November 12, 2010

The Winter Road Trip

The excitement of a road trip can be captured in one picture but their iconic stories can fill pages.  Road tripping is a right of passage for many and as winter moves down to us from its early beginnings in the high country we can see the seasonal effects on even the heartiest traditions.

By the time we were on the road it was 12:01 in the morning.  It took about 5 trips to load the jeep and since the plan was hatched on a whim our checklist was being formed as we located the gear in our small apartment.  “Well, I’m already wearing my ski pants so I guess they are as good as packed,” I reasoned.  “Should we take that pizza?”  We slapped the the hatch shut and rumbled the jeep out of Summit County, into the dark and higher up into the snow drifting mountains.

Ice climbing was first introduced to me by a buddy who was squatting in a barn just outside of Driggs, Idaho.  A coffee table in the barn was stacked high with ski mags that were slowly being ripped up and fed to the fire as kindling but I enjoyed the pages that were left.  In the evenings he would stoke the fire then, with his ice tools, crampons and in his boxers climb high up the exposed log rafters by dry tooling the heavy wood structure.  From such beginnings I had managed a year later to corral a small crew of four friends to road trip late into the night in order to climb at the Ouray Ice Festival in Southwestern Colorado.

By sunrise we had made the drive and crashed out on a cabin floor after befriending a hot tub full of naked festival goers.  We racked and packed and in the crisp bluebird air and clanked along with a march of climbers on the approach to the ice falls for a day of cragging.  It was a classic execution of the winter road trip and encompassed all of the essential elements.  It was inspired by a hunch, launched on short notice, included a pilgrimage of sorts, relied on haphazard planning and fell together in impeccable style thanks to the generosity of folk met along the way.

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