If you’ve ever been on an expedition — particularly where things haven’t gone to plan — you’ve probably experienced some variations of the following: sick of your partners, the feeling you can’t get where you want to be, longing for a return to ‘normal’ moments, anxiety toward uncertainties ahead and, perhaps, tired of the taste of your limited provisions.
Wait, that sounds kind of like being quarantined during the coronavirus pandemic.
But also on an expedition, you’ve likely felt glimmers of hope, determination, tenacity and wherewithal to continue, the need to see something through and come out on the other side better somehow, more accomplished and sure of your abilities to persevere.
Perhaps that doesn’t feel like self quarantine…yet. But perhaps it can and should.
As the spread of the virus continues and lockdown actions ripple across countries the world over, it becomes increasingly apparent that we might be in for a longer haul than any of us would hope. Disdain for this new reality, anger toward the forces that be and the desire to escape may be strong, but all of us, especially those familiar with the act of working through life-compromising situations in the mountains, have the skills to commit to the mission and come out stronger on the other side.
So here’s some expedition inspiration to keep you going through the languid days of quarantine: a reading list of trip reports literally from around the world including every continent but Africa (anybody have a ski report to share? We included Iran as a close neighbor.) Join Bob Perlmutter as he finds corn snow and penguins in Antarctica, Bil Dunaway as he and Lionel Terray pioneer a 1953 ski descent from Mount Blanc, and Jed Porter as he crosses California’s Sierra Range, solo and more. Now is good time to go elsewhere even if just in mind and spirit and to be reminded of the grit that’s sometimes required in order to keep going.
SKIS AGAINST MONT BLANC — 1953 — BIL DUNAWAY ACCOUNT
By Bil Dunaway
“When the food ran out there was over two feet of new snow, and avalanches thundered from all sides. It was foolish to go down in the fog with the new snow, but we were hungry. Slowly with the caution of blind men, hearing each sound, sensing each vibration, we felt our way. One slide would bury us forever, and they crashed all around us. Terray, the most experienced, went first. With nervous perspiration dampening our clothes, we watched him pick his way down each slope. There was no question of skiing. That was too dangerous. What had taken us an hour to descend on skis now took us six on foot, and each step was a strain.”
RED LINE TRAVERSE — BACKCOUNTRY SKIING TRIP REPORT
By Jed Porter
“The Red Line Traverse has near-mythical status. There are as many definitions of the route as there are discussions of the line. Even the original protagonists were vague, seemingly intentional in their evasive descriptions. No matter, as the consensus seems to be that a traverse in the Red Line spirit would involve tons of skiing, on peaks, cirques, couloirs, and chutes along the crest of the highest portion of the Sierra Nevada.”
WHALES, CORN SKIING AND MORE — ANTARCTICA TRIP REPORT
By Bob Perlmutter
“As mountain regions go, and I’ve experienced many, Antarctica is different. Appearing to float, suspended above water in complete stillness, the place invokes an ethereal sense of wonder. The scale is immense and the landscape of glaciated mountains spilling into the sea where icebergs abound is other-worldly. All the while, everywhere you look, teeming with wildlife. Skiing is almost an afterthought but of course never out of mind.”
WILDSNOWNZ — PLATEAU HUT, AORAKI/MT. COOK NATIONAL PARK
By Noah Howell
“Enthusiasm quickly carried us up high. A little too high in fact. We missed our left turn and were forced to make a long and sketchy traverse over white ice. At least it was exposed. Ross was giving it all he had, but a cold forced him to turn back at this point.”
¿DÓNDE VAN A ESQUIAR?”–SKI TOURING TORRES DEL PAINE
By Jonathan Cooper
“The feeling of seeing something that you have only previous seen in pictures and postcards has been a common theme of this road trip, and the remarkable Torres del Paine were no different. We first reveled in the clear view ahead of us and having the whole place to ourselves, and then noticed the relative lack of snow compared to what we had anticipated for this time of year. Our optimism had sunk slightly when there was a substantial bergschrund blocking the gully up to the pass we were hoping to go over. We scouted around to find a strip of snow that would take us past the massive moraines up to the glacier below the towers.”
SKI TOURING IRAN BACKCOUNTRY — TRIP REPORT
By Martin Schøber
“For Iranian standards, the infrastructure in the Alborz Mountains is good and well developed. This enabled us to be creative in the lines to ski, since we would, in most cases, end up at a mountain road. And when our friendly hostel host, Reza (who BTW is an aspiring ski touring enthusiast) offered full day pick-up service at any point on the road, we were able to ski anywhere in the massive range.”
MUSTAGH ATA – A BIG ONE
By Mike Marolt
“Mustagh Ata didn’t disappoint us. It is a true Himalayan peak in all respects: high, huge, and from its base overwhelming. Its reputation does not prepare you for the difficulties involved with slogging at extreme high altitude for such long periods. You can skin to the summit but that doesn’t trivialize the climb.”
Find more inspiring posts in WildSnow’s extensive trip report archive.
Manasseh Franklin is a writer, editor and big fan of walking uphill. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction and environment and natural resources from the University of Wyoming and especially enjoys writing about glaciers. Find her other work in Alpinist, Adventure Journal, Rock and Ice, Aspen Sojourner, AFAR, Trail Runner and Western Confluence.