New Year, Fresh Start

January 9, 2013 | Posted in Snowboarding | By

Last year was eventful to say the least. I went to some spectacular places and I did some incredible things. I stopped by the opening of a photography exhibit by Scott Rinckenberger at Evo last Friday, motivated by the free beer, my love of photography, and the fact that it was shot over 12 months of backcountry skiing in the Cascades. Short of being in the mountains, this is about as good as it gets. Overall the exhibit was fantastic. The shots were all incredible, better than anything you’ll see me post on here (still, go buy my pictures so that I can go to AK!).

There was one aspect of the exhibit that I was not expecting. One reason I wanted to go to the exhibit was that I was hoping the gallery would provide inspiration for new places to ride. Instead, I found that I recognized most of the places he had been shooting. I don’t say this to in any way to belittle the exhibit; it was after all a very enjoyable evening. It took wandering around the gallery to really appreciate some of the incredible places I was able to experience last year.

As the year was winding down, I was just getting started. As the mountains began to fill with snow, I began mentally planning. Bigger, more ambitious trips. I’d discovered a drive, a passion, to get out and explore.  When I walked into ski patrol, I refused to admit that some of my goals might have to take a backseat to getting healthy. When the patrollers recommended that I be back boarded, I contested them hoping that I could get stabilized enough and get myself to the hospital. I would officially claim that it was because the ambulance would be expensive, but there was a deeper, more intrinsic reason. The second they put me on the backboard; it meant that my injury was real. It meant that there was virtually no chance that I would be back on the mountain the next weekend.

Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to ride almost hurt more than my back.

When I finally did find out that I broke my back, I jumped to the rash conclusion that my season was over. I mean, I broke my back (yes, a really minor fracture all things considered), my limited knowledge of back injuries left me relieved that I could still move my feet. I decided, before I even left the hospital, that this was just a minor setback. I would be back sooner or later. My goal was to focus on making it as soon as possible, within reason.

It was in the first week, hope of salvaging my season returned. I became more informed about back injuries, expected recovery times, and, most importantly, I was able to move around with relative ease all on my own.

Before the month of December was over, I was out snowshoeing. I drove myself to Snoqualmie Pass. I sat on a pillow for added comfort, putting my head annoyingly close to the roof. A week prior, even sitting in a car was uncomfortable. The drive was…interesting. Three weeks to the day and I was back in the mountains. It felt damn good.

This last weekend I went on a second snowshoeing excursion. This time a little further and a little more ambitious. Owen and I hiked up Hex Mountain, making friends with another couple of snowshoers along the way. We’d been following a skin track and ran into a couple of skiers just below the summit. We had a nice chat, the whole time I was thinking to myself, “why didn’t I bring my split again?” The terrain was mellow and at that point I really couldn’t rationalize snowshoeing being “safe” but splitboarding not.

Sadly, the only pictures I have are the few blurry ones from my iphone (and Owen’s). I feel good, not great. Lugging around my heavy camera hasn’t yet felt overly appealing.

Anyways, as I have started to get a little more adventurous, I decided it was time to see a doctor and get some advice on what is too adventurous. It turns out the doctor is an enabler. I start physical therapy in the morning, but the doctor cleared me for any activity I threw at them. Snowboarding? Sure, just try not to fall. Carry a pack? It may be uncomfortable but I don’t see why not. Climbing? Go for it! You might start easy though.

I seriously think the doctor wants to see if I can re-break my back.

So, I am still going to take it easy, and I am going to double check any activity with the physical therapist as well, but the general sense is that I am back.

Four weeks ago, I had accepted that I was going to be out for a while and that 2013 would come nowhere close to comparing to 2012. For no other reason than my back setting me back me a substantial part of the year. Now, here I am in the second week of the New Year, ready to get back out, to keep doing what I love.
It’s going to be a great year.

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Easter. I think I did it right.

April 9, 2012 | Posted in Uncategorized | By

Easter to me has always been a holiday about spending time with family. It has been about eating a nice dinner (lamb and mint jelly) and an excuse to eat lots of candy that was laboriously placed inside plastic eggs and hidden in entirely obvious places. Well, this year most of my family is half way around the world, which makes spending time with them a little…difficult. That also ruled out the nice home-cooked lamb dinner (yes, I am enjoying cooking, no I am not going to attempt to cook lamb myself – mostly because it is not cheap). If you have been following my blog, you would also know that I gave up candy, pretty much destroying the last bit of salvation for this holiday.

I decided to approach Easter with a different tactic. I have been itching to get out in the backcountry for a while now, but haven’t had any luck finding people to ride with. My list of friends with bc gear in Seattle is still a little small. So, I hopped on a random splitboarding forum and found someone looking to tour this weekend. With relative ease, I found someone who had conveniently left their phone number so that I could get ahold of them easily. It turned out that they were sleeping in their car for the weekend up and Snoqualmie and would be happy to go ride on Sunday.

So, I left Seattle at 7 this morning and headed up the pass to spend the day hiking the woods with a random person I have never met. Moreover, I only had a vague idea of where we were planning on touring.

The slot couloir looking down from the top.

It turns out the plan was to go up Snoqualmie Mountain and then play it by ear. A pretty classic tour in this neck of the woods. The approach was 3000 ft of less than ideal conditions. The south face was boiler plate thanks to the daily warm-freeze with the sun. Skinning was miserable, but we made it to the top keeping our fingers crossed that the north aspects we wanted to ride would be better. We headed up to the Slot Couloir first. It was fairly tracked, but the snow was still awesome on the sides.

We hiked back up to the top of Snoqualmie Mountain and made our way to the crooked couloir. We had heard that crooked was better and were not disappointed. Check out the quick video of me riding the top section.

By the time we got to the bottom, we were pretty exhausted. All that was left was the hike back up the ridge and a ski back to the parking lot. Oh and of course, how could I forget this! I brought an Easter egg that was filled with a Jello shot. There was little argument that I took the first ever jello shot on the top on Snoqualmie Mountain.

Our day wasn’t complete yet. Since we were out riding until nearly 5, we were starving and decided to treat ourselves to a quality Easter meal. I think I have a new tradition – pancakes at the pancake house, washed down with an ice cold PBR.

So as a recap, I spent Easter, touring some epic couloirs on Snoqualmie pass, with random person I found on the internet. Took a jello shot on the top of a mountain, in an easter egg (it’s better than candy!), and ate a delicious Easter meal of pancakes and PBR for dinner. I think it was a complete success.

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