Lost on a Quick Rip
When I was a kid I wanted to go fast. These days I want to get lost.
Okay, not lost lost, but you know, that feeling of not knowing what’s around the corner. Being sure about being unsure.
New terrain excites me. A new drainage, a new ridge. Should I drop down this next slope? When nothing else in life matters in that moment except the thought, how am I going to get out of here? Throw in some deep pow, a friend or two and you’ve pretty much got yourself a guaranteed good time.
Years ago, I worked at a Whistler snowmobile guided tour operation called Cougar Mountain. When the snow was good and I wasn’t working, I’d leave from the base every chance I could to go for a poke in the trees. Even if that meant going alone. I’d strap a pair of snowshoes on the back of my sled and head up, trying to find new routes through the trees to places I knew as well as places I didn’t. I always had a radio and a charged phone that worked about 50% of the time. Yes, I’m trying to justify to myself that going out to get lost in the trees alone was a good idea, when it really wasn’t.
But that’s what it’s been about for me for a long time now… getting lost. It’s a way for me to unwind and test myself all at the same time.
A Quick Rip
It was around the holidays, or at least someone’s birthday, or something (or maybe it was just the Whistler lifestyle). We might have had a drink or two the night before and weren’t quite up at the crack of dawn. More like the crack of noon crew, if you know what I mean. But that wasn’t going to stop us.
Andrew, Jordan and I met in the parking lot around 1:30pm. We figured that we may as well get at least an afternoon rip in before it gets dark. After all, going straight back out to the bar must qualify you as an alcoholic, or worse, Australian.
Conditions were deep and some of the heaviest snow I’d ever ridden, but that didn’t stop us from going up the back way to the alpine. A way which no one had been yet that year. There is usually a snowcat road which snakes its way through the trees that way and eventually gets to the alpine. Not this time. Which in reality is why we went that way to begin with. “It will be fun.”
And it started out that way, with lots of stucks, laughs and good vibes all around. At one point Munster thought he’d give Jordan a push to get out of a hole, and got almost completely buried by his roost. I’ve never laughed so hard.
This was the theme for the day it seemed. Feeling a bit “under the weather”, I had forgotten some important items in the truck: my lunch, and my water. I soon learned that my two friends had done the same.
But, of course we kept pushing on. Through creeks, more stucks, some choice words and some more laughs. Time passed and soon it was coming up on 4pm, and starting to get dark. We’d lost the trail by then, but we knew the alpine was close. Our thoughts were to take a straighter, steeper route to the alpine, where we were confident that we would see some tracks that we could follow in the dark back to the parking lot. Once we found tracks at the top we knew we’d be home free.
We finally made it into the alpine. Dark, cold, misty, hungry, thirsty, and exhausted. Home free!… Not so much. There were no tracks anywhere! Where are we?
We came to the realization that we were lost
After a bunch of poking around looking for signs of riders being there, or something we recognized, we came to the realization that we were lost. The fog was so bad we couldn’t tell if the next hill was a 3′ roll or 1000′ cliff. Riding along, at one point I was convinced that one particular roll would mellow out. I was slowly poking down it and then the clouds cleared and the moon showed itself for a quick second. I was looking down a 1000+ foot drainage littered with cliffs. It was not my idea of a good time anymore.
It was time to follow our tracks out the way we came.
Let’s go home.
Finding our tracks turned out to be no easy feat. Three sledders in a bit of panic-mode, looking for signs of freedom had kind of made a mess. At that point, Jordan turned to me and asked if I had one of those survival blankets. Shit just got real.
We eventually did find our tracks coming up from the trees. It was the kind of relief you’ll never forget. We were still a long way from home, but now a long way from spending the night in the alpine completely unprepared, not knowing which way was up. It was just past 11pm by the time we got back to the trucks. We had made pretty good time back through the trees.
Back at the parking lot, I usually strip off my gear, throw on some tunes and smile the whole way home; but there was no music on the way home that night for me. I just took some time to wind down and really take it all in.
At no point was I scared for our lives but I knew it could turn serious quick. We all could have made some better decisions that day but at least we learned from it. You won’t catch me heading up for a “quick rip” without at least my survival kit along with food, water and enough to be semi-comfortable in the case that sleeping in a snow quinzee is my only option.
I’ll never stop putting myself in uncertain situations and you shouldn’t either. That’s when we learn the most about ourselves and our friends. All that matters is that you’re with someone you enjoy being lost with, and you embrace the adventure.
Sam Standing is one of the many ultra-talented shredders that live and ride in the Sea-to-Sky region of Coastal British Columbia. You can follow his sledding adventures on Instagram @sam-standing and at www.munsterfilms.com