The weather warms, the snow softens and melts and attention turns to the next objective. There's still skiing to be done here in Alaska but I have to drive a little farther to find reasonable conditions. So, the after work agenda changes and mine turns to running.
No one would accuse me of being an inexperienced ski mountaineer but, like one, for some reason I have never owned a pair of ski crampons. Until this season, I was always watching my friends scurry along with them while I booted with crampons. If it was super firm, the difference in speed was marginal but if it was punchy I was dropped quickly. In spring their utility is undeniable when skinning up smooth, frozen corn and glazed skin tracks. But even in winter on wind swept passes and ridges, ski crampons take a terrifying, precarious moment and reduce it to pleasurable. They add a level of security and increase travel efficiency to a degree that is staggering.
When I made the heavy decision to move to Alaska, I did so with significant anxiety since I was turning my back on the best ski mountaineering in the lower 48. What would I find in Anchorage? As most skiers know, there are few towns in the U.S. that have the kind of access we have in the Tetons. So, it was a great relief to get to Alaska and discover I need not worry.
It's hard to believe I left the ski mountains of my dreams. But on March 21st, with a painfully heavy heart and tear-filled eyes, I drove out of Jackson headed for Alaska. Ahead were new adventures, for sure, but leaving my home and friends was the hardest move I've ever made. It really wasn't the mountains, although they're the best anywhere, I would argue. It was more the community that they inspire. After many years, I finally achieved the sense of belonging I'd always wanted but never attained. And now I was leaving. What was I thinking? And as I passed the top of Teton Pass and glanced back one last time in my rearview mirror, I cried again.
It was time for a gut check. I needed to step back and look at the bigger picture. It's true. I was fit and ready to skimo race. I've been training all season and the upcoming Wasatch Powder Keg was going to be my final race of the year. I was facing the last week before the event and it was time to rest. The problem was that this taper was corresponding with a spell of splitter high pressure which had the high peaks drawing my thoughts and ambitions like the sirens in Homer's Odyssey.