Crossing the Line

In gear, wander

Can you tell what we’re thinking about?

There’s been a trickle of new gear arriving at harmoniccontent. It started with the snowshoes. For various reasons, we’ve both given up alpine skiing, but missed spending time out in the snow. The snowshoes seemed like the perfect solution. We already hike, now we could hike in the snow. But then we started thinking about how much we dislike limiting ourselves to day trips. Clearly, we need to be able to spend our nights out in the snow as well. We had almost convinced ourselves to limit our winter trips to the lowlands and make do with the sturdier of our 3 season tents, until we stumbled into the Outdoor Supply Company in Hickory, NC and came face-to-face with a Hilleberg tent display. Of course we’d heard of Hilleberg tents, and of course we’d talked about owning a Hilleberg tent in a “maybe some day…” sort of way. But there we were, talking to one of the few US retailers, and, well, one thing lead to another, and several days later we were the proud owners of a Nammatj 2 GT. And that’s when the domino effect really began. We realized we could now comfortably spend the night in some of our favorite high altitude mountain haunts in the winter. The sort of locations where it might be steep. and icy. OK, so, clearly crampons were in order. And probably an ice axe.  And, of course, here in the West, steep mountain terrain is synonymous with avalanche country, so . . . now, we’re talking about shovels, probes and transceivers. All this additional gear (about 12 pounds per person additional) will require a bigger backpack. And sturdier legs. And a whole new skill set.

Several years ago a member of my family asked me about the difference between hiking mountains and mountaineering. I tried to describe a somewhat arbitrary line based on the equipment and skills needed to travel over mountain terrain and the level of risk the traveler was willing to accept to do so. I think I defined hiking as requiring no special safety equipment or skills, other than the ability to exercise common sense, read a map and walk uphill. I was also pretty clear about defining my trips in the mountains as hiking, definitely not mountaineering. Except, now I think I might be ready to take a step over the line, just a little.

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