Spring Skiing below
Matterhorn Peak near Yosemite National Park (photo:
Touring with the Madman. My
friend Blaine is about the craziest guy you'll ever
meet. By my count, he's nearly killed me about
seven times. On one beautiful spring weekend
in the High Sierra, I tried to return the favor.
Time is pretty tight when
you're a father of two kids still in diapers, trying to hold
down a full-time profession while at the same time battling
a strong addiction to backcountry skiing. This
particular weekend was no exception. Because time was
of the essence, we hauled ass to
Bridgeport and upon arrival decided to ski into a 10,000' base camp
-- in the
dark. Addiction can be a powerful thing.
The monumentally stupid
idea of going from sea level to timberline in half a day was
co-authored by my friend Chris, who always seems to be up for doing
ridiculous things with me like accidentally breaking off
cornices, nearly falling into bergschrunds and skiing at
night with no compass or moonlight to speak of. There
was no doubt about it, Chris was the perfect partner for this one too.
So our intrepid crew gathered
at the Twin Lakes trailhead on a fine March evening at 9pm.
Chris and I were joined by three others: The first was
Dan, a local Mammoth splitboarder who had met Chris at the
Bradley Hut splitfest earlier in the year. Second was
Matt, who had taken most of the nice photos of the Bradley splitfest. The last to join was my friend Blaine -- also
known as the madman. Blaine grew up in Boulder with my
friend Bret. Bret introduced him to our high school crew
sometime in the mid-80s and we have pretty much regretted it
ever since. Blaine is a fearless dude with seemingly
little regard for consequences. One time we were biking
down to Telluride from Imogene Pass and we started a friendly
"race". I stayed with Blaine for about 1/2 mile, but
after a very near miss with an oncoming Jeep and nearly
catapulting off a 1,000' cliff, I started to use my brakes.
Blaine has no brakes, he just goes. By the time the rest
of us arrived at the campground, totally drained after a white
knuckle descent, Blaine was already stripped down and taking a
swim in the creek. There was also the time he drove full
speed down a frozen 45 degree highway embankment in a blizzard
because he wanted "to pick up a quick six-pack", or the time
he grew so impatient on the two lane road towards Buena Vista
that he literally ran a car off the road to pass it. The
policeman inside the car wasn't amused and promptly issued
Blaine a ticket.
But much time had passed
since our reckless youth in Colorado, and I knew that Blaine
had since been to medical school, had gotten married and
fathered a beautiful young daughter. Had he mellowed
with age? I honestly thought it might be possible, and I
was psyched to catch up with him and share some quality time
in the mountains. Despite the ominous sales pitch ("So,
we'll drive for six hours through heinous traffic, ski into a
frozen basecamp with full packs at night, ski above 11,000'
without acclimatizing, spend another frozen night above
timberline, ski/hike back out to the car and then drive
another six hours back home..."), Blaine didn't hesitate to
join the trip. Like I said, he is fearless.