In the wee days following that famous ball drop in Times Square, a long-time buddy and I, inspired by the prospect of new beginnings, decided to hike up a snowfield in the mountains west of Denver.
The morning of the hike started slowly, and after a tall coffee from McDonald’s (yes, we gave in to the beast), we parked our car and started the ascent. Ice crunched beneath our feet as we trekked through a stunning snow-encrusted forest that gave way to a vast frozen lake. To the left, a large couloir (Fun term: A steep, narrow gully between two mountain faces) separated the forest from a prominent cliff that overhung the lake. We strapped on our shoes, took one step, and were immediately blasted with gale-force winds. I felt like the tortoise in the famous moral tale, and given the rate we were trudging up the snowfield, I knew plans for a summit were slipping from view. We soon found shelter at the base of a rocky outcrop, where we strapped on our heavy skis and began the descent. The wind was at our back now, and all we had to do was stand, put our arms out, and fly like a kite as gravity shot us down the mountain.
Minutes later, our ski tips reached the edge of the familiar lake as we wiped the tears from our faces and stared yet again at that majestic couloir.
“Let’s send it.”
So, we took off our skis, put on our snowshoes, and began another intense effort up the south slope. At this point in the day, the sun’s growing heat was magnified by the reflectance of the snow, and I was burning up. I couldn’t force enough air into my lungs and would take breaks of sucking precious O2 before climbing up the next section of snow. After what seemed like ages, we made it, yet again to a clump of trees and lay in the snow. I looked down. Several tourists (or shall I say fellow hikers) now fringed the lake and I could tell they were staring up at us. I suddenly switched roles in that famous tale and wanted to become the hare. I saw myself flying down the couloir to the oohs and aahs of the growing crowd at the lake. “Let’s take it up a notch”, I thought, and, partly due to the heat, took my shirt off for an even more epic run.
Skis. Check. Stoke. Check.
I pick up my poles and immediately went into hyperdrive. Before I knew it I looked down and saw that my skis had sunk beneath the top layer of snow and were now dragging close to the ground while my body was still picking up speed. Physics works in interesting ways. Before I could blink I faceplanted, rolled, lost a ski, and found myself freezing in a blanket of snow. All my pride leading up to that moment was gone. I’m pretty sure I heard an, “Ooouuuccchhhhhh” from the lake as the shocked faces of the audience winced. GoPros, cameras, and phones were lowered, and I’m pretty sure people were shaking their heads saying what I usually say, “Damn tourist is in above their heads.”
So next time you want to do something crazy, just remember, pride comes before the fall.