Adventures can go sideways in an instant, and sometimes, even if you aren’t prepared for it, you’ve got to make an impromptu escape plan. Such was the case for Michael C Wirth when he skied Castle Peak.
It was 4:30 p.m. when Michael C Wirth hit the tree well, and his snowmobile got stuck. He tried to unbury it, but no matter how much he dug, the machine wasn’t budging. An hour passed, and daylight was quickly fading, leaving Wirth with a choice: to sleep out there, miles deep in the backcountry, or hike all the way out in the dark without a headlamp.
Michael C Wirth had ventured out to Castle Peak to solo ski the mountain’s renowned couloir. The night before, it dumped, which was both good and bad for the backcountry skier. Good, because it meant fresh pow and killer turns. Bad, because avalanche danger was higher, and there was more snow to get stuck in.
The skiing part of the journey went off without a hitch. Wirth shredded Castle Peak. He made great turns and great time getting back to his sled.
But it was on the way out he ran into trouble — namely, that troublesome tree well. And as the sun set, Wirth made the tough decision that he was going to hike out in the dark. He had no extra food, no extra water, and no survival gear beyond what was on his back.
“Well, I guess most people probably would’ve died,” Wirth reflected in this video. And he knows that he’s lucky he didn’t.
Michael C Wirth set out in January 2022 to ski as many of the “Fifty Classic Descents of North America” as he could in a single ski season. His series, Classic Flow, documents his efforts to accomplish that goal. You can find the rest of the episodes on his youtube channel.
Runtime: 16 minutes