Saturday, March 25, 2017

Winter Adventures, Part 1: Backcountry Skiing

Brennan and I had the opportunity over the last couple of months to try out a few new adventures, including backcountry skiing and ice climbing.  Then, just a few weeks later, we went on a hut trip -- an overnight trip that involves hiking up to a remote cabin not accessible by road in wintertime.  All three turned out to be quite the adventure!  I'll post about each of those in a 3-part Winter Adventures series with this post covering the backcountry skiing trip.

In preparation for the hut trip, Brennan and I went backcountry skiing with a friend.  We had never been before and were intrigued when he said he preferred backcountry skiing to snowshoeing because you could go all the same places you could on snowshoes only faster.  Faster is always better, right?  Backcountry skiing is similar to cross-country skiing except you use high-performance skis that are designed for all-terrain use:  uphill climbs, rolling terrain, and standard downhill (on groomed or natural slopes).  We met up at Monarch Pass, put our skis and skins on (skins are a rough material that attach to your skis to give you traction going uphill), and set out along a trail that skirted the outer limit of the Monarch Ski Area.  It was overcast that day, so the picture below doesn't do it justice, but from our perspective at the top of the world, it was absolutely beautiful out there!

We stopped for a picture on the Continental Divide at 12,000 feet.  Wow, it was windy!

Our initial plan was to loop around a couple of mountains and wind up back down where we started, but our options appeared limited at the pass.  Once we got up there and looked at it, the terrain showed too many avalanche indicators, so we decided to ski down the hill we had just climbed up and spend some time exploring the valley below.  That hill turned out to be more than I bargained for, though:  It was steep and had lots of powder that I wasn't used to skiing in.  Let's just say it took me a while to get down.  Unfortunately, by the time I made it down into the valley, I was beat.  Brennan climbed up another hill and skied another run, but he was tired by that time, too.  As we traveled home, we decided that, whether we weren't cut out for backcountry skiing or just needed more practice at this expensive sport, it was more adventure than we expected!  We decided that we would just snowshoe on the hut trip!