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    It was a last minute decision. Seems that a lot of my days this year
were like that. After working for 12 hours, I got out of work Sunday morning
and headed over to my girlfriends house to get some sleep. She was ready to
get up, I was feeling surprisingly alert, and already at 7:30am it was 65
degrees out at her house in Mallets Bay. We went skiing.


     Well, I did. She came along just to enjoy the hike and the views. We
had pondered for a little while before heading out the door at about 9am. We
were heading up the trail to Hojo's at around 2:00. There was a steady
stream of traffic coming down the rocky, muddy trail that consisted of many
different walks of life. Numerous dogs, many hikers with and without skis,
snowboards, and even sleds had basked in the perfect weather all day and
were heading down as we were going up. One guy had a pair of Salomon
Snoblades. Another passed by with a hello and something was vaguely familiar
about him. After greeting countless others, I was frustrated trying to place
the face. There was one day a couple years ago that I couldn't remember the
title to a particular movie. It almost drove me crazy, but instead it drove
me to the video store for peace of mind. I felt just like that on Sunday,
untilů. Jim Bauman! That looked just like Jim Bauman! It's a small world, I
guess.

     There were less than 20 people in the Bowl when we sat on the Lunch
Rocks at 4:00pm. I got my gear on and Kim got the camera ready. There were a
few people and some bumps on Left Gully, which had great coverage as high up
as I could see. The other runs of the Bowl had great snow up until somewhere
between half and 2 thirds of the way up. The Lion Head Gullys also had snow
up over the horizon and some skiers as well. On The Sluice, there was a
pretty big waterfall actively spraying out over the bare rock that rimmed
almost the entire top third of the Bowl. It was a very pretty scene in the
brilliant sun, except maybe for the dirty snow that was everywhere.

    I ended up climbing what I believe is Center Gully South up to about
where Jerm, his bro and I kicked out a ledge way back in March. It was
probably half the way up, far enough for someone who had been awake for 24
hours. I noted a sizeable crevice under The Icefall on my way up. From my
angle, it appeared to be a deep, dark black hole that could swallow you up
and devour you without even denting it's appetite. The waterfall high and to
the climbers right was surging out about 30 feet from the rock wall, spewing
into a gaping crevice that was big enough to easily engulf the other. From
this angle, I could see into the pit of darkness under the rotten snow that
would probably collapse into itself thunderously if a bird landed on it.

     After looking around and gazing with wonder and amazement, I kicked out
a ledge and clicked in. It was a very exhilarating run. The snow was just
mush and the pitch was a throwback to those so very many steeps that
invigorated me out west. This is an awesome place.

     I hung with Kim at Lunch Rocks a few more minutes before earning my
second and final run. My goal was Chute Variation North, which I planned to
access by climbing Center Gully South again and traversing up higher than I
was before. I climbed about fifty feet to the left from my first ascent and
began to hear an intense hissing. Someone up above was kicking out a ledge
and creating a mush flow that came sliding down to my right. It looked like
a liquid, with a slow and deliberate lava-like consistancy. I was roughly 40
feet from where I needed to be. I wasn't yet high enough to start the
traverse above the rocks to get to my goal when I had a change of heart. The
constant sound of the waterfall in the distance was getting louder, but then
I realized this sound was not coming from the distance. It was under the
snow I was climbing. Then I came upon a crack that had not yet deteriorated
to the point where it was all the way through. Still, this sent a chill up
my spine as I began to get paranoid about having an entire slab of snow give
out from under my feet and into a cold, wet, dark and punishing death
plummet. I stopped here and fumbled around clumsily trying to nervously
click in. It was probably unwarranted, but my nerves were starting to break.
Looking around, everything looked so calm. Placid and peaceful were two
disguises worn by a flooding torrent of danger, raging beneath the surface
and into my nervous system. The following turns that I made felt something
like utopia. There is something about fear that can really grip a person. It
grabs you by the stomach and twists it, adhering to you and enveloping you
with a chilly electricity that will not go away until you conquer it. For
about 5 or 6 quick turns, I felt feverishly and compellingly alive. This
feeling faded as I felt safer, which makes me realize that safety is a
pacifier. It will keep you sheltered from a dazzling state of mind, until
you take one step out of your comfort zone andů wow! I was caught somewhere
between wanting to head right back up there immediately to feel it again,
and NEVER wanting to feel that way again. My screaming quads told me it was
time to go home, but part of me will always want to feel that rush again.

     The hike down seemed very long as I was beginning to lose my alertness.
We stopped at a chinese restaraunt where I had a Mai Tai (my tie). It was
good 'n fruity & very strong with Jamaican Mur. Here's what I remember about
the rest of the trip home: I commented on how much I liked that Mai Tai to
which Kim replied: "Might I.... get you another?" I laughed myself to sleep
and didn't wake up until we pulled into her driveway.


mpd



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