Disappointment Cleaver


This is not the Birkie.

The Birkie was cancelled today, so I’m not likely to forget 2017. I put in over 1200 miles training for this day since June 1st. But I’m calm. No Angry Shmo today. The scenario reminds me of something else.


This is not the Birkie.

Mother Nature didn’t make enough snow. She made it rain at 50F in the week before the ski race. Instead of skiing my way into Wave 1 in the American Birkebeiner today, I did some other things. I took Leo for a walk. He rolled on his back in the snow, which means he’s happy. We looked at 10% of the world’s fresh water from the Endion Ledges. My children skied with me around the perfect conditions at Snowflake. We ate supper at Bulldog Pizza and I had a Castle Danger Cream Ale. It was a bluebird day.


This isn’t the Birkie either.

In 2013, one week before I flew the F-16 for the last time, I tried to summit Mt. Rainier. I was at Camp Muir at 10,000′ with about 16 other people who were going to summit the next day. We went to bed at about 5 PM and the guides turned off the light. Twenty minutes later, the head guide came back in and said, “I’ve never said this in 18 years of guiding Rainier. You have ZERO chance of summiting tomorrow.” The glaciers had shifted and eaten all the ladders across the several crevasses. But, anybody who was game could continue to the highest point possible before the route became unsafe for clients. A few people crapped out, but the rest of us said we were in.

We woke up the next morning at about 2 AM for the final climb. It was dead calm and perfectly clear. As I was strapping on my crampons, my jaw hung open as I looked up at the stars. It was like I was in a fog made of stars. Surrounded. Cowlitz Glacier and up through Ingraham Glacier in the dark, following our headlamps. Half the group bailed out at the first rest stop. About eight of us continued on with the guides who would build a new route through the new crevasses. The sun rose when I was at the highest point. The massive stone spine where we turned around? It’s called Disappointment Cleaver. Indeed.

And it may have been the most beautiful sunrise I’ve ever seen.

Descending Ingraham Glacier. 7 Sep 2013.

Descending Ingraham Glacier. 7 Sep 2013.

The Birkie cancellation was like another Disappointment Cleaver.

But here’s a philosophical question. Make a choice. Would you prefer Plan A in the clouds where you can only see ten feet? Or would you prefer Plan B on a glorious day? I love Type II fun, so it’s a tough choice.

But here’s the thing. Sometimes, you don’t get a vote. You can only decide how to react while doing Plan B. I can tell you I was smiling on Rainier. And I was smiling today.

As high as I go. Disappointment Cleaver on Mt. Rainier.

As high as I go. Disappointment Cleaver on Mt. Rainier.


About Eric Chandler

Husband. Father. Pilot. Cross Country Skier. Writer. Author of Outside Duluth and Down In It.
This entry was posted in Philosophy, Sports. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Disappointment Cleaver

  1. Russell Parker says:

    You don’t know me and I’m not even sure how I stumbled across something you wrote and subsequently signed up for your email, but I greatly enjoyed this installment. By way of introduction, I’m a Marine LtCol who writes, runs ultra marathons, and has most assuredly reached terminal rank. Benjamin Busch is a friend so I enjoyed your AWP (I crashed Ben’s panel discussion) piece as well. Anyway, keep after it.

    Best, Worth Parker

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Pingback: Shmo’s 2017 Writing Review | SHMOTOWN

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