Keeping the juices flowing and keeping warm and dry despite them

By Calum Munro. With the first snow dump of the winter upon us the backcountry skier’s mind turns to the season ahead each according to their own ability, ambition, or in my case age, views the season ahead differently.

In my case a prerequisite to enjoying the season is keeping warm and at the heart of that is the choice of thermal base layer. It could be argued that my longevity in the sport and indeed on the planet is founded on my constant quest for thermal balance – the foundation of skiing nirvana. I can genuinely claim that my initial skiing outfit was based on my father’s cast off white wool long johns and vest under wool breaches, tartan wool shirt, a Shetland wool sweater and a cotton anorak! As the decades have rolled on I have experimented with every new development and sought comfort in knitted polypropylene (smelly helly), Modal (a definite no! no! for sweaty sports), Merino (wool coming round again…) and almost every mix and combination of material in my “combinations” know to inventive outdoor marketing people. Each iteration claiming to be THE solution to the challenge.

Last year despairing of yet another sweaty/cold/sweaty/cold… season I read the advice of Andy Kirkpatrck on the subject of winter warmth. He recommended a base layer outfit by Brynje of Norway topped with a thin merino or fleece shirt. (Brynje is suppled through www.nordicoutdoor.co.uk) Basically it is a polypropylene mesh – a sophisticated string vest! Brynje supplied the mesh thermals that Tenzing and Hillary wore on Everest in 1953 and their products are a firm favourite with Nordic explorers and “Special Forces” across Europe. It comes in two version – plain polypropylene and a polyprop/merino mix. The colour options are Navy or Black. I have gone with the plain polyprop. The down side of the kit is – as stated by one military reviewer – “ …great kit but don’t let your mates see you wearing it!” As the picture attached shows it has a certain burlesque ambiance… The Polyprop/merino mix version is highly recommended by the great backwoodsman Ray Mears and I suppose in a survival situation the mesh structure would be good for catching fish.

Last season and so far this I have been using a high zip neck shirt with short johns (supposedly knee length but they come half way down my calf -Norwegians obviously have very long inside leg measurements) topped with a thin fleece shirt under a Paramo salopettes and smock set and find it comfortable and efficient with little wick back onto the skin when at rest. I have a slight reservation about the string vest like structure on my shoulders under the straps of a heavy sack but I haven’t experienced a problem so far. However I notice that the military versions of the Brynje gear have plain material shoulders instead of mesh. Aclima of Norway do a similar range of both polyprop and merino/polyprop but they have protected shoulders on all their shirts and protected knees on their long johns. Their kit is available in Scotland through Nordic Outdoor of Edinburgh - www.nordicoutdoor.co.uk

On an associated, if delicate topic - Helly Hansen, Brynje and Aclima all produce wicking wind protection briefs/trunks/shorts for gentlemen who appreciate their assets. This may seem like a luxury bit of kit but the zip in trousers/salopettes is a true weak spot in most designs… Those of us who are mature enough to remember the Sarejavo Winter Olympics may recall the excruciating tales of damage done to male skiers through a combination of faulty kit design and very low temperatures that came from the event.

If you appreciate warmth in the winter mountains and can get past the slightly off putting look and the Rab C Nesbit associations this style of kit could be for you.

The Club Secretary is always exhorting us to “get our juices flowing” well this kit helps get them flowing but more importantly keeps those juices flowing away from the skin so that we stay dry and warm.

Cairn Gorm - 18th April 2015

By Donald Morris. We had planned and envisaged many things for this day. The first idea was to use the Scottish Ski Club's hut on Cairn Gorm as a social point but it turned out it wasn't available. Then we had the idea of having a barbeque at the bottom of the Braveheart Chair at Aonach Mòr. Lowering the beer keg over the cornice and then skiing down the coire with it in front on a rope was considered. Several scenarios were mapped out all of which drew comparisons with the famous bouncing bombs of the Dambusters.  

In the end though we decided to gather at Loch Morlich after a day out on the hills. One party went up Bràigh Riabhach and another up Cairn Gorm. It was all very pleasant and relaxed in the April sunshine. The back of Cairn Gorm actually held a lot of snow despite the west is best nature of the winter to that point. 

The Club radios proved to be invaluable in adding to the confusion as to where the best descents were. We chose the excellent line down towards the saddle in Strath Nethy without actually getting to the bottom due to some massive avalanche debris. 

A beast of a skin back up followed and that classic moment when some mentions another run down. Yes you do want to but the sweat and exertion from the ascent are still fresh. We did though. 

