Camp IV, Part 1
Updated: May 22
I'd been trying desperately for a couple days to line up help. Like a climber at Camp IV, the final base camp on Mount Everest waiting for the weather to create the optimal window to make an attempt to summit, for weeks I had been surveying weather forecasts and inspecting the snow conditions to identify my own window-- my window to attempt to ski again.
Once my analysis told me that the stars were aligning for ideal conditions in a few days, I started to work through my list of people who had the wherewithal to help-- people who understand and respect my need to try, and who can balance on the tightrope of risk and safety. With such short notice, I knew my chances of finding someone (preferably two) who could take time during the week were scant. But I was determined to try, nonetheless.
A week before, I had been turned away from an adaptive ski program at a nearby ski area. "We are afraid that if you attempt to ski unassisted with us, that you might hurt one of our people," his email read. Just what I needed to hear. I was already scared enough, with so many unknowns. I knew only that I must try. I had gotten comfortable with the idea of not being able to ski if I couldn't do it. I had played the movie over and over in my head-- my attempt would include several steps that progressively challenged my ability to move on skis, and I was ready to pull the plug on my attempt if I didn't "pass" each step:
Step 1: stand in place on skis
Step 2: move forward on flat ground
Step 3: 360 degree turn in place on flat ground
Step 4: push, lift poles and glide for a few feet
You get the idea. If I passed Step 4, I was ready for the chairlift. I can't manage a rope tow or a magic carpet safely; otherwise Step 5 would have been a trip to the 'very beginner' slope for a more gradual and safer progression. So I had to go right to the chairlift and its 'more difficult' terrain.
I was most fearful of getting off the chairlift. I didn't know how steep the offload ramp was, and my ability to stand from a sitting position, let alone on-demand is, in a word, awful. I've played the movie many times in my mind-- "you stand-up strong as the chair gently pushes you forward; you glide softly and confidently down the ramp until you stop." I didn't want to fall. PLS freezes my body when adrenaline rushes in, which means I cannot break a fall; all falls are hard falls.
If I am lucky enough to get to that point, then I just have to try and trust. Try and see how it goes on that first attempt to glide, then turn. Trust that whatever muscle-memory I have left will allow me to do what I've done since the age of two and so many times before.
But my mental map and the replays are academic unless I quickly find some help for the day in question, Wednesday, March 2, 2022. March 15, 2020 was the last time I'd skied; I wasn't even using a walker at that point-- how much had PLS really progressed?
With faith and hope, I worked through my list of resources who might be able to help. "I'm on a plane to go ski out west." "Working from Telluride and Switzerland for the winter." "Have to actually go to the office that day." "My days off are Mondays and Tuesdays." "I've been a bit tired since my ski trip to British Columbia." And on and on; so totally understandable and I knew it would be a shot in the dark. I mean, who can drop everything on 2 days notice?
The day before "Window Wednesday," I shot a text to my buddy, Jeff, who is part of a 3-person contingent that helps me every week on a rotating basis. Jeff isn't a huge skier but he's mentioned skiing on more than one occasion, and what he lacks in skiing mileage he more than makes up for in support and encouragement. And, I knew he'd tell me if he weren't confident helping me.
"I might be able to (help). Let me see if I can move a couple things (at work)."
One hour later..."Let's go for it! Tami will join us too."
I looked at my phone. I'm like, "What!?!?"
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