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Caveat Emptor

Casey Hardison | Essay | Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

A while ago, somewhere, I don’t know when, I began thinking about human motivations as a cascade of habituations competing for the attentional and volitional stage. Paradoxes akin to semiotic (re)cognition and the biotics of rapture linger within. With several million years of direct experience under my belt, I think I may safely assert, if you are alive, and I am, all of our actions from the most grotesque to the most subtle are rooted in molecular habits, strangely encoded thoughts, semiotic patterns etched in a most primitive script of nucleic acids. Our chemical romance and warfare started long ago.

A dopamine rush conjunct a gigantic hit of adrenaline will motivate any of us to action, even if those actions appear no more than movements of the mind. As an example, I assume that each of you reading this has felt that pitter patter and breathlessness of recognizing a prospective mate. Sometimes my balls even pulsate on thinking an erotic thought about my potential prospect: that shit has had me do all sorts of crazy.

*

Neked Pond Skim - Grand Targhee

Neked Pond Skim ’14 – Grand Targhee

In 1993, shortly after taking acid and dropping into college, I was presented with my very own, archaic and very used snowboard. On the top deck was a sticker, which read: “snowboarding, the most fun you can have with your clothes on“. Aside a powerful psychedelic trip and making mad passionate love, be it mental or physical, I can attest to the veracity of that sticker. Snowboarding and the molecular movements within have charmed me unashamedly, my habituation to snowboarding has even had me riding with my clothes off.

Since my release from prison, nearly two years ago, I have snowboarded somewhere near 150 days. I love the freedom, the meditation, the absorption: nothing else matters in that very moment. At those speeds, with obstacles in my trajectory, there is no time to think on a conscious level. I am at one! And when the snow, temperatures, humidity and pressure align with my desired line, I experience an exhilarating gravitational wave: I’m literally surfing a mountain.

Three weeks ago, shortly after experiencing yet another exhilarating wave of fluffy powdered snow, I nearly killed myself. I nearly ran my substance race into the ground. Either I got lucky or more randomness than I care to admit occurred, I don’t know; but, by the grace of physics and my animal habits, somehow, I survived. I am so grateful! It could’ve been much, much worse.

*

The Monday previous to this particular Near Death Experience (NDE), a couple of new friends and I climbed up the South Face of the Middle Teton and surfed down the Glacier Route in a foot of wind buffed fluff. In essence this entails getting up at 3am and preparing for an all day expedition over snow with a vertical climb of more than a mile just so I can surf my magic carpet, my snowboard, back down! This day was fourteen hours of solid effort for a few minutes of exceptional elation.

South Face of the Middle Teton

South Face of the Middle Teton

Climbing a Teton route like this in the winter requires a number a different attachments to my feet. Conveniently, the Saturday before at the Teton Pass Rendezvous, I bought these new-fangled snowboard mountaineering boots called the Fitwell Backcountry: Italian, handmade excellence. The Roman armies ran on their feet and their stomachs. I had both taken care of. The difference between these and my old snowboard boots, the Burton Ions, is manifestly absurd. The Fitwells give me so much more lateral control, a safety essential in these high alpine environs.

This lateral control allows me to sidehill contours of snow and rock on my split snowboard, which is essentially a snowboard split in half with each foot bound to a different board like skiing. Yes, yes, why don’t I just get a pair of skis? You can’t surf the same way on skis! Mounted individually on each foot, with climbing skins on the bottom surface, I can climb at surprisingly steep angles depending on snow conditions.

Lil' me in the steeps!

Lil’ me, climbing the steeps!

Crampons are another contraption often necessary to mount on my feet when climbing, especially as the angles get steeper still and there may be ice beneath the surface of the snow. I carried a pair with me in my 20 year old Dana Design Bombpack, the same backpack I attach my splitboard to if it’s that steep going up. And, as you can see by the photo to the right there, it was.

If there’s little to no firm ice, I use these seriously tight snowshoes called Verts, also attachable to my backpack. This day I was able to use those instead of crampons all the way up this route because my Fitwells facilitated such positive connection. The name was chosen with consummate grace: one in our party never stopped to put any footwear attachments on, he kicked his way all the way up in just his Fitwells, he after all was their rep. And even though they were made in Italy, the tread of the sole is called Teton Vibram: now, isn’t that special?

And so here I was ushering the Fitwell boys up their first big Teton route wearing my fabulous new boots, the same one’s Jeremy Jones wore up the Shangri-La Spinewall in the Himalayas. They’re that good.

