Hundred Days: Day 79 (Cody Peak) | UNITED STATES, WYOMING | 02/16/2011, by themountainpulse
GRIPPED ON CODY
As we met the first pitch of the boot pack to Cody, a torrent of wind poured over the ridgeline with ruthless indifference. “It’s blowing about 50 mph on Rendezvous Bowl,” said the Tram operator as we exited a few minutes earlier. Now on this unprotected ridge in the backcountry, I wondered how hard it was blowing. More distressingly, I wondered if this was a good idea.
The first section on the boot pack is an exposed rock latter, The Hillary’s Step of Cody Peak if there ever was one. Gripped to the rock on all fours, I methodically climbed, trying not to notice the catastrophic injury or death that lay waiting on each side if to fall. Strapped to my back, my skis acted as a half deployed parachute, jarring me violently in the wind. With each passing gust, a cacophony of fear played over my mind and numbed my senses. Though exerting myself, I did not have the faculties to register the normal pains in my lungs or legs. All that existed was a voice commanding: “Do not fall. Do not fall.”
Sacking that first pitch, we collected in a partially protected grove of pine trees. Few words were exchanged, just the occasional groan to an onslaught of wind. Looking ahead to the staircase that led to the top, we watched the wind scour rocks and polish cornices. While I tried to think of it technically as air passing from pressure systems, it was hard not to personify the meteorological forces at hand in some mythical way. In this profound setting so removed from everything, the wind was a juggernaut careening over the earth, trying to thwart our push to the top. And though not on some heroic quest, there was a potent sense that we were on a mission.
We reached the top unceremoniously, our minds fixed upon quickly scouting our lines down No Shadows and drawing up a plan of attack. Inflamed by our successful arrival, the wind descended upon us ferociously. I slung my backpack to the ground, and carefully removed my skis. Clipping in, the emotions of the experience culminated and hit their crescendo. “It’s time to do this,” I whispered into the wind. We each sidestepped to the edge, and with “eyes-on,” dropped in one at a time. After watching Kevin and Steve, it was my turn. I clinked poles with Jake, and pushed off over the cornice.
Total, complete silence consumed me. I passed into another realm, from foreign to familiar. Though having never been there, this was a place I knew well: making turns on snow. All the angst on the long ascent dissolved in the first moment of descent.
When first moving to Jackson, I remember being baffled by the tracks on Cody. Each struck me as the signature into a fraternity by some phantom skier or rider. At the time, making those tracks was off my radar, existing only as a source of wonderment. Sinking into that snow today, scribing my name next to those of my closest friends, I sensed a chapter of my own life being written.