The one on the far left is the one who almost peed her pants while sliding down Cruiser at warp speed.
I almost peed my pants sliding down Loon Mountain on Sunday when I should have been skinning up with two friends. No injuries were sustained, fortunately, and a very nice older man and lady helped me out at separate spots, making sure I was okay and could get going again up hill. My friends were above me, but there really was no way they could help me problem solve my predicament, so they waited patiently for me to figure it out. The gentleman stood below me so I could remove my skis and then shuffle across the ice, where the lady, who told me I was going the wrong direction, let me balance on her while I clipped back into my bindings on an icy surface heading toward the summit. “I’m good,” I told her, “thank you!” and I was for minute, until I processed the fear I felt moments before sliding down the steep pitch unable to stop myself. Climbing up hill prevented me from bursting into tears because you can’t actually cry when you heart is pounding beyond your body with a lack of oxygen in your bloodstream. So I kept moving steadily, finally catching up to my friends, and we reached the summit about 15 minutes later, with them counting my steps for me, cheering all the way. By that time, serotonin and euphoria had replaced any remaining fear or safety concern.
This skinning sport is my new favorite winter activity, first experienced two seasons ago with four male friends here in town who hiked regularly together: a PE teacher, a scientist, a property manager, and a minister, and further encouraged when another friend let me borrow his son’s AT skis and skins. Skinning involves placing a synthetic material on the base of one’s ski to prevent backsliding. The heel releases, and one can simply walk up the mountain. In theory. I’ve grown comfortable going for time— 30 or 40 or 60 minutes up and then we turn around, remove the skins, adjust the bindings, put on helmets, and ski back down. Truly an incredible workout–and totally okay with my knees which haven’t been tracking properly, probably since 1992, but that I’m finally doing PT for. No one went to the doctors for knees when I was a teenager. Hell, it took my mom a week to bring me to the doctor for a broken hand sustained during basketball season. She was from the “Let’s wait and see” approach to parenting and injuries and, a forever optimist, she wasn’t wrong very often.
The PT has told me running isn’t a great option for me given the current status of cartilage wear and tear, but that cycling, hiking, and skinning will strengthen the muscles around my patellas. So, in addition to walking each day, I try to skin once or twice a weekend with my friend Heidi or Matt, and we’ve been happy with our progress, along with carving out the time to be in the woods, exercise, and breathe out the stress of the week through the sweat of a good climb.
So, when Rina and Donna, who are both 50 and mothers to teenagers and skin regularly before dawn, came with me on Sunday morning, I knew they would move faster than I was comfortable. But I also knew they would find that balance between pushing me and not killing me. They are “summit” kind of people. You know the type. Why take a normal bike ride when you could cycle 100 miles a day, up the Kanc, for fun? Why skin for 30 minutes when you could summit in 85? Why go to regular yoga when you could take “sweaty yoga” in 95 degree heat and puke your brains out at the end in the locker room? I know when I sign up for an athletic adventure with Rina and Donna I’m locked in for the duration. Knowing this doesn’t make surviving any easier; yet there is always another time. We all need friends like this in our lives– friends who push us; friends who scare us; friends who believe we will solve the problem even with skis and skins trapped on our feet; friends who almost make us pee our pants– and when you reach the summit, friends who exclaim how awesome it all was–and you are too tired to argue its awesomeness, also, because it does feel incredible to be on a peak of a mountain and know you climbed up.