Today I was a cave man.
Not like a cave-man spelunker or a cave-man or caver exploring Red’s many tunnels, shafts, caverns and winzes (and there are a lot of the old mine-holes pock-marking the back-runs), but a cave man in the sense of a throwback, jaw set determinedly forward, back-country Cromagnon behaviours an evolutionary dead-end; frustrated by my slow progress and low rung on the evolutionary ladder, I was rapidly reduced to little more than, “Oooga-booga-grarrrr,” temper-tantrum colouring the approach to Roberts blue.
Permit me to explain.
While easily accessible from the ski area, Red Mountain’s legendary back-country has most recently been denoted as “slack-country,” back-country terrain so darn easy to run laps on that even a cave man could do it.
Yes, the story or theory goes that even a paleolithic hominid equipped with enough elbow grease and tenacity could easily loop the local slack-country hot-spots all the live long day.
Not entirely so, says I.
I appreciate suffering as much as the next person, but watching my group slowly, then more quickly, then rapidly outpace me up the skin-track was not only painful, but staggering; I’m a relatively fit guy, but the methods of ascending the peak before us were so much more advanced than my cave man brain could handle, the experience simply blew my mind, left me with the stark impression I was indeed in possession of a significantly less developed frontal lobe.
Maybe you have seen the old diagrams in school textbooks, those that haven’t disavowed the evolutionary theory, where human-kind is displayed in their progression more or less from monkey into man, the various stages showing changes from all fours to upright posture, stride, and so on.
Well, that’s how it was on the skin-track today.
At the front of our pack was the currently uncontested King of the Mountain, the Golden Telemark skier effortlessly gliding forth towards the riches Mount Roberts holds.
From the snooze-inducing access point off of Silver Sheep onwards, flocks of groomer-bound mutton unaware of what the surrounding hills offer, the telemarker held the pole position.
Behind him, the Touring Skier, heels temporarily freed of their downhill restraints, followed in the skin-steps of the supreme Telemark being.
Similar in posture, near indistinguishable in appearance, the pair led our tribe onwards, upwards to Roberts. Behind the highly evolved ski-set shuffled another humanoid, this with limpier, less elegant skis on each foot.
Yes, slightly crooked at the shoulders, near sloth-like in comparison to the skiers, this was the fabled Splitboarder, snowboard split into touring mode so as to allay the ails and pains of the ascent. While slower, heavier, and less developed in form and technique, several similarities remained; a smile still graced the splitboarder’s clean-shaven face.
Following the splitboarder, hunched, determined, Hobbit-like Snowshoers flapped their toilet-seat sized appendages up the slope, pummeled their pumiced feet and crampons into the ski-track, the last of the viable species to adapt and thrive amidst snow-covered peaks. Grimacing, stoic, they beat their way up the hill. And then came the cave man.
Without a splitboard (he’d left it at home), without poles, with nothing more than a standard snowboard lashed to his back and raw determination, the cave man boot-packed up the skin-track, massive post-holes and alligator traps left in his wake, unfriendly under-boot terrain left exposed for the next herd to ascend.
But the cave man did not care. Instead, he railed against the indignity of it all.
He imagined himself lost to the mountain, uncovered centuries later to be gawked at by arrogant, self-satisfied Telemarkers, Touring Skiers, Splitboarders, even (gasp) lowly Snowshoers and their snowmobiling brethren.
“Gee, why didn’t he just get a sled?”
The cave man, frozen, would be unable to register his displeasure, forever frozen in time, lost to the ages, a thing to be mocked.
Back on the skin-track, reality, like his boots, sank in.
No, he resolved he would not go down like that.
Employing the near superhuman strength so often equated with cave men, today’s cave man cursed, muscled and punched through to the top of Mount Roberts, and stole the others’ fire when he snaked first-tracks down Hourglass, the one modern-phrase he had perfected to date shouted out while he made his awesome descent;
“In your faaaaaaaace!”
Fortunately, I have the means and the determination to not be a cave man every day, and so do you!
Today was just an anomaly. I devolved, briefly, stole glory from the jaws of more advanced humans and taunted them all the way. But I still had my transceiver, my probe and my shovel.
I might be a cave man from time to time, but I’m not stupid.
I readily encourage anyone interested in exploring Red’s back-slack-rat-pack-country to avail themselves of proper avalanche awareness training, available, modern equipment (trinkets and good luck charms don’t count), and to slowly graduate from the merely curious to the expertly informed; ask questions, expand your knowledge, equip yourself, and explore.
The mind-blowing part comes shortly thereafter.