The Thin Green Line


Visibility had diminished so that all we could discern was the large bergschrund directly in front of us.  Two snow bridges looked crossable; I approached the right, and soon my foot was dangling in open air.  I peered into the dark blue-grey opening, glad to avoid that silence and remain in the swirl of wind and snow.  The left wider bridge had a thin crack running through it, but being tied to two solid paramedic students, I felt confident attempting this obstacle along the east face of Snow White mountain.  Deep and soft, the snow necessitated crawling past the crack and plunging my ice ax into the other side above me.  I anchored a picket and belayed Russell and Bryan over.  A final headwall to the narrow summit ridge full of fluted rime ice, and the three of us were crammed onto the summit, staring into each other’s smiling ice crusted faces.  I laughed aloud into the blinding snow at the absurdity of the triumph, and Bryan astutely mentioned being half-way there.

Somewhere above the bergshrund a wind loaded slab of new snow let go–an odd sensation to have the only point of reference moving and tugging at your knees.  I leaned in, set my ax, yelled to the rope team, and it was over. A few anchored belays and a quick glissade over the crevasse, and we were feeling our way back to the skis next to the icefall.  If the storm had intensified as we ascended, it abated as we descended, skin sliding through the new snow on the glacier.  My mind dulled from the 12 hour endeavor, I skied in back, intently watching the dancing thin green line–sliding and hopping grooves.  Spying our gothic-arched, aluminum covered abode in the late fading Alaskan dusk, we skied the final flat-light bowl to comfort, warmth, and food.  The Delta Range holds much, and I will return.

~ by Scott Hamilton Peters on May 16, 2012.

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