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First time in the backcountry

Tilly Jane, Mt Hood, OR

2021, March 14-17

a man in a black ski suit skins up a pine tree-dotted snow field on Mt Hood with Mt Adams, Mt Rainier, and Mt St Helens visible in the distance

Have to start somewhere I suppose. And this was definitely a lovely place to start, though maybe a bit closer to the deep end than I expected. The last day I went skiing in 2020 was March 15, two days before the commencement of "Stay Home, Stay Healthy." At the time, I remember thinking it was a somewhat suspect idea, especially since so many of the early COVID superspreader events in Europe had happened on the slopes; but Snoqualmie had tightened its belt and there were hardly any people there that weekend, and the temptation of one last day was strong. Still, it was an unexpected end to my first season. The consequences thankfully never materialized and soon I was shopping gear deals and anticipating the second season.

That second season never really arrived. Group living and communal responsibility kept me from the slopes this winter. I don't have regrets, just a vague sadness that the world hasn't quickly rebounded, that in some sense, we had dug ourselves even deeper. Not everything is bleak of course. It does feel as if we're turning the corner, though it's a slow swooping turn, target distant and fuzzy...

To celebrate (commemorate?) the passing of the year—and to just get out of the house for a bit, let's be real—we booked out the Tilly Jane A-frame on Mount Hood for a house skication. It would be the first time skinning and skiing in the backcountry for three of us, but we luckily had the guidance of seasoned pros. In terms of winter vacations, I really couldn't have asked for more. Cold air, fresh snow, clear skies, warm fires, silenced phone, and on top of that, hard sweat sessions climbing hills with too much weight, wobbling down gullies on shaky legs, snaking through glades, soaking through my ski suit with that adrenaline stink only to do it all over again as soon as we got down...it took me some time to get from survival to enjoyment, but I did manage to get there in the end.

The view definitely helped.

a view of Mt Hood from the Cooper Spur Shelter; a skiier descends towards the shelter on a windy snow field
skis sit next to a pair of ski poles standing in the snow looking down from the Cooper Spur Shelter on Mt Hood towards Mt Adams
a topographic map of the northeast side of Mt Hood, showing the Tilly Jane and Cooper Spur trails

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