Buddy is a word which confounds me. Friend is, evidently, too laden a term for contemporary western men. Not that there isn’t reason. I’ve long preferred to do adventures with women, because men are all too often, and for lack of a more clinical word, douchebags. Tacit competitiveness, sexism, and the heuristic shenanigans which go with them are things I can live without. Which is why it was nice Saturday afternoon when Casey and I were standing on top of the slope we had planned to descend.
On the map, and surely come August, it’s a fairly gentle slope. We had a 30 foot cornice, and after a brief and easy discussion, a longer route, steep ridge detour, and finally a camp down in the next basin to the south.
Said camp was awesome. 9000′, with a dry spot under some Whitebarks, plenty of good firewood, bell-clear skis, light until 1030, and a good day of good choices in the bag.
Casey and I have a lot in common. We’re the same age. We both grew up in the buckeye state and fled west. We both have a fondness for “unique” adventures. So it seemed quite normal to wake up the next morning, strap our bikes back on our packs, climb a steep 1000 vertical up talus and snow to the ridge, traverse a little bit, then drop down a steep couloir to the lake. The folks who had ATV’d up to fish didn’t know what to make of that. The past 12 hours of either carrying the bikes or being in camp fit all logistical logic when we bombed thousand of feet of steep jeep road down into the valley.
The theme of the trip was that each day had to have very demanding, and very relaxing, moments. Sunday we had the downclimb to the lake and a steep, fall line climb in the hot sun to keep us honest. We had the aforementioned descent, as well as pizza and beer at Norris Hot Springs, to keep things mellow. We overdid the heat, hot water, and beer. Casey wanted to hang out and camp there, I wanted to flee back into the hills. An hour after the decision to stay we were both flat in the ‘mid with dehydration headaches. It kept us honest, let us get back into the alpine during the cool of the morning, and let us enjoy the Norris town hall sipping Monday morning coffee in the gas station.
Everything continued to get more awesome. Our huge climb into the next valley over was on a well graded road through sound-of-music forests and meadows. We rode snakey, rocky singletrack to the hot spring in the middle of the woods. We pushed our bikes up 3000 feet of ATV track and camped on a tiny dam by a beautiful lake. The views back down the valley were so good you couldn’t decide which side of the fire to sit on. The weather remained perfect, and sunrise, totally unimpeded in its path around the curve of the earth to our camp, woke us very early indeed.
What was left was perfectly anticlimactic. Mostly frozen snow and steep tundra to a high pass, a trail leading down, and a brake burning road descent to the car. Just enough snow pushing and navigational confusion to make the line back home a little obscure.
My favorite, most accurate way to measure trip depth is the severity of re-acclimation sickness. This trip was pretty bad for a 3 night, 3 day affair. Just like a good beer, a perfectly balanced adventure is not something to drain away without regret.
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