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I want to tell you a better story.  More than just a single photo which is looked at then quickly forgotten.  This is the problem today, we are deluged with noise.  Images aren’t given the opportunity to impact us.  We don’t sit with them, it is hard to pause and be overwhelmed by an image on a screen held in one’s hand.  So here, pause for a moment.  Sit for a moment with my words, and let me paint you a story to go along with these images, let them convey the weight of a place to you.  Then with that resonance, click on the images.  Look at them on a real screen with high resolution.  Then maybe, just maybe, they will give you a sense of that space.
 
Let me tell you a story of a perfect line.


Slivers of vertical snow amongst folds of rock.  Lines that seemed to defy gravity.  From where we stood the pitch appeared too vertical for them to even hold snow.  Yet there they were, mocking any attempt we might make to ignore them, as much as their existence seemed to mock the very forces of nature.  The plans for the day were forgotten; this was perfection.  It would be impossible to tell whether or not they would go without going closer and checking.  It could be a first descent, an argument to give more weight to heading over, but I didn’t care, these lines were beautiful. This face demanded to be ridden. This is often the way it begins, a compulsion that I can’t begin to explain that takes root deep in the core of who I am.  From the point we saw glimpses through the trees, nothing else mattered. I could not ride the line as easily as I could give up on breathing.

We had known the lines were up here, occasional trip reports had photos of this wall of couloirs in the distance, but never any mention of anyone checking to see if they would go.  They had been tossed around as an option if we could find them, but they were never the main objective.  The Wizard took some convincing.  His initial response to my excitement at the face was simple; ‘Those are fucked. They have to be close to vertical’.  Brendan, our film crew of one echoed the opinion, but he embraced the idea, after all he didn’t have to ride them.  We were up here to go and ride an 11000er, a mellow open face that the Wizard had never ridden, and I hadn’t done in winter, and this would be a very different objective.  However, this is why the Wizard makes a great riding partner, despite his misgivings he is willing to humour my compulsions.  The plans were changed.  This was our new objective.

Three quarters of an hour later I finally crest the ridge that had hidden the base of the line from us.  I turn to the Wizard.  ‘Good news, bad news… what do you want?’  He just stares at my grin, knowing my response is going to be idiotic.
‘Fine. What is the bad news?’
‘It goes.’
‘And the good news?’
‘This snow is amazing.’ I grin at him, as he shakes his head and sighs.
Thirty seconds later the entire bowl I am edging around whumpfs and settles.  The Wizard eyes me expectantly.  We have done this way too many times, settlement is a flag, not a reason to go home.  I traverse back to him and we take a track that circles along the opposite side of the bowl, a high point less likely to be riddled with shitty layers.  Within a few minutes we can see the whole face, nothing blocking the view.

The immensity of some spaces is hard to describe in words.  I had earlier written that the weight of the place was crushing.  That wasn’t accurate, it was overwhelming though.  This is where photos both help but fail.  I had thought to take a photo, to pause for a moment and be that guy pulling his phone out to grab a pic that would never do justice.  I didn’t.  Part of me regrets it, and part of me is glad that the image is painted so firmly inside my head. Had I taken the picture, who knows whether it would be.

We left Brendan to set up, and headed towards the line.  A few quick comments about the approach, and then we were changing over and starting to move up.  We thought it was shorter than it was.  We were wrong.  We expected the snow to harden up once we were in the line proper.  Again, we were wrong.  It took us two hours of boot-packing to gain the top.  Smart ass comments, piss taking, heavy breathing, cursing the depth of the snow, the sound of your heart beating in your throat, cursing the length of the line.  We wallowed.  On occasion the snow was over our shoulders.  We suffered upwards, and eventually we made it over the cornice.

I haven’t stopped thinking about that space since we rode it.  I fist bumped the Wizard, and gave him the first turns.  He dropped into the whiteness below me, a few careful turns to check stability and then he vanished.  I waited.  The radio had chosen the perfect time to die.  No word from below.  I shook a little from the cold, from the waiting, from the excitement.  It had been long enough, B was either out or would be soon.  I radioed in that I was dropping to anyone who might be listening and pushed into the abyss.

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Never have I experienced a line so perfect.  Snow so deep that you choked on it.  Close to 500m of perfect vertical powder.  I would speed check and then straight line to get ahead of the sluff.  Choking on snow as my vision vanished, only to be suddenly presented with vertical walls rushing by, then another speed check, and the world vanishes.

It was at the bottom of the line where I made the mistake.  I had pulled out to let the sluff pass, pausing to set myself up to straight out of the line.  Yet as I turned my board back down slope it got caught, the torrent of snow still too strong.  I got launched over the rocky outcropping guarding the entrance, forced the board onto the toe edge, and then the world went black with snow rushing over me.  Yet as easily as I had left that space of flow, of being part of the environment, I was there again.  There are no good words to describe what happened next.  A moment of darkness, the body turning with the flow of the snow, and a half second later I was shooting out of the line, rushing back through a world of white.

I floated towards the Wizard.  His board was off.  A fist bump as I passed him.  We couldn’t stop grinning.  More fist bumps.  I pulled off my board and gave him a hug.  There were just no words that seemed to do justice to the experience of that space.


But is that the story?

It doesn’t mention the eleven hours of continual movement from car to car.  It doesn’t highlight the fact that our day started and ended in the dark.  Plus the whole thing comes off as serious, as if we moved like rigid automatons throughout our day.  In reality the day was mostly a continual litany of banter, of smart ass remarks and laughter.  How about the utterly abysmal snow pack lower down that left us laughing and cursing as we tried to make headway through faceted snow and inconsistent layers?  How about the skin back out across the lake at the end of the day?  An utterly mind numbing suffer fest across a perfectly flat surface, that took us an hour of doing nothing but going perfectly straight with the goal never getting any closer.  There are so many other bits and pieces that make up a day like that.  In the end the story that gets told is in part the bits that stand out, and despite the fact that most of our day was spent getting to and from the line, the focal point in my memory is that.  Is this honest though?  I could have left out the bit about being sluffed out.  I could have sold this as something perfect without mistakes.  Yet that is the story I am trying to avoid.  That would be the story of social media, of perfect places and misrepresentation.  I want to give honesty.  I want to give a taste of a place. I don’t want to paint a perfect picture.  I want to tell you a better story. This one isn’t perfect, the voice still comes off as too cold and distant. I don’t read this and taste sweat, I don’t feel the coldness of snow choking my lungs. So it fails. I guess I am out of practice. Maybe I will revisit this in the weeks to come, but for now this is the story you get. Not a perfect one.