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Summertime Blues (and Purples and Yellows and Oranges too) | UNITED STATES, NEW MEXICO | 08/04/2008, by lowPro
This summer 2008, has had many "firsts" for me so far, my first mohawk, my first time riding in a wheelbarrow while drinking heavily during a parade, and last but not least, my first time skiing in July in New Mexico. That's right, one more trip report from south of the border, the 4th of July couloir was in, just in time for us to get month number 8. Only 4 more to go!
We set out about 5:30 a.m., trying to time our climb with the sunrise. Our goal for the day was the 4th of July couloir located on the northern side of Lake Fork Peak, high in the Wheeler Peak Wilderness. We had not been out in over a month and Tele Matt and Eya were both itchin for some turnin. I had been up around Williams Lake the week prior, and knew the couloir would probably be holding the most continuous line around. Lake Fork peak and No Name Peak both had big and ski worthy snowfields, but neither was connected to the summit any longer. So the decision was easy for us to make.
As we climbed up through the forest and into the alpine we were greeted by Columbines, Indian Paintbrush, and hundreds of little purple, blue and gold Asters and Sunflowers. The lake was quiet and still, the peaks with their last vestige of snow were awakening with the sun. I am always blown away every time I go into this area, how much it changes and continues to excite me. We climbed steadily upward through the talus fields, happy in the early hours to be exactly where we were.
When we entered the Lake Fork Cirque we could see our line peeking out behind the rock walls that protected it. The couloir was in, the snow looked smooth and not suncupped or strewn with debris. Tele Matt and I were excited to try out our new Black Diamond Sabretooth Pro crampons and the 4th of July couloir would provide us with the perfect line to do some product testing. We strapped up and were off quickly. The climb was steep and steady, around 45 - 50 degrees and smooth. The snow was turning from firm to corn below us and we knew we had timed it perfectly.
We reached the top and started to feel the excitement that comes with sliding down icy couloirs in the middle of the summer. The rat pack looked down excitedly at what we had climbed and each one of us planned our descent. Tele Matt was off first, hopping down the chute and signing it with his signature "really really Huge" tele turns.
Eya slipped in next, and made clean smooth turns through the choke, savoring each one and counting her turns the whole way down.
Finally it was my turn and I was excited. I dropped into the couloir and started to feel gravity working, pulling me down and down and down. I stopped counting my turns after 1 or 2 because it just didn't matter anymore. I was skiing, the wind whistling past my ears, snow sliding and whispering softly underneath my skis. It was perfect. Not too bad for July in New Mexico.
Everyone met back up at the bottom to look back up at our tracks and enjoy our other favorite thing in the world, beer. We sat in the sunshine soaking it all in, the flowers, the breeze, the mountains in their summer attire, New Mexico's finest indeed. While we hiked back down we ran into many people hiking up, sweating in the afternoon sun, confused as to where in the world you could ski this time of year. We encouraged them to look around, explore a little further off the beaten track and maybe they would understand. As we descended down through the forest I couldn't help but wonder when I would be back again and what new surprises would be waiting for me upon my return.