CAMP USA athlete and IFMGA guide Jed Porter has spent hundreds of nights in the mountains, with partners and on solo missions. He recently returned from a solo trip to the rarely skied Dragon Peak in King’s Canyon National Park of California’s Sierra Nevada, and came back with some reflections of his time up high.
In all sorts of mountain travel it is common to talk of training in your home mountains for endeavors in the “Greater Ranges”. I spent 12 years in California’s High Sierra, learning to climb and ski. For the past three years, I have lived a more nomadic life, spending time, and learning, elsewhere around the US and South America. My Sierra time built a foundation I have recently called on in Alaska, Canada, Peru, and Argentina. In terms of my skiing, recent expeditions to Mount Sanford and Saint Elias in Alaska and the Huandoy peaks of Peru, in addition to time in Colorado, Canada, the Tetons, and other parts of Alaska, have all changed how I see big mountain ski touring.
With record snowfall in California this winter, it was clear I would return “home” for unparalleled spring corn ski mountaineering. With all the expedition skiing under my belt, it was clear how I skied here would be forever changed. If I learned the basics in my home range, it is in the greater ranges that I not only applied my craft, but polished and refined it.
To bring new perspective to the Sierra of my home is a beautiful gift. I am learning just how rowdy it is here. I am learning how the conditions and weather encourage athletic pursuits unlike anywhere else. “If skiing is good, more skiing is better. If the weather is good, more skiing is the answer”. I am learning that a mountain life isn’t linear. We don’t start small and go big. With this trip in the Sierra, I am learning that we start simple, and progress. Progress can be applied to the big and the small. Sierra peaks and lines that were once all day and multi-day affairs are linked together in a few hours. One peak leads to another. One ski line is now just a passage to the next.
What else will I learn? That remains to be seen. I am just a few days into a couple weeks of solo ski traversing. Will this early optimism play out? Is this style of expedition skiing in my Sierra “training ground” range sustainable? Will the weather break? Unlikely. Will my body break? I sure hope not. Will I get really tired, surely.
– Jed Porter