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"They go three or four hours and then they camp," he said. "I can't understand that." (Using the same tone, one of them, Jack Dykinga, had sniffed, "You goal-oriented Babbitts.")
We had about 11 miles to go to the rim, but we had gradually climbed, to 8,800 feet, so now we found some long downhills where we could simply double pole and glide. Where we had trudged at two miles per hour, now we raced at 15. We even caught a member of the party that had begun with a day-and-a-half lead, Robert Gutierrez, who was sitting in the trail, waxing his skis. Babbitt was so startled to come upon him that he fell down.
The icy tracks tripped me one last time, on a downhill, and the pack drove me headfirst between my skis. As I sat, stunned, Kluetmeier approached. "O.K.?" he asked.
"I guess so." I touched my temple and looked at the glove. "I'm bleeding."
"Not much," he said, skiing by.
At the top of a hard, curving hill, we saw Quiroz's pack. "It's the end of the skiing," said Warner, exultantly. And there, not garishly obvious, through a copse of white-trunked aspens was a great, red, snowy vista of the canyon.
Quiroz had gone to alert the North Rim ranger, and soon we met Guy Whitmer, who gave Babbitt the following intelligence over lunch: "Last year we had a total of 50 skiers who made it in here. Now we're expecting 50 next week, so the word is getting around. Most people have been slow because they've been breaking one to three feet of new powder."
"So it's not icy like this all the time," said Babbitt, in triumph.
"No," said Whitmer. "The rim gets an average of 150 inches of snow a year, with the maximum being 300 to 350." This, he pointed out, meant that, because dense piles of plowed snow don't melt nearly as fast as undisturbed powder, if the road were continuously plowed, all the visitors on that road would see would be 20-foot walls of striated ice.
We were at the head of the North Kaibab Trail, at the very top of Roaring Springs Canyon. Across to our left was Uncle Jim Point. This was named for Uncle Jim Owens, the early-century game warden who took Theodore Roosevelt mountain-lion hunting. "The deadly enemies of the deer are the cougars," Roosevelt later wrote. "They had been very plentiful all over the table-land until Uncle Jim thinned them out, killing between two and three hundred." In consequence, the deer population ballooned, resulting in massive starvation in the 1920s. "The classic case of big-game mismanagement," said Shanks.