Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Vertical Limit

I stood on a mountain as steep as a cow's face. The "winter trail", a nice name for a downward plunge, was crusty and I was carrying a heavy backpack with tools in it. Where were my trusty snowshoes? Oh. At home. Because my husband said I wouldn't need them. Despite all evidence to the contrary, he still believes I can ski.

With a sigh, I remembered the previous day's snowshoe. I have no problem slogging all day in fluffy snow to get to meadows like these.

When it comes to skiing down hills, though, I felt a familiar and frustrating fear. This fear has followed me all of my life. While I am not afraid of camping alone, animals (except occasional grizzlies), kayaking in big seas, or thunderstorms, the fear of falling never really goes away.

We had skinned up several thousand feet to clear the winter trail of blowdown and to check on the backcountry hut. I love, love, love my new skins. They allow me to climb up huge hills. But even with them on for the descent, I was afraid.

Yep. Just over the edge, a scary fog awaits us.

I know in my heart that it is mostly an illogical fear. Just like the people who will  no longer hike on the trails here because they suspect that wolves will take them down. The problem with illogical fear is that it is just that, illogical. No matter how many times I successfully descend, I will always have it to some degree.

This is the smile of someone who is relieved that I haven't killed him.
Well, you're reading this, so you know I made it out.

Cale looks pretty with his Happy New Year headdress.

And yes, I'm still married. But next time I'm bringing snowshoes as a backup.


  1. This. Some of us are just not wired for gravity sports (says this mountain biker.) Every time I visit friends in Alaska, I hear about an amazing-sounding ski adventure that I can't participate in because I don't really know how to ski. I always vow to learn, really learn ... someday. Although secretly I wish more of my friends would just embrace the slogtastic slowness of snowshoes. :)

  2. Did you wear your skins for the downhill? I have learned that they make it harder despite your instinct that they are a safety net. You're so less stable and more prone to being grabbed by the snow and brought down... Oh skiing, I relate so well...

  3. I'm so very afraid of falling with practically everything I do, so I can relate for sure.

    Back in my skiing (and diving) days, things went better if I was confident and relaxed. The moment I doubted myself and was a little tense, I crashed.

    Maybe keep going on little hills until those make you comfortable? The one in your photo looks a little big to start off on.

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  5. Never thought of a cow's face as steep...a whole new concept. Can relate completely with the fear at the top of a hill. Friends say, "Aren't you bored with that (fairly) flat X cross country ski trail?" No, and no...I can enjoy the skiing and the woods around me!

  6. You made it out and fought a fear! A few more trips and you'll be a Pro.


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