i am titanium

Man…I’m a wee bit rusty at this blogging thing.   It took me almost a day to think of a title for this post, to which I’m sure you’re thinking, “and that’s what you came up with?”

Yeah, I know.  But trust me, this was the best option.  Let’s just say that one of the options referenced Justin Bieber.

So yeah, bear with me as I work the kinks out.

Way back in the day I told ya’ll the story about how my husband tricked me into going on my first backcountry skiing experience.  It was touch-and-go at best.  But I kept at it and something magical happened:  I liked it.  I liked it a lot.   So I took an Avalanche Certification class.  I got all the fancy gear and spent some time getting my pack together and organized just-so.  We started getting out often and going on weekend trips to backcountry ski, like here and here.

And then we had a baby and my fancy skis and perfectly-packed pack sat in the corner collecting dust.

Until recently.

This past week the Hubs and I carved out some time to reconnect and spend time together doing something fun and reminiscent of our pre-baby days.   We (correction, “I”….let’s not kid ourselves, the Hubs pack has never collected any dust) dusted off my pack and headed in search of spring snow.

We found it at Trapper Peak.

Trapper is the highest peak in the Bitterroot mountain range just south of Missoula.  It’s about an hour and-a-half drive to the trailhead from our doorstep.   I’m still trying to figure out if it was necessary to pick the highest peak around because (a) it’s spring and snow is hard to find, or (b) The Hubs go-big-or-go-home philosophy.

To be honest I think it was a little of both…and I was skeeeered.  I mean, this thing is over 10,000 ft, ragged and gnarly looking!

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The Hubs planned our ascent which took us from the trailhead to the peak in 4.2 miles (basically the lower red line to the purple line in the topo map below).  If all went well we would only need to hike for a mile or so until we hit the snow line and could skin up (fancy words for “hike with our skis on).

Only 4.2 miles!  No big whoop.  I crush more than 4.2 miles in a lunch run these days.

So we make arrangements for Abby and head out bright-and-early.  We arrive at the trailhead by 10:00 and hope to be at the peak by noon…a fairly conservative estimate, we thought.    When we arrive at the trailhead I notice how lush and green everything is and take a moment to marvel at the pretty yellow daises that seem to welcome us to the trail.  There are bees buzzing and birds chirping, insects flying by.  The air smells of morning dew and spring thaw.  The weather wasn’t quite what we hoped for…the peaks are hanging in clouds and the sun is hiding behind a dense layer of fog.  But I tell myself that it’s still early and it could burn off by the time we reach the peak.

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I load up my pack and grimace a little as I heave it on to my back.  It’s heavy.  I still hike in my alpine boots (the same boots I would use to ski at a resort), not willing to make the investment in the lightweight backcountry boots that weigh half as much.  Although at this moment I’m wishing I had them (as I catch a glimpse of the Hubs practically floating around with his light-weight gear).

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After the obligatory “we’re off!” photo, we start hiking.  It’s steep.  Really steep.   And constant.  There doesn’t seem to be any break from the steepness.

And then I remember…a “mere” 4.2 miles. Well duh.  No wonder it’s such a short hike; it’s steep as hell!

Awesome.

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But I keep going…I keep trudging along…trying not to think about what torture lie ahead.   At this point I’m not really loving it but not really hating it.  I find myself doing Oula dances in my head to take the focus off my burning calves…

I’m bulletproof….nothing to lose….fire away, fire away’
Ricochet, you take your aim
Fire away, fire away
You shoot me down but I won’t fall
I am titanium
You shoot me down but I won’t fall
I am titanium!

Seriously.  I think that song got me up half of that damn mountain.  That and Justin Bieber….All around the woooooooorld….people want to be loved.  Do doo doo dooo….do do do dooooo….

Have I lost ya?  Sorry Dad.

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Anyways….of course the Hubs is rocking it.  He runs up a GD mountain on his lunch break so this is nothing.  PLUS his gear is so much lighter than mine that obviously gave him the advantage…right?

An hour in and we’re just finally hitting snow.  I have no idea how far we’ve come but it feels like a long ways.  The GPS says 8,000 feet…so we’ve climbed 2,000 and have 2,000 more to go.  I kind of want to die.

