From this past week’s four day hut trip:
Skis/bindings – Dynafit of course, without brakes as this trip was about covering distance so I went as light as possible. Skis were a tough decision. I almost chose my skinny lightweight Atomic MX09, but knowing it was April (variable conditions) I opted for my wide but still short 177 cm Atomic Kongur with BD Glidelite skins. Turned out that was a good choice as the MX09 would have been dicey on the breakable.
Grip – I found myself removing and replacing skins many times during our longest day. A block of paraffin for skin waxing came in handy, and I even dug out my secret stash of nordic wax and used it for one section of the route. We all could have used ski crampons several times, but hey, how much junk can you carry?
Pack – My Granite Gear Alpine Vapor pack was the perfect rig for this sort of trip. I swapped in a lighter weight hip belt from another GG pack, removed a few extra straps, and ended up with a super lightweight sack that still had some volume for easy packing.
Boots – The Garmont Mega Rides I’ve been working with all winter fit the bill, but I hadn’t done a good enough job of fitting and got a few blisters. I also noticed just how hot and miserable Thermoflex liners are during a cooker day (part of the reason for the blisters). I’ve heard at least one boot company is working on making lightweight but truly breathable liners — the day those become available will be a time for thanks.
Sleeping – The Friends Hut and Braun Huts are well insulated and stay warm long after the stove dies out. Thus, a “summer” rated bag is totally adequate. I carried a Marmot Atomic that weighs a pound (800 fill down). This is the perfect bachelor’s (half zipper) hut bag and highly recommended. Just remember one thing: most “hut” bags would be totally inadequate for an emergency bivvy. But then, if you use a thick bag at the hut, you might need a medivac for dehydration — so perhaps it’s a wash.
Other notes – Several guys had the latest telemark bindings with randonnee pivot. While this is a welcome improvement (I’m tired of watching friends suffer on the uphill), I was amused to notice them fiddling around with the pivot latch and thus doing a “transition” of nearly equal complexity to randonnee gear. Now telemark gear is heavier than rando and has just as many things to mess with during a changeover. Interesting.
As always I’m stunned at just how good backcountry skiing equipment has become, and truly enjoyed using my state-of-art gear. Along with that, I was totally impressed with the condition of our huts. Warm, spacious and aesthetic, the Braun Huts and Friends Hut are truly amazing. The Friends Hut, however, wins the prize for character and has the best ski terrain (with the Tagert running a close second for nearby skiing).
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.