| Mt Bross (June Ski Descent)
Today's date is July 31, 2013. I'm writing about an event that happened 4 years ago, so maybe all the details aren't there, but I'm going to try and recap some of where I was at with my life.
I remember thinking back to 2009 it was a time of uncertainty. I had been working as a contractor for 3 1/2 years; I started in Rochester, NY, relocated to Denver (for skiing/outdoors) and eventually found myself living up in Fairplay, CO. I had an opportunity to move from Highlands Ranch to Fairplay and rent a place with a view. Talk about opposite ends of the spectrum...I was living with family friends for awhile and I was looking for something different. I was seeing a woman at the time, and after finding her a job we moved to Fairplay right before Christmas 2008. The first night we moved in it was -20F, the night was crystal clear, and I loved every minute of it...except the relationship part. That was definitely a new low. Rather than dwell on it, I'll leave it at that.
The bonuses of living in a small high altitude town in Colorado in winter don't seem glorious to all, but there were a lot of amazing benefits. I reminded myself again in my adult life how much I could really get by without (college was the opposite, you're surrounded by support and resources). Fairplay made me appreciate a good grocery store- I actually would go stop in Breck after skiing to do most of our shopping as the quality and prices were that much better. I joined a bowling league, and actually learned a bit about bowling. Our team was really fun, and I had a team mate who had the same first and last name as I. We finished second in the league and won $25 each. I learned to play Boxcar and we'd often do that after bowling league to wind out the night. You knew your neighbors and people helped each other a lot.
Anyway, back to the task at hand. I lost my job in April and my insurance along with it- I was cut off at a moment's notice from my contract and I was stuck in this beautiful place with no job and lots of fun student loans. Unemployment allowed me to keep my car, but the rest I maxed out my credit cards to get by until I secured a job. I started the new job on July 13 that year- so it's hard to tell if I actually had an offer or an interview when I undertook this climb. My head was in a thousand places and I knew that I needed to get out in the mountains to focus me. Bross was an obvious choice- I could see it from my front yard. My window looked out onto the back side of Sherman and Bross was visible from my deck. With limited funds, the short drive was calling me. I summoned my buddy Brad and he spent the night so we could make an early attack.
I remember driving up in complete darkness- the peak's silhouette wasn't even visible for a lot of the time. I remember driving through the valley and seeing the new U-Haul storage location they installed that year- I think the light pollution coming off of that made me want to vomit. Another job well done by man- a storage facility at 10,000' lit up like it's in the middle of Manhattan. And it will never go away, unfortunately.
I skied the Moose Creek Gulch that day, and Brad joined me on the climb. This was back before I had skins or AT bindings, so I had basically my park skis and boots. I think back then I used to climb with my alpine boots in my pack- very cold to try and get on your feet, but when you don't have all the equipment you should have, you made due. We started out from the car parking someplace along the side of the road around 5:30 or 6:00. I remember the climb being a bit long (just long and flat, not very exciting). I remember climbing between the snow and grass when the snow wasn't super solid. I do distinctly remember the sunrise and we got a few good pictures that morning with the moon still being out. The climb was uneventful, and we were alone coming up (and down) this side. I remember there being snow on the summit, and plenty for the descent. I had to take my skis off at one point in the gulch, as there is a horizontal debris band that traverses the snow field. It was about 10-12' across that year- just long enough to make me take my skis off for a moment and start my descent on the other side. It had to be before 9am at this point.
Before I went down, I asked Brad to hike out to the East and stay on the cirque, and see if he could get some good photos or video of my descent. I think I had a few pictures that came out OK, but not a ton. After I got to the rock band, Brad started his descent. I remember how quickly I could move and cover ground on skis. The terrain in this gulch isn't anything exciting (especially in crusty cold corn) but the lateral movement was quick- I ate up the snow pretty quickly and had a few patches to hop-scotch down. If nothing other than to kill some time waiting for my companion on foot. I think I got 3 more patches in, and then looked for my exit on the lookers left side of the gulch. A little climb up and I was back near the trail. Brad wasn't far behind. The skiing was good- I skied off the summit and down through the gulch. The snow was firm (it was early in the day), but consistent from summit on down. There wasn't a lot of dirt or dust on the snow, which is a bit of a surprise.
I have trouble eating at altitude and today was no exception. Back then I didn't think of things like gels and bars too much, or know enough to force them down. I hadn't had much water today and hadn't had any food since breakfast. I think within the last half mile of the jeep, I had to stop. I emptied my empty stomach and realized how dumb it was to get to this state. I was weak and dehydrated. I sucked down some water to help my stomach settle and we took a break. I asked Brad to help me carry back my ski pack for a little bit- I didn't realize how close to the car we were. He ended up taking it down the rest of the way for me- like a true friend. My legs were pretty wobbly, but I was fine. We loaded up pretty quickly and drove down to the valley floor without incident.
As is true Hoosier Pass tradition, we stopped in to the Berry Berry Cafe in Fairplay for an amazing big brunch- if you haven't gotten a chance to stop in here, enjoy the community feel of the diner and amazing food. It's so reasonably priced, it's hard to pass up this gem- friendly staff. I'd love to try and ski this one in the winter some day...