It’s 3 am and raining. I slowly come to this conclusion as I feel plops falling on the crown of my forehead, the only part of me sticking out of my sleeping bag. After waking up to frost everywhere the morning before, I made sure to keep myself well covered tonight.
“It’s too early for this…” I think to myself and slink down to the very foot of my sleeping bag, curl into a fetal position, and fall back asleep. It can rain all it wants, I’m not going into the house. Ben, Elise and Victoria seem to share my disposition as they lie asleep next to me. We had made a beautiful bed on Dick and Evelyn’s deck, despite coaches’ warnings about the temperature. We may have come to Leadville for a half marathon, but staying with the Boggs’ had definitely been a motivating factor.
Hours later, I wake up not to frost or rain but to the absence of Ben and Victoria. Trying not to wake Elise, I ease out of bed and go into the house. Ben is on the ground rolling. He and Victoria have already gone downtown to the coffee shop (addiction may be a terrible thing, but it gets a man out of bed). Downstairs, Evelyn is making biscuits and gravy. Everyone is in a good mood- sore, but with high spirits. We ready ourselves, and head up the hill to crust ski. There had been a lot of talk the night before about what road to take (5th? 7th? Ben and I were too tired to comprehend and our visual representation was not helpful), so I don’t know where we drove to but we find ourselves at the end of a plowed road in a mining area and leave Clifford for the snow.
The snow is beautiful, but the day is warming up and it is already softer than I would like. Rain at 3 am means it didn’t freeze last night, so the crust is not ideal. Heading up the slope, every plant of my pole breaks through the crust and leaves me thoroughly frustrated. Thankfully, the crust seems to get harder the higher we climb. Ben has already taken off out of sight- he has a mission to summit Bald Mountain. Perhaps it is because he is the sole man on the trip, but no one seems eager to chase him. The rest of us continue onward, into a flat section, and take in the view. I follow Becca onto what I guess must have been the top of a mining shaft, and Rachel warns everyone to be very careful around mining shafts. As Rachel gives us her warning, Becca breaks through the crust, and most of the rest of us soon follow suit. Skiing down the shaft, Rachel breaks through and falls on her face next to a tree. Weary of the snow, I watch my skis as I move and notice how fast my feet seem to be going over the snow.
Still following Becca, I find myself going sideways across Bald Mountain. Ben has made it to the top- I wave, and he waves back. I am reminded of the backpacking trip with him last year, when he would take off and be up the side of a canyon before anyone had really noticed he was gone. I am impressed by his courage- even just standing on the side of this steep slope, I feel a bit shaky. Ben comes crashing down from the top, and we ski down into another flat-ish section. As I ski down the hill, the bill of my hat falls into my face and I am blinded. I shake the hat off my head, letting it fall by its strings to the back of my neck, and follow Elise but quickly divert when I see her heading for some privacy in a tree. Finding my own path down, I anticipate a turn but instead find myself face first in the snow, having hit a soft spot and broken through the crust. My skis have dove into the snow at an extreme angle, and I’m not sure I can get them out. After much struggle, I resign myself to the fact that I will never make it back to the rest of the group and will be stuck in this snow for the rest of the day. Little do I know, most of the group is stuck in similar positions. Eventually I wedge my skis out of the snow, and scoot myself to the shade of a tree where the snow is harder and I can stand. I find my way to Victoria, Becca, Christi and Rachel. Elise joins us as we make our way carefully back to Clifford, fully anticipating to break through the crust and be again stuck in the snow. A successful ski in the books, we make our way off the hill and into Nancy’s house for scones and coffee.
Next up with the hat: Elise!