We started off strong at the trailhead; packs strapped to our backs, skins on our skis, boots locked in. With one foot in front of the other we glided along the road, slowly climbed up into the trees and away from the car. The weather was prime, not too cold-not too hot, with the sun barely peaking out from the clouds. It looked like snow was on the way.
About 1 mile in on this 6 mile ski we started to have boot problems. I guess that’s the price you pay for only doing a big backcountry trip 1x per year. The skin on our feet was fresh – asking to be rubbed raw. To try to prevent and further blistering we stopped to apply moleskin/electrical tape to the affected areas [Side note – in a trial between electrical tape versus athletic tape for bandaging needs athletic tape wins].
Fast forward down the road to the turnoff @ Nolan Creek. We stopped for a few drinks of water, to ditch a layer of clothing, and refresh ourselves for the final 2 mile stretch. Based on the trail information we were about to climb steeply through an Aspen glade, turn onto an old jeep road, and then finally around the bend would be the hut – the Polar Star Inn. It was here at the turn in the trail that I decided to eat an orange. Such an innocent little cutie that tasted refreshing on my tongue, however less than 5 minutes later I was not feeling so hot. 1 minute later and my orange painted the snow. Poor Leah, she also yakked, and so began the #yakpak. We would try to recruit members for the rest of the trip.
Aside from up-chucking the entire contents of my stomach on the side of the trail I felt fantastic afterwards. We tightened our straps and set off for the last remaining miles. Through the Aspen glades and Pine forest switchbacks ran up the mountain. Always a manageable slope but always hard. I could hear my heart beating in my chest and my breathing become labored as my muscles worked to bring me closer to warmth – one slide at a time. At some point [I’m not really sure where] my legs became so very tired. I remember counting to 100 steps in my head. To me this seemed manageable. I thought, “I know I can take 100 steps. After I do that I can rest, or keep going”. 100+ steps later and we rounded the bend with this beauty in our sights – I have hardly seen anything more wonderful.
We spent the next few days exploring the area [ahem, skiing fresh POWda], playing hearts, eating tasty stew, sauna-ing, and staying incredibly warm due to a wood-burning stove.
What I came to realize on this trip is that there is immense power in pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones. When I was first learning to ski again [after a brief hiatus on the snowboard] someone told me that in order to learn control you need to experience the feeling of being out-of-control. Now, I urge you to practice this safely…but he was right! You don’t definitively know your one-rep max in weight lifting until you attempt the damn-thing and totally fail. This is where your limit lies and signifies where we can grow.
As we approach the new year, I want to remind myself of what it means to step out and enter the ring. I can expect some of what 2017 will bring [moving back to Colorado, starting medical school, traveling to Thailand], but I know there will be lots of surprises in between. Bring it on 2017!