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I’m bulletproof….nothing to lose …..
Fire away, fire away…

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Instead I scarf down a clif bar, get my ski boots on, skin up and head back up the mountain.  We seem to be entering the cloud covered area and everything is dense and foggy.  I could really let myself get creeped out about the eeriness of it all but the Biebs was keeping me going (Baby what you doing? where you at? where you at?).

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We climbed for what seemed like forever.  And then we climbed some more.   Another hour later we were almost to tree line.  I was still in good spirits but starting to wear down.  Afterall, we thought we’d be to the top by now (it was noon) and we still had 1.3 miles and 1300 feet to go.  I think the Hubs was trying to be helpful when he said “Sweet, just 1300 feet….like climbing up Mt. Sentinel!”   I secretly gave him the side eye and said, “yep, just like Mt. Sentinel!”

This is Mt. Sentinel:

I’m not sure any amount of Bieber could motivate me up that.  (After reading this you probably think I’m a total Bieber fan….but this is actually the first time I’ve probably ever typed or even said his name…hahaha.).

This was the actual view of Trapper from that point:

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We obviously misjudged the time it would take for us to climb up 4,000 ft carrying all of our gear.  And I certainly didn’t account for the altitude.  I definitely noticed a difference skinning the higher up we got…but I wasn’t sure if it I was just getting tired (over two hours of constant climbing) or the fact that we were now around 9,000 feet.

We decided to climb for another hour and see where we got.  The Hubs took off like a bat out of hell towards the peak which we could see intermittently between fog banks.  Per usual I trudged a long behind muttering something about pacing myself.  The higher we got the more fog started to blow off and patches of sun came through.  It was really beautiful watching the peaks come in-and-out of it, but it also made it hard to judge how far we had to go.  Plus, I’m pretty sure I was missing out on what was an amazingly majestic view.

It didn’t take too long to get above tree line which I have to say was pretty cool.  Gone were the snow-covered trees and winding white bark pine.  Instead we had wide open spaces that lead to the rocky peaks above us.

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Ricochet, you take your aim
Fire away, fire away

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As we approached the peak I started to wonder how exactly we were going to get to the tippy top.  It was surrounded by a boulder field (rocks as big as a car) that weren’t completely covered in snow.  There wasn’t a direct path but there looked to be a few ways you could snake through them to get to the top.  To be honest, I wasn’t convinced the effort was worth it.  Part of me thought “you HAVE to get to the peak…you’ve come this far!  You’re so close!”  and the other part thought “who the hell cares, I’m tired.”   In the end, the devil on my shoulder won.  When we got to the saddle about 300 feet below the peak I called it….”Are we done?”  I yelled to The Hubs.  “What??  You’re done???” he replies.

Yes.  Yes I’m done.   And I could care less that I didn’t make it to the tippy top.  This counts damn it.

You shoot me down but I won’t fall
I am titanium

I made my way to a small rock pile to rest, get my skins off and eat my lunch.  The Hubs wanted to climb just a little bit futher so he took off up the mountain.  Show off.

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As I sat on the rock (at nearly 10,000 ft) eating my PB&J I couldn’t help but notice how SILENT it was.  There was no wind.  No birds.  No bees.  No crunch of snow as I skinned.  No heavy breathing.  No songs running through my head. It was literally complete and utter silence that I can’t even describe.  That I’m not even sure I’ve ever truly HEARD before, because when I thought about it, it’s a fantastically rare occurrence in life.  Just me, sitting alone at the top of this giant mountain as the fog rolled in and out between the peaks.  It was almost surreal and at the same time extremely beautiful.

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Not much later I finally heard something – the familiar “whaaaa hoooo!”  from the Hubs which usually indicates he’s either skiing powder, drunk, or running a rapid.  He met up with me at the rock and we took some more photos while getting ready to descend.   I think we were both waiting around to see if it was going to clear up at all so we could take what had to be amazing views.  But it never did and we gave in to the excitement of skiing after working so hard to get there.