My surf down the Middle Teton, that mile or more descent back to the car stirred my passions just so. I was in brand new, stiff, mountaineering boots and I didn’t even get a blister. I was growing very fond of these boots, very fond, I tell you.

I rested Tuesday and got some shiznit done at home. On the Wednesday, I spent the day alone behind Grand Targhee Ski Resort in near total untracked fluffiness, not unlike my purring kitty here. Bliss and peace, indeed.

Mt Glory's Bowl - 12 minutes from my door to the lot!

Mt Glory’s Bowl – 12 minutes from my door to the lot!

The day before my accident, after several weeks of hunting for good snow in the Teton backcountry, out of bounds and without lift access, I rode Grand Targhee again on a bit of a refreshed pow hunt: it had snowed a few inches. I wore my Burton Ion Boots, comparing them to the Fitwells on familiar terrain by doing so. It was my first day in the Burton’s since I had bought the Fitwells. The Burton’s felt like old school Sorel’s, all floppy and shit compared to the insanely stiff Fitwell build.

That night, really Friday morning around 2am, after climbing Mt Glory alone in the full moon, my Fitwells and I dropped into Glory Bowl and found nearly untracked wind-buffed fluff. I wore no headlamp. I had let my eyes adjust. 

Seven hours later, I was back at the Ghee again, after maching groomers super-fast for 4 hours with Will, a twin brother of a different mother, with nobody home but a few locals and a few jerrys, we headed to the Sacajawea lift.

When we get to the top of the lift, I decide to sneak under the lift shack and paste a “Black Foot Riders” sticker just out of view of the lifties, but in full view of everybody on the lift: if you only knew how serious a coup this is.

Peaked Mountain

Peaked Mountain

We then dropped in for a favorite run of mine down to the far southwest boundary of Targhee to Mill Creek. There’s a short hike out but that hides untracked snow from the lazy. So worth the hike.

We got back to the top of Sacajawea lift and Will and I were giddy over the sticker and drunk on snow. The sun was shining, the weather was sweet, and for once in a blue moon, the gate was open at the top by the Patrol shack. Fuck, Yes! This allowed us to hike Peaked Mountain the easy way.

Today, I find a shaded and wide untracked panel of lightly buffed steep pow over baby chutes under a small cornice. We soared to the bottom exhilarated. The Fitwells lock me in at another level. Moving way faster than Will in his old school Driver Xs, I get separated from him in the trees but we *know* we’re headed back around to hike again! Oh, we know! Hallelujah!

So I mached around to the Millcreek Traverse with it’s penchant for stymying the gapers who zig-zag across the 15 foot wide track in fear for their life. I swiftly navigated through about eight of them. The final one before my leap of faith intended, a slight 50ish year old woman hesitated in her turn smack dab in the middle of my trajectory. Wtf?

What was I to do but slam on my brakes and look for an exit? Unfortunately for her skis, I scraped her decks and launched into a hole I perceived in the trees. Despite gravity’s power, it was a mandatory 10 foot air at that velocity. I left the lips, all three of them it seemed, with my back edge sliding out. This rotated me sagittally towards my posterior on an approximately ballistic trajectory. A few feet in the air, the nose of my board hooked a tree and my leg, I was spun 180 and thrown to the ground against another tree, hard.

My L Leg w Titanium Intramedullary Rod

My L Leg w Titanium Intramedullary Rod

The first hit broke my leg, the second reminded me I was alive! Luckily my good and right leg was wedged in the tree below me in a supportive way. My left leg was bent at an obscene angle. I was convinced I was bleeding in my left calf area. I was concerned, very concerned. I had moments to gather my blood or possibly lose my life.

I began screaming for help and graciously I was heard fast. When the guy got to me I was dizzy and faint and I begged him to Tourniquet my left leg as I had not one on me: and I pride myself on forethought. This was a major oversight.

I pleaded with him again as he dicked about asking me irrelevant questions. I blurted out in desperation that I was going to pass out from the lack of blood in my head! His friend, now mine, arrived and complied immediately. The faintness left: imagine that!

*

Now that my brain was working on overdrive, glycogen and oxygen for fuel, I was able in the midst of all that shock to breathe deep and be still within. I so appreciate the humans who served me without want except for my survival. Thank you evolution for this, our altruistic impulse.

*

Boots with Hairy Dude in Hospital Bed

TLEO!

About an hour later, after slowly being ferried downhill on my own clothes over trees and such by a group of big men, I got shuffled via snowsled into an air ambulance, my first helicopter ride. Yippee!

