The sound of the words ‘Ski Traverse’ leaves the mind to wander within itself and envision beautiful snow laden mountain landscapes, exciting adventure and comradery with close friends and beautiful virgin backcountry powder skiing. The reality is, there is so much more to a ‘Ski Traverse” than just the images that make the media. The planning, logistics, communication, brainstorming, equipment gathering, training and compromising, are parts that make up the pre trip of a traverse. The endless kilometers of walking, interspersed with short ski sections that if the conditions align just right and by right I mean real freeze thaw spring skiing, feel like a body rattling and joint pounding bad visit to the physiotherapist. Waking up well before dawn, not wanting to get your sore body out of the warm sleeping bag just to force down slimy porridge or a frozen fruit bar. Jamming your achy feet into frozen ski boots and forcing your mind to numb out the cold until the radiance of the afternoon sun makes you delirious in the spring heat. All these inspiring things can only be enjoyed best with a fifty-five pound backpack on!
Reflecting on last spring’s Bugaboos to Rogers Pass trip, I thought I would try adding to the G3 University Video tips we recorded...
EP. 1 BLISTER TREATMENT
Keeping your feet happy is probably one of the most important things when trying for a long walk. Preventative maintenance seems to be the ticket. When I first started ski touring I would get gnarly blisters on my heels all the time.
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I eventually started making a duct tape heel cup for my feet before I put my boots on. This stopped the rubbing before it started and eventually my feet hardened up to the point where I don’t get blisters even in new boots anymore. Basically fix the problem before it starts to allow you to focus on the important things in the mountains, risk and exposure management.
EP. 2 SNOW KITCHEN COOKING
One element that has so many variations to it in winter camping is cooking. I feel that there is more than one right way to cook outdoors but here is my take on it.
Efficiency is key! I’m a huge fan of one-pot meals that reduce the amount of time you have the stove on. Boil in a bag meals have come such a long way in the last decade that I find it hard to compete with them in terms of nutrients vs. pack weight. But for variety I do like to bring a few different things. Boil in a bag curry with couscous and naan bread is one of my favourite alternatives. The water that you heat the curry pouches in doubles as the water used for the couscous.
Last but not least is cookware. Having a pot with a corrugated metal coil on the bottom increases heat convectively into the water inside the pot. The time it takes to boil water in a regular pot is almost twice as long. This saves fuel and reduces the amount to bring. Having said that, some extra fuel is always a good idea in case you are spending an extra night or two longer than anticipated outside.
EP. 3 MAKE THE MOST OF HUTS
Not every ski traverse passes by huts. If you do have them take advantage of the opportunity to dry out all of your gear. If you don’t have them consider a few other options to dry out your gear. I always have a ¾ foam pad for under my thermarest when I’m camping. I will lay my wet skins and gloves between the two layers and the next morning these items are dry and ready for another full day outside. Any dry clothes over wet seem to expedite the drying process as well. Merino wool dries way faster than polypro or any other synthetic under layer blend. Sublimation is another viable option to consider if you have the right conditions. On clear cold nights with some wind, the frozen sweat in your boots can skip a transformation stage to wet and go straight to vaporizing into the dry air. It’s not perfect but in my opinion it beats trying to struggle around in your sleeping bag with bulky ski boot liners.
In my next post I’ll cover the rest of the traverse tips in the expedition series.
Get excited for winter! Start planning for you big trips this spring now!