On the Hill: The brutality of the bowl
The Aspen Times
Aspen Co, Colorado
ASPEN ” Aspen Times Editor Bob Ward and I had a brief discussion over which of us should detail our adventure on Highland Bowl on Sunday. Since my experience seems the far more dramatic and traumatic, I figured it should be me.
Sunday morning, the Bowl looked inviting: some clouds, some flurries, but also occasional pockets of sun that we (OK, I) took as an indication that the weather wasn’t moving in the direction of “severe.” Checking on our respective kids (and stealing most of my daughter’s french fries) caused some delay, and by the time we hit the bottom of the trail, any rays of sun had been thoroughly extinguished by a wall of whiteout. But we had already made our plan, and reconsidering never crossed my mind.
Fifteen minutes in, reconsidering was all I could think about. Exactly why hadn’t it crossed my mind to look up and take account of the fact that the winds were howling, the top was socked in, that hardly a soul was venturing up?
I hit the wall and the panic button about two-thirds of the way up. My snowboard acting like a sail, I was literally knocked down a dozen times. Even if my glasses were not fogged over, I wouldn’t have been able to see a thing. When Bobby passed me, I realized just how lost I was: His path was a good 15 feet to my right; I was blindly heading God knows where, the footprints obliterated by the wind. Some other hikers mentioned they didn’t like the looks of my ice-covered ear. Interesting, since at that point, on my list of concerns, frostbite ranked about seventh.
Fighting exhaustion, winds that had only gotten stronger, severe disorientation and embarrassment, I made it to the top, spurred by Bobby’s assurance that the trees in the G Zones would provide much-needed protection and visual contrast.
The snow in the G’s was glorious, a fact I made sure to appreciate. Back at the Merry-Go-Round, the first thing I saw were two other people who had been in our loose group hiking up the Bowl. With relief, I told them I had lost no body parts, caused no need for a search party, ruined no one’s day.
And where, I wondered, was the other guy they’d been hiking with? Oh, that was Steve Marolt (whose feats include summiting Everest). He headed right back up for another lap on the Bowl.
There was a clear separation there: Me, thanking Jah to be delivered intact, promising myself I’d never head up the Bowl again in less than perfect sunshine. Him, saying, Damn, that was some awesome powder.
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