If I go more’n a month without skiing I get the shakes. Figuratively speaking, that is, but you know what I’m speaking on: that complete jones to schuss.
Several years ago I embarked on the whole “turns all year” compulsion that manages to grip folks who are slightly off-kilter and more or less obsessed with skiing/riding snow as much as possible.When July flipped up on the calendar not only did it signal that I needed turns for that month, but it also prompted me to recall the last time I’d clicked into my bindings and slid down some snow; June 18th was far too long a gap. Luckily for me, I wasn’t the only one feeling withdrawals. My buddy Eric had pinged me the week before to see if I had Tuesday, July 7th free. As luck would have it, this was my only day off that week. Another call was made to Stev, my patch skiing mentor/compatriot and plans were laid.
Stev informed me that the weather forecast for the day was severe thunderstorms, albeit in the afternoon. So, Eric and I rallied at 6 a.m. and drove lickety-split down to Topaz Valley to scoop up Steve so the three amigos we could then motor on down to Dunderberg Peak, just south of Bridgeport, Cali, for, what we hoped, would be some stellar July turns.
We arrived at the top of Kavanaugh Ridge somewhere around 10:00 and said afternoon thunderstorms seemed to already converging. We took one gander at Jack’s Glacier, which had been halved (i.e. severely melted out in the middle) and decided to make the 30-minute hike up over the frontline ridge to scope out Hidden Samurai Snowfield, which is tucked up underneather Dunderberg’s northeastern face. There were two visible patches, one, the “Heart Patch” and the other a thin strip running down the middle of the saddle just south of Dunderberg’s summit. We aimed ourselves toward the expanse between these two patches and began the hike.
In roughly 15 minutes we were able to see that “Hidden Samurai Snowfield” was much smaller than we’d ever seen it (much the same as Jack’s Glacier”), which was disheartening, to say the least as it means we may not have Dunderberg as much of an option for August, September or October. With the weather starting to sock in and the sky an ominous iron grey, we opted to shoot for the long strip in the saddle, leaving the “Heart Patch” as Plan B and “Jack’s” as Plan C.
We arrived at the strip somewhere around 11 and the impending storm had now encircled us. Eric, a snowboarder who had hiked the entire distance in his snowboard boots, began bootpacking after informing Stev and myself that he was gonna shoot up, strap in, ridge the strip, and high-tail it back to the truck. We agreed that this was the best plan for all of us as nobody wished to become a crispy critter on this venture; we just wanted to bag July turns.
Eric set the boot-pack and I followed with Stev further behind. By the time Eric and I reached the top of the strip the thunder was booming and heavy rain had begun to fall. Eric strapped in and hit the slope whilst I busied myself with the slightly arduous task of swapping out of my hiking boots and into my cold 130 race boots. By the time I was ready to ski, large hail was falling from the sky and the thunder was echoing between the peak and the ridge. I banged out 27 turns that I barely remember making as I was more concerned about the hail pelting my face and the thunder at my back (not to mention the possibility of lightening cragging out of the sky and charring my ass). By the time I got to the bottom of the strip Eric was already making his way back down the scree and tallus back to the truck, meanwhile Stev was still boot-packing. I switched back into my hiking boots, arranged my gear on my pack and then waited for Stev to ski down. Once he hit the bottom of the strip, I began my trek back to the truck hastily, though being careful enough to pace myself since the rocky terrain was now nickel slick with hail and rain residue.
Eric and I made it back to the truck post haste and waited for Stev. After 30 minutes with no site of our compadre, we decided to head back up to make sure he was still en route. Just then Stev’s head poked over the last ridge that rims “Jack’s Glacier”. By this time the storm had somewhat subsided, at least to the point that we had a small eye of blue sky and no rain. Stev yelled down to us that he was gonna boot-pack and ski the looker’s right of “Jack’s Glacier”. Eric and I looked at each other, shrugged, and promplty put our gear back together and hiked the 10-minutes back to the glacier for one more schuss.
Naturally, by the time I reached the glacier the storm was re-converging on itself, with gloomy grey clouds and thunder piling themselves upon one another.We each managed to bang out a run on the strip (I scored 21 turns) and then with the weather coming back to full tilt, we high-tailed it back to the truck and called it a day.
The drive home was filled with heavy metal rain and lightening bolts of fury, but otherwise we made good time and managed to log our July turns for the year.