Backstory: Brown Shorts By Night

Daniel Kennedy finds the light on Mt. Mackenzie’s Brown Shorts Couloir. Revelstoke, B.C. [Photo] Jakub Pinos

The snow of the surrounding mountains shoots back rays of the setting sun. Yellow, red and then purple. I’m amazed at the variety of colors in the sky and reflecting on the snow. Everything seems perfect. But deep in my mind, unpleasant thoughts grow with the lengthening shadows on the mountainsides.

Soon, the sun slowly disappears behind the horizon. All is calm, quiet. Once it’s completely dark, I wish the sun had never set. Fear grips me—I’m facing a dangerous task: standing over the Brown Shorts, Revelstoke, B.C.’s famously steep couloir on Mt. Mackenzie, preparing to go down it. At night.

The voice from the transmitter has a calming effect that’s simultaneously provoking. “What? Wait for the stars? I already can’t see anything, and I’m slowly turning into a snowflake over here!” I say into my radio before crawling back into my dug-out trench to wait for another half an hour. At -25°C. Possible eventualities, including the most drastic, run through my mind: a cornice coming loose or a fall during the ride that I can’t stop afterward. It won’t happen. It can’t.

Finally, a command to ride comes across the transmitter. It’s time to look over tech bindings and pray for their fastness. I stand on the edge of a massive cornice and become aware of my breathing. Breath in, breath out—drop. The end of self possession. The first critical turn. The binding holds, the headlamps are shining.

Great. Wow, I can even ski quite well here. It isn’t all ice! How about going a bit faster?
Soon I realize that speed is a very bad idea. The heel of the binding clicks off, and I know immediately that I don’t want to telemark this line.
Click back, please. I want to hear the click. Click! OK, let’s take it easy now.

A few minutes later, I’m at the bottom of Brown Shorts. The sharp sound of ski-edges cutting into the frozen snow has stopped. Calm and quiet return. Instead of fear, there’s euphoria. I look at the dark mountain I’ve just descended and feel rightfully proud.

This isn’t the sort of night ride you do every day. The stillness is broken by the excitement of friends through the transmitter, and I can’t wait to recap the run with them. I’ve finally completed the mission to go down Brown Shorts at night, which I’d devised during a January dry spell; the misery of hardpack snow piquing my mind toward an adventure I wouldn’t have come up with otherwise.

Now, the new nocturnal perspective brings a deeper experience, and I’m left wondering—where will my mind take me next?

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