twice in a day on her teli skis.

This insane bundle of never ending endorphine loving energy would also call me up at nine o’clock at night and say “Hey, wanna go for a ski?”

“Um, Sue, it’s night time.” And I am sitting on the couch eating lasagna and watching a movie with my boyfriend…

“I know, get your headlamp. I’m almost at your house, I’ll be there in five minutes.”

Crap. So I would, much to Tom’s amusement, haul my ever spreading tush off my mother’s couch in the cabin in the woods where we lived, and get my gear on. Then I’d slip and slide my way out to Sue’s car and load my crap in and off we’d go.

Now this part is important: I love Sue. I look up to Sue. I want Sue to want to hang out with me. Therefore it is important that Sue believe I am up for insane crap like this. So I smiled and pretended to be an adrenaline junkie as we strapped on our skis on a full moon night on some fire road out in the Sierras.

We’d take off, my mom’s dog (who was staying with us) galumphing happily along, my headlamp unnecessary lots of times. The night was silent, the moonlight incredible, the snow soft and shushing under my skis. We’d start out together, getting the oil flowing in the joints, chat a bit and then slowly hit our strides. Sue, though a good three feet shorter than me (just kidding, but MAN it seems unfair) is more than three times as fast as I am, no matter how thin or strong I am. She is also a bit like the Energizer bunny. Yes, she keeps going and going and going…

She’d glide away in the moonlight and then return fifteen minutes later, checking in on me, and then take off again. In this way she taught me to love to ski by myself, that my own accolades are enough for me, and that I can do it. I have to do it at my pace, and practice will eventually put me in the middle of the pack, but I can do it.

When we first moved here, I couldn’t get Sue out of my head. I started hiking again, on about 15 or 20 of the over 260 trails in the Bozeman Area, and for a while there, I was hiking about 30 miles a week. I had to start with one. It was hard, slow, and I was out of shape. In a month, I could make it to the fire road at the top of Kirk hill.

A week later, my hiking buddies, Virginia and Liat and I all decided to find out where the fire road went. Five hours later, we emerged three canyons over and called Tom for a pick up. Two weeks later, we doubled that distance without much effort.

So last weekend, I figured, if I can hike 11 miles in a go, I can ski about 2! I got to the race, and found out that there wasn’t enough snow for a classic track, so I would be skating. Now, um, I suck at skating. All my Nordic experience is either in tracks, cutting tracks, or following in Sue’s tracks. And skate skis are VERY different than my little classic skis. Anyhow. Too late now. I pulled on my racing jersey and watched all the seven and eight year olds strip down into their bright red Swix racing suits and warm up. These kids (the BSF Nordic Racing team) kick some serious booty. They are fast, sleek, confident and have great form. I, on the other hand, fell over on my way to the outhouse.

Another alarming realization was that the 1 and 3k were for the kids, and I would need to be in the 5 or 10k. Okay. So now I am in the 5k, skating on classic skis, my giant wobbly mom’s butt jiggling along behind me.

The entire MSU Nordic team lined up on the line. There were about five other women over college age racing, most in the 10k, all in racing suits, all but one about 10% body fat. I lined up anyway. Sue would. She doesn’t care how big her butt is. She just wants to ski.

The race official yelled “Okay, don’t get lost.” Suddenly, I panicked. Wasn’t the course marked? Was the 10k two laps or one? Was the 5k a different course? Ahhhh! Too late “On your mark, Three, Two, One, GO!” Everyone blasted off the line in a beautiful example of skate efficiency. I polled my way behind them, and after the first thirty feet, was a good five feet behind. I kept going anyway. Sue would.

Long story short, it was a beautiful day. It was great to be out on the snow. And it was good that Sue had taught me it was okay to ski on my own, because after about 2 minutes, I couldn’t see a single living soul.

Eventually, I came across some spectators who were watching the 10kers head back toward the lodge, and I asked if I was on the right track. “Keep goin!” they yelled, and waived encouragingly at me. They probably would have thought I was just out for a ski if it wasn’t for the dead giveaway of the tiny racing jersey stretched over my non-racing body.

“Great, thanks!” I called, and continued on up the hill. After about 20 minutes, the 10kers lapped me. It was great, it gave me a chance to have a little Sue-like company, try to emulate their stride (as I had slowed down with no one pushing me and wasn’t really trying to skate anymore, just sort of doing a fast, sloppy classic to get around), and I got to say hi to my neighbor, Wess, who was doing the 10k.

I finished. And that was really the point. They were pulling up the marker flags as I finally rounded the last bend. The entire field had lined up at the finish line because that’s where they were going to hold the raffle, and as I came into view, people started to cheer. I couldn’t believe it. They called out “Good job!” “Almost there!” “Keep going!” and “Yeah!!” and I put a little speed on it and finished the race, about 20 minutes behind the last 10ker.

