Snake River

The Snake River Run: Out There Close to Home

I’m in a wrestling match with a densely overgrown mixture of branches, logs, leaves, mud and snow. My boots clench to sharp rocks laying beneath a thin, sugary layer of snow as I grasp onto bushes and hoist myself up the mountain. I’m following Travis Rice, Mark Landvik and Mark McMorris up a pillow wall that Travis had spotted from across the Snake River in Wyoming. Honestly, it’s more like a jagged rock face with a few clumps of snow loosely built up in certain areas. At the top, my hair drips with sweat and steam billows from my chest. Holding onto tree trunks, we peer down on our lines. Group morale is curious, yet cautious. It’s February 22 and Jackson Hole is a week away from its third-snowiest month on record, but today feels unusually warm.

Travis steps up first, queuing the drones and film crew. True to form he chooses the gnarliest line on the face on the first drop of the trip. He ponders, studies, then straps in above the rickety-yet-beckoning headwall of terrain. He drops and upon touching the first unsupported pillow it collapses beneath him, sparking a domino effect that sweeps downslope. Travis swims, kicks and muscles his way through the debris. The sound of snapping branches blends with a low rumble from the frozen death cookies pinwheeling out the bottom. Travis soon follows, arms up. He’s all right. Relatively speaking, it wasn’t a huge avalanche, but the snow shed like it didn’t want to be ridden. Lando, Mark and I look at each other wide-eyed. “You guys got it,” I say, uneager to get on with my run…

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