This is a piece I wrote for a Patagonia Catalog Field Report a couple years back . Since its spring skiing time, thought I’d pull it out and share some thoughts from the field.
Blindfold circus elephants navigating through crevasse-laden terrain, we piece together our route. Rescue gear dangling as decoration,clanks to the beat of our march. A shovel sings ancient melodies as the wind whips through the hollow shaft. Submerged in the white sea, unplugged from my daily routine, I become one with the boards underfoot. My mind is at peace.
Crawling with a 60-pound pack, in time to a metronome, my shuffling sea-colored skis add sparks of color to the white backdrop. We’d risen at dawn to the same eggshell clouded landscape we had become accustomed to over the past three days. Regardless of visibility, it was time to make our attempt from the base of Mt Argentine Glacier to Moberly Pass in the Columbia Mountain Range, BC. We chose to ski the long way to Fairy Meadows Hut rather than opt for the traditional helicopter drop a the front door.
“Traverse, traverse for better or for worse,” my mantra plays. Gradually, rays of warmth poke through the clouds, redirecting our meditative gaze outward. Across the valley, the baby blue ice fall of Goat Glacier intimates from a distance. Sir Sandord Peak, bold and strong, looms a day’s travel away. At our feet, crawling snow flies are a sobering reminder of our minuscule existence amidst the vastness. We are shaken from numbness as improved visibility reveals signs of recent slide activity on the Goldstream neve. Thankfully the afternoon rays, not strong enough to trigger another release, provide a window for safe travel and we resume our march, celebrating the view.
In the distance the whirlwind blades of a chopper cut through our solitary trance. Neatly laid track left behind by our fixed-heeled cousins carve through the undulating terrain, a signal that our day’s goal is near. Layers on, skins off, free heels pressed tightly to the boards, we descend 2,000 mucky feet to the treed valley floor, exchanging our heavy elephant feet for a more responsive gait. Now we are Russian bears on unicycles, swaying and dipping in and out of the mirage, focusing on every genuflect with unyielding intent.
Slowing to avoid the lurking grasp of the invisible snow snakes below, I struggle to catch my breath. Brief burst of energy are coupled with extended periods of recovery. The fear of falling and injury shatters my inner peace. Struggling to sit back as our packs throw us off balance, the oohs and aahs of turns yearned for are replaced by laughter at our comical attempt to navigate through spring time cement and afternoon crust.
Rain greets our arrival at 5,800 feet. Relief is coupled with distress as it become obvious that we’ll have to endure yet another wait on the weather. We summon our patience to sit out the rain and wait for the next acceptable day, when we’ll strap on our packs and move as elephants again, to the next pencil point on the map