Coming from the sub-arctics to a place on roughly the same latitude as Rome in Italy, you perhaps wouldn’t expect a chill chock. But going from sea level by the sea, to 2500 meters asl in the middle of a huge continent, may very well give you exactly that kind of welcome. Since we arrived in Laramie, the temperature has been relatively stable at about -20 to -30 C. I don’t think I’ve seen the town all dressed in white for an extended period before. It is very X-mas like, in a very American way.
Yesterday, we did our ski premier out in Centennial, which welcomed us back by giving my skiis a very nice core shot, and me the opportunity to once again get to know what going from sea level to 8000 feet above it can do to your lungs. Today, we got the chance to do a longer tour near Cameron pass in northern Colorado. The snow out there was much better than in C, but my lungs were just as shitty. No. Wrong, they were worse.
I don’t know what I had expected. Even with the very fresh memory of panting as I walked the 1000 vertical feet up Centennial ridge, I sort of thought that going up the mountains of Seven Utes, which goes up to over 10 000 feet asl, would feel roughly the same way as it had done when I was there the last time… when I had spend 5 months at this altitude and climbed mountains at least a couple of times each week… Once again I get to ask my self my life question: How did I ever get to where I am with my pea sized brain?
At first, I was just panting and coughing a bit. Of course that made me feel all sorry for myself as I was lagging behind and didn’t get to feel all strong and amazon-like (of course Martin didn’t show any sign of out-of-breathness). Then I started to feel all dizzy and nausea. Altitude disease.
Even if I did feel VERY sorry for my self (one of my main areas of expertise) I am actually quite used to lag behind (after all, I do hang out with a mountain hobbit), ao I have developed strategies to handle the feeling of being utterly worthless. My strategy is to try to keep moving on, regardless how slow, and keep a (sometimes faint) smile on my face. Being grumpy doesn’t help anyone, and definitely not me. Trying to keep that smile lingering on my lips also makes me a happier hen.
In addition, if I go my own slow pace, I don’t have to do long breaks. So as soon as I catch up with the others, the group can move on. I think it works ok as long as I’m not moving too slow and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Doing just that, we managed to do two rounds up and down Seven Utes before my fatigue, the cold air and some shooting cracks put an end to the day. In spite of my shitty body and the fact that everyone but Martin had ice lumps for hands, toes and noses, it was glorius to get out in the backcountry and do some real skiing. I didn’t take any photos what so ever, and no one else got any of the skiing, but Martin managed to get some of the spirit of the day.