Then it was down to Loch Morlich for a relaxed gathering by the beach and an excellent BBQ prepared by Troy. One person even barbequed a scotch pie instead of chicken. Now that's clever!

Ben Alder - 20th to 22nd March 2015

By Mike Cawthorne. On the edge of Dalwhinnie in the black of a winter’s evening Troy, Donald, and myself grappled with the perennial problem of how to attach skis, boots and an assortment of overnight gear to the frames of our bikes, and maybe forgetting that panniers, pouches and packs have a finite capacity however cavernous when empty. A rolling start was needed and our bikes under the strange glare of torchbeam and weighed down with shoddy appeared bloated and misshapen, as if we were itinerant merchants who would shout our wares at passing crofts. Or Castles.

We passed beneath the turret of the gatehouse and bumped over the cobbles then Donald led the charge along miles of track by Loch Ericht, coaxed by an east wind that had us freewheeling on the flats. In no time we left the grand lodge and loch and began grinding up to the open moor.

The wind shoved us along the last rough miles of a stalkers’ path to Culra bothy. Knowing the bothy to be off-limits we’d brought tents and a bivy, and set up camp on an alluvial plain by the burn.  A brew, some bites, and now wrapped warm in our bags and about to engage in eight hours of well-earned rest, Donald cried out, ‘What if the burn floods during the night? Thanks Donald.

We awoke to a glaze of frost and the surrounding hills shaking off early morning cloud. Ben Alder looked stunning, its corries seeming to groan beneath the weight of winter snow, but we had to reach them first.

 

We traced the burn uphill and where it divided and narrowed we crossed. Some tumult here. A lot of melt was coming off the hill. Our plan to attempt a complete traverse of Beinn Bheoil and Ben Alder was not possible as the lower west-facing slopes had been scoured of snow, so we skinned into the great corries of Alder, the sun now beating down, linking the lower fields and reaching the frozen Loch a’ Bhealaich Bheithe.

Time to rest for a moment, apply a little more sunbloc, and register what we could of this magnificent place. Listen to the silence and gaze up at the corniced rim of Garbh Choire that reached half around our orbit, its cliffs and ice architecture draped in noonday sun. Troy’s first visit to this sanctuary in winter and he was suitably awed.

Donald led east around the loch, into the icy shade beneath some great cliffs, and steeply up to the bealach where we one and all dropped and lay spread-eagled in the sun, lunching and drinking, then a little recovered we pointed out familiar hills – Cairngorms, Schiehallion, Ben Lawers, Ben More and Ben Lui to the southwest.

A steep skin-up to the plateau then along the corniced cliffs to Ben Alder’s summit, one of the remotest spots in Scotland and probably its best viewpoint. Lochaber and the Northwest opened up and I reckon we could see half the Highlands.

At first we skied to the plateau’s edge to take a peek at the Short Leth-chas, a possible way down. The prospect of a very steep and icy downclimb to reach the ridge was a little daunting, especially as we had only one pair of crampons between us. We returned the way we’d come. A great choice.

Once we’d skinned back along the corniced edge we plunged 300 metres vertical to the bealach.

Sumptuous skiing on perfect spring snow.


We blasted down to the loch and skated its fringe to keep momentum and cruised the great snowfields below the Leth-chas and finished almost where we crossed the burn that morning.

Nearly 700 meters of descent. Magic. And the sun never stopped shinning. The one thought as we clumped the last mile in ski boots was Troy’s much lauded chicken curry.

To keep it cool he’d buried in a snowbank by our tents. But would it still be there? It was.

After a near ten hour day our taste buds were tingling at the prospect. As darkness fell we chewed over an incredible day’s skiing – sun, scenery, great company, it had everything. And the curry was exquisite.

A grey and overcast morning, and a little leaden legged after yesterday’s exertion, we turned our bikes and bounced back along the path and leathered it along the lochside, working up a great appetite for a late breakfast in Aviemore.


Mike is a professional writer.  Find more of his writing here.  

 

IBSC Winter Skills - 14/15 March 2015

By Rose Norman. On the Saturday morning seven travellers from everywhere between Skye and Edinburgh assembled at Aviemore Youth Hostel to begin a weekend course aptly entitled ‘Winter Skills for Ski Mountaineers’. Our on-foot winter skills were to be developed on the edge of the stunning natural amphitheatre that is Coire an t-Sneachda. The weather was beyond all expectation with windless blue skies and the rocky slopes to the sides of coire bustled with particularly vocal ptarmigan.

