May 12, 2010
This spring, I have been training for two big climbs that have been on my tick list for quite some time: the Moose’s Tooth in the Alaska Range (stay tuned for a trip report) and Alpamayo in the Peruvian Andes. Both ascents consist of long, sustained ice climbing and are a good test of physical and mental endurance. In addition to physical conditioning in the gym, I also try to spend a few long, hard days in the cold and wind to train my mind against the challenges of the mountain.
I really enjoy getting out for some spring backcountry skiing right in my own backyard, the Rocky Mountains. Last spring, I had a magical day climbing the 50° slope of the Dead Dog Couloir up Torreys Peak, a 14,267 foot peak near Denver, and skiing down the bowl between Grays and Torreys. We had a couple dozen perfect turns down some snow which my buddy described as "butter."
Backcountry skiing blind is a fun challenge. On the uphill, I follow the sound of my friend's skis as they scrape through the snow. However, following a friend on the downhill as he calls out directions through blustery wind and snow conditions, which change in the space of a turn is the real excitement. For those of you who are skiers, try closing your eyes and making a few turns on a nice groomer to get an idea of what it’s like!
This week my friend, Skyler Williams, and I spent some time skinning up to the Continental Divide above Loveland Ski Area and Berthoud Pass. These quick weekday trips also give me a chance to break in and test my equipment. Lately I have been using the Mountain Hardwear Wayback ski pack, which has a cool back panel opening. This allows me to lay the pack in the snow and get to the contents without the suspension getting covered in snow. I’ve tried a lot of ski packs over the years and the Wayback is now my favorite.
Here are a few photos from our skiing adventures:
Here's a short video of me skiing with my friend Jeff Ulrich to give you a better idea of how a blind person works with their guide. To order a copy of the full-length film or to learn more about blind skiing and guiding, go to www.blindskiersedge.org