Fighting fit again but obligations prevented me from taking my tent up into the snow. On Saturday I went into town with the intention of buying much needed new ski boots and pants. I even tried on some T4s but left empty handed. I ended up at the kayak shop loading up on safety equipment instead. A PFD, river knife, whistle and throw-bag. Buying a packraft isn't cheap and neither is all the stuff you need to keep you alive either. I got a hair cut too. A bad one. I'm sure trimming the top of my ear is a skill they don't learn in barber school.
Sunday dawned unusually bright so I threw a pack together, infused the powdered hot chocolate mix with boiling water, grabbed a Snickers (or two) and headed out the door. Unsure of the snow conditions up above I elected to take my woefully underused snowshoes. They're easier to cart around than my skis and I've fallen out with the heels of my current ski boots. The snow/thaw/slush/freeze cycle of the past few days made even the flat path around the lower reservoir lethally bereft of grip. By the time I reached the trees my legs were well and truly warmed up. The snow started off patchy and thin, corralled into parcels by frozen forest duff. This in turn sat slyly on top of oozing black mud, like the thin crispy topping of a rich creme brûlée.
As soon as I was using more energy in staying afloat than in forward propulsion I stopped and released the snowshoes from my pack. It took me a few minutes to familiarise myself with the connections after a lay-off of over a year. A slug of water and I was on my way again. The joy of no longer wasting so much effort sinking into the finely sieved snow was almost instantaneously wiped out. Sure I was comparatively floating now but skis, skis would have had me gliding along. Contrails of straight lines carving away behind me instead of these monstrous, yeti-ish foot prints. Slow-shoes.
Exiting the trees again I joined the Sunday hordes briefly, on the footpath winding it's way over the back of Rundemanen. With a boot track well on it's way to being packed down it was off with the snowshoes and into line for me. Swinging away from the crowds at the crossroads it was back on with the 'shoes'. Pockets of deeper powder snow, interlaced with ice and sastrugi paved the way higher and higher. Fewer people, bluer air, keener wind. The only other tracks up here were straight and true, twinned parallel or herring-boned up steeper slopes. Apart from me, continuing my slow-shoe shuffle. Sitting in the lee of an abandoned hut I hunkered away from the summit breeze and feasted on chocolate. Liquid and solid varieties. Free from the snowshoes again I pondered their future. They got used once a year. On the day when I'm unsure of the viability of skis. Once there is enough snow for skis I never consider the snowshoes as an alternative. With the advent of other, ski-based, alternatives to the problem of "There's snow, but not enough to warrant my proper skis", such as Marquettes, Hoks and Fast Shoes is there even a need for me to continue owning snowshoes? Maybe this wasn't a slow-shoe shuffle. Maybe this was a last waltz...