Plan B: Smaller Objective, Better Turns
Words by: Kat Parks
Photos by: Cayman Waughtel & Kat Parks
We lucked out with weather again this week for our days off and planned another trip to the Tatoosh. Our planned route involved skinning up to where we skied last week and then heading over to Foss Peak following the ridge.
Our skin out of the Narada lot became interesting pretty quickly as we tried to navigate chunks of ice, dust on a solar crust, and generally shitty skinning conditions. We deployed our ski crampons and made it a bit further before giving it all up to boot pack up the pitch. Once on the Steven’s Canyon Road, it was smooth skinning and the snow was already beginning to become sun affected. As we approached the ridge, we skinned over to check out our potential objective and could already see pinwheels slowly forming on the south aspects. We wrapped around the backside of the ridge and confirmed that the snow was already mashed potatoesque so we opted for a smaller objective which all but guaranteed better snow.
When we looked up at the run below the Castle last week, Cayman turned to me and said “You can totally ski that.” With the sun baking the south aspects, we made quick work of the ascent, transitioned quickly before walking the last couple steps to peak over the saddle, and were ready for our descent. I led the charge and felt pretty great about it until I started traversing and had a hard time finding my brave cape. The first turn on a steep section is always the hardest for me to make and as I saw my traversing real estate get smaller and smaller, I finally mustered the courage to make that initial turn and off I went. Apparently Cayman had been saying words of encouragement to me before I turned but I didn’t hear anything because I was focused on the snow feeling like it could release a small wet loose slide and was worried about skiing the slippery solar crust underneath the couple inches of wet snow.
Back down on the ridge, we made our descent plan and enjoyed gorgeous blower on the non-sun affected north aspect. Another run was inevitable so we hustled back up the ridge for a full run down to the bottom. I paused at our previous transition point and got the warm and fuzzies when I saw our his and hers tracks through the snow and felt grateful for the life we are committed to living for ourselves and one another.
As we popped out of the trees at Reflection, we ran into a fellow backcountry skier who left the lot when we did in shorts and a long sleeve shirt. We saw him heading over to Foss at a ridiculously fast pace (for real, I have never seen anyone put in that kind of pace) and when we ran back into him, he had shed his top layers and took “sun’s out, guns out” to a new level. Rocking nothing but his ski boots, athletic shorts, pack, and glacier glasses, he smiled as he passed us transitioning and headed off into the sun.
Back at the lot, it was a Dude Storm (as is often the case) as the only other backcountry skiers/riders were men. As we packed up the car, I listened to all the bro talk and was reminded once again what a privileged sport this is and why it must be so intimidating for many people to get into. Money aside, the attitude and air among many backcountry skiers - not so much splitboarders - is a barrier that permeates. Though a woman, I am cis, straightbodied, and white which has allowed me the privilege of easily sliding into a sport like backcountry skiing fairly easily and without question. I also have a strong personality and am not intimated by the male ego so I rarely have to find my voice. Diversifying the outdoors does not end with getting more women in the backcountry and for those of us who have the privilege of blending into these outdoor spaces, let’s remember that the industry was made for us. And that the very least we can do when occupying those spaces is to be careful with our phrases and words at trailheads or when we are asked how we got started. We don’t know who may be listening and how powerful our words can be.