Add this to your list of things to do before you graduate and (don’t) leave Boulder: Have an epic.
Having an epic, or epic-ing, is not just a ticklist item for your college career. It’s a required part of your time in Boulder.
You came here for a little adventure, a little spice. You asked for it when you bought questionable gear on Craigslist from cuStoner69. You trained for it when you ran laps up Bear Peak with a hangover.
Now go forth and epic like you mean it, but take this advice to heart first.
(Just in case anyone actually takes this advice seriously, apologies from the writer to Rocky Mountain Rescue. Those of you about to embark on an epic should know to call either 911 or 303-441-4444, Boulder County Sheriff’s dispatch, to initiate a rescue. Please don’t plan on needing to call them. And don’t mention my name.)
1 Choose your adventure
First, create a link-up of three or four or 14 of Boulder’s hardest ski routes, climbs, rides, runs, or combine sports for a link-up trifecta. Next, check whether your objective is quality: If the guys who skied the Third Flatiron two years ago (look it up) have done it, you’ve chosen an epic-worthy adventure. If they’ve considered it but haven’t tried it yet, you’ve got yourself a mega-sick-add-some-superlatives-holy-crap-epic.
It’s also important to master the art of underestimation; sandbagging is what gives you the glimmer of hope that you can achieve your completely ridiculous, unattainable objective, and that’s necessary for starting the adventure in the first place.
Be sure to underestimate on multiple levels: time, distance, difficulty, your abilities, your partner’s response to you saying, “All I have left are three peanut M&Ms” and then blubbering like a baby.
Finally, bonus epic points for ice and bad weather. It’s winter — take advantage.
2 Stay out past dark
All good epics involve being out way past sunset. Dusk doesn’t count. You can still see at dusk.
The best way to guarantee being out after dark is to start late. First, stay out late drinking the night before. Then use the art of underestimation (see No. 1) in the morning to justify the stop at Amante for one more espresso, or, better yet, decide you need a solid breakfast and wait 20 minutes for a table at Walnut Café. Lastly, stop at Neptune Mountaineering for something important, then forget it in the car (see No. 4).
Bonus epic points: Lock your keys in your car.
Note: Simply staying out after dark does not an epic make. It doesn’t count to twist an ankle on Sanitas and have it turn epic because you left your Crackberry in your dorm room and couldn’t call for help.
3 Go hungry
Is there such thing as a well-fed epic? Of course not. Even if you stopped at Walnut Café, a true epic goes on for hours, far into the zone of extreme low-blood-sugar levels that will leave you mumbling incoherently about wanting to be Jon Krakauer when you grow up. If you are carrying too much food (you shouldn’t be — see No. 4) for the blood-sugar drop, then accidentally drop some a few miles/pitches back.
Bonus epic points: Your last bar is in hand but is blown away by Chinook winds or stolen by a marmot.
4 Leave something essential behind
The Colorado Mountain Club teaches members to bring the 10 Essentials on all of their trips. It includes useful items such as waterproof matches, headlamp, map — fuck ’em. Leave at least half of those behind and justify it by saying you’re going fast and light. Repeat “fast and light” or “alpine” to your partner until you’ve both shed half the weight from your pack and you feel so hells-yeah confident that your head no longer fits in your Subaru.
Also, a good epic has a good gear malfunction, like a broken ski binding or a frozen derailleur, so don’t check any of your gear before you leave — just assume that it will all work just fine. Why wouldn’t it?
5 Suffer, but come back
This is the No. 1rule. Violate it and you’re just a statistic, not the rad-ass girl who rode her mountain bike to Arapaho Pass in the winter on a flat tire and skied all the way back to Chautauqua (hungry, in the dark, no headlamp) to solo the Third Flatiron in ski boots.
The whole point of an epic is to come back to tell your friends so they know how freaking core you are. And you can’t do that if you’re dead.