Monday, January 12, 2009

Who I Am

 I spent the day yesterday digging bags full of snow out from under six feet of snow.  Rick, our spiritual leader, had devised yet another exercise to scare us all enough to never ski in the backcountry again.  Upon his urging, eight of us spent yesterday on Mt. Spokane locating buried beacons, and then using the newest research in victim excavation, we dug pits big enough to not only locate the victim, but to give the rescuer enough room to perform any necessary first aid.  It was cold, backbreaking, frustrating work.  In other words, it was a blast.

Over the last few years, technological advances in rescue beacons has reduced the time to locate the burial spot of avalanche victims dramatically.  Unfortunately, the time it takes to dig the victims out is the most time consuming part of a rescue, and also the part that is probably the least discussed and the least practiced.  The group that was at Mt Spokane yesterday is a great example of the typical backcountry skier.  We are all proficient in the use of a rescue beacon, and can locate multiple victims fairly quickly, but, with the exception of two or three, we had given very little thought to the actual rescue.  As is his style, Rick put together a training day that was educational, fun, practical, and eye opening into the dangers of our sport.

Now, the point of my ramblings.  Backcountry skiing is inherently a dangerous sport.  The risk of death by avalanche is always there.  I am by no means an expert, and am in fact not that experienced.  I only go into the backcountry with a few people that I trust, and I have worked hard to gain enough knowledge not to have to trust anyone blindly, but the risk is always there.  I am a responsible man, and I take my responsibilities toward my family very seriously.  So, why do I go into the backcountry?

The only reason that I can come up with, is that this is who I am.  I have a need to be in the middle of those places that most people are content to see from a distance, or in a photograph.  I am a skier, a cyclist, an athlete.  I am not a PTA, or a Rehab Director, those are merely what I do.  The great schism is that I am a husband, and I struggle with what I risk.

When I went out yesterday, it was at the tail end of a three day fight with a cold.  By the time I got home yesterday afternoon, I was running a fever, and quite miserable.  Some people might question my judgement of spending the day outdoors in January, being cold and wet, when I was already sick.  But I needed that training.  It is important stuff for the backcountry enthusiast, no matter what your mode of travel is.  Education of all aspects of backcountry sking is my priority.  After all, it is who I am.  


nflight said...

This is one of your best to date. I am totally enjoying reading about your day to day life out there. Brings me closer and makes me miss you even more!

Anonymous said...

I'm behind in reading your blog, but wow, you can write. Have I ever told you how neat I think you are and how much I envy you? I feel I never was allowed to try things. Do you realize I never even had a bicycle until after I was married? Most parents can hardly wait to get their kids bikes. I'm not sure why I never had one, but I truly believe part of it was they were afraid I'd get hurt. Don't get me wrong, I think our folks did everything out of a deep deep love for us and I don't blame them, I'm just stating facts. I really don't feel I grew up until after they were both gone. That's really sad. Again, that's not their fault, just a fact.