The East Wall traverse gives way to a bowl

Any adult who spends time in Peter Pan-land will tell you: Even a bad day of play beats a great day at the office.

Hence a day in the Colorado Rockies that is fraught with 30mph winds, pelting ice pellets, icy patches, flat light, extreme terrain, anemia-induced dizziness and weird eye-floaties is better than closing the deal, grading papers, or overall wrappin-it-up at week’s end.  Let’s face it, with few exceptions, the best thing about work is time off from it. And I love my job(s).

So it was, on a random Thursday that I and my two partners in crime (one’s a nurse with an unorthodox schedule, the other is on what’s appropriately called funemployment) headed to A Basin, aka Arapahoe Basin, The Legend for a few hours of adult recess.

My two partners are not what I would call avid skiers. They stopped being avid years ago. Mr. Funemployment has put in over 30 days this year and I bet my nurse friend is in that same ballpark. These guys are warriors, not weekend warriors.

So it was with some trepidation that I headed up to the hills with the experts, somewhat leery of my recent cry day at Vail (not ready to write about that one yet) and somewhat wistfully remembering that magical day at Loveland where I boarded in my comfort zone all day and left the mountain with a rare sense of confidence. Being pushed is good, I agree, but some days ya gotta hang where you feel comfortable so you can practice the fundamentals, even when the pitch gets steep.

The day started with a three-day $138 A Basin spring pass. Rumors are A Basin will see the light of June, and April brings surprising powder dumps with its showers. Skies were grey, conditions were mostly icy with patches of powder, which were visible early morning but not afterwards. The flat light made navigating terrain difficult and seeing icy patches impossible. Flat light is a lot like April snow-showers: lot of surprises.

And the wind. The A Basin snow report predicted 25mph winds, but my virtual finger test called hogwash. By 11:30AM, winds were whipping through the Basin of A, sending icy snow pellets darting sideways and upward into my face. I hate icy, sideways hail.

By one o’clock, the anemia and hypoglycemia were winning, and the wind had turned just this side of ridiculous. So we raised the white flag halfway, caught some lunch at Black Mountain Lodge, and did our swan song turns for the day.

But not before hitting the East Wall. The East Wall at A Basin is hallowed in some circles, as it’s rated a double-black diamond. Now I can hang on blacks (as long as they’re mogu-l and tight-tree-free), but I don’t pretend to know or even care to know about double-blacks. The East Wall is hike-to territory, and the steep chutes, another 500-600 feet from the catwalk traverse, are what put the double in the black. We weren’t doing that, although we did see some folks hiking towards heaven.

The thing about the traverse along the East Wall is that it’s skinny, and I’m afraid of heights. So my clammy yet frozen hands are gingerly pushing me along the catwalk and these rocks, well, they jut out and make the margin of error of tumbling into the East Wall’s open bowl even greater. After charting a course and trying not to freak out by the “DANGER you will die” signs that greet you at the East Wall’s entrance, I dipped down into the bowl and realized:

The East Wall ain’t all that. The upper portion, sure. But I made it down alive, didn’t come near as close as I thought to any rock outcroppings or cliffs or any of that other nonsense. It was fun! There was this little funnel bit and a wide open bowl, with plenty of crust to turn in. I kept my speed up to the lift, and we turned around and did it again–minus the rock jutting out into the traverse.

And then the eye-floaties raised the white flag, all the way up, and we called it a day. For real.

 

Getting into the groove, coming out of the East Wall

All that's missing is a three-headed dog

Overprepping for a ride down some not double-black

Read about SheSpoke’s epic, six-hour road trip to hit Wolf Creek’s opening day in 2011 with three feet of powder!

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