On the hill: Going uphill with gear that’s going downhill
December 19, 2011
ASPEN – I never really felt my alpine touring gear was embarrassingly out of date until the other day when I skinned up Buttermilk with Auden Schendler for a story assignment.
Schendler was in the parking lot gathering his gear when I pulled in, parked nearby and pulled out my skis and boots. You know your stuff is old when Schendler, the king of reducing waste and reusing materials, looks at it and shakes his head.
My first reaction was to come up with excuses. I blew my limited budget on new alpine boots this season, I explained. New alpine touring gear costs too much, I sniffed.
Then I came to my senses. Yeah, my stuff is out of date, I acknowledged. The skis are ridiculously long. The boots are shockingly heavy by today’s standards. All in all, my setup puts the heavy into heavy metal.
But what the hell? I told Auden. I’m not a big backcountry guy. I’m too fearful of avalanches to venture far from the skis areas. If I’m lucky I take one backcountry tour per winter to some relatively mellow place, such as Haystack Mountain, and maybe one hut trip. Most of my uphilling is on the slopes of Tiehack, with Aspen Highlands and Aspen Mountain thrown in a few times to test my conditioning.
I uphill to stay in shape, so what’s the big deal about having the lightest equipment? I’m never going to win any races.
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I explained all that to Auden, and he seemed to concur. Or maybe he was just being polite.
Besides, I said, I am a cheapskate at heart. To drive home the point, I made sure he saw my gloves. The blue Mountain Hardwear products are at least 10 years old. I wore holes in three fingers on the left hand and one finger on the right hand a few winters ago. I did a Bil Dunaway special on them and wrapped the hole-y fingers with gray duct tape. They’re a shambles, but hey, they work just fine.
Who needs all this new stuff?