Just when I thought that I had put my skis away for the season, I realized that I had Kittelfjäll left to reclaim before I could stow away my winter gear. So on the first day of May – 1 year, 2 months and 13 days after the mountain torn me apart – I went back to a Lebnes all dressed up in white.
I suppose this blog post should ideally be filled with deep thoughts and feelings of closure. It wont. Because I don’t have that many deep thoughts, and I don’t really need closure. I still find myself re-evaluating what we (I) did wrong, what we did right and how I should go about to avoid finding myself in the same situation again, but Kittelfjäll as a place has very little to do with that. It is just a place. Lebnes is just a mountain. I must admit that I surprised myself by how little I thought about the big “being back at the crime scene” while being exactly there. No, I did not go down that slope. I don’t have to. I’m not sure I ever will. Perhaps, perhaps not. It doesn’t matter for me. For me what matters is the constant grinding of how I deal with risks in the backcountry, and that grinding will go on regardless of whether I am in Kittelfjäll or not.
As I have written about here so many times before, I like to think that I, over time, have become better at using my own head to evaluate risks and at raising my mountain voice when discussing those risks. However, I have also realized that I have a tendency to just speak and not to act. In the end, I always let others convince me and then I follow their lead. The weekend we spent in Kittelfjäll, I did two things that I usually don’t: 1) I made up my own mind and stepped back, and 2) I made up my own mind and stepped up front.
I’m not entirely sure that it was my rational fears that told me to step back that weekend. Perhaps I was driven by irrational fear, I’m still unsure. But somehow, I feel that the fact that I made my own decision and acted on it was something new and something good. Somehow, I felt as if it made me grow.
So, I decided to step back that weekend in Kittelfjäll, but I also decided to step up and take the lead. As a consequence of letting others lead, I often find myself in the situation where I also let others get first tracks. You may interpret that as me being generous. After all, getting first tracks is NICE. But letting someone else go first also means that I let them test the slope. Now, I know, I know, that the third skier is just as likely to trigger an avalanche as the first, but I think you know what I’m talking about. Seeing someone going down a slope gives you a (false) sense of the stability and it gives you a feeling of what the snow will feel like. Rational or not, I’m sending out guinea pigs.
At one point during our May visit to Kittelfjäll, we found ourselves discussing two alternative runs down the mountain. According to our evaluations, snow conditions were very stable but the run that was most tempting was still somewhat exposed from the above. Should we still go down, or should we choose to go down the slightly less exposed run that looked as if it had less nice snow? We decided to go down the steeper run. But who would go first? I think that, if you have doubts about a run and you still decide to go, you should be willing to go first. Otherwise, you shouldn’t go. I always have doubts if the slope is steeper than 25° (or is exposed from above or below), and until now, I have never tested myself in terms of my willingness to follow that rule. This time I did. This time, we let chance decide, and chance decided that I should go first. So I did.
I am well aware that I still do errors, and that I always will, I still let my irrational fears and my ignorance rule, I have so much to learn. I will probably never finish the huge puzzle that makes up the backcountry, but the road is the goal, right?
So enough of me rambling on about what I’ve learned (or think that I’ve learned), what about the rest of the weekend? 1st of May surprised us with extremely variable snow conditions (I think we rode on everything from cold smoke to spring corn, with chunks of wind blown bullet proof pow in between), sun from dawn until dusk, and large amounts of well barbequed sausages and beer. Damn fine weekend spent with damn fine people. Super big thanks to Jenny and Martin for being such good sports and terrific company.