“Poets try and take something abstract, like an idea, and make it concrete, whereas admirers of mountains try to take something huge made of rock and ice and snow and turn it into an abstraction they can carry around in their minds, a mental key chain for a place that is hard to get to but gorgeous to think about.”
Ian Brown, who wrote that piece in the Globe and Mail, made no mention of the people who occupy the middle ground between poets and mountain admirers, people I have come to know as “Traversers”. Traversers take an idea, like a route on a map, and make it concrete by traveling, or traversing, through it. We are modern day explorers, adventurers or whatever word creatively labels us Traverser types. As such, we began with an abstract dream and have now reached a concrete destination, Bella Coola, where the team now rests.
In our two months in the wild, we have taken on the personas of our animal spirits. Erica is a mix of the fox and unicorn, known as a Foxicorn, Mike is the Mountain Goat, and I have adopted the Hoary Marmot. Along the way, we’ve had an outpouring of support from our friends, family, loved ones, friendly townsfolk, and worried strangers, not to mention all our Facebook fans, Twitter followers, Pinterest pinners, fellow bloggers, sponsors, private ski backers and disappointed employers.
Sitting here in the comforts of town, I find it a bit awkward to write publicly about our journey as I have been immersed in an insular world of three to six fellow mountain traversers for months now. We’ve had a strong, shared sense of community, without which our traversing days would be over. Together, we share our daily adversities and triumphs like trail mix at snack time. Travelling with such a great group of folks has been an honour and a pleasure and I wish they could all still be out with Mike, Erica and me.
We have had good, bad and blow-you-over-sideways weather, and the food has been fine, despite the 10 pounds of weight I have lost. Although we should be able to get through any situation, given our iPhones paired with satellite text messaging and Google Earth, the reality is, however, that we are incredibly vulnerable. If we run out of food, we do not know enough to forage for grub to sustain ourselves. Nor do we have the ability to craft snowshoes from cedar bark when all our bindings break, as happened. Luckily, in that case, I was able to hitch a ride to Whistler and Vancouver to round up ski equipment still lingering on retailers’ shelves to replace Dynafit skis and bindings, Black Diamond skins, an Arcteryx backpack and Exped mats (thanks Escape Route). We’ve also had our share of injuries (blisters, frostbite, swelling, sunburn and stove burns), but all have been manageable in the field. Those humbling events remind us how vulnerable we are when we start feeling too good sometimes about how easy traversing is. They’ve also taught us not to rely on one plan or one single piece of gear in these remote regions. We’ve also learned to constantly adapt our approach to our traverse by evolving our route plan and improvising as needed, such as making gear repairs in the field. As well, for our next section, we have amended our route to compensate for the below average snowpack.
We will continue to change our plans, as Reverend Robert Rundle, an early missionary in Rupert’s Land who traveled through the Canadian Rockies extensively, and for whom Mt. Rundle is named, said, “Much depends on the state of the atmosphere”.
On Tuesday, April 30, we leave Bella Coola. Once again, we will penetrate a deep, harsh and remote environment. We better get used to remoteness—in our planned six months of travel, we will pass through only five towns. This time, we’re trading glaciers for rivers and oceans and skis for packrafts.
As we embark, I feel my spirit animal shape shifting into the river otter (minus their mating habits), the highly specialized amphibious mammal perfectly at home in a variety of environments.
Click here to watch a short video highlighting some of the landscapes we have been moving through, in no particular order, and here to watch my review of the Delorme Inreach we have been using on this trip.
Thanks for checking in on us. Please feel free to leave a comment. None of this traverse would be possible without the help and support of the folks and shops mentioned below. Thank you.
“For something is there,/Something is there when nothing is there but itself,/that is not there when anything else is. Mary Oliver.
Dale Douglas @ Tyax Air
Nick Hawes @ Lakes District Air
Jonas Hoke, Chief Meteorologist
Nicole Koshure, our weather girl
Ian “Cheddar” Watson
James Retty & The Escape Route
Norm and Denice Bougie
Nirvana Pass ski crew
Mountain Equipment Co-Op
Julia Fesenko @ Inreach
Air Blaster Ninja Suits
Red Shred’s (Williams Lake)
Staff &friends @ Tweedsmuir Lodge
Tracey “Trix” Kindrachuck
Erin and Ryan Boyle
Meghan Cornish & Duncan
Clarence Tsayta Air
Bobbi and Earl “Pitt lake water taxi”
Eric Hoji & Jen Ashton
Sam @ Surefoot Whistler
Mike King @ Whitesaddle Air
Andor Tari (Sage Advice)