Story By Zach
When Anna first asked me to go on an ice climbing/skiing my first thought was no...actually it was fuck no. I asked myself "How can I get out of this without being a dick?" In hindsight, I am grateful for her persistence.
As an avid skier and former instructor I am always happy to pursue new avenues of skiing-especially when that involves finding sweet lines that no one else has touched. What most concerned me about this particular outing was the ice climbing aspect. I am not an avid ice climber; I know almost nothing about ice climbing and was told very little about this “adventure”.. That raised a bit of a red flag since my first and only experience with ice climbing began with burning hands, an unsettled stomach, and me dangling from the rope telling Anna that I can no longer reach the tools. (Anna's note: That experience turned out ok. And this ice outing was within his skills)
That said, I never actually agreed to go; Anna just showed up. I don’t own hiking boots, or even hiking shoes, I would much rather have a chair lift take my lazy ass up the mountain than have to walk, or in this case climb, to my skiing destination, which, at the time was the only gleaming ray of hope I had for this “adventure”.
In lieu of insulated winter boots, or athletic tennis shoes, I boldly selected baseball cleats as my footwear. This would prove to be a blessing and a curse.
Arriving at the parking lot, after Anna’s bribe of Mcdonalds had paid off, we found a fair amount of skate skiiers and hikers and, shockingly, no alpine skiers. Feeling like the Dingleberry that I am, in my bright yellow baseball spikes, and making my permanently dumb face, we quickly found that Anna had forgotten some key pieces of ice climbing equipment. Oh no...you can imagine my disappointment… Luckily, Anna reassessed and scaled back the adventure to include only skiing.
The trek started off pleasantly enough, baseball cleats, though unstylish, were indeed paying off. After about a half a mile I took a quick look at Anna’s pack and remembered it was supposed to cinch the waist strap tight and leave the shoulders rather loose...whoops. The trek become considerably more pleasant with my load more securely attached.
At the base of Little O’malley I recalled my last two ventures up the trail. One was with a lady friend in the summer time on a bright sunny day, far more pleasant, the other, was Anna’s and my last skiing “adventure” in which I was hiking up a mountain in ski boots, far less pleasant. (But the skiing that day was awesome)
For the first few hundred feet up the mountains’ face, I was absolutely killin’ it. Feeling good and a little warm from the sun and severe lack of wind, I skedaddled up the hill. At this point, I was incredibly pleased with the performance of my footwear. For hiking snow and ice, emphasis on snow and ice, and in the absence of proper gear and or the means to purchase proper gear, 10/10 would recommend baseball cleats.
Like I said, for the first few hundred feet, it was great. After not too long I began to severely regret my lack of cardio. I had to stop, and here comes Anna traipsing past telling me about running stairs with firefighter gear on. Yeah Anna, but how much do you deadlift?
About halfway up, once again cleats paying off, at least on this leg they were outperforming Anna’s “proper footwear”, the potential for Anna beating me up became clear. Not gunna happen. I applied some personal trainer wisdom and put my head down while counting out 5 sets of 10 steps each, following by a short break. Anna stood no chance. I won, however Anna didn’t require a short nap at the top, nor did she need to replace the gallon of sweat that was left on the face. She was also unaware that this was a race. I pulled out my shaker only to find chunks of old protein floating in my water. I chugged it anyway.
The view, though spectacular, was not unfamiliar, nor was the face of Little O’malley really worth skiing. Onward and upward.
A few hikers passed us on the ridgeline, they were not hauling skis; we decided to follow their path; bad idea. The ridgeline was bare in some places and home to numerous false peaks, each one offering the promise of doing the thing that I had actually shown up to do, but no, we were headed to big O’malley way off in the distance.
The rocks continued to get more jagged, and the trail more non existent. Perhaps that is for a reason.
This is the part where my cleats were, unfortunately, a bit of a hinderance. Spikes do no good on rocks, in fact they slip off of rocks quite easily even when you think you have a solid footing. After scoping out a suitable area to drop in, and discussing the prospect of actually making it to O’malley, given the increasing difficulty of the terrain, we decided to continue on. Once again, bad idea. (or was it?)
Following the path of the hikers we scaled a rather sizable rock that we should have gone around. On the other side was a cliff that was descendible, though not without some trouble. And, ah yes, we are wearing skis. Awkward, cumbersome skis. We took separate routes, neither were ideal. Descending a rockwall with a cliff to your left, sharp rocks at the bottom, and the certainty of sliding a good portion of the way down the mountain should you fall with no harness is not my idea of fun. The cleats didn’t help. Anna made her way down slowly but surely. I was slow to follow, trying to make conversation while climbing in an effort to hide my terror.
Mama, I made it.
Continuing on turned out to be the right choice. We found a well covered untouched chute with plenty of room at the bottom. The “type two” fun was worth it. After an extended lunch break and further deliberation about going on, we decided this was the spot. Finally, what I showed up to do.
After scouting my line and strapping up, I found the snow to be rather hard and fast. I found a narrow chute that took some getting to (now named Doothe’s chute, don’t look it up). I was determined to do something cool for the sole purpose of a sweet instagram pic, but unfortunately Anna was concerned with something called “avalanche safety”? Whatever that means I dropped in, forgetting how fast the snow was and forgetting the small rock near the exit of the chute. If you fall, and no one sees it, it didn’t happen. I maintain that my run was completely flawless and awesome.
Standing atop a mountain you just climbed, staring down at the line you’re about to ski is a pretty indescribable feeling. Yes, it was worth it. Similar to my review of baseball cleats 10/10 would recommend. There is something incredibly gratifying about working to find something that you think is cool.