Saturday, February 13, 2010


While time may be melting away, the snow is still coming down in the Colorado Rockies. The second planned hut trip had arrived, making for a short work week. I stayed at the office until after 8 PM on Tuesday to get some much needed work done, after which I got in the truck and drove west to Vail. I found the Spraddle Creek Trailhead at the end of a darkened road amidst aspen trees overlooking the ski town of Vail. Since I had a long climb up to the Eiseman Hut the following day (over 7 miles with a 2,800 foot climb), I went to bed early with no "party on the pass" planned.

I woke up around 7 AM to dress, eat, pack and put the climbing skins on the skis. By 8 AM I was on the trail climbing through the aspens, the track in the snow taking me from Spraddle Creek to Middle Creek. Fresh snow on the ground and on the trees, although not enough to obscure the trail others had made through the snow days earlier. I had first tracks up that morning. The climb up is always exhausting, necessitating that I do it alone so that I may move at my own pace. Heavy breathing in the thin air of the high altitude. At the head of Middle Creek the trail veers uphill, a feature affectionately referred to as "The Wall", the trail ascending straight up the valley wall, the climbing skins having difficulty gripping the packed snow on the trail. After an hour of struggling up the slope, I was making the final traverse to the hut, turning the corner and there it is. What a welcome sight! The others in my group, who left the trailhead later, arrived shortly thereafter. Rick, Bill, Zell, Andy and Herbie, a great group of guys who I had met on earlier trips. A few other groups showed up that afternoon, a total of over a dozen people in the hut by the time the sun had set.

A sumptuous dinner followed by some drinking and conversation. Because of the strenuous hours spent skiing up to the hut, many chose to make an early night of it and head to bed. That was my time to fill up the glass with tequila, unpack the cigar and drop the CD into the portable player. With headphones on head and wearing pretty much all I had, I went out into the darknes on the deck for my virtual concert, the lights atop Vail mountain shining below.

Tonight Echo & The Bunnymen were performing live at the House of Blues in Las Vegas on October 23, 1999. This was a half year after they released their eighth studio album, What Are You Going to Do with Your Life? According to Wikipedia:

Sergeant's guitar-work on the album was understated and he later said, "It was probably the worst time in my whole life, doing that LP—I hated it [...] I'm on all the tracks here and there, but generally I just stayed in the tent! It was a horrible experience." The album is a collection of ballads and has been described as a follow-up to McCulloch's 1989 solo album, Candleland. In a 2005 interview for Record Collector magazine, McCulloch said, "Will [Sergeant] hated the album, and I can understand why. He'd ask me where his guitar was supposed to go on certain songs and I'd say, 'Well, nowhere, it doesn't really have a place'."

Fortunately only two of the 21 songs played that evening in Las Vegas were off the new album, Will's legendary guitar playing shining through on many of the old classics they performed while up on the stage.

The taper had this to say about the recording:

"Weeks before this show I contacted the band's manager by email to ask permission to tape from the soundboard and to my surprise he replied that it would be OK. He gave me his contact info and told me to ask for him at the door. I flew into Vegas for this show with my stealth mics in case it didn't work out but I actually found him at the venue and he set me up with the sound guy who instead of letting me plug into the mixing desk outputs actually just popped my blank DAT tape into the house system which was already configured to record. Needless to say, I was stunned. He also provided me with a backstage pass to meet and greet after the show with the taping experience ever. I have given this out a few times over the years but now hopefully enough time as passed to give it the distribution it deserves. Excellent soundboard and balanced recording...this sounds as good as an official release."

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