On this August summer evening, amidst the hot air, you can smell the aroma of heated sap. It's a relaxing odour composed mainly of Douglas Fir and Englemann Spruce. Scents have a way of transporting you to times and places held in memories. Skiing down frozen slopes, a thick winter snowpack still covering the stunted Subalpine Firs of higher elevations. Crusty turns start to swoosh in the softened snow of lower elevations. Needles and tree material surfacing on the melting snow after a winter of harsh winds and heavy snows.
You wouldn’t think these summer smells would evoke memories of spring ski traversing… Yet here I am reminiscing. The forest smells skiing down were a warning sign of what was to come.
To provide a bit of background, the Selkirks proved a challenging mountain range to ski traverse. Jagged mountains and valleys meant for routes that connected ‘pass to pass’ rather than staying on a high divide. This meant long ski descents and big climbs. This post focuses on the in between, on the 'schwack.
To understand the scope, I just counted the drainages crossed over the course of this 36 day ski traverse: 42. Some valleys were as low as 900m. Fourty-two individual valleys and though not all possessed the same panazz or character, the following photo essay hopes to take you through the rollercoaster experience of tears, anguish, laughter, bruises, frustration, “use of 4 letter words” and much more.
You can't spend time in valleys without dealing with avalanche debris.
Valleys presents an obvious challenge: so called creeks. I could write an entire post with accompanying photos about the difficulties presented by creeks and crossing them… So I will. Stay tuned for that post..
Slogging on skis through thin patches of snow and bush is to be expected of any ski traverse. However, we experienced a lot of time spent with skis on our backs due to abnormally low snow levels. Sometimes it felt like we'd never find snow again.
For further reading, I strongly recommend Mark Dale’s Bushwack Rating system. Here one can better understand the rating system for “jungle warfare” so that we might all be talking the same language.
After reaching our mountain pass, the next thing would be to head down into the next valley and start the process all over again.