A challenge for me in growing as a backcountry skier is building community of likeminded and skilled athletes to ride with. It’s not the type of sport where people say, ‘yeah, sure come join us’. And living at the beach doesn’t help either.
So, I was driving from Bishop to Jackson and I knew I would be passing a line in Nevada that has been on my bucket list for many years. It’s one of the Classic 50 Ski Descents of North America and I’ve always wanted to ski it.. but who could I get to join me? And so, I called literally everyone I knew who might be keen, but I couldn’t find anyone. After all, it’s literally in the middle of nowhere, many hours from anywhere.
Coming off some awesome days in the Sierra, I couldn’t get this line out of my head. I wanted it so bad. And so, I started texting with my my friend Kerstin who I often refer to as one of my Snow Sensais. Her sister skied it about a week earlier. Kerstin’s report was overwhelmingly positive. “Would you ski it alone in these conditions, I asked.” Her response was, “yes, if the visibility were good, I would go for it”. That felt positive, but I was still nervous as backcountry skiing solo felt very much like a no no, and I already did it two days prior. What would I tell my mother? I don’t want to have to lie about what I’m doing. I continued driving and was chatting with my friend Isaac who reminded me that it’s not a sin thing to just go scope it out for the future reference. And so, that was kind of the plan, to check it out and gather intel, or at least I told myself that was the plan.
I slept about 30min away, got up early, and headed to the trailhead for a “recon mission”. I pulled in and saw one group heading out. Then I saw an elder man with a hearing aid in a badass looking truck. It turned out he was owner of the very well regarded guiding service in the area, a company I was familiar with and respected. I asked his thoughts and his feedback was… ‘it’s a great day for it, go for it’. And so, I geared up for an epic solo adventure. I was 100% committed at this point, but this conversation gave me the confidence to put my pack together and start walking.
I skinned up the road for about 6 miles. Where was it? I kept looking and I knew I would notice it when I saw it, but wow, this couloir was a lot smaller than I imagined. And steep. I saw the group ahead of me in there and they looked like tiny little specs inside this tiny little crack. And onward I went. Further up the road, across the river, and bootpacking up the couloir of my dreams.
Slow and steady, one step after another I booted up this hallway straight to the stop with my crampons and ice axe. The way up was awesome. So was the way down, but I did not enjoy the top. It was a narrow little ledge, and a bit windy. I transitioned from uphill to downhill and got the hell off that thing pretty quick.
Coming back down was a wild feeling. I felt good about my intel gathering and decision making. All the signs were an overwhelming, yes and it was a huge success. Wow. I did that. A real sense of accomplishment. So empowering.