frolicking in the snow

I rarely get up early (where my definition of early is usually before 8 am during the week, and 10 am during the weekend). I don’t need to get up early for work, and I don’t particularly like waking up before the sun’s out.

On the occasions where I do get up early, it’s usually for fun (where my definition of fun, at least in this case, usually involves snowboarding). Even then, I don’t like it. It’s more of a necessity to get me to the hill before the usual masses formulate lift lines so long that sometimes I wonder if I’m at Disney World (I guess one difference is that lift lines usually do not have the “you can’t ride unless you’re this tall” signs, but I digress).

Partially in an effort to avoid the lift lines, and partially for my incessant need to accumulate more gear, I took an avalanche awareness course this winter, and today was my first field day.

We were required to meet near Stevens Pass at 7:30 in the morning, which (even to the atheist in me) is an ungodly hour. This also meant that I had to leave Seattle at 6 am (do you realize that Starbucks isn’t even open that early? I do, I drove by, and they were closed). The only good thing to come out of this is that traffic was a non-issue.

Eventually, I did find some coffee in Monroe, and made it up the pass awake and alive. I was also relieved when I saw that there were a lot of people on snowshoes (in fact, there was only one other person on skis aside from the instructor in our group), since I’ve never traveled any amount of distance on snowshoes before, and was worried that people in skis (plus skins) would leave me behind (this turned out to be a non-issue, since uphill travel is actually surprisingly efficient in snowshoes).

The day started with some slight precipitation, but began to really clear out mid morning. We did a lot of simulated burials with our avalanche beacons (no, they don’t bury the person, just the beacons), which is good practice (and also very tiring, what with all the running around in snowshoes and all), and also did a couple of multiple burial exercises. We also spent a lot of time digging a snow pit (our group dug a gigantic one) so that we can analyze the snow, and see the different layers that formulate as the season evolves (plus we got to play with shovels and probes).

For a day that didn’t involve any snowboarding, but did involve a giant amount of snow, it turned out very well, and very fun. But now I must take a mid-evening nap.

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