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15 minutes later we were back to dirt and putting on our hiking boots.   Funny how that works.  Such is the life of a backcountry skier and earning your turns.

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The decent was soooo much better than the trip up (well, not if you asked my knees).  And it was really cool to leave the cold, foggy snow and transition to the budding trees, blooming flowers and sounds of the forrest.   I was tired but I was still riding the high of actually accomplishing such an awesome feat.

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That’s the thing about doing stuff like this.  I don’t really consider myself extreme, although some of my friends may think I’m a wacko to carry my skis on my back up a mountain.   I know not everyone would entertain the idea and I’m not sure that I would seek something like this out if it weren’t for The Hubs.  But I like it, I really do.  Sometimes I just need to remind myself of that when I think I don’t have the time or ability to do it anymore.  Once I get past  the mental side of it (this is going to be hard, I may not like all of it, it could be dangerous) and just let myself enjoy it (because I have the knowledge, skill and ability to do it)….I’ve never regretted it.  There’s nothing quite like the feeling you get after accomplishing something that you’re a little scared or is outside your comfort zone.

Basically you feel like a bad ass.  Or something like that….hahaha.

We stopped to take a few pictures on the way down because of course the fog started to lift and the views were incredible.   I will definitely be returning to see this from the top when there’s no fog around.

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And of course we had some victory beers (and dry clothes) in the car to celebrate our outing.   Nothing ever tasted so good.

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10,000 ft (4,000 climbed)
30 lb pack
4.2 of the longest miles I’ve ever crossed
3.5 hours up
1.5 hours down
1 giant gnarly peak

Yep.  I am titanium.

Not sure what song I’m talking about?  Watch this.  The video is a little strange, but you’ll get the idea.

8 comments

  1. Very Impressive, good job team! Glad you carved both some time for yourself and some sweet turns. You two never stop amazing me with your adventures! And try to remember that beautiful silence when life gets crazy. ;)

  2. you badass you. Just look at you! Pretty amazing. Glad to see that you spent some QT with the Hubs and enjoyed the day. Good for you for taking time to do it and remembering how much you love getting out. It’s always hard to take time for ourselves but well worth it. :)

  3. oh gesh, now that i watch the video and read your post I now know the correct words to the song that I like so much. ;) HA! …I kind of liked my version. :)

  4. Wow! Very impressive indeed. Looks like an awesome trip. I am more envious that you know. I know do what its like though… sometimes on your travels, when you least expect it… you find yourself looking at something so beautiful that it’s surreal. Rare and fantastic for sure. It happens when you didn’t expect it… you dont know when it will end… so all you can do is let it humble you… let it become part of you …and enjoy every second you have with it.

  5. Janna, I loved reading this post! I stumbled upon it while searching for more info on the memorial rock placed at the tip top of Trapper.

    My “hubs” and a couple of our friends hiked Trapper this past Saturday. Being greeted by the memorial rock moved us (it was too sacred to snap a photo of it, even) and really put things into perspective as we moaned and groaned while clinging to the last of the car-sized boulders to reach the very top. The entire day was glorious, and one of those that made us feel lucky to be alive and to live and play in such a place.

    I too have one of those “hubs” that drags me up mountains and the such. He scales like a goat while I lumber (and labor) and question why I’m doing whatever it is I’m doing. It’s usually Motley Crue that carries me. I’m not sure what “Kneel down ye sinners to streetwise religion” has to do with scaling mountains, but perhaps “Wildside” makes perfect sense.

    Anyway, you ARE a complete badass for schlepping a 30 lb. pack and skinning to the top. We all felt like badasses (and sore ones) on Saturday too and had a celebratory brew at the bottom of the trail.

    Cheers

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by Marion! I can’t wait to go back to Trapper and make it to the top. I would love to experience the memorial rock and now, looking back, I’m a little disappointed I didn’t continue. But at the moment I knew it wasn’t in the cards for the day!

      I’m glad you had a great hike and that someone else is “drug around” this state! haha. I have to admit, he gets me to places I wouldn’t go on my own, so while it’s hard, I find it’s always worth it. (ok, well usually).

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