Extreme Vertical “R” Us

The next day totally sucked. I arose before dawn and didn’t even meditate. Instead I headed for the mountains, deciding I would clear my head of Nadia, Master Fwap and the Oracle. I set out to snowboard the most extreme vertical slope I had ever attempted.

I hitched a ride right away and within a couple of hours reached the highest point that the road led to. From here it was climbing time. I got my gear out of the truck, thanked the driver, and started to ascend the peak.

I just knew for some reason that this was going to be a one-run day. I figured it would take me about four hours of hiking just to get to the top of the peak, allowing me time for only one ultimately gnarly, vertical run. Halfway through my climb it started to snow, the temperature dropped, and I could hardly see where I was going.

“Fuck it!” I thought to myself. I was definitely pissed off at myself, the world, the weather, the mountains, and everything and everyone else in the universe. If I had been thinking more clearly, I would have started to descend the mountain and head back to Kathmandu. This would have been a challenging run even in ideal conditions, but with lousy visibility and frigid temperatures, it was now both dangerous and stupid to even attempt.

I have never been afraid of dying. Naturally, my body has felt fear many times, but the thought of death has never bothered me. Maybe that is why I continued up the mountain that day, or maybe I was just trying to punish myself.

It took two hours longer than I had figured to reach the top of the peak. The sun was already beginning to set. Between the snow and the diminishing light I could barely see anything. I knew I was doing something stupid, but at this point there was nothing I could do about it.

I was freezing cold, exhausted by the climb, gasping for breath because of the thinness of the air, and pissed off and depressed at my current situation in life. This was definitely not the best state of mind to be in for the most challenging vertical run I had ever attempted.

I unstrapped my snowboard from my back, changed from my climbing to snowboarding boots, shouldered my day pack, and put on my goggles. I thought I would probably die in the next few minutes on the first section of the vertical drop, end up in a snowy grave, and that would be that.

With nothing to lose, I snapped my snowboarding boots into their bindings on my jet-black snowboard and started down the mountain.

I was snow-blind. At best, I could see about ten feet ahead of myself at any given time. I just let my reflexes take over, and I started to descend fast.

I did better than I thought I would. I managed to do a series of sharp razor cuts and survived the most extreme vertical section of the mountain. The slope then started to even out a little, but the wind suddenly kicked up, blowing the rapidly falling snow into huge white swirling clouds all around me. The visibility dropped to about four feet ahead of my board. Conditions were not good.

Somehow I managed to keep descending, and after a while it began to occur to me I might make it down the mountain in one piece after all. The snow stopped and the clouds parted. I could see the bright descending sun against a pure blue Nepalese sky.

Then I saw the crevasse. It was about twenty feet across, and to compound the problem, on the other side of the crevasse there was another sharp vertical slope that went straight up.

I had no other choice but to try and jump the crevasse. Even if I managed to clear the crevasse, I was going to smack straight into the vertical slope on the other side.

I started the jump, and I’m sure it would have made a great photograph, at least the before shot. There I was, dressed in my rad red parka and boarding pants, doing a perfect transboarding jump between two opposing slopes, with the descending sun hanging in the blue Nepalese sky behind me … It was definitely a Kodak moment—my last.

I hit the opposing slope hard and almost fell over before I fishtailed and started to board backward. I quickly threw all of my weight to my right, to avoid getting sucked down into the crevasse, did a one-eighty flip, and was then headed straight down the mountain again. I don’t know how I pulled it off, but somehow I was still standing on my board carving my way down the mountain!

The slope became more gradual and I slowed my pace, taking my time descending, making wide curves in the snow. When I reached the bottom of the slope, it was almost totally dark. I got off my board, sat down on it, and realized I was probably both the luckiest and dumbest snowboarder on earth.

After changing my boots and shouldering my board and day pack, I walked down to the rock and gravel road that led back to Kathmandu. I walked in the darkness for about half an hour before I hitched a ride with a couple of Indian tourists in a Toyota Land Cruiser. They dropped me off at the hostel. After climbing the stairs to the dorm and finding my bunk, I removed my gear, lay down, and immediately fell asleep. I was so tired it never even occurred to me to eat.