Ever heard of soap on a rope? How about a dope on a rope — or a sled on a rope? When they told me lot’s of people on Denali pull gear sleds on a rope, I knew right away that wasn’t the way to go if you’re on skis. I’ve done it. In my experience, pulling cargo on snow with a rope works on a nice constant uphill pitch, but glide over a roller or head downhill, and you’ll have a 50 lb artillery shell headed straight for the backs of your knees. You can try to depend on your crevasse roped partner to control the thing, but he’s on skis too and isn’t going to be carefully belaying your sled down behind you while he tries to stay upright and watch for his own load. The solution is easy, sort of. Use a purpose built gear sled with rigid rods. But how do you attach those to your pack or harness, and is the stock configuration the way to go? Nope, not for us. Check out the evolution.
Perhaps the biggest dilemma with expedition pulk use is whether you pull with the sled attached to your pack, or use a dedicated harness. Either way works if you tune everything at home. But on a glacier you’ve got a climbing harness. Add your pack waist belt and your pulk harness belt to that, and you may have a problem keeping everything working together without it feeling like torture due to bulk and complexity. Instead, for a sled attachment point CiloGear built a small loop of webbing into our 75L Dyneema Worksack Dyneema backpacks, located next to the “triangle” where the shoulder strap anchors. This location is close enough to your body so as not to cause the pack to oscillate as you walk.
A defining feature of CiloGear packs is how you configure them using small steel and plastic clips that “keyhole” through each other. As variations of that, our final version of attaching our sleds is to use a 5/16 eyebolt located at the ends of the rods. The CiloGear clips keyhole nicely through the screw eye (after expanding it a bit while building), and likewise we can pull the webbing anchor through the eye and simply pin it with a ‘biner (this method is awkward with a full pack and heavy sled, see below for another method). The eyebolt is attached in such a way as to allow us to bend the ends of the rods so they clear the wider part of the backpack.
Lots of work rigging seven sleds and packs with all this stuff, but during testing we could easily feel the added efficiency so all the effort is worth it.
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.