THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, THUMP is the noise that has been greeting me every morning for the past couple of weeks. Question: have I given up on the shred this year, in exchange for boozy nights out and ENA based hangovers? Answer: nope, that thumping noise is not my head. It's the noise of the carpenters building the first ever snowboard shop in Gulmarg! That's all I'm going to say on that. Andy is putting together a little ditty on that project. So much has happened in the past few weeks that I'm at a bit of a loss as to where to start. To roll back three weeks, season passes were obtained and the shred could finally begin, on a low tide. Roll back two weeks, we're picking off lines and loving life. Roll back one week, we're in the midst of our first big storm, with no power but huge grins! But roll back just three days and we're, unfortunately, present for the first avalanche related fatality in four years.
So now I'm left hanging in a melancholy space. How can I go on and tell you all about how epic my riding has been, without sounding a little ungracious? Well, the story I am going to tell happened before the storm. It was our first mission over the top of Mt. Affarwat for 2014. The forecast was for a sunny morning, the avalanche advisory had been digested and we were confident about our terrain choice. Want to hear what happened? Then read on.
|Our line as viewed from the east side of Gulmarg on a much nicer day|
click to enlarge^^
|looking for the entrance to our line in the|
My feet punch through the sugary snow to the brush underneath, with a regularity that makes me wonder how my board can survive this scratch free. We locate the top of our line and scope out our dropping in point. It's unanimous that the true entry isn't going to be ridden by us today. We select a safer spot and begin to transform our boards back. This is when the wind plays her hand. She screams in my ear as I try and rip off my skins. The unruly things flapping in the wind refusing to behave. Fingers fumble with buckles and she even snatches up my mountain snack! The saving grace is that she's moving the cloud through so quickly that there are plenty of clear patches.
Perseverance is key when it comes to a transition in a blizzard. But we do so and are soon ready to move out. One-by-one we cross the shady part and move down the ridge top. I get to ride the short first pitch and the flat light puts me on my bum. Unperturbed I'm up quickly and over to our next safe spot. Once we're all there, it's this season's newbie to the area that gets to ride the first line. Off he goes and he does a good job of making it look awesome. With a spotter above and one below, it's my turn next. My head slips into my snow zone and away I go. The feeling of gliding over the snow brings me no ends of joy. I pull up next to Jason and I can see we're both wearing the same sort of smile. Andy is down last and surfs the white waves with his usual grace. All back together we scope the next pitch and it serves to provide us with more of the goods.
|Jason does the billygoat|
I'm not here to offer safety advice, there is an amazing amount of information out there. Nor am I hear to sugar coat the dangers associated with being out in the backcountry. I'm here to recite what a season in the Himalaya can be like. It's just unfortunate that, this year, life in the mountains, here, have had such a serious consequence. What I'll take away from it is the real importance to assess the risk, be aware of the consequences and, above all, play it safe.