Throwing the bear hang over a branch, I froze. Silence in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness interrupted by a low-tone crack. Glancing, I saw the mass of snow slowly rip down the hill. Avalanche.
Keep it together.
I’m scared, which begins the process of fear offset by rationalization: You're a safe distance; That slope is 50 degrees; It’s snow fields are undercut by a creek; That pass you’re going up in the morning will be frozen and is not that steep. Right?
Keep it together.
Thing is, I’m really great at talking myself out of stuff. I’d say somewhere in the range of 60 to 80% of trips i get excited about, I bail on: It’s too dangerous; I’m not in shape; Sure would be a great weekend to get in some bouldering or fishing; Jeff’s band is playing the Union tonight. Should be a rager.
But, I’ve made it this far. Everything is going well. Ya, I’m whooped physically having been bushwacking for miles through dense trees and over avy chutes with debri on top and creeks below, but... this valley is breathtaking. I’ve moved from summer through spring to winter in just 10 miles. Against all odds, It appears I am strong enough to haul my bike over the Bitterroot Divide. My gear selection seems spick-n-spot on (I even brought pants). And, as a bonus, found flat, avy safe, bare ground on the Bass Lake dam, and there’s a fire pit with tons of driftwood. The stars should be out soon.
Don’t bail yet. Just wait out the night.
So I do, and in the morning conditions are perfect. Temp in the high 20s. Snow frozen.
Near the top of the pass I slip, arrest, and blurt out a Kenny Powers line which makes me laugh, calms me down, and somehow delivers more confidence. "F*ck that noise," I’m on top staring down a drainage I’ve never seen. I let it soak for a second, then head off.