Improving ice axe arrests was a key focus and the more enthusiastic ended up trying to get as many arrests into the downhill run as possible. (Although amazingly fun at the time, this had its cost in subsequent bruising). We also practiced our crampon movement, cutting steps, measuring slope angles and navigation. The shortest group member (myself) attempted to enter a semi collapsed snowhole and we shared the stories of when our skills had failed. A childlike happiness while digging in the snow was unanimous.

Sunday was highly anticipated as it involved skis/splitboards. We started out with studying past avalanche forecasts and working out where we could go/avoid in those conditions. The group, which was composed of two splitboarders, one telemarker and the others with varying degrees of newbie-ness on alpine kit, headed up the hill in glorious sunshine. Together we covered route planning, navigation, exploring the points at which where our skins would struggle and how to safely climb steep slopes, including transferring from skis/boards to crampons and vice versa. The heather on the lower slopes also provided excellent cover for transceiver hide and seek.

Our first section of downhill was chosen for its skill improving challenge. Although the slope angle was measured it will not be disclosed as this could prove too amusing to the club’s more experienced members, but let’s just say it was very icy and with convexity. On the one year and one week anniversary of my 1st ski lesson this promised to be ‘interesting.’ Although the more experienced splitboarders managed the descent with infinite cool, it proved more of a learning experience for the skiers. The main lesson was probably regarding the importance of self belief and the satisfaction that always comes from proving initial skills related concerns wrong.

A key discovery of the day was being introduced to jump-turns, a skill with which I’m hoping to gain a (predominantly) healthy relationship. And on the final snow ribbon a reminder to remember to stick boots into downhill mode. Thankfully a touch-my-toes abrupt stop in the heather was marginally less messy than past sub-surface heather snags that allowed for the full test of safety binding release! 

A huge thanks to IBSC for organising this course, it was enjoyed and found useful by all. Our tutor, Mark Ker of Cairngorm Adventure Guides, was excellent in catering for our areas of interest and contributing to the good craic. The consensus is that it would be brilliant to have a similar course at the beginning of next season. The weekend’s photos are credit to James and Matt. 

Drumochter Tour - 15th March 2015

By Donald Morris.  We joined forces with the Moray Mountaineering Club for this trip and headed to the remote southern area of Druim Uachdar.  The plush coach dropped us at the head of the pass and six of us got off to commence a mega faff and gather all of our bits and pieces.  We then crossed the road and railway to start across the moor to a track on the map.  The initial objective was Sgairneach Mhòr which looked great covered in snow.  

The snow was lying on eastern aspects with western aspects very bare.  Looking back across to the other side of the road showed that A' Bhuidheanach Bheag was not well covered so we congratulated ourselves on a fine choice aided by intelligence from IBSC Militia earlier in the week.  

The juices began to flow on the ascent and left a bit of a mess but once cleaned up no one said anything else. Our descent to the bealach between Beinn Udlamain and Sgairneach Mhòr was a classic of Scottish skiing - keep the speed over the heathery bits and find a continuous line to the bottom.  Friendly weather and lovely snow all made it feel very pleasurable.  

Skins back on, we made the short ascent to Beinn Udlamain where we met more of the MMC party on foot. Skinning and walking were about the same on the day with ascent times quite similar. The party then split and one lot headed towards Fraoch-choire (heather corrie) which was in excellent condition. The radios proved to be very useful in keeping the team together and we all enjoyed a second descent on perfect snow. 

By this time we were becoming aware of the bus departure time from Balsporran Cottage (Beul an Sporrain - mouth of the sporran) so thoughts of a third ascent to Geal Chàrn were ruled out in favour of making it back in time. With hindsight, we might have been able to make it in a similar time as the descent of Geal Chàrn looked more appealing than the long trudge out in ski boots. The juices dried up at this point and it was like lubricating a chain with sand.  

Supplies were available at the Cairn Gorm Hotel and we all agreed that the joint meet had been a success and the posh bus a nice way to travel.  

Thanks to Dan Moysey and Derek Knox for the pictures.  

Glen Affric - 1st March 2015

 

By Mike Cawthorne. I will admit the forecast wasn’t promising, so when Martyn and myself rolled up at Chisolm’s Bridge, Glen Affric, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many members in various states of readiness.

 

As we packed the talk was all about route choice, snow conditions, fancy new gear, and whether that igloo Andy and Graham built weeks before would still be standing and give shelter for lunch. Plenty of short straws were packed as well because we were certainly not all going to fit into it.