Finally, all doped up on fentanyl, after an “Oh fuck don’t cram my leg in there like that” $19,000 helicopter ride over the insanely gorgeous Tetons to St. Johns Hospital in Jackson, Wyoming, I pleaded:

“I can take the pain, please don’t cut my boot!”

Here, my passion for my boots was persuasive. In pursuit of my biochemical molecular habituations, in pursuit of snowboard ecstasy, I had become so attached to them.

I am in eager anticipation of the day we soar rapturously again.

Oh, how long ’til my next fix!

Teton Aloha, Matty Lake! I’ll live to ride again!

Casey x

8 Comments »

  1. Just glad you are OK Casey.If we stopped to think of the danger of some of the things we do,we’d never experience the savage joy that comes form doing them,so far in my uni experiences I’ve been lucky,I was at a Mega dog festy in Plymouth a few years ago(The Eclipse one)The site had some excellent trails for off road unicycling,but as I was manic,I’d broken a rib in a collision with a car door which had made me manic,but since I was going to the festival with mates who were relying on me to be able to get in,I decided to go & do the ride about(In Faerie costume)anyway,after a few days of the festy I’d been awake & going at life manically for about 6-7 days,I decided that the site no longer presented me with enough of a challenge,so I climbed out of the site in search of harder challenges.I found some harder off road riding,at one point I decided to ride this gap I thought I saw between two fields,it looked like there was a smallish drop,maybe 3-4 feet with the brambles being thin enough for me to just blast through.Luckily for me they were harder to get through than I thought,as the middle of the gap I aimed for,wasn’t a 3-4 foot drop as I’d surmised it was about 20-25 feet & onto rocks.I shot through the gap,the uni dropped away from me & crashed onto the rocks,with enough force to puncture the wheel,trash about 6 spokes & render it unrideable for the rest of the festy.I however being in my Faerie costume,ended up hanging by my wings from the brambles,The wings were made from fibreglass rods & were much stronger than I’d have believed,Part of the costume was a lycra cycling bib & brace set the wings were woven through them as it was helping them not to continually get snagged on stuff.I hung there for about 5 minutes shouting for help,until I remembered that no one could hear me cos I’d climbed out of the festy site.I had to cut myself loose from the brambles & swing to safety Tarzan style,thank god I had my Leatherman tool with me.I used to get asked for photos of me on my unicycle in that Faerie costume all the time,this one of me dangling from a bramble bush by my wings would I’m sure been the best picture possible,but alas no one to take it.I made my way back to the site & climbed back in,on the way through the kids area a young girl who had been saying hello to me during the rest of the Festy saw me & asked me what had happened to me,I told her & then gave her my now very bedraggled wings as a present.She was very pleased. I hope you get better very very quickly & are soon up snowboarding again.Luv 1Wheel

    Comment by Martin Izat — April 1, 2015 @ 4:52 am

  2. Wow Casey that’s an Amazing article! I’m so happy you found your calling in life once again. We share similar passions and I’m so happy you are able to derive such pleasure from such a healthy activity, despite you recent spill. I look forward to the day you are able to get back to the mountain and be one with nature and what not. I want you to snap your feet back in those boots and feel the good vibrations pulsate through your feet sending wonderful vibes to that incredible brain of yours. Get some rest and get well soon.

    Sincerely,

    Your biggest fan.

    Comment by Jordan Smith — April 1, 2015 @ 8:33 am

  3. So, how long until you can carve again?

    Comment by illipede — April 2, 2015 @ 1:14 pm

  4. It’s probably gonna be some later summer glacier hike! I have no idea where … stay tuned! I still want to hike the Grand Teton this summer! Cx

    Comment by Casey Hardison — April 2, 2015 @ 2:37 pm

  5. Wow those are nice boots. I’m glad they’re insured else they may have just left you there. Let’s face it, the weren’t gonna cut the boots…the gammy leg maybe…that’s what the fentanyl is for: the mangled limb of the poor mortal who recklessly bleeds like a barbarian, as if it is a bodily function. Such exquisite boots. They each deserve a bed of their own

    Comment by Bob Who — April 3, 2015 @ 7:31 am

  6. Great post.

    Comment by brain ammo review — April 6, 2015 @ 9:19 pm

  7. Thank you for sharing this brilliant piece of writing. I really enjoyed it.

    Comment by Jordan — May 12, 2015 @ 3:42 pm

  8. While I agree with you completely about the insanely gorgeous Tetons, I have found equally beautiful places in the Sunlight Basin, and I lack the courage to climb that which I love to look at.

    Comment by Bill — June 6, 2015 @ 12:29 pm

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