Sometimes life just calls with responsibilities. It can range, but life will make its demands of everybody. So, for the past couple of weeks, Dan and I have been making do with “sanity skis” at the ‘Bou and biking to work. It keeps you sane, but inevitably, you just want more. Today, life stuff having settled into its hibernation for a bit, we packed up our ski gear, and headed out in the early morn’.
Having had it on faith from some customers, we knew that the gate up at Brainard Lake was still closed, so we prepped for the three mile road walk and adjusted our time accordingly. Most people take bikes (and for good reason!) but we are not sure how Stella’s paws would do with the pavement. So we walk. It adds an hour on either end, but all in all, it’s more time out there!
The plan for today was to ski Crooked Couloir off of Mt. Audubon. It was also to be my first intro to snow climbing, as instead of climbing up Mt. Audubon’s flank as we have done in the past, we were going to hike to Blue Lake, and head straight up the couloir.
After a restless night of sleep (it’s been so hot lately, it’s been hard to sleep), we dragged ourselves from bed. The best thing about spring skiing is definitely not the early start. In fact, it may very well be the worst part. Groggy-eyed, we got ready, munching breakfast, and then piling into the car. After almost falling back asleep on the way to the trailhead, and I was happy for the long approach by road: it gave my body time to wake up and warm up.
Once again, it was cruiser going. The road is completely clear, and the trail up to Mitchell Lake is almost clear, and if you hit it in the morning, the snow patches that are there are very solid. After Mitchell, it becomes more snowy, but it was still early, and hadn’t softened up, so we continued in our shoes.
After seeing a couple of bikes at the Mitchell Lake Trailhead, we’d been debating which peak the people in front of us were going to ski (both of us were leaning towards Mt. Audubon). As we crested a ridge between Mitchell Lake and Blue Lake, we saw two guys at the base of Crooked. Yep, Mt. Audubon it was! We picked our way through the scree to a rock where we sat down to change, out of sight of the other guys. One thing about being in the mountains is the etiquette, and just as I don’t want anybody to intrude upon my time up here, I don’t want to intrude on anybody else’s.
As we changed into our ski boots, Dan began giving me some pointers about using crampons. One main thing for me to remember was that the linking bar on my crampons was too long, and as I have yet to cut it, I have to be careful to not catch it on my pants, which might have the potential of sending me on an unintentional, impressive acrobatic descent of the couloir.
Boots and crampons on, we started up the couloir. I was immediately quite impressed with the crampons. The amount of security you get from them versus with just your boots is (obviously!) huge. We never had to do the triple kick to get a good hold, and even if I just had the two front points in the snow, it felt solid. This made me happy, as I do have a history of not being the happiest li’l thing in the world when heights are involved. But, even as we neared the steepest point, I felt sturdy. Now, that’s not saying I was dancing a two-step, but I was also a long cry from hugging the scree to either side of me and declaring that I was going to fall off of the world.
Since it’d been so long since we’d actually gone out and done a bigger day, I was concerned about my fitness. Spring skiing is hands down the hardest sport I’ve ever done, and booting straight up a couloir definitely does not make it any easier. Thus, I was pleased when I only felt slightly nauseous with the effort.
There’s not much that I’m aware of that can make the soul more happy than to climb a mountain in the sun with the man I love most, sharing a summit hug at the top, and then skiing an awesome line that practically dumps you right into an incredible alpine lake. For me, it just doesn’t get much better than that.
As we stopped at the top, gazing around at the surrounding peaks (Mt. Toll still looks really good!), the guys who had been down by the lake crested the top, and we all chatted for a bit, one of them recognizing us from Neptune’s. Then it was descent time.
Crooked Couloir is just fun. It’s steep enough that you can really enjoy it, but not steep enough to be gripped about it. When we ski Caribou in the summer, we wear shorts, do goofy hop turns, peer into marmot holes, and laugh. Crooked is none of that, but it still makes me grin with euphoria.
Sitting at the lake, eating, drinking, grinning with joy, we basked in the sun, bade goodbye as the other two headed off, and finally began to get ready. It was still a longish trek out to the car, and it was a hot one. We changed into shorts, and left the basin in companionable silence, stopping to look back every once in a while.
There is so much in life to enjoy and experience, sometimes I don’t know how we’re supposed to have enough time to capture it all, but we do our best to. Part of the problem, too, is the more we do, the more we want to do. I am a lucky woman to be with the most amazing man in the world, and share all of our adventures!