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Alone Among the Evolutionists -- Alpine Col Solo Ski Tour, May 2004

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High Camp above Darwin Canyon along the Alpine Col Loop


The gentle flutter of nylon eased me out of my slumber.  Despite my semi-conscious state, an involuntary smile crept across my face; the unmistakable sound of a tent flapping in the breeze told me that I wasn't home in San Francisco.  I was sleeping above timberline.  In the Wilderness.  Alone. 


There are few things better than a backcountry ski trip with a few good friends, and yet solo trips have their own magical appeal.  There is no greater sense of solitude than gliding along a carpet of snow deep in the wilderness with nary a soul around for miles.  I also have found myself doing more and more solo trips of late since many times my ability to get away is decided at the last minute.  This trip was no exception.  I was brushing my teeth and getting ready to head off to work on Friday morning when I heard my wife ask me the magical question I had been hoping for: "Do you want to go away this weekend?" No sooner had I said yes then I was down in the garage throwing my gear into the car and speeding off to work. The boss agreed to cut me loose early and I quickly took him up on his kind offer.


And so it was that I found myself waking up somewhere along the North Fork of Bishop Creek, high in California's incomparable Sierra Nevada.  This place was the perfect antidote to clear the cobwebs out of my head from the last few weeks. Since mid-February, things in my life have been pretty hectic - had a new baby girl, sold our company, got sent to Malaysia - just to name a few. So what I really needed was to go for a nice solitary ski tour. After consulting my mental list of impromptu two day ski tours, I had settled on a quick loop trip through the northern part of the Evolution Group.


I had reached the trailhead late after the always long drive from home.  In the waning daylight I quickly lashed the skis to the pack and headed for Piute Pass.  A dusty one mile walk from the overnight parking lot gets you to the actual trailhead, where the snowline still seemed light years away (photo).  I hiked up a well-maintained trail beneath the colorful Piute Crags until both the daylight and my energy faded. I pushed myself a little bit further by headlamp and then dropped my pack behind a huge boulder near serene Loch Leven. No tent was necessary; I just unfolded my sleeping bag on the granite and passed out.


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