Uphill Blizzard Trudge

A couple of years ago I went ski touring with my Czech friend Gabriel. I had never done this before. The picture is of one of the many climbs. Visible is Gabriel and four of the group of six French people we ended up shadowing. This day was started in a blizzard. As we gained height it thinned out, hence the nice effect of the hazy sun breaking through the snowy air.

“Ski touring” is not an accurate description. 97% of the time you are trudging for hours up hills -well mountains actually- with skis attached to your feet. And carrying a backpack with everything you need for a fortnight in it. Through deep snow. In whatever conditions the winter and the altitude care to deliver. Avalanches and crevasses claim a few souls for the snow gods every year no matter how careful you are.

It was fantastic.

We crisscrossed the Austrian/Swiss border twelve times during the eight days. The routine was to stay at one of the huts each night, then spend the day gaining altitude to a pass, then ski down to the next. The huts themselves are large, warm, and comfortable.

Blizzard Trudge Photo1The food is tremendous: I never knew there were so many different types of Strudel. The appetite you generate working hard and in the cold all day is colossal. As you can imagine there’s a very jolly atmosphere during the communal meals.

Out on the hill the right gear keeps you comfortable. If legs, heart and lungs are capable then the hard work is doable rather than a privation. And there are, if you are lucky, special memories to be treasured. For me, one stands out. Rounding a particular corner after a long climb an untouched kilometer wide shallow bowl of snow stretched away.

Blizzard Trudge Photo2The perfect visibility gave the framing distant peaks a crystal-hard hyper reality. The only tracks going across this expanse distinguished themselves a few yards ahead. They forked at an arrow-straight diagonal away from us. They were those of a big pussy cat: it was a Lynx.

To me the idea of this highly evolved specialist predator going about its business effortlessly in tune with this rarified environment was a very beguiling one.

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