Skiing to survive...

Tomorrow it's Thanksgiving and W's old friend sent him a text that they were heading out to Tolovana Hotsprings for the weekend, that is until Sunday, they had a couple of people dropping out and wondered if we were interested in going. We already had plans for actual Thanksgiving but friday through Sunday was pretty open. My immediate response was, yeah sounds awesome, but what do we do about the car, should we leave some wood, already placed on a showel to use in case the car wouldn't start on the way home?

W goes,

-well, a slightly long pause...

-we might need to buy a new battery.

W just bought this car, used, but a new battery wouldn't hurt.. The thing is, that leaving your car outside with the highs (without windchill) in -7F can be pretty daring. Now, we all know that the weather forecasts are pretty insecure.

I remembered that one of my friends here in Alaska told me that they had been skiing, somewhere can't remember where, could have been Tolovana or somewhere else... and they had already everything prepared for the ride home. When they arrived at the ski out (to the cabin), it was pretty darn cold, but after driving a couple of miles (many many miles) few people actually do decide to bail (would you after driving 100 miles into knowhere?). They went, had a pretty sketchy time going out, to the cabin. Going back the day after, or couple of days after, was really skiing to survive. It was so cold, and they eventually got back to the car that wouldn't start (of course), but they had the fire all prepared (that is the wood on the showel).

So, as they were freezing to death, they were in the middle of nowhere trying to get the car started with a fire on a showel under the car. The fire was pretty low/mellow, You only want the heat..right? But the heat wasn't enough and they started to panic a bit, this is the real backcountry, no cell service no close gas station, getting know the drill, YOU are alone. They started to add more wood! Big flames are now coming out from under the car as you are trying to start it, this sounds safe right? Eventually, so the story goes, they got the car started and could finally drive home. Funny enough, I have had a few incidents (if that is what you want to call it) with the very same person, in the backcountry, doing sketchy things! And this is by all means no hard feelings at all, but just a reminder to trust your instincts, OR not to trust your instincts. I love Alaska, Alaska is Wild, and when us in Alaska say wild, we mean WILD. You can die in the wintertime if you decide to go to a party and get passed out on the way home from it, people have gotten hypothermia or ended up dying do this in the past. Alaska is no Joke, it is serious business. Mother earth is not that forgiving all the times. Every year I see undergraduate students, running around between lower campus and upper campus in skirts!!! say what? Ok, I admit, I do wear dresses and skirts sometimes, but I have a baselayer under...that is a key point. I also see a lot of people running from one place to another without a jacket. I am all bundled up and am a little cold, so it makes me wonder, don't they have any jacket, aren't they cold? Down jackets are really expensive, but I think it is every parents responsibility to purchase a downjacket for their kid if they decide to put them in a school where the mean temperature during the wintertime is -15 to -25. I know that my parents would  be worried about me if I was running around here without a winter jacket. Going back to the skiing to survive issue. A couple of years ago I went out skiing with some friends, in January, I just got back from the holiday, and it was pretty cold. Who knows, -20, -30 kind of feels the same almost at that point. We started skiing, and I had a couple of gloves with me. Now, first lesson, when you go skiing in the cold, on a longer trip, DO bring extra gloves, bring extra clothes please. You will most likely get sweaty, and when you take a break, that sweat will freeze. So after while, you are literally skiing to survive, skiing to keep warm-er... You learn by doing.

Experience is key here, and I always listen to the more experienced people...but to some extent you have to learn what works best for you. Another year, in December (Why, because after a while in the darkness you start to itch, itch to get out), me and my friend decided to go Ice climbing. The weather forecast looked pretty ok the day before. The day of, in the morning, around 6 when we went for breakfast to actually leave at 7, my friend arrives and we have a talk in the car. We do this every time we go out somewhere, talk about the weather forecast, talk about he fact that there actually isn't any real thermometer right where we are going ice climbing so technically the temperature can be a lot warmer, right? Also talk about problems that can occur (or at least we started doing that lately...).

The drive to ice climbing from here is pretty far, between 1.5-2 hrs. That is a commitment. We start driving towards the iceclimbing in good mood. The temperature keeps dropping, and dropping....and dropping. 30 minutes from the ice climbing, the temperature is at -27F, now if you own a Subaru, you may or may not know that the thermometer there maxes out (or should it be minimizes out) at -27F...not that smart if you live in Alaska. Anyway, we love ice climbing, and really really really wanted to get out. So we get our clothes on, all the gear, walks to the ice climb (this one is at least close to the road) get all the gear together, rappel down, and...boom, it is COLD, surprise right?

Belaying someone when it's that cold is not fun, at all. You can't do anything, cause you are obliged to hold on to that rope no matter what. I tried kicking my feet against the ice, probably ended up giving myself more damage than cure a that point. So after my friend was done with her first climb we went, the hell out of there, back into the car....and my precious little big toe did not warm up at all during that long trip home....I got myself a frostbite. But hey, the view was nice... That same winter I went back to Sweden and tried out the mega hard core mountaineering boots which I actually purchased after that (when I came back to the know those boots are expensive, you don't even want to think about what they cost in Sweden..)

the La Sportiva Spantik Those are what people use to climb himalaya, the only thing I was interested in was to not, EVER again experience the cold feet that I experienced that time. Do you know what it feels like when you can't feel your toes, when it feels like your feet are like a pair of elephant feet...well that is the feeling. The feeling is so uncomfortable so my stomach turns everytime I think about it. Nowadays, my big toe gets cold, very very easily.

Anyway, I am not going to tell you any more stories now, cause what else will I talk about in the future then?

Bottom point, we decided not to go this weekend. We decided that driving 100 miles!!! (yes 100 miles, where do you end up if you drive that far??) into the backcountry with no cell service, alone with a bad car battery and little preparations, to go skiing 11 miles in possible -45 windchill was not a great plan for us. Call us chickens, call us wise, we will be celebrating this weekend at home in front of the woodstove and at two different thanksgiving dinners, tomorrow and on Sunday with friends. I hope you have a great one. happy thanksgiving. Anyway, it's just ice, the worst thing that can happen is that you'll die.

Speaking about ice, watch this: [youtube=]