New routine, old friends


It's been a while. So much has happened in the last few months; I successfully became a career woman again, I moved into a new house here in Squamish, I skied some sweet powder, Colin came, and went, and we lost a good friend to the mountains. 

As I've aged, I've learned that life is an ebb and flow. That for periods you're riding high, on a wave that takes you tirelessly towards the sunset. But, such highs are always followed by a time where the wave seems elusive, and the sunset just isn't quite as bright as you had remembered it to be. 

Why does this happen so predictably? I still don't know. Regardless, I find myself in a bit of a hole these days, just trying to make sense of my new life's direction, and how that will integrate into the life I've lead for the past two years. 

I think I'm a pessimist by nature. Colin always reminds me of that. So, I've been having to check myself continually to stay positive and to look forward to the future, as it's unwritten. Ultimately, going through these difficult times is what teaches me compassion for others who experience sadness. The older I get, the greater my propensity for empathy is. 

Difficult times also teach me just how valuable our loved ones, and friends are. We rely heavily on them through hard times. It's them that carry us high on their shoulders as we pass through challenges, and in turn, we can carry them when they find themselves overcome by difficulties.

And so, I dedicate these next few stories of adventure to my friends, and the people I love, for without them, I'd be a small girl, in a big wide world. 

In late January, during our oddly June-like winter, I headed to Seattle to catch up with my buddies Dan, Tim, and Jenny. We intended to climb Mt. Rainier in a day via the Gibraltar Ledges, an almost 3000 m grade II snow and ice climb to the summit. The conditions were anything but wintery, and we laughed our way to the summit and down again in just under 12 hours. It was fun to tick such a classic route on a classic Pacific Northwest mountain.

Making our way to the start of Gibraltar Ledges in the pre-dawn. Photo, Tim M.

Ascending slopes above Camp Muir to the start of the Ledges. Photo,  Tim M.

Jenny, me, and Tim fuel up at the start of the Ledges. Photo, Dan A.

I know this is me in the photo by the tell-tale colour of my bright orange MEC Synergy pants. Here, I'm beginning the traverse across the Ledges. Photo, Jenny A.

Dan and Tim follow along behind us girls as we race across the Ledges to avoid rockfall as the sun warms the choss pile above our heads. Seriously, the rock on Mt. Rainier is entirely held together by ice. When that ice melts, the mountain crumbles. Photo, Sarah H.

Jenny moving quickly across the Ledges before we entered Gibraltar Chute. Photo, Sarah H.

Hahaha, I love this photo. Poor Tim, he's a working man, and doesn't have the same freedom that the rest of us have to stay active in the mountains all the time. I think we tired him out pretty bad. But, he was a trooper. We encouraged him along by promising chocolate. Photo, Sarah H. 

Jenny sending Colin, in Argentina, a Facebook photo of us on the summit. How's that for as-it-happens? Photo, Sarah H.

Los amigos. What is up with my jacket? I look like a turtle? Photo, Sarah H.

If you look closely, you can see Jenny, Dan, and me descending from another point near the summit. Photo, Tim M.

We came down the Ingram Glacier, which was pretty broken up, considering it was January! Those are some big seracs above! Photo, Sarah H. 

Dan, leading on. Photo, Sarah H.

Shortly after climbing Rainier, I was feeling the pressure of the impending start of my new job. So, I begged my buddy Nick to join me on an adventure. We climbed Blackcomb Buttress, a fun little mixed climb in winter on the north side of Blackcomb Mt., in a few short hours, and even got in a little skiing. 

Nick approaching the base of the buttress. The ski resort is visible on the right of the photo. Photo, Sarah H.

Nick, approaching the start of the technical climbing. Nick was training for the ski mountaineering season, so climbed with skis on his back. I thought that was crazy, so I did not! Photo, Sarah H. 

The start of the buttress. Photo, Sarah H.

We simul-climbed most of the buttress. Here Nick leads off. Photo, Sarah H. 

Looking back down at the resort, and Nick, from near the top of the buttress. Photo, Sarah H. 

Nick meeting me at the summit. Photo, Nick E.

If you look closely you can see Table Mt. What a cool feature! Photo, Sarah H. 

The family assembled for Regan's birthday a few days later and we enjoyed sun, friends, and cupcakes on the flanks of Chief Pascal.

The posse. Photo, Sarah H.

Davey even made delicious cupcakes, that were iced on the car ride up. Obviously! Photo, Sarah H.

Mr. Mitchell everyone.  Photo, Sarah H.

The last adventure before the end of our "summer" in winter, was a mostly walking trip to the top of Cloudburst Pk. Cloudburst is a very recognizable mountain for those of us who call the Sea to Sky Corridor home, as it sits above the highway between Squamish and Whistler. It was nice to tick this one, even if it really didn't involve that much actual skiing.

Yes, we walked with our skis, for most of the day! Photo, Rich S.

Regan and me once we put our skis on and after leaving the trees behind. Photo, Rich S.