With skis attached to our sacs we set out along the track with the eventual hope of reaching Toll Creagach. Falling snow drove at us from the down the glen in wet and tactile flakes. Just a passing shower, the optimists among us said. We clomped along in ski boots, heads bowed, and wondering whose idea this madness was. Maybe after a couple of kilometres the drifts seem sufficiently joined for us to don our skis, but it was marginal as we scraped over heather and through burns and sunk a little in the peat. 

Then a little east of Allt Toll Easa a broad snow-filled hollow lured us uphill. At least now it was colder and the horizontal snow merely bounced from us. It could only get better. One reason why Toll Creagach is always on the IBSC calendar, beyond it providing a great ski run and its relative ease of access, is a perception that the hill gives shelter from the west. It’s all to do with that wall of hills, the likes of Càrn Eige, Mam Sodhail, and even the shielding arm of Tom a’ Choinich. Home-spun meteorology and wishful thinking maybe but it had gotten us to this featureless hill-side in a white-out. Anyway it was time for lunch. Where did Andy say his igloo was? No igloo here so we all started digging. At least the labour thoroughly warmed us and in fifteen minutes we’d constructed a decent wind-break long enough for ten backcountry picnickers and we drank from our thermoses as snow rattled overhead at a safe distance.

At least the snow had eased as we clipped into skis again and pushed on for the summit ridge, now only spindrift to contend with. A few of the party turned around before the top. Donald, Martyn and Co reached a wind-scoured place where we could hardly stand, then right on cue, as usually happens on IBSC days, the wind dropped a tad, a half sun appeared and the snow became all gleaming and shadowed, and it looked blinking perfect. It was.


A few inches of fresh on an old hard base and even those of us with rusty technique were whooping as we carved big meanders or went coiling out of sight down steeper lines. Exhibition stuff all the way to the valley, well almost.

The weather closed in for the walk out but the wet flakes were now thudding against our backs and we could trundle along upright and hold a conversation. The talk now about where we would stop for a beverage. The Slater’s Arms in Cannich and we reflected on a fine day and probably the best ski run we’d had all winter.

 

 

 

Nevis Range bus trip - 8th March 2015

By David Ross. Yes the bus ran yesterday to Nevis Range.

After lots of thought and a fair bit of effort, a 17 seater minibus ran to Nevis Range and would you believe it we had sun, new snow, wind, mist, backcountry/coire skiing (Peter), off piste skiing through burns, heather gravel and new snow. And all returned refreshed and invigorated.

Many thanks to all who contributed to an enjoyable day. The craic on the bus was exceptional and while some comments would fall under the heading of ‘too much information’ was all the better for being aired. 

The radios were/are a great success, reception in Caol was crystal clear, just hope Peter did not have the volume on high!

So look forward to the next outing which is 15th March 2015 - Day tour – Drumochter.  

Intro to telemark day - 22nd February 2015

By Martyn Crawshaw. A short video from the Club event held at Nevis Range.  

Igloo Camping Glen Affric - 7th/8th February 2015

 

By Andy Ince. The Club Igloo Camping weekend was held this year in Glen Affric and I was totally amazed that weather and snow conditions were so benevolent. Not only was there settled high pressure with low winds forecast but the previous weeks' snowfall resulted in plenty of low level snow in Glen Affric.

I guess that some may think Igloo camping is akin to sleeping in a fridge but compared to sleeping an a noisy flapping tent or dripping snow cave there's much to commend it. With a good clothing and a cooker or candle burning the air in the Igloo actually becomes warm and condensation freezes to the walls so no dripping. The ample space and headroom makes cooking much more convenient than in a tent.

I was a little surprised that there were so few takers for the camping experience, after all snow is not just for skiing! Graham joined me for the actual overnight camp which meant more apple pie and fruit cake each. Chris injured his back so plans to join us on the April trip and Rhona was keen to camp but had to change plans last minute and joined us for the Saturday along with Donald, Andrew and Graham Bull.

We all met at Chisholms car park in Glen Affric at 09:3am0 and headed up the path by 10:00am. It was a little disappointing to find the track snow free given all the snow along the road and in the fields at Gleurquhart and Cannich. However the stony first 300m was not representitive and soon Graham Boyle and myself donned skis at the first opportunity to ski the rest of the track. I guess the snow cover wasn't ideal since those who carried on walking kept well ahead of us. It was the first time I'd ever managed to ski in before the first deer fence so wasn't going to back down.

We were all on skis before the second deer fence skiing through the pine trees on a foot of snow. The good snow cover continued along the track in and provided wonderful scenic views ofTom a' Choinich.

Stopping for a drinks break below