Pushing our limits at Baker
Not so intentionally... Our second day at Baker was no less fantastic. We got up early for first chair but decided to try a different lift. We had seen a collection of locals (and those who appeared to be "in the know") hiking uphill from the parking lot and figured out at some point in our day that it led to a way to start out the day on our favorite lift...so we decided to join in today and make the short hike. We weren't in the front of the line (maybe 6 people in front of us) but were confused when we saw the line wasn't at a lift at all. The line started at the top of a hill, with a hundred or so people collecting in and trailing downhill behind us and what happened next has to be one of the oddest experiences we've had on a mountain. An employee came up to announce they were about to open and the second she shouted "GO!" the entire crowd around and behind us became an insane winter version of pamplona's running of the bulls. A mass of people literally sprinting downhill (skiers having the clear advantage of already being strapped/buckled in) for first chair, throwing elbows and trying to edge out those around them at all costs.
By the time we made it to the chair, one leg still dragging and shuffling/waddling as fast as we could (not too bad for a couple of rookies... I think we still got 5th or 6th chair) we were panting and exhausted... what an odd way to start your day. Seriously, people must train all year for this. Injuries must accrue on a huge level... I looked around half expecting to see sleds already waiting to haul people back to the medic station, but Baker really doesn't feel like it has the staff for such a thing. Riding here feels more like an "at your own risk" type of affair. We loved it!
More people showed up today, but the snow overnight meant we still had tons of fresh tracks and awesome conditions...this time with far better visibility. We got more and more confident throughout the day and wandered further and further into unchartered territory.
At one point on the lift up we find ourselves chatting with a local who's also a liftie. He's just finishing up his runs for the day before getting back to work and started telling us where we should duck under the boundary line to still be totally in the rules and safe. The boundaries here are apparently not boundaries so much as soft cautionary lines.
Our next run we ducked under the caution tape and headed off into still untracked powder. Oddly the first tape was followed by a second set of lines and we began to question whether we may have wandered off course.
Not long after we found ourselves skirting an enormous cliff and then scaling down some of the steepest terrain we've navigated. The slope kept dropping off more dramatically and the two sides kept funneling inward with cliffs on both sides ensuring we had no other way to go.
The further we went the less snow and more ice we found and the steeper the descent became. Near the bottom one skier ahead of us was sliding down on his butt nearing what was clearly a dropoff while trying to take a photo of his friend going off the ledge. I peer over both sides looking for an easier way down... but on each side Im overlooking the cliffs that create this wedge of land and realize we may have found ourselves in terrain we simply shouldn't have been in.
In case we weren't sure, there was a rather obvious (and blunt) sign placed on the tree there to specifically to make sure we knew... that the answer to the question (of whether we should really be there- was absolutely- NO).
A couple deep breathes and a leap later and we were well down the hill looking back up and wondering why we listened to that liftie to begin with. All was fine...our hearts were pumping, we were laughing and somewhere in there was a lesson that we should probably make sure to let a local or liftie know that we're rookies before allowing them to give us direction on where to head out of bounds or under the markers (at least without someone to guide us).