When the sun doesn’t shine

This is backcountry

I found this awesome video while applying to work for backcountry.com Fingers crossed. I won’t say too much about the job, but its a great intersection of creative work and outdoor passions. In Utah. Yeah it’d be sweet.

Anyway, other than the stunning cinematography, what got to me in that video is how effectively it captured that suffering that is so central to everything adventurous I do. Cliches aside, adversity exists in the outdoors, but makes the highs higher.

The timing of finding this video was spot on, as I reached just about my lowest low on my snow-camping trip this weekend. Early wakeups don’t really faze me too much anymore for the potential they hold, but when even my gentle alarm that slowly lights the room and makes quaint bird noises failed to ease me nicely from my sleep I knew it’d be rough. Hungover and sleep deprived, I double checked my gear, organized food and coffee and hit the road with the group.

I didn’t sleep in the two hour car ride to Rainier, for whatever reason. Then there weren’t enough rangers to open the gate, so we sat for another two hours. Finally, behind schedule, we got to the trail head, strapped on our snowshoes and hit the trail.

The hangover, the fresh powder, the steep gradient and the altitude stacked together like a snowball rolling down a hill, gaining momentum and mass at the same time, crushing me more each step, each feeling more like a helpless trudge than the forward motion of an athlete in more or less race shape. It didn’t stop snowing all day.

As we neared camp, a headache settled in next to my nausea, fatigued legs and distraught at the weather. The sneers of these weaknesses made me frustrated, ultimately condemning myself for taking the trip. I didn’t blame anyone for the pace, I didn’t blame myself for the drinking, I felt so powerless and miserable I wanted to eradicate the very possibility of being there.

Snow camping is of course, level two fun because one you get there you have to dig camp, the hard work isn’t over. Rather than take off our boots and kick back, we stomped around our campsite, dug a giant kitchen, dug snow anchors, tied in our tents and so on. This only added to my discontent.

But things improved. I had a good run practicing finding people buried in a fake avalanche using a beacon. Dylan and I, in charge of food, made a great dinner. Nothing improves the soul like a good, “home” cooked meal. Being with a great group of friends didn’t hurt at all either. As these improved my physical condition, the thought still lingered “Why the hell am I out here sleeping and eating in the snow. Wriggling into my sleeping bag, trying to avoid getting anything wet or cold, that thought only echoed on and on.

But I woke up from one of my most restful nights of sleep ever. Yes, sleeping on just a thermarest and foam pad in a sleeping bag directly on the snow. I woke up with my faces inches from the snow covered tent wall, which had slowly crept in as it snowed all night. But physically I felt recuperated. Mentally, the sleep allowed me to refresh.

30 minutes later, getting breakfast ready with camp already mostly taken down, a cornice poked its way out of the trees. We abandoned the boiling of hot water for a second to rush and see what we thought may be our only glance of mountains. But they were there to stay. We took the tarp off the kitchen to cook under the blue sky. We practiced digging out of avalanches and snow anchors under the sun, and hiked back warm, with mountains on every side.

It was a day that would have been great in any circumstance. But to get that after such a low was ecstatic. Why do we suffer through the pain? Because the good is so fucking marvelous. And its always worth it.

The Group Tatoosh Heading home with vistas Kitchen Skies Blissful Snow Camp Grizzly Hiking Conditions

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