On the Trail: Glissading down
August 10, 2005
I’ve recently discovered the joys of glissading.It can be quite a dangerous activity – sliding down a snowfield with no brakes but hands and feet, often toward a rocky moraine – but man, it’s been a long time since I’ve giggled that hard from a recreational activity.A group of us, five people and two dogs, climbed Castle Peak (14,265 feet) recently. Now, climbing fourteeners is usually a pretty serious activity. Castle is one of the easier ones in terms of elevation gain – the hike starts in Montezuma Basin, which is already at 12,600 feet. But there are a couple of scrambles along the way and exposed areas along the final ridgeline. The hardest part, in my mind, is slipping and sliding along the snowfield in hiking boots.The high point – literally and figuratively – of climbing a fourteener, is reaching the summit. Our group had something to celebrate – it was one climber’s first fourteener. The knee-jarring trudge down is generally done in silence, everyone tired and eager to get back to the car.Not for us. Upon reaching the snowfield, and after rolling around in the snow a bit to cool off (the dogs showed us this trick), we decided to relieve our weary feet and slide down on our bums. We weren’t the only ones – actually, what looked like a luge course had been channeled into the snow by numerous glissaders before us.Jackets tied around waists, we contemplated how best to make the descent without injury and a snowman in our shorts. We all came out pretty wet.Some were tentative, digging their heels firmly into the snow to ensure no surprises. Others threw caution to the wind, pointing both feet resolutely downhill and sending up huge wakes of snow, careening down the snowfield. Some leaned into the turns and others lay back, feet in the air – it was interesting to see the variety of techniques we all used. But we all threw our hands in the air and opened our mouths in delight. And we all made it back to the car in one piece.