That is some serious looking edging given that the slope only looks to be 10 degrees. Jeez! Photo, Rich S.

Showing love to the radio tower at the top of Cloudburst. It's a lonely life up there. Photo. Rich S.

Yours truly. Photo, Rich S.

The happy summiteers. Photo, Sarah H. 

Mr. Rich So everybody. Truly a class act with those pick sunglasses and orange pants! Photo, Sarah H. 

The team shreds the...gnar? Photo, Rich S.

And no coastal ski adventure is complete without a little bush whacking and general tom-foolery. Here, Regan and I cross the raging river, that really shouldn't have been raging at all given the time of year. We ended up doing a fifth class tree pull to get off this log and onto the slope above too. Photo, Rich S.

Then there was Jay's wedding. Our very own Jay Burbee was married on Feb. 8 to his beautiful bride, Jo. We were all very proud of him, and may have gotten a little rowdy in an attempt to celebrate the newlyweds? But, that's what good friends are for -- keeping it real. Even if it was a black tie affair! Oops!

Yes, everyone had a really good time. Especially Mark in the back there. Paul looks slightly less than amused though. Photo, Sarah H.

Susie and I are known to cut some serious rug when given the chance. People always seems to think we're drunk out of our trees though. Funny thing is, I don't drink? Take that! Photo, Sarah H.

Shortly after that the one, the only, the international man of mystery himself, Colin, returned home for what was to be a way too short two week visit. I'd be lying if I didn't say it was, and is, really, really hard to have him home for such a short time between adventures in the mountains. But, we've learned a lesson with this one. Two weeks never again, for the happiness of the girlfriend, and the sanity of the boyfriend -- who the girlfriend keeps calling and crying to. He'll be home again at the end of May, and by then will have had a solid two months of going like a bat out of hell in the mountains around Chamonix, France. And, newsflash! I'm going to Cham. too. I'll be meeting Colin there from Apr. 25-May 11. I've never been to Europe, and the thought of walking through the cobbled streets of Chamonix with my skis on my back, and my boyfriend in tow, just seems too romantic for words. I'll keep you posted about how it all goes down!

Oh cuteness. Colin and his nephews Kyle and Cortez. Melts the heart doesn't it? Photo, Sarah H.

Said international man of mystery did manage to outdo himself though. He hand picked some flowers before leave Buenos Aires, and transported them all the way to me in a Nalgene with some water. Here's the little flowers in their travel vessel. Photo, Sarah H.

It makes me very happy to have him around. Photo, Sarah H. 

We were even graced with the appearance of "Bungholio"? Gosh. Photo, Sarah H. 

...and the Italian Stallion. Photo, Sarah H.

And, most recently, to help cheer up my sad heart, the snow feel like cats and dogs and for a few glorious days the sun came out and I skied powder run after powder run with by buddies. These are the moments that are hard to forget, and that help refresh the soul when it's hurting.

That's a stoked skier. Ned! Photo, Sarah H.

Early morning parking lot action. Photo, Sarah H.

Skinning up for powder run no. 1. It was good! Photo, Sarah H.

Julie and Dave scope Mt. Caspar for next time. Photo, Sarah H.

And, Joel and Dave assess our first ski down. Photo, Sarah H.

Then, Julie, AKA my skiing soul sister, shreds. Photo, Sarah H.

Looks delicious. Photo, Sarah H.

Julie. Photo, Sarah H.

The team before shredding. Photo, Sarah H.

Hey, doesn't that look like a fun little chute to ski from the summit? Photo, Sarah H.

One of our lines. That's beautiful! Photo, Sarah H.

Julie chilling in the hut. Photo, Sarah H.

I can confirm that fondue was involved in our dinning experience that night. Photo, Sarah H.

And, apparently, Captain Morgan head about the epic pow' and wanted to join too? Photo, Sarah H.

A lovely note left for us by the other half of our group. Photo, Sarah H.

I don't like Captain Morgan. He's gross! Photo, Sarah H.

Next day we spotted this beauty on the right! OH MAN! Photo, Sarah H.

We decided to make a move to it. Photo, Sarah H. 
Julie and me at the col, taking in the view of Mt. Matier, Mt. Howard, and Twin One. Photo, Joel B.

We decided to turn around before reaching the top of our couloir. The climb to top looked to be too technical for just skis and poles, and plans were hatched to return better prepared. Photo, Joel B.

Seriously, this is in our backyard! Photo, Sarah H.

Our consolation run wasn't half bad either though. Photo, Joel B.

Powder runs make endorphins flows, and then it's just love, love, love all around. Photo, Sarah H.

After that, we skied one more epic powder run. Here, I just dropped in heavy like a powder gangster on my B-Dizzle megafats. Photo, Joel B.

There's something so peaceful, so completing about spending time in the mountains with your friends and the people you love. The sound of whoops of joy echoing across the snow covered mountains as my friends make graceful arcs in the snow on their skis, is when I begin to see the colours return to the sunset again. It's these times, together, in the mountains, that I feel most satisfied. It's when I feel most OK.