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Fear in the Backcountry

January 6, 2011 Fitness, Friends, Fun 3 Comments

As evidenced by my last post, we had a fantastic time at Squaw Valley with the “tame” resort skiing on Saturday and Sunday. We met up with friends on Sunday evening and stayed with them, plotting Monday’s backcountry expedition.

NOTE: I have no backcountry gear or skills. I realize gear can be bought. And if I could buy the skill, I would.

So, as RB was making breakfast, he made a remark like, “It’ll be a one hour hike up the mountain. The usual ratio is 3:1 hiking/skiing, but this trip is different and I expect to be skiing downhill for approximately 45 minutes.” Based on this, I had a moderate day planned, and only one hour would be “work” — hiking up. Great! I was the one who said I wanted a good workout to begin with. Bring it!

For me, the hike up was the easy part. I was in snowshoes because my husband is a dear man and carried my skis and one of my ski boots. This is also because I don’t have the proper backcountry ski gear (see above). I carried the other boot along with an extra set of gloves. Ha!

I’m good at climbing and I’m reasonably fit, etc… It wasn’t a walk in the park, but it was the kind of workout I was going for. Our friend Jen suffers from asthma, so she had to take it slow as not to lose her breath from exertion and altitude. We finally made it to the top (8300 ft), where it was ridiculously windy and cold. I found a windbreak behind some trees and Greg made the short trek up to meet me so I could change out of my snowshoes into my ski boots. Here’s an idea of the kind of effort involved in traveling a short distance:

Laborious, right? It’s like watching paint dry.

But then “the fun part” came. Downhill! Powder! Freshies!!

Yessssss! I mean no. Give me a groomed blue run + a beer and I am golden. This was uncharted territory. Literally. But I’m a team player. It was nice and fluffy if I fell, so I put my fears aside and only complained in my internal voice. I think even the experts were impressed with my stick-to-it-ness. (Hopefully)

We arrived at an abandoned train tunnel that we would need to walk/skate through as part of the adventure. We found an exit door, only to see a straight-down slope. I was nervous at best.

As we contemplated continuing on through the tunnel, RB suggested that only one person go to the end to see if that route down was better. Considering the treacherous conditions (pure darkness, icy patches everywhere, etc…), I agreed. No one else did. Hmmph!

So… there I stood. By myself. In a dark tunnel. There were big icicles — I mean KILL YOU IF THEY FALL icicles — hanging from the ceiling. I eventually couldn’t hear my friends anymore. I was alone, and my mind started working on me:

“What if an icicle falls and kills me?”

“What if there are bats in here?”

“What if my phone rings and that startles all the critters out of their hiding places and/or the icicles fall?”

My heart started racing and I started sweating, even in the freezing cold. I really started to panic in there, and I’m not a person prone to panicking. I hated it. I knew I had made the wrong choice. How many calories does fear burn? You can imagine my relief when I heard Greg calling for me. He lead me back to the fading daylight with a headlamp.

The rest of the trip down was “fine.” Yeah. That kind of “fine.” I made it about three-quarters down and then lost it. I was tired, hungry (5+ hours since breakfast!), dehydrated, frustrated, wet, cold. OVER IT. Did I mention it was getting dark?

I was in tears. Remember our first skiing experience so many years ago? It was no better this time around.

We made it to the bottom, still intact — my knees AND the marriage. Whew! Believe me, dear reader, you are thrilled I am sparing you the details. We still had to walk a mile back to the car. In ski boots.

Apologies were given from each of us. Wine and beer were consumed. Food was eaten.

The end.

Currently there are "3 comments" on this Article:

  1. Jane says:

    Wow! Your story brings back memories of several “challenging” experiencing with the husband which are best saved to share over a glass of vino!!!!!

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