The Myths of the Alpine Fish
This week G3 is celebrating the ski line you turned away from. You can get in on the action too. Tag your Instagram posts with @g3gear and #powderfishing for a chance to win some G3 swag. G3 ambassador Reuben Krabbe show us how it’s done with three awesome stories below. Enjoy.
The Myths of the Alpine Fish
I’m no fisherman, but I think I should be telling more stories about the big alpine fish that got away. The lion’s share of ski literature seem to be about success on slopes and the succulence of soft snow. In fishing culture, on the other hand, we hear about failure; fish that were so big and beautiful that they broke the line and got away. As backcountry skiers we lose our alpine fish all the time due to snowpack, waining daylight, exposure, or simple gut feelings. Yet, we rarely share the riveting tale of a snowpack that’s sneaky, and permits travel until the last minute when it shuts you down mere meters from a prized line.
Let’s tell each other how, in the face of instagram fame, you listened to warning signs and let a couloir slither away. Let’s get into how sneaky those little warning signs were, how close you were to landing the sucker on the shore, how the hand-sheer broke the camel’s back. Tell us how your tinder date on skis might have gone different if you just puffed your chest, but you remembered not to trust your lizard brain, and made it home alive.
I’m confident that the more we recite and glamorize safe decision making, the more normative we can make the process feel. A culture that celebrates it’s ability to ignore the lizard brain will be more likely to survive it.
Atop Mt Sneffles at 14000 ft in Colorado, Tobin and I chip pieces of hard snow off the peak and hurl them over the north face of the mountain. Our heads are spinning from altitude, so we’re trying to make sure we’ll be rappelling onto good skiable snow on the mountain’s north facing couloir. The snowballs serve to show us weather the surface snow is merely wind effected, or horrendously bulletproof. Our artillery shelling suggests the latter, so, we descent by our bootpack, and ski a roundabout route to the north side of the mountain to arrive at the bottom of the same couloir. We transition again to bootpack up the line, knowing we can turn around at any point if our suspicions about snow quality is confirmed. The snow is soft, the bootpacking is good, it’s still quite early in the day, and finally after a week in Colorado we’re optimistic we’ll ski our first real line.
We trade leading the climb, enjoying the speed of ascent before our low altitude lungs quickly top out. Half way up the couloir the snow quality suddenly changes, the snowpack becomes inverted and in places it has the glare of refrozen water. We stop, and battle with the line, throwing out points for and against continuing the climb. It’s our last line of the season, it would be our only good line in Colorado on this trip, it would just be sketchy and we’re confident in our skills. Ultimately the evidence of snow snakes biting our ACL’s lets this alpine fish off the hook. Sneffles’ north facing couloir will wait for another day.
How to tell a myth of the Alpine Fish
- Choose a story where the decision making took time, and tell us how you fought with the choice.
- Tell us about the way you could have skied and likely gotten away with it, but chose not to. How did that feel?
- Stealing fishing metaphors and puns score extra points.
It’s my first expedition, it’s the biggest editorial assignment i’ve been on to date, and there’s a couloir above me called ‘Cheeseburger in Paradise’ that maybe 6 people have ever skied. Two of us skied it yesterday, now it’s my turn. We skin towards the bottom of the couloir and something feels a little weird with my foot. I stop and find that the torx screws on my old pin binding haven’t been tightened and glued correctly, so the whole toe piece can wiggle back and forth.
We bust out our tool kit, you’d be foolish to be here without enough little supplies, but find the correct torx bit is the only part missing from our set. We macguiver tighten the screw slightly with a allen key and rubber band, then continue to the couloir. After months of anticipation I’ll finally be ascending a real backcountry line on an expedition, I will get to succeed as a photographer like I’ve dreamt. But, when we switch to bootpack and I re-investigate the binding we find the screws have backed out again. The toe piece is pivoting, and the mediocre connection between my boot and this ski is my lifeline, I would struggle to ski out of this area without it. The couloir breaks free of my grasp, it looks entirely the same and entirely different, a slope covered in snow I would love to ski, but, may never ever, get the chance to again.