Name Distance Class Gender Time Place
Gretchen Sellegren 5 J1 F 0:19:41 1
Jenny Kauffman 5 J1 F 0:19:48 2
Jenna Hjalmarsson 5 J1 F 0:20:14 3
Maggie Hickman 5 J2 F 0:20:20 1
Reesa Pierce 5 J2 F 0:20:36 2
Johanna Rydell 5 J2 F 0:21:03 3
Kara Baldwin 5 J2 F DNF 4
Nikki Kimball 5 M1 F 0:16:16 1

Kate Howe 5 M1 F 0:46:39 2

Grethe-Lise Hagensen 5 M2 F 0:16:14 1
Shaun Dunnegan 5 M2 F 0:20:50 2
Brigitte Morris 5 M2 F 0:29:02 3
Kristin Wimberg 5 M3 F 0:21:43 1
Jamie Woelk 5 OJ F 0:15:43 1
Korie Steitz 5 OJ F 0:16:33 2
Claire Rennie 5 S F 0:15:42 1
Mandy Bowden 5 S F 0:15:44 2
Rachel Goldstein 5 S F 0:16:51 4
Frasier Opel 5 S F 0:16:55 5
Karoline Teien 5 S F 0:17:38 6
Maggie Casey 5 S F 0:17:39 7
Kelan Ramey 5 S F 0:18:27 8
Kalen Stanfill 5 S F 0:18:28 9
Becca Kurdnic 5 S F 0:19:12 10
Laura Tuttle 5 S F 0:20:08 11
Allie Phillips 5 S F 0:20:24 12
Ashley Kirchhoff 5 S F 0:23:25 13
Tanner Wiegand 5 J2 M 0:16:44 1
Akeo Maifeld-Carucci 5 J3 M 0:16:46 2
Jack Harris 5 S M 0:15:16 1
Jay Rutherford 5 S M 0:19:20 2

I drank my Gatorade, and stayed for the raffle, where I won a pair of Ear Bags (ingenious little ear warmers), and felt good going home, knowing I had done what I set out to do. I had entered, and completed, my first Nordic race. And on the way home, I thought, I am so glad I had a Sue. And now I can be a Sue for someone else. And they can be a Sue for someone else. And eventually, we will all be off the couch, and out in the deep snow in the moonlight, enjoying the cold air and endorphins and the excitement of being out and doing while the rest of the world is missing it.

Happy Trails,


Monday, June 23, 2008

Duck Pond Heaven

Today was another incredible day in Bozeman, which sometimes fees like the land of bliss. Its so idyllic here, its ridiculous. Tom and I have been talking a lot about how strange it is that our home is so beautiful, our kids are so happy, his job is so good, my job is so fulfilling, and yet, there is still so much struggle and difficulty, disconnect and pain.

The very soothing thing about all this is that no matter what, we do have a deep and definite friendship which keeps us trying to help each other. Neither of us are sure what that means, or where we will be in three weeks, three months, or a year. But we muddle through.

In the mean time, there are heavenly moments for each of us in our lives: Tom went out climbing and found his bliss on Saturday while the boys and I played in the sunshine, and I went out and skied the steeps with Angela and enjoyed some truth and connection with her, feeling grateful to be real and connect on a deeper level with a truly beautiful woman who I admire so much.

Today, there was a different kind of bliss amidst the confusion that is regular every day life, the boys and my sister and I went to the duck pond and fed the ducks. There was laughy taffy involved. There was chasing of animals who flew and splashed. There was fort building in the trees. There was peace for a moment.

Thanks, Liat for the BEAUTIFUL photos!!!

The Rebirth of Tom

Here is living proof that no matter how hard life kicks you in the teeth you can become the person you want to be. Tom is climbing again!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Another beautiful day in our back yard.

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Day 3 of Beartooth Trip, Continued: In which we hike up the pass just for fun...

Bellies full, we drove on up the road toward the pass, following Rabid Noah and his Kite. My arm was killing me, and I had a stash of Oxycodone with me (which I like to travel with, being accident prone as I am...) and some Ibuprofen, so we started with the little guns, and pulled up to the gate, which was closed. We hopped out and Kurt started walking, and I figured, you know, we are gonna go wander around up here for a little bit... forgetting, of course, that I was with someone who thinks nothing of climbing a huge mountain, doing laps on it, and then gets home and walks to Yoga... you know, right, The Kurtinator...

It was a beautiful walk, and its funny, I felt that petulant child inside of me wanting to whine "But I did so well earlier, we already hiked, why are we walking... wahhhh!" and the rest of me going, "This feels really nice! I would never have thought of this. Shut up, whiny part, lets enjoy this!" I think I may be in the process of slaughtering old childhood demons one at a time...

