Sunday, February 13, 2005

Avalanche Awareness

Today, I officially became afraid of the mountains and their power...

I will be the first to admit that watching all those ski films and reading the magazines has plagued my mind with false security of riding the big powedry magma the mountains have to offer... Dreaming that they were just out there for the taking. However coming from a paddling background I should have realized there is more safety to it than meets the eye. The day started out in the classroom setting with a printed out power point presentation, and stories... I love stories as much as the next fellow, or fella, but when they entail losing one of your best friends, it makes you question you reasons for being out there. It takes away that special experience you can only achieve out of doors. At the same time it shows that anything can happen, at anytime, and with that knowledge it keeps previously ignorant people such as myself, from ending my life as well as others pre maturely.

The second part of the day we were out in the field. An intended plan to hike to the summit of flat top mountain... (A mountain with a flat top-who would have guessed) Became thwarted when the wind blowing in excess of 35+ miles an hour turned the group around. It was intense, like one of those IMAX films on the mountain, however this time I wasn't sitting in a warm theatre in a big padded seat. I was marching foward looking at the guides boots, because that is all i could see through the intense blowing snow. Imagine sand biting into your face, thawing on impact and maliciously trying to cool that skin down so frost could get a nip at it. My sunglasses instantly iced over, causing me to attempt to sqeegee (spelling?) them free with my gloves. It was apparent we would not make it and 66% of the instructional crew turned us around. Making our way back down to the parking lot I stopped to take care of some natural business. I sunk in the snow well to my shoulders and dug myself a platform. Meandered back down the path to the rest of the group and began learning first hand about snow layers...

Long story short, we dug some pits, analyzed the snow and tested the stability. Its pretty wild to dig... and dig, and dig and still not hit ground, one time I thought i hit ground but it was a tree instead. Whole lotta snow. Good base of knowledge to begin a new world of understanding and appreciation for the back country. The place where boundaries exist only as possibilities... It was also stressed that in all those fancy films there are avalanche crews out there weeks ahead of filming to scout lines and ensure safe travels down the steeps. It set me in my place, where I may be good at using gravity in the midwest its a whole different playing field out here... Gotta learn to respect it.

That exciting experience concluded the weekend and left me all warm and fuzzy for Valentine's day... YIPPEE, ok it's late, and I am a wee tad tired so I won't slander anything else.

May your days be productive and comebacks whitty...

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