What we learned from Backcountry Skiing Fourteener Epics

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | April 5, 2005      

TNF says “Never Stop Exploring.” No problem there. Yet better, we say “Always Keep Learning.” To that end, a few things our last trip schooled us on:

“Adult” ski mountaineering frequently involves rock scrambling and scree hiking. The lower buckles on your ski boots have to be located on TOP of the boot, or they catch on the rocks and get damaged — or worse, the buckles trip you and cause a potentially life threatening fall. Sure enough, the side mounted lower buckle on my Mega Rides was a complete disaster, catching hundreds of times on the rocks of Mounts Shavano and Princeton, ending up bent and trashed. The Garmonts are going to the boot fitter TODAY for a buckle mod. We’ll change them to something like the Scarpa Laser configuration with the buckle on top of the boot rather than on the side.

Garmont Mega Ride buckle damage.
Garmont Mega Ride buckle is mounted low on the side, easily trashed while climbing as this one was. Buckles are easy to re-locate so we’ll do so ASAP!

Other backcountry skiing lessons: Icing conditions haunted us during both climbs. If we hadn’t had a block of skin wax we’d have failed on both peaks. More, the Dynafit toe sockets in our boots filled up with solid ice nearly every time we hiked more than a few feet without skis. The tip of a Voile strap buckle worked okay for cleaning the holes, but carrying a dedicated tool such as a 16d nail would have worked better for backcountry skiing. We’ve carried those in the past, and will start again. We both carried small survival kits in our packs, with fire starting items. When darkness fell and we were still in the middle of a forest somewhere far from the trailhead, having such eliminated panic and kept us from making poor decisions about crossing avalanche paths and such. We could have used more water — if I’d known we’d be out for so long I’d have carried a lightweight stove and pot, and melted snow in the afternoon rather than carrying the weight of extra water.

In all, our gear worked exceedingly well. But part of the fun is learning and improving, so we continue.


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