It was -8°F, the coldest day of the year so far. I didn't know how low the wind chill dropped to, but the snow blasting off Quandary Peak was flattening everything into a field of grays. We were just above tree line, and whatever buffer we had before was a frozen memory as I looked back to watch Dan slowly ascending behind me.
At the top we found ourselves in a lucid daydream of a massive cloud - part horizontal snowdrift, part stratospheric nebula, no visibility whatsoever. Strapping in and peering downhill was an exercise in religion - searching the vast emptiness for a curve of topography, I breathed deeply and exhaled a cloud of my own. Out here at 14,000 feet the line between myself and nature was blurring.
And then there was a break and we were no longer in the cloud, but above it, watching it reveal our line like a reverse lava flow. This was it, there was no more time to wait. I took a last look around at this beautiful, coldest day, and dropped into the receding cloud below to chase it back into nothingness.