30 December 2008

Breaking in the blisters

It's an annual rite of winter; my first backcountry tour trip. The trip itself is not actually the momentous occasion. Rather it is the result of the outing which alters my body for a good 5 months - the forming of the heel blisters.

Like a patient vineyard owner, it takes attention and time to cultivate such painful spots on my heels. But after the growing and the consequential ripping of the irritated skin, I can grow calluses, which will save me - hopefully - from painful skinning across valleys and up slopes.

Was out way too late with friends on Monday night. After feeling like I have lived at work the past few weeks - because in a sense, I have been - I slept in on Tuesday. My laziness made my initial destination moot. I wouldn't be able to get a good full tour up at Forest Lakes with the later departure time.

So I loaded up the pack and harried the Tacoma to a familiar haunt - St Mary's.

Looking down while skinning up the slope. It was about this time I began developing the first blister on the left heel.

I was expecting hurricane-force gusts once I broke out of the forest. Instead it was sunny and relatively calm. I soon began overheating. However I had a good tempo going, so instead of shedding layers, I merely unzipped and poled with my arms further akimbo.

I quickly caught up to a couple of hikers - I'd call them snowshoers but the snow was so firm, they merely carried the snowshoes - whom I spied taking off down the trail as I pulled into the parking lot. We talked for about 10 minutes and I offered some good snowshoeing destinations when queried.

When I realized that we were going about the same pace, I stopped for a bit to let them get ahead and enjoy some solitude. I felt foolish for having my probe and avy shovel, because the snow was bulletproof sustrugi - frozen wind-sculpted waves. The texture is completely unpliable and if you don't stay focused and scout a good line of least resistance, can result in some dangerous skiing.

Pretty for pictures, pain for skiing

It was a good tour and I stopped on the flats at the top of the "glacier" where it expands into a giant tundra leading in several directions for miles. My stopping point wasn't dictated by stamina nor fatigue; I was entertaining the idea of skiing up the slopes of James Peak - I felt that good. Instead it was the snow got more wild, more bulletproof - would that be missile-proof? - and I knew that skiing down what I already came up was going to be a strenuous task for my quads.

James Peak. A pretty view from the top. Very seldom does it have good snow for skiing.

Mount Bancroft. A fun mountain I'd like to scale this spring. Some nice technical steps, as Rak would attest to.

The ski run down was as how I prophesied; challenging and bouncy. I had to actually jump turn at one point to avoid a mawing hole in my way. But no torn ACLs and only one skid out on the final bomb back to the lake.

My line down. To skier right, above the rocks was filled with stored energy, waiting for catalyst to instigate a fracture line. A few smaller ones sheared on the other side of center.

Some alpine texture

The National - Mr November

05 December 2008

Powder shots

Tuesday I made the plunge. While I said, and truly believed, I wouldn't go resort skiing until after the New Year, I was too tempted to not make the drive up I-70. Loveland Ski Area reported almost four feet of snow over the previous weekend. A friend confirmed that the snow was spectacular when she went up on Monday.

It was good to get the first turns in. And yes, the snow was glorious and the ski area was less crowded than I expected; the benefit of having a Tuesday off.

It got a bit windy later in the afternoon, as evident by the above video. That was taken off the top of Chair 2.

I found out that I was a day premature. John Sellers, the PR guru at Loveland, informed me they opened up Chair 4 - where some of my favorite terrain is located - the next day. Also Chair 8 opened up later in the week as well. That leaves only Chair 9 as the lift not yet operating.