Saturday, September 29, 2007

Crazy Carpets Down The Mountain

Adirondacks, New York State, March 2005

Together with my hiking buddies Jessie and Rob we went up the very steep face of Mt Algonquin though the Avalanche Pass Trail. Overall, it was a long ride and it took us all day to reach the top in adverse conditions.

It had snowed A LOT in the past weeks, and no one had gone up that route so we had to dig our own path with white powder up to our thighs (with snowshoes on) and a slope so steep that every 30 feet, the snow would slide down and we'd have to climb back again on the ice beneath.

When we reached the top, it was 10 PM, 25 degrees below and a blizzard was raging. Rob managed to have an eye frozen for a few seconds while trying to find the way down. It was an eerie moment because it was snowing in reverse as the fierce wind pushed the snow flakes upwards.

Once we went down into the treeline, everything was suddently quiet. No more wind, and instantly warmer.

Going down was one of the best thrills of my life. 45 minutes of crazy carpeting non stop in 4 feet of snow. Everything white in our headlamps ray and pitch black around, no sound except for the speed induced wind in our ears. After a few seconds, these little plastic sheets go VERY FAST!

Fortunately, there was a ton of snow and we somehow survived the numerous impacts we had with trees and rocks.

The fact that we used our walking poles as rudder helped, because braking with the snowshoes was hazardous as it lifted a cloud of snow that instantly froze on our goggles, bliding us completely.

At one point, the others were far in front of me and I leaned back, lifted my poles/rudder a bit and gained speed. I must have been going at 20 miles an hour or so (wich is scaringly fast on a plastic sheet going down a mountain with 8 feet of effective visibility) when I felt the ground disappear underneath me. Rob and I had hiked this trail (Van Hoevenberg) 3 years before and marked it as good for sledding back down. I didn't remember any significant drops or cliffs on the trail. Now that was conforting...

For a fraction of a second that seemed like forever, I was in mid air and pondering how high I was and what kind of landing strip waited for me. Fortunately for me, the drop was only 6 feet and I landed of soft snow. But what a rush!

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