Tuesday, April 12, 2011


An experiment! This is the first blog post that I wrote by dictation to a service called SpeakWrite. I then went in an edited it. The next five posts were all created this way, I'm curious if my readers notice a difference in tone, content or readability as the articles are delivered in a different fashion. Please let me know what you think! Using SpeakWrite will enable me to post more frequently when its busy, as I can dictate while I'm driving, hiking, or on the chair. 


A couple of months ago, or was it weeks, (end of season... I've totally lost track of what month it is...) I got to go out on a hut trip. I've wanted to go for years, but the opportunity just never presented itself. This season everything lined up and I went out with Andy, Lissa, Elliot, and Kurt, all of whom are insanely fit and who run around like freight trains. Lissa is an endurance racer who has climbed Ama Dablam, Elliot was Highlands ski patrol and an Alpine Touring Racer, Kurt is an accomplished ski mountaineer, and all three of them were participating in one way or another in the Grand Traverse, a 40 mile race in the winter from Crested Butte to Aspen. Andy is wicked fit and can hold his own. I, on the other hand, am grateful when my clients need to take breaks as we hike the bowl. Two different kinds of creatures!! Also, this year, I had been working a lot on skiing downhill, but not so much on climbing up, so it was definitely an interesting experience trying to keep up with them. 

I had broken my neck about two weeks before this trip, and I had about a 25-30-pound pack on. The pack itself, empty, was really, really heavy, (I use what I've got... this bag is an expedition backpack from 1998) and it was pushing my head forward and pressing right on C5, which is the bone that I broke.  So, that was a huge bummer, and by the time that I got up there, I had a massive headache and I was dizzy and nauseous and I was just absolutely suffering. 

Kurt ended up taking everything out of my pack so I was carrying just the empty pack, which probably weighed about 8 pounds just by itself.  My list of gear that needs to be replaced is growing, but I'm proud of myself for using what's around until it doesn't work anymore. I'd rather go with a heavy pack than not go at all.

But its time. A light weight overnight bag, , a super lightweight 40 degree sleeping bag, some down booties with tread for the hut, lighter ski boots and skis, and a pair of spring touring pants. That's all. Oh and some ski crampons. Oh and some crampons for my ski boots for booting up something steep. Oh and a whippit. An Avalung that's not in a bag. Okay, now we are getting silly.

We'll start with the pack, the sleeping bag and some touring pants. Its been five years of skiing in the back country in my heavy weight winter pants, I'm over it! I wonder how much faster I'd be if I was in lightweight gear over all? Lissa told me that one pound on your feet is like ten pounds on your back. I believe her. And while my touring set up was pretty damn light when I got it five years ago, there's better fitting lighter weight stuff out there. Most of the time, I just think to myself, well, training with heavy gear will make it awesome when you have light gear. But at this point, its just tough to keep up with the crew as it is, without the extra slowness that all my heavy old gear ads.

I've learned to comb the Replay Sports and Craig's list, this is a GREAT way to update your gear over time. Kurt is really good at knowing when stuff is on sale where, he reads everything, so waiting for the opportune moment and spending wisely has helped.

The hut is at about 11,130 feet or so, and it looked beautiful, but I was just wrecked. I went in and went immediately upstairs.  I felt really guilty because it was time to make dinner, but I was just in no shape to do anything other than lay down.  So, I went upstairs and lay down insisting that I was fine, and Andy came up with a little cheese tray that he made and some Tylenol and some water and kept checking in on me, which was really nice. I felt sheepish, but grateful, and I realized that I was feeling the altitude along with the injury.

Kurt came up to make sure that I was warm and not going to have a brain aneurysm or anything like that, and when they decided that I was okay they went out to ski a couple laps in Resolution Pool, which just shows you how insanely fit they all are.  I was feeling way better by the end of the night and I came down and had some delicious pizza that Lissa had made and some home made pie by Elliott. We made friends with the other groups that were in the hut, and just had a great night playing bananagrams and keeping the fire lit. 

Lissa had contributed some money to get the hut rebuilt after a fire had burned it down, and it was just exquisite.  It totally reminded me of this book that I loved to read to my kids called The Seven Silly Eaters, which was illustrated by Marla Frazey. The illustration shows this beautiful wooden house with a wood-burning cooking stove in the center of it just the Fowler Hilliard Hut had and it's just a very simple way of living. 

It reminded me a lot of being in Nepal and not missing the "comforts" of home, but just feeling very happy and homey with what we had:  dirt floor, wood-burning stove, enough food to eat, good friends, a book to read.  We knocked off early and went out in the morning and skied knee-deep powder through the trees, down the back side of the hut.  We did about three laps there and then I was cooked. Those guys continued to hike on up and skied some more in Resolution Bowl and on the other side. While they were out I cleaned up the hut and tried to say thank you to them for carrying all my stuff. I laid out out lunch for them with everything that we had left, and they came back and we just powered down all the food and got ready for the ski out.

The ski out is always worth it. It's so fun and it's like this insane icy bobsled run on the hiking trail up.  You're just sort of wedging and throwing your skis sideways and scooting out of there.  It took
about 4 hours to get in and it only took about 45 minutes or an hour to ski out.  Just shot right down to the bottom.

While we were sliding a long, Lissa and I had a chance to visit, which is great because I don't get a
lot of time to spend time with her, but she's a really beautiful person.  I really love her energy and her spirit and she's an amazing friend. I watch the way that she is with the people in her life and she's able to really see them.  I think this is one of her big gifts and it's something that I really admire.

She looks carefully for the person and then experiences them fully and you can't kind of help but fall in love with this insanely fit, border collie type girl. She doesn't wear her fitness and her accomplishments like a badge.  It's just what she needs to do to be who she is, to experience herself fully.  The fullest
expression of Lissa is Lissa moving through the mountains.

 It's where her sanity lies, and I love this about her.  I love that she's strong enough to carry other people's stuff literally, but she's also emotionally strong enough to hold space for them while she's looking at the whole person.  So, I'm excited for his friendship to develop and I'm grateful to have been invited on this hut trip.  It was a beautiful experience and I can't wait to do it again!

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