Ski touring up the hill can be as inspirational as going down. It's time to enjoy earning those turns...
You're walking up deep powder on your skis or splitboard with skins (or snowshoes) and you're breathing hard. You are generating heat, in fact overheating so you have to remove your jacket, your leather gloves. Your ABS bag with shovel, probes, water, energy bar – and now your jacket – is a weight on your shoulders. Even heavier if you are carrying your board, as well.
In front, your mate is pulling away from you. You need to speed up. It's becoming a race, a fitness competition with those you are touring with. A macho uphill slog to get up there first and take off the skins or snowshoes, put on your jacket, grab a snack - and race down the powder.
This is touring, the sweat and the tears, that is all about reaching your personal and literal summit before you can float down and enjoy the stuff of dreams. The saying is 'you earn your turns', those snaking powder lines, carving your mark in the virgin whiteness.>
What about those uphill tracks? Do you ever turn around and marvel at the cool curves through the mountain, the tracing line of your route, how far you have come? Do you even take in the beauty of the scenery around unscarred by ski lifts, restaurants and people other than to assess how much higher, further you have yet to travel?
In Lithographica, the ejournal created by Arc'teryx, a recent feature, The Uptrack, is a eulogy to the going up process of touring the backcountry: 'With advances in technology, pressures on time, and the rise of weekend backcounry experts, the uptrack has become an art form that bears some reflection.'
Yes, going up is an art, a form of riding that needs to be savoured as much as the going down. And, let's face it, you do have longer to appreciate it.
The technically creative part is in selecting the best route for optimum elevation via skis or snowshoes, and recognising the underlying danger of potential avalanches caused by gradient, angle and snow conditions. There's also the greater art on skis or splitboard of kick turning on steeper slopes, creating the sharp zigzag scarring on the mountain palette – and also the staccato bullet etchings of crampons strafed on icy surfaces.
Working with the terrain to reach new heights captures the essence of backcountry touring and the beauty of going up is the perfect foil to the excitement of going down.
Earn the thrill of those fleeting downhill powder turns – but, also, when you are back in the office or at home, you know you'll yearn for those achingly beautiful up lines, as well.