Prelude To The Haute


The early season of touring was met by equally early-season conditions- of snow and of our collective abilities to ascend with grace. This is a learned skill set. The skier’s version of a fly-cast. Repetition and dedication breed style. This motion is hard to duplicate in the off season. Push it, says Cable. Keep moving. The ubiquitous beauty of this woods goes unnoticed as sweat burns our eyes. Eyes and thighs, burning. Calf muscles, cramping. Visions of Grand Motet. Of Valle Blanche. Verbier. Fleeting visions. Obscured by sweat in my eyes.

The free heel collides with the ski- Clack.

The ski touches down on the snow- THWAP.

As with all alpine pursuits, we find our pace. I prefer to lock into a song. Unfortunately, climbing in the woods is a largely silent endeavor, and the clunky rhythm of our randonnee bindings in the early season seems an exaggerated version of irritating. Clack-THWAP. Clack-THWAP. Sounds like The Ramones. I don’t much care for The Ramones. The pace is what it is. Now I’m stuck with The Ramones. Only slower. A four minute version of Blitzkrieg Bop burns my brain. They’re forming in a straight line. They’re going through a tight wind. Hey. Ho. Let’s go.

The Season, however, progresses. Visions of The Goal spur us on, and the skies are helping our backcountry cause by keeping the Colorado slopes free of fresh. We discuss The Route as if it were gospel. Mythical. Day one: Argentiere over the Col du Chardonnet. Visions of this hanging glacier keep our feet moving. Clack-thwap-glide. Clack-thwap-glide. Repeat ad nauseam. Jerky guitars with some syncopation. Naïve Melody. Naïve Melody works. The original version- Talking Heads. Played in CBGBs, but aren’t The Ramones. Things are looking up. Home… is where I want to be… pick me up and turn me ’round. Home on the range. The Euro range. Vision growing clearer- probably less sweat.

I guess I must be having fun

The less we say about it the better
Make it up as we go along
Feet on the ground
Head in the sky
It’s ok I know nothing’s wrong… clack-thwaGLIDE.

One hundred miles of skiing from Argentiere to Zermatt. Every step we suffer through now will be appreciated then. Don’t want to be worrying about fitness when the vistas are infinite. Sir Ed Hillary trained for “the big one” in his own backyard. How does our 9000 feet compare to the Pigne D’Arolla? “We climbed all over the mountain.” We do our best to mimic Stefano DeBenedetti. The ruse has it’s affect. We are laughing.

Clack-glide. Clack-glide. Our weekly tours now contain less panting and more conversation. Cameron Pass with Lavanchy. Current Creek. Second Creek. Zero Creek. Berthoud Pass near dark… anything to log miles. Avy danger is increasing- down to the safety of the trees. Vasquez Wilderness. National Forest. Poach the area. Time under tension. What song will be dancing in our heads on the descent into Zermatt? Chevalier has his chosen. Powder day and new skin tracks. Clack-poof. Clack-poof.

Home – is where I want to be, but I guess I’m already there. Given enough time, of course, it is always less about the goal, and the present has become equally rewarding. Finally the alpine pace is analogous to the Pacific North-West guitars that are more often than not my own life’s soundtrack. Cla-gliiiiiide. Cla-gliiiiiide. Repeat with smiles. Built To Spill- more like it. Soaring, melding guitars are the musical equivalent to a smooth tour, each note blending into the next leading to melodic climax.

The Plan keeps coming up again

Cla-gliiiiiide. Cla-gliiiiiide. Cla-gliiiiiide. Cla-cliiiiiide.

And The Plan means nothing stays the same

Cla-gliiiide. Cla-gliiiiide.

Like it’s always been

Onward and upward we tour, our collective pace keeping me in tune and enjoying the day at hand, perhaps more than our own Big One. But, the big one is coming, and we acknowledge its looming spectacle only once today, at the crest of a wind-blown bowl known as The 110s. Something about Apocalypse Snow. Patches like the monoskiing evil-doers on our own packs. Awesome.

Skins are stripped. Heels are locked. Goodnight, clack! Moleskin is applied. Descent music evokes glory, at least in our own minds. Berthoud pass today. Indian Peaks next month. Chamonix in April. The Plan keeps coming up again, and the Haute Route looms, as it has for the duration of modern ski history. Feet on the snow, head in the sky- I guess I must be having fun.


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