“How’d you like that?” he said, after the down-climb from the summit.

“It was fun enough, but I’m sweating bullets.”

“Come stand over here and you’ll cool right off.  What do you think about that?” He pointed down and out of sight.

Approaching the East ridge of The Pfeifferhorn.

I stepped up and looked over the ridge, “It looks thin”.

“Are you up to ski it?”

“I’m scared”, I said, “but I think I’ll do it”.

“We can get out there and dig a pit if it’ll make you feel better about it.”

“No”, I said.  I wasn’t worried about the avalanche danger, which was low to moderate.  It was just steep, and it looked thin, and we were a long way from help.  I could tell though that what I felt wasn’t the same kind of nagging fear that I’d felt booting to the summit earlier on softening snow, wondering if I was going to go for a ride over the cliffs in a wet slide.  That was a real, self-preservation fear, or at least, closer to it.  This was self-limiting fear, a fear of success almost.  So I committed.

“You can stay here in the safety of these rocks.  I’ll make a slope cut across, and then we’ll see how it goes.  Just spot me until I’m safe.”

I watched Scott ski slowly ski out onto the slope, bouncing to weight the snow, and stopping to probe with his poles.

The Northeast Face of the Pfeifferhorn.

“Whoo boy,” he hollered, “it is thin.”

Obviously not too thin, I thought, as he carefully committed to his first jump turn.  He stuck it, and then another.  I watched as he got smaller and smaller, and skied further down the slope.  I wondered where he would stop, and it felt like a long time as I waited.  Just a small dot, he stopped on a rise below the large apron that wrapped around the cirque.  After a moment, our agreed-upon monkey call echoed up to me; he had eyes-on.

I slowly arced out onto the slope, following his track and feeling into the snow.  As I looked downhill, the steepness of the slope was almost a visceral feeling, a feeling of how far I could fall.  With no real choice left, I threw my weight to the fall line and pushed off into the first turn.  Weightless for a moment, my skis touched down on the icy breakable crust, scraped a bit, and held.  My apprehensions dropped away abruptly.  Instead of feeling far from help, I felt nowhere but there.  I cut into another turn, paused, then another.  Feeling playful, I began to make figure-eights out of Scott’s turns.  Checking my speed and feeling the changing snow I made my way down twenty or thirty turns to the low-angle apron below, nearly falling there as the breakable crust tried to steal my leg from me.  Soon enough, I was standing next to Scott looking back up at the slope.

Looking back to the South.

“The snow sucks, but it’s a good line.  And it’s good to ski all kinds of conditions.  Good job.”

“Thanks”, I said, as I looked around at the beautiful walls of Maybird canyon.  Even though the snow was bad, I felt great.  The summit behind me had capped off the last few weeks of good tours and the occasional good snow, and I was starting to feel comfortable moving through the Wasatch mountains.

The walls of Maybird.

Soon enough I’ll be driving back to Portland and back to school.  Graduation isn’t far away, but there’s a lot to tackle between now and May.  I’m not looking forward to dealing with all the mundane things that stand between me and graduation, but I am ready to tackle some goals that I’ve laid out for the New Year.  I’m not going to share them yet, as I’m told that statistically speaking those who talk about what they’re going to do are less likely to do it.  I will share the results, be they success or failure.  Until then, you may notice a change in the look of the blog to reflect some of my ideas, which I’ll explain when it happens.  Pray for snow.

A cloudy stand of aspens.