Scotland is currently entering a rare treat, a spring snowboarding season. Which means trips up north when you can still get home before dark and excellent snow conditions (if not always great weather).
A few Sundays ago was one of those days, after getting up at what was essentially 5.30am, thanks to daylight savings, a few of us were headed to Nevis Range for some sliding. The weather was changing by the minute and blasts of sun were interchangeable with cloud, fog, snow and zero visibility. It made for some very contrasting pictures and videos that you would think were shot on different days!
In the morning we had a run on the Warrens, a Scottish black run, and despite a few questionable ice patches, I felt I’d handled it really well was feeling confident. In the afternoon we decided to have a go on the Back Corries. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s essentially an area of off-piste mountain itineraries serviced by two chairlifts and it’s pretty freakin’ radge.
As we stood at the top of a cornice drop and watched skiers go before us I was already feeling pretty uncomfortable. There were three of us riding and I was significantly less experienced than the other two. When they offered for us to head back I made my first mistake of the day, I let my pride and determination overpower my common sense and I went for it. The initial drop was surprisingly ok but I fell shortly after and, after sliding halfway down the mountain, I realised there was no way in hell I could initiate any turns. I resolved to falling leaf on my heel edge for 90% of the slope, which really burns the thighs btw. When we reached the bottom of the Braveheart chairlift I learned I’d made my second mistake, I really had no idea what I was letting myself in for. When talks that the Braveheart chair was open had circulated on the slopes I assumed that was the way we were getting back, I didn’t realise that the chair only functions within the bowl area. It’s at this point I realise the only way back is around the mountain, which was peppered with rocks and other natural hazards as well as being steep as hell. This is the point where I start bricking it and I ask the others if we can head back.
Let’s assess the situation as it stands at the moment, I’m starting to feel stranded and I know the only way back relies on me not fucking up, but at this point, I’m almost certain that will definitely happen. I also choose this moment in time to remind myself that I’m wearing the most useless boots of all time and I really should have bought those Thirtytwo Double Boas when I had the chance. Gregor has started to realise that something’s up and asks if I’m ok, at this point I make my third mistake, I say “I’m fine”. Mainly because I’m too catatonic (his words) to even string sentences together let alone one that indicates I’m in distress. This was the point where I should have said:
“Actually I’m feeling a bit freaked out and I’m worried I’m going to seriously hurt myself.”
To get back we have to stay high up the mountain, which I manage to do for the most part, every now and again I try to avoid rocks which usually meant travelling lower. Eventually I have to stop, unstrap and walk across a patch. I can’t see the other two anywhere, I panic some more. Thankfully Gregor is above me and shouts, so I climb up to join him. I’d say this is the point where I reach my limit, I strap back in, we go again and we approach the final hurdle, a ridge. I watch Grgeor go ahead of me and drop around a corner and I stop, paralysed with fear thinking: Where the hell did he even go!? There’s no way I’m making it around that.
Lets review my situation again shall we? I’m stopped at the ridge of a mountain, my two pals are nowhere to be seen. I look down, and as I’m at the side of the mountain, I can see how steep it is (let’s call that mistake four) and I genuinely can’t move. This is the part where I’m not ashamed to say I had a little cry, I figured nobody can see me so might as well. After a few minutes I start to process the situation, nobody can come back for me and nobody is going to pass by anytime soon and even if they were, they can’t help me. The only way I’m getting home for my dinner is if I pull myself together and go around that godforsaken ridge. So I stand up, take a breath and I lean on my front foot. 30 seconds later and I’m around the ridge and Gregor is patiently waiting for me. When he asks me what happened all I can do is cry again. This time it’s probably more from relief as I know we’re now on the home straight. He feeds me some chocolate and tells me that I was awesome. Even if he was just humouring me, it makes me feel much better.
Looking back on the experience now, I know I totally let fear get the better of me. It was definitely a reminder that snowboarding is so much more than your average sport. It takes a lot, both mentally and physically to succeed. I’m a total worrier, I worry about what I’ll have for breakfast, what I’m doing tomorrow or how many drinks I’ll have at the weekend. I worry about it all and it’s hard sometimes to not lose your shit when you’re seriously worried at the top of a steep drop. However, I’m really proud of myself for (mostly) keeping it together and not giving up. I won’t be going around the Back Corries again anytime soon, at least not until I’ve got those new boots, but next time I’ll know what to expect and I’ll make sure to trust my abilities and not let the fear get the best of me.
I would love to hear from anyone else who’s had some nerve-wracking experiences while out and about and how did you manage to keep it together? Hit me up in the comments.