Bubble in the desert

A blog I started whilst on a GE "Bubble" assignment in Nevada. I'm back in Cambridge (UK) now but still miss the desert and my friends out there.

Monday, February 06, 2006

"I slid The Wall" (skiing intended)

Scott and I headed up for Kirkwood (early) for half a day's skiing today. He'd brought his Downhill Skis this time, so I was to have no chance of beating him in any kind of a race! The first run was enough to see some of his skill, immediately seeking out things to jump off, an enviable level of skill.

Both with downhill skis on this time, Scott gravitated towards the higher runs. We started our first big runs on The cornice (chair 6) and headed left at the top, right past the black skull and crossed bones sign warning 'experts only'. Not really feeling sufficiently expert I needed a bit of encouragement. I think the run was called 'Lost Cabin' or 'Monte Wolfe'. Whatever it was it started steep and narrow, with a leap of faith and a few quick turns needed to get going. Scott also started with a leap in, but his was an actual leap from the cornice. It didn't look ridiculously scary but I wouldn't have liked to drop into the start of a black diamond run quite like that.

The snow was good, both the groomed and ungroomed bits of the run. Well, that's a bit misleading, the snow was good in places and a bit icy in places too. I fell over a few times but on steeper slopes I learn faster and eventually got my ankles bent enough for the skis to bite. I think the Bently Adventures skis are more 'all mountain' style skis, so they work well in the ungroomed snow. They certainly were much easier than the faster M70s I hired last week.

After playing around on the runs from The Cornice Scott announced that I'd already done The Wall. By which he meant it was no harder than the runs we'd done. So, we headed over to lift 10. A lift which has a skull and crossed bones and 'experts only' sign at the bottom of the chair lift, signifying that all runs from this lift are quite difficult (all black diamond and above).

The Wall started off ok. The rumoured steep drop-in was nothing of the sort but it was very steep and quite icy up there. Traversing wide, building up courage to point the skis down the mountain to make the first turn, I got onto the ungroomed section of the run which was diversely chunky, icy and soft (I eventually learned to turn where the sun hit the slope, since this was much softer) and clumsily turned. A few more graceless turns and we were past the worst of it and rejoined the lower slopes. After the steepness at the top of the wall the lower slopes, which I had struggled down a few weeks ago, became pretty easy and we had fun shooting rapidly down those!

My second attempt at The Wall was less glamorous. With the same trepidation as before I traversed across and hesistantly made my first turn. I think hesistantly doing anything on steep icy snow is always a mistake! Bumbling off balance I fell over and that's where my problems began. I quickly found myself sliding head first down The Wall with my skis still attached and my poles out in front. Alarmingly I was not slowing down. After this had been going on some time I tried some remedial actions, my thoughts on ice axe arrests (traing I'd got on a summer's day in Wales on the lawn of the Plas y Brenin centre, shortly before we made a z-pulley arrangement for crevace rescue, also on the lawn). I tried prodding at the snow with my ski poles but quickly realised they were no match for an ice axe and were entirely ineffective at this speed. So I continued on my way, head first. Eventually one of my skis must've snagged something and came off and in the process I seemed to have my feet underneath me again, albeit with only my uphill ski still on. After coming to a stop, a long way down the mountain, and just as the embarassment was welling up, particularly due to my proximity to the ski lift, I set off sliding again! Unbelievable. The snow was so icy that I really struggled to get the edge of the ski to bite, especially from my vantage point (sitting). When I eventually stopped, Scott scooped up my ski and brought it down for me (in itself no mean feat carrying a ski down such a steep slope). I said I felt like I'd slid 100ft. He told me it was more like 100 yards! Oh dear. There was only one thing to do. Get back and do it again. So we did that. On the way back up Scott explained that when you fall like that the only thing to do is to try and get your feet beneath you somehow. And if you lose both skis, they say roll over on to your front and make like you are doing a push up.

In the end I wasn't sure I'd qualify for a 'I skied The Wall' t-shirt and I don't think they had a 'I slid The Wall' version of it.

After The Wall we skied over to the back side of the mountain and had a go at Thunder Saddle, though I didn't know that was what it was called at the time. Had I known, the sign at the bottom of the chairlift may have worried me. It said something like, "Falls on Thunder Saddle will slide a long way". After my earlier experience I knew what that meant!

Thunder Saddle was a great run and was on another part of the mountain I'd never been on before too, so it was most enjoyable. There was even some nice snow down there.

We finished about 1pm and headed back. After a slow start it turned out to be an excellent day's skiing. My legs didn't get ridiculously pumped like normal (perhaps due to releasing my boot buckles before each lift ride). I really like to re-do the slopes that scared me after having done something worse. We ended the day with the easiest black diamond run from the cornice, 'Sentinal'. It's a great run, especially after doing The Wall! Actually we didn't quite end there, we had a grudge match to settle. Getting down to the top of lift 7, we pointed skis straight down the slope and raced back to the car. It's an easy run, and you have to watch out for people, but it's awesome to point the skis straight downwards! Needless to say, Scott won!

After prodding at the rapidly moving snow


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