We hiked up and up and up the road, into the huge snowbanks, and Kurt was seized with the idea of drawing some intelligent political slogans into the snowbanks so that when the pass DID open, all the world could feel the sting of his intellect... yes, it does indeed say "George Bush Sucks Donkey Balls"...

After quite a ways, we caught sight of Noah riding his kite, it was pretty cool to watch him work his way up one side of the hill and then disappear over the other side, he was obviously having a ball... Kurt made the observation that this isn't really a sport you can do all together with your friends, I mean, you'd never see a big group of people all kiting together, imagining the mayhem of tangled strings and crashes was enough to bag that idea... so its a solitary sport, but it looks like a fun one!

We were thinking of walking all the way to the other side of the pass, but it was pretty far, so we made a new plan, to turn around and drive the round about way to Red Lodge via the Chief Joseph highway. We figured we'd roll into town and ski on the Red Lodge side early in the morning.

I am SO glad the gate was closed, the scenery on the Chief Joseph highway was truly spectacular. This is where the battle of the Nez Pierce was fought, in this majestic, rugged and fantastic place. We stopped at a couple of the overlooks and looked out into the gorge, with beautiful rock, by the way, it looks like a spectacular place to climb. The weather couldn't have been better, we'd been cold for days, and it was sunny, warm, shorts weather! It took us a couple of hours to drive around this way, and it was absolutely worth it.

We got into Red Lodge in the late afternoon, scouted the campsites, and visited the Chamber of Commerce to get an update on the pass opening.

Apparently, there had been a very large avalanche/landslide the night before, which covered three layers of road and ripped out some guard rail. The woman at the chamber told us that the last time there was an avalanche that size, the road was closed for the whole season, as it ripped out a portion of the actual road as well. But she offered us a nice place to go ATVing, and a free Frisbee.

We spent some time hanging out in the chamber, looking at the maps (Kurt is a bit of a map fiend... we managed to end up with quite a collection by the end of the trip), talking about where we WOULD ski if we COULD ski... but sadness. What should we do? We were fairly certain that there would be no skiing the next day.

We wandered around Red Lodge, which is an incredible town, taking photos of the old houses, none of which are too ostentatious, all of which are charming, you can see the ski hill, Red Lodge Mountain, right from the town (That's where I did my level 2 certification last year, its HUGE and very fun, I've heard its even more fun when the back side is open.)

The campsites were a bit swampy, so we settled for an Inn with Pool, ordered Chinese Food and watched the Blizzard of Ahhhs! Its the first time I've ever seen it all the way through, I've only caught snippets here and there. It was, in a word, AWESOME. The skiing was amazing, and the history of the film itself is pretty cool. Everyone my age who is a skier was totally taken by the throat with this movie, everyone knows where they were when they saw it the first time. It was, and is, pretty revolutionary in the ski industry.

I slept late the next morning, thinking there was no way we were going to ski, only to find out at ten that the pass was open early that morning!!

More photos of the Chief Joseph Drive through the Sunlight Valley
More photos of Red Lodge and the Pass, including the Glacier Cut of the Valley

More photos from the Cooke City side of the Pass

Friday, June 20, 2008

Day 3 of Beartooth Trip: in which we ski the beartooth plateau and i break my arm

That night, I didn't sleep at all. Who knows why, but I tossed and turned until 3 or so, and the alarm went off at 4:45am. UGH. That was the second night in a row that I randomly couldn't fall asleep, so... suck it up, there's skiing to be done! I was hopeful and excited about the snow, but Jay had told us the night before that it hadn't been freezing up high, and so we may be in for some rotten snow. He had showed us which aspects should be the best, so we figured, well, we will go, drink our crappy coffee, and see what skiing is to be had.

What a great adventure! We pulled out at the little drop off area by a frozen lake and set out along its edge. Jay had told us we could probably ski across it, but I was a bit nervous, and it would have been a bummer to fall in that early in the morning.

As I said before, skinning behind Kurt is just like skinning behind Angela, they are energizer bunnies, terminators... they just keep going and going and going no matter how the pitch changes, or the snow, or the sun... I so strive to get my body to a place where this is the case, where I am not such a spaz on my skins, stable, balanced, and full of energy...

We began the climb proper, and the snow felt funky and wierd, loose already, breakable crust... oh, I was nervous after my last escapade, but so grateful to be out with Kurt at that moment, as he spends so much of his time in the back country, comes very prepared (list of things to add to my pack: bivy sack, first aid kit, water filter, map... and learn how to use the inclinometer and compass built into my Ortovox avi beacon...)

We came across an eviscerated Marmot, which I am sad that I didn't take a photo of, it was pretty cool, its guts had been ripped out and were strewn all around it. We looked at the tracks and could see where the fox or coyote had waited, pounced, we could see the fight, little tufts of hair, and then, of course, the Marmot lost. HUGE pointed teeth on that sucker!!

