Sunday, May 20, 2012

hanging out with boys at 9,000 feet

There are few things I like better than being above treeline. Because hiking up from 4,000 feet would be difficult right now, we cheated and took the gondola up. Basically this tram is sort of a tourist trap and overpriced, but it does get you quickly to 8,000 feet and some incredible terrain. It was me and five guys with skis. "What are those things?" Scott yelled, making fun of my snowshoes.

What do you say about a perfect day? We slowly ascended the shoulder of Easy Peak (not all that easy) and sidehilled along the ridge leading to East Peak. My back was strangely void of any pain. I stopped to watch the guys carve turns down the steep face.

The guys stopped at the bottom of the run and skinned up the side of Easy Peak, leaving me to my own devices, but I didn't mind. I knew they wouldn't worry about me. I looked off into the sea of mountains, a set of ridges and valleys that I am coming to know. I could see some of the lakes I have hiked to in summer, still dreaming under a veil of ice.

See the turns? This is the face of East Peak, 9400 feet.

For most of my life I have spent much of my outdoors adventures with men, both working and off duty. This was mostly because that was the pool to draw from, working for the national parks. They were like a band of big brothers, most of the time. They played hard and worked hard, with no in between. I loved their enthusiasm and fire. It was easy with them: no hurt feelings, no quarter given either.

When I fought fire in the early days, there was an added, never mentioned policy for women: Be able to hang with the guys or go home. This pushed me to places I never thought I would reach, mentally and physically. I don't remember the names of all the guys I stepped onto a fireline with, or even hiked with, but each one helped me become better athletically.

I've fallen in with more women lately, and I like that too. I don't know where they all were back in those days, but they are here in this little town: skiing the steeps, rafting the rivers and scaling the mountains. My outdoors adventures with them are different though. We talk more, about our lives and our dreams. We slow down for each other, sometimes, without thinking the other is weak. I've let go of the competitive streak that used to make me want to be in front, all the time.

I climbed slowly down Easy Peak. The guys were somewhere below me, making their way up to another run. We wouldn't meet up again today. I knew they were there, though. If I needed them, all I would have to do was call.


  1. Great thoughts. Cutting across a lot of stuff. People are people. I like the thinking on friends and inspiration.

  2. I'd love to ski with you -- you can break trail!!!

  3. I often ride with my boyfriend and our friend Liehann. Those two, without fail, turn every ride into a competition and end up destroying each other up the first big climb. I catch up five or ten minutes later, rolling my eyes as they struggle to recover. After that, they're spent and I have no problem holding their pace for the rest of the ride. Boys!


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