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Knowing when to fold them


So a friend and I decided to try to ski The Great One, a couloir on the north face of Sacagawea’s southern sister peak. Our start was delayed due to the road to the trail head being closed (of course the first car through once the gate opened arrived just as we finished the 3 mile ‘extension” of the hike). The hike up required kicking a few steps and I in my running shoes obliged. The problem was that without a hard toe two things happen. First (and most obviously) your toes get smashed. Second, your foot get deflected and wrenched in odd ways.

By the halfway point my right knee was starting to hurt. In any case, we ended up summiting Sacagawea a bit later than planned, but precisely when a rare 10 a.m. thunderstorm starting throwing bolts. Seeing lightning strike about 5 miles south of us, we decided to retrace our steps as quickly as possible. Neither of us felt good about being on the highest peak in the range holding metal sticks with metal skis extending 2 feet above our packs. I was especially nervous because I knew my knee was not going to let me ditch my pack and make a break for it. As we came down, another group continued their hike on the assumption that the storm will be funneled to the south of us. Whenever I see a person making the exact opposite choice as me in a similar situation, it makes me question my judgment.


While it sucked to bail, lighting is one of the few factors in the outdoors you have very little control over. It is probably the only nature phenomenon I won’t mess with. In nearly every situation there is gear or skills that will keep you alive. With lighting about all you can do is try to get to a less exposed area, crouch and cross your fingers. The story has a predictable ending though. As the other group forecast, the storm blew to the south. So we tossed on our ski boots and got in about 1000 feet of turns. It is July, so I can’t complain. Now I just have to figure out how to move to Seattle without bending my right knee…