Kurt had the unhappy task of soothing my jangling nerves, which I was doing my best to play cool, as we skinned up and up and around and up and up... I was nervous to hike with him because I want to be fast enough to be a good and worthy ski partner, but I have this awful feeling that I'm pretty darn slow still... although you'd never know it because he didn't complain or tell me to hurry up once.

We decided that the snow was changing and firming as we wrapped around, so we went up to the top. I got to learn how to do a proper kick turn on the last two pitches on the way to the top, which was great skill building, and I need a lot more practice at that!

The last 20 feet or so were super steep, a cornice that we needed to mount, and very very firm. I've never done this maneuver before, of kicking my ski in, and I discovered that its a lot like crack climbing, don't, whatever you do, unlock the bottom ski at all until the top ski is locked in.

Guess who got to practice self arrest?? Yup. More than once. Kurt had already gained the top, and was kicking out a step for me to hike up through, but the snow was landing on my precariously balanced skis as it was. The bottom ski got away from me and down I slid, while Kurt is calling out, "Self arrest, Kate, self arrest..." and my brain is going shit shit shit, how do you self arrest again? We've been through this! Don't dig your heels in, you'll highside and tumble, um, crap, I KNOW this one.." as I'm sliding down further and further... Finally I just dug my elbows into the hardpack, slowed and stopped. I turned and looked back up the pitch to Kurt's smiling face, he had gone back to kicking out the step for me.

Sigh. I got to my feet and began the stomp fest back up to him. I was listening intently to what he was telling me, kick it in, push down, in AND down, get it in there! do it like you MEAN it! And... two steps from the little ramp he had now built (Because it took me probably 15 minutes to get back up to him), my bottom ski broke loose again and down I slid. "NO NO NO NO!" I called out, and grabbed my ski pole, brought it across my body, and effectively self arrested in about 1/3 of the distance. I really, REALLY didn't want to have to hike any further than I had to again.

"That was better." Called Kurt from the top, as he was now hand crafting a rope ladder out of bushes and bark from the top of the plateau... okay it wasn't quite that bad, but, still...

FrostI hiked back up to him YET AGAIN, and he came down the ramp, grabbed me and over the top we went. For heaven's sake.

It was beautiful up there, misty and cloudy, and the rock was this beautiful orange/ocher color. We went on a little tour of the plateau, also something that I've never done before, because we are always in such a hurry to get our turns in before the snow changes... It was magnificent, the snow was hardpacked, wind buffed and the grass all had frost clinging to it. Kurt peeked over several cornices, looking for the line he wanted to ski, but almost everything would require a 12 foot drop off of a super overhanging cornice onto questionable snow... so we kept touring.

At one point, we skied down this little dip, skins on, and, like a dufis, I fell over (something you really aren't supposed to do while in the back country...) right onto my right arm. I smacked my hip, my head, and my arm really well. I laid there feeling like a total idiot, and realized I couldn't feel my arm except for the massive pins and needles. I looked at it and thought, "Wow, I hope I didn't just break my arm!". Kurt was ahead of me, and I was pissed to have been a bonehead, I was feeling pretty boneheaded all around at this point, slow hiker, kludgy on the kick turns, sliding down the cornice endless amounts of times, and now, falling on the freakin' flats!! Kurt called out, "are you okay?" and I waved him off, yes, I'm fine, just getting my act together, here...

I skied over to him and we decided on a line. After we made a plan for skiing one at a time, places we'd pull over and wait out of the possible slide path, and all things safety, it was finally time to ski.

We dropped down and had some great turns off the top, and the snow began changing after the first 600 feet or so. I got nervous as it started to feel deep, sloppy, grabby, but the pitch was flattening out. I was in my head in a very high nerve place, all worked up at how the snow felt, akin to the way it had felt at Bridger, and Kurt gave me space to be a spaz in my head, but was patient, and encouraging, and basically psychically held my hand while I freaked out all the way down the hill.

It turned out, of course, to be a beautiful ski, in a beautiful place, all alone, and when it was all said and done, I had conquered fear several times over, and Kurt was happy to let me do that, gracious and helpful. I left that fear there on the hill, and we skied back across the frozen lake once we saw a bunch of fresh bear tracks out on the ice. It was beautiful, pristine, and heady.

When we got back to the car, a guy pulled up in his truck and told us about another great spot up on the pass, which he said had opened for a few hours the day before. His name was Noah, and he was seriously addicted to Kiting. "Its amazing, you can ski anywhere you want, you can ski up the mountain! Its addictive!!"

Happy with our ski, we decided to chow down on some goodies from the cooler and head up the pass to see if it was open or not.