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Toiyabe National Forest
Ski Dreams Couloir - 2003

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Backcountry ski and snowboard gear, camping


Early Spring on the Sawtooth Ridge, March 2004

Hoover Wilderness, California

 

Spring Skiing below Matterhorn Peak near Yosemite National Park (photo: mmcpheet)

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.


An Audacious Plan:

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.

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