The reason for the trip up is the trip down. I spend a lot of time talking about the trip down which is of course is the reason for the trip up. But traveling on the up track has its own appeal.
The routine. Lengthen the poles. It is much easier to use the poles to assist my forward movement if they are 15 or so cm longer than my regular ski poles. Flip the switch on my boots to walk mode. The ski mode limits the movement of the cuff and inhibits the for/aft movement of the ankle making walking more difficult. Apply the skins to the base of the ski. This is absolutely imperative. The skins have a hairy texture that allows for sliding forward and which grabs the snow stopping any backward movement.
Unzip the side zip of my pants to my knees. When walking uphill the large muscles in the legs produce a lot of heat and having the breeze blow through at that level helps keep my core temp down. Put the jacket zipper at ½ mast. Again allowing heat to disperse and keeping the core temp down. Off comes my tuque and I tuck it into my jacket ready for use if required. Last I lock my ski brakes up and free my boot heel from the binding heel lock down mechanism.
The walk starts. We start as a group but different rates of travel and different fitness levels determine how the single file line of skiers shakes out. We all travel at our own speed but gather up every 15 or so minutes. The faster group sets the track making it much easier for the followers to travel. Unless there is an old up track to follow we have to walk through unpacked snow, it is rough travel, hard work and energy sapping so we share the load.
Often along the track I find myself alone. The walking movement is repetitive. There is absolutely no sound other than what I am making with my skis and it is in sync with the movement. All of a sudden the world disappears. I call this Zen. Everything is calm, any pains I have are no longer evident and each step brings me closer to my goal.
Every once in a while we stop and smell a few roses. We watch a winter insect frolic in the snow, check out the prints left by animals that have passed through, notice unusual types of flora, like white bark pine and look high to see the majestic rocky surroundings.
We also constantly monitor the weather and snow conditions. Not only because we are interested in the quality of our run down but we keep our eyes and ears open and feel the snow trying to determine the conditions of the area and if an avalanche is likely.
It’s a walk in the woods, a winter walk in the woods, it’s beautiful, but it is a means to an end. I finally reach our destination and the routine at the top is reverse of what I did at the bottom. I turn my skis down and the smile appears on my face.