“A man should have wings to carry him where his dreams go, but sometimes a pair of skis makes a good substitute” – Hans Gmoser, 1961.
“I didn’t even get to sleep until well after midnight. I was just wired … oh yes, the good energy… “ – quiet legend of the Canadian ranges, Neil Baker, of his umpteenth portering trip to Balfour Hut, April 2015.
There are times. There are times, when the brush of dusk across the glaciers, and on the floating clouds, touches the soul. There are times. There are times, when the frigid dawn breath off the summits feels fantastic, and the first light spilling across the ranges ignites the spirit.
Yesterday morning, mid-portering trip I managed a quick jaunt out for a sunrise run, while my companions enjoyed a well-earned sleep-in. In the recent past I would have been headed for the seracs and windslabs of Balfour, looking for the most technical and cutting edge descent available on any given day. This time, I dozed under the stars, in tune with the keening breeze and slow spin of the constellations. Waking up balanced and relaxed, it was a pleasure to head for a beautiful, safe and mellow slope of powder. I passed near Balfour’s looming Northern Aspects and carried on. I felt few of the regrets I expected. Five years ago, two years ago, I would have chosen a dangerous ribbon of hard snow with overhead threats, were it steep, over any flat powder run. This day, moving fast on my boards, cresting the ridge to that immense view, hooning down the bowl in silky snow – I felt an uplifting, overwhelming sense of absolute freedom. I howled my joy into the sky, unrestrained. There was no-one to hear or judge me.
Only now, as I write this (intended to be a sentence only), do I realize that what I felt so connected to out there, on this mellow arm of the mountain, was not only freedom from the shackles of society; but also freedom from myself.