The Mighty Sultan

I had two self arrest…twice. the first time caught me in shock, as I was sliding all I could think is I am sliding. I tried grabbing the ice. I tried turning sideways. I then fliipped and shoved my ski in the snow. It was close to the start of the Sultan, so not in danger. I would have just slid to the start. The second time was close to the top out. I immediately flipped and stuck it. The first fall definitely gave me what I needed in the higher consequence area.

We do have ice axes, we used ice axes on Engineer. We didn’t bring them this trip, I will bring an ice axe here on out.

The snow on the Northside allowed us to glide like a dream. The Southside icy, windy, and steep did not feel like a dream. 

On this mountain there were moments I thought to myself twenty more steps, now forty, now twenty. We checked avalanche check conditions, and the time to climb was now. 

When we finished the turk, we saw a lot of groups heading down and skipping the mighty Sultan. Just as we finished the turk, the sun came out. It warmed our faces and souls and we decided we had it in ourselves to finish it. 

Yes, when I slide at the top, I thought my heart may just leave me. Despite it being a few seconds it was the biggest fear I have felt in a long time. My chest ached from the heavy heartbeats. But, I didn’t fall far. I stopped myself. And, the reward for challenging myself in the backcountry with low avalanche conditions is earning every turn. The key is “yes I took a risk climbing two mountains in the winter, but I made sure avalanche conditions were low.” 

I mention this because I met someone in town who said he rides in the worst conditions because it’s the best snow. That statement makes me cringe. My personal thoughts are “You put yourself, your partners and those below the mountain at risk when you decide to head out in avalanche conditions.”

The blunt truth is I should have had an ice axe. Backcountry is a life experience, but taking unnecessary risks and consciously is not respecting the mountain.

Part of the pure joy of backcountry is working with the mountain. And, then you reap the benefits of the best purest snow you can imagine – safely. 

Then the other parts of your life just fit. Sunday I worked for two and half hours. And, I went longboarding with Shasta, not epic, but she was pretty stoked to run. The mundane moments on a weekend easily feel comfortable and enjoyable, when you work your legs so hard they ache. 


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