This season has been riddled with missteps, unmet expectations, even self-doubt. Needless to say, it has been a bit rocky (yes, there’s a pun in there) going for a while. I hate to distill such an important part of my life down to some simple statistics, but in an effort to paint a larger picture, I am going to anyways.
Since moving to Colorado I’ve made it up to the resorts a whopping 7 days. Even more disheartening, in an area so bountiful with easy access backcountry, I’ve only made it out touring 4 days. Four! That’s it! In contrast, on my adventurous move out here I managed to spend 2 days at resorts and another 4 touring. And that was in a 10-day window, where I also managed to rack up a healthy number of miles on my car.
As an even bigger contrast, let’s look at last year…I broke my back in December and still managed to throw together a full season, with a couple of notable days including the black hole couloir, riding St Helens with my dad, and attempting to summit Mt Rainier
. I don’t actually have numbers for last year because I wasn’t keeping track, but I can guarantee you there were a lot more days both at the resort and in the backcountry than I’ve managed this year.
It’s easy to blame a lot of different factors…I moved to a new city; I don’t have a steady income; I don’t have a pass anywhere. Excuses, all of them, just empty excuses that, if I am honest with myself, hold no merit.
So what happened?
Earlier this season I wrote my always up-to-date guide for finding good snow in the mountains. It was easy to write back in December after a spell of dry weather and conditions that could still be considered “early season”. It was a damn good idea and it is a guide that I encourage everyone to try to follow.
I wrote it, then promptly forget everything that it was about. Which is impressive because it is only a 1-step guide.
In case you are too lazy to click the link, I’ll give you a synopsis here: shift your expectations away from the snow entirely. Chasing snow is a lot harder than finding people you enjoy riding with and there is something to be said for simply enjoying the mountains, whatever the conditions.
I was recently reminded of this on a trip to Berthoud Pass. In the days leading up, the temperatures barely dropped below freezing. In the morning, looking at weather overnight and the day’s forecast, we’d had a mild freeze overnight and the forecast called for clouds all day. It was enough to make me think long and hard about whether or not I actually wanted to get out of bed.
Pro Tip: don’t look at the forecast until you are already out of bed, removing the temptation to bail.
The less than ideal forecast was resounded in my head when I pulled into the parking lot at the top of the pass. There was only one other car there, on a Saturday morning. To put it in perspective, the previous Wednesday the parking lot was practically full by 9 am.
Needless to say, Derek and I took our times getting ready and eventually set off for No Name Peak. Something that I still haven’t gotten used to in Colorado are the barren approaches. We spend as much time scrambling over rock as we did skinning on snow.
There were a couple of old tracks on No Name, but for the most part there was still plenty of smooth spring corn ready for riding. Derek and I scoped out our lines, opting to drop in just below the normal entrance right off of the summit, avoiding the obvious tracks.
Having set out expectations low, we were both pleasantly surprised with how well the snow was riding. So much so, we opted for a quick skin back up the ridge for another lap. It was just as much fun as the first.
I really need to spend some more time looking at a map and learning the different zones at Berthoud. I can point to exactly where we were on a map, I just couldn’t tell you the name of it. Anyways, we hiked up out of the basin off of No Name, gaining the ridge that we’d approached it from, and dropped down a chute that ran out, what I believe is the Current Creek drainage.
We were back to the car before 2 pm, catching a ride up to the pass from some new friends, who’d also decided to take a lap on No Name.
All in all, it was a fantastic day. To think I almost bailed because of a forecast is silly.
So, this is my reminder to myself – follow your own guide and enjoy the mountains for more than just the snow. It’s always a good time and that should always be enough motivation to make the effort to get out the door!