The Black Lake Chute took me ten years to ski. All that time it teased me from Anchorage. Above my home it looked like a thin white thread tied to the summit of O’Malley Peak. It hung down the north face and draped off of the lower wall. It became my White Whale. Sometimes, between attempts, I’d try to talk myself out of it. It’s too dangerous. There’s plenty of other stuff to ski. But I wanted it so bad….
The ‘average’ winter continues here in British Columbia. The snowpack is about 2.5 meters deep at the lodge at Valhalla Mountain Touring, and upwards of 4 meters deep in the alpine. And storm after storm keeps dropping ridiculously deep Kootenay cold smoke. The snowpack is a bit touchy these days, with the persistent weak layers of surface hoar, sun crusts and facets now down about a meter deep and keeping us from hitting the big open scary slopes, but a ton of fun is being had in our endless safe ski terrain. Safe doesn’t mean boring when you find new runs that weave their way through 100-year-old trees and pillows!
When I broke my ankle on May 1st last spring, I was at 17,600’ on 23,390 Baruntse, also known as my own personal Moby Dick for reasons you can research at www.skithehimalayas.com. Unlike Ahab, I was rescued by a vessel rather than doomed to one. Lifted into the skies, wrapped in bandages, worked over through weeks of PT and now here I am again today, returning to wrestle with ambition and not the ankle. Hopefully stronger, admittedly risk averse and yet still with an appetite for the unknown. The whale is gone though, off my range for a spell.
After failing to reach the mountain earlier this year, Osprey athlete Matt Helliker, Nick Bullock and Pete Benson are at it again. They took off from the UK on October 2 and have arrived at base camp.
After a wild helicopter flight somewhat reminiscent of a Vietnam war film, flitting and twisting in the deep walls of the Seti Khola gorge, the team including Ed Douglas and David the cameraman have arrived at their chosen BC without any mishap. The Base Camp, in the end was the higher of the two possible choices at a height of 4600m situated at a large gassy flattening with stunning views of Annapurna 3, 4 and the sacred peak of Machhapuchher.
Follow along live on the British Annapurna III Expedition blog.