Altitude Sickness, Column

Storm-lit skinning uphill in the dark

“Communally Acquired Pneumonia.” While this sounds like the way a deity might punish hippies, what this really means is that it is a case of pneumonia that was not acquired in a hospital (aptly named “Hospital Acquired Pneumonia”). Ask me how I know.

Remember that cold that settled down in my lungs for a long winter’s nap? Well it did, and it has been there off and on since my vertigo event after the Spartan Race.

After every single one of my co-workers told me ,“You look like cold sh*t. Go see a doctor.” I did, and the doctor, though unsure of the exact nature of the infection, assumed that since it was lingering for months it would be bacterial, and gave me a horse dose of antibiotics. Of course, I asked for a jug of xycontin or at least a handle of powdered Dilaudid, but he felt I should stay on the wagon, so I acquiesced.

The past few weeks have been rather like turning the heat up on a frog in water—you can boil it without it noticing (though I want to see the results of the double-blind test on this one) but, apparently, that is what happened to me. I’ve kept repeating the mantra “I’ll get better” until suddenly I was so out of breath that stairs were a challenge and my lungs itched all the time.  This is an unpleasant circumstance.

The lung situation didn’t prevent me from skinning up Ramshead three times in the last eight days though. I simply found that if I moved slowly enough, it didn’t matter what I was doing, there was simply a constant level of displeasure. I could do anything, but I must do it slowly.  I did find some nice little powder shots up there in the dark!

Two of the three times I did it, there was storm light. This is a great deal like moonlight, but it is streetlights bouncing off the low snow clouds. I have always loved that…I can always predict snow by the quality of the light coming off the clouds at night.

In any case, I don’t recommend this, but I went all the way up, and all the way back down without using my lamp. It was so well lit that I could even see when I was about to hit twig branches with my face while I was skiing the trail edge powder. It was really neat, and whenever a snow cat came around, I turned it on so they would be able to see me.

I could see well enough to avoid terrain traps, and the scenery was beautiful.

If you haven’t ever done any uphill at Killington or Pico, I highly recommend picking up your uphill pass (last I knew it was free if you have a season pass, and $20 for a season of uphill if you don’t) and going for a snowshoe or a skin. The designated routes are well marked. It’s worth every penny!

Photo by Brady Crain

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