Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Round Two on Geissler Peak, Co

Me at the top of Geissler Peak, feeling MUCH better today! Testing out the Duo LS Crew shirt by Cloudveil, now my favorite baselayer for spring skiing! I also tested out the Stash Creek Hooded Jacket, much lighter weight than the Zorro, which was perfect for the weather, just enough to protect from the wind, not enough to make me sweat.

And so the NEXT day... Actually, I neglected to mention that that night, after I woke up from my super duper sleep of doooom, we headed out to the ice rink where Kurt was playing in his final hockey game of the season. For real.

Can you imagine? I sat in the stands and watched the puck, really freaking glad that I didn't have to play... although its awesome, the last two times I've visited Aspen, I've gotten in my skates, which is not something I ever thought Id do again.

Last time, we were out at the ARC, and I put on my figure skates and immediately wanted to start jumping, so I took them off after about 20 min, this time, I went to stick and puck practice and it took almost 40 minutes for me to feel comfortable in my skates. I went down hard a few times... Also, yes, I used to coach the hockey team for stroking practice, but MAN do I suck at puck handling!

Maybe this coming year I'll join a hockey league... because I need more things to do...

Alright, so I had a day off in Aspen which I spent walking all over town looking at housing situations, and visiting with Georgie (my new boss) at Aspen Mountain, and having a wonderful and delicious coffee with Cindy Lou that turned into a two hour therapy session (thanks, Cindy!).

That evening, we went over to hang with Mike and Laura (who camped almost in the rain the week previous), and Bob called, Lou had been back up on the pass the day before, and he was going again tomorrow, did we want to go skiing?

The unanimous decision was to drink less mojito than originally planned, and get to bed at a reasonable hour and go ski Geissler ONE MORE TIME!

The next morning I woke up psyched and refreshed, and we rolled outa Dodge, making a stop for 50 cent coffee. When we got to the pass, there were four or five cars there, and the crew was already heading up. We knew we'd never catch them, they had to be at least a half an hour ahead of us.

Mike Pritchard gets ready to ski

Once again we shouldered our skis and headed off into the wet marshy wilderness, today, only two days later, the dirt was showing through on the bottom 2/3 of the snowline, and little glacier lilies were poking through the mud. I was so tempted to eat some, because Angela had shown me the year before at Bridger how yummy they were, but I wasn't sure I had the right plant, so...

The snow was suncupped today, no more Buffo Deluxe. I felt SO much better, we got to the snow line, I clicked in and skinned away. I started at a moderate pace, and kept it all the way, I didn't have to stop except to change the risers on my skis, and made it up to the boot pack with no trouble at all.

I scrambled up the boot pack, going at an appropriate moderate pace for me, and while Kurt and Mike were ahead, it wasn't awful. I felt like I was representing my fitness well. At one point on the bootpack, just after the 5th class scrambling, I started breaking through up to my hip, even though I was trying to be mindful of every step, stepping carefully and quietly, just POP, right through.

The problem with that situation is that it slows you down terribly as you extricate yourself, there is a high likelihood that loading the boot that DIDN'T punch through in order to climb out will MAKE it punch through, and that leads to you being sunk up to the hips on BOTH legs, which has happened to me once before on Blackmoore with Joe Krakker, and let me tell you, that's an exciting and rather scary situation to be in!

So I was postholing every three steps or so, and it's fairly exhausting to haul yourself out of the hole, so I decided to just commando crawl on my splayed out legs and elbows up to the ridge so I wouldn't sink in anymore, and that worked out just fine. I felt happy, light, free and full of energy, no headache, no worries, just out scrambling around on the rocks and in the snow.

We got up to the top and saw the rest of the crew, all 12 of them, skinning up the peak to the North East of us (lest see if I figured that out right, I'm working on tuning my internal compass). We had a great run on snow that hadn't quite set up, it must not have totally frozen the night before... and the top six turns or so were powerful and edgy, and then the snow changed and something very very cool happened!!

I thought to myself, the second turn into the new mankier, breakable snow, ooh, how do I ski this? And then I felt what I was doing, what my body instinctively was doing, and I yelled out BOBBY BARNES!

I was flexing or retracting through the edge change and extending into the apex! My body remembered how and when to do it before my mind did! I was so excited to have this turn in my toolbox, I made as many little turns as I could all the way down, just observing my body doing this complex set of movements and being so grateful that it could!

Towards the bottom, Kurt started straight lining, trying to get as much distance across the flats as possible, as we were planning to ski one of the steep Couloirs across the valley.

Once again, I was nervous about going fast and straight on the flats, the thought of how much it would hurt if I were to catch an edge and fall on the flat is always present. I decided not to worry about it and matched my straight line to Kurts, trusting his speed judgment more than my own.

We made a quick change over, and I skinned out toward Perl and Lou, who were already heading up the Couloir.

Mike and Kurt caught me in no time, I still felt good, strong, happy, ready to go! Mike had his ski crampons on, and he headed straight up into the pitch, Kurt and I started switch-backing up the thing. It got very steep, and the snow was still very firm, not quite corn, and eventually, we took our skis off and started boot packing.

There was one section of about 20 feet that was probably the steepest thing I've bootpacked up yet, the rest of it was about as steep as The Great One off Sacajawea peak in the Bridger Range.

Mike Pritchard explores the ridge of Geissler

I decided to stop at the bottom of the Avi debris, my headache suddenly came back, and now that I had decided that my difficulty from the other day was most likely altitude realted, as much as I wanted to scramble up after Kurt, where it was getting steeper and steeper, I knew it just wasn't that important.

Mike and I sat on one of the rocks in the sunshine and talked about near death experiences, always something fun to do when you are on an exposed steep pitch sitting in a scree field... we heard Kurt and Perl calling back and forth to each other, Perl was in the next shot over.

After about 15 minutes or so, Kurt came skiing down, playful as always hopping around the avi debris. Mike and I were geared up and ready to go, I needed his help in some strategy for getting skis on in the middle of a pitch that steep, and he had me break a little bench with my ski boot, get my downhill foot way downhill so I could hold onto my ski and not have it run away.

It was our turn to ski, Mike took off and sailed out of sight, the snow looked amazing... then he called up, he was clear, it was my turn and I dove in, heading around onto the side wall of the couloir, it was like skiing one side of a half pipe, diving turn, climbing turn, diving turn, climbing turn, the snow was perfect perfect ego snow, so very playful.

Kurt came down with a huge grin on his face and told us that right where we had stopped was where the snow changed, it was breakable crust up above, not nearly as fun... We tried to stay high and milk that side of the range for every turn we could get... then we headed across the flats and back into the "snirt" as Lou calls it, the gully from the day before was brown and sticky, the run on the way down was slowmo and melted, the walk to the car a bit further.

But when we got down there, there was Lou and his wife, Lisa, Dave and his girlfriend, Bob and a bunch of other folks all barbequing out of the back of Lou and Lisa's truck. I got my ski boots off, peeled my blister protector off and ripped off a huge chunk of skin, and cracked open a Tecate to dull the pain.

It was bliss, it reminded me of skiing with the Lost Boys in the Beartooths, good friends, good times, good beer, good food...

It was over far too soon, and down into town we headed, because I needed to shower and change pronto... I had two massages to give that afternoon in order to earn enough gas money to get home! I had planned on driving home that night, but I was a bit tired, so I stayed on one more night and hit the road in the morning (after yet another adventure wherein the Bronco would not start...)

I pulled into my driveway at about 12:45 in the morning, put the toys I'd picked up for the kids in the hallway so they'd find them in the morning, kissed the boys, told Tom I was home, and got to sleep around 2.

The boys crawled into bed with me in the morning, snuggles galore, we were all late for school, but it was so very worth it!!

Next ski adventure... Jackson Hole for the weekend?? Cross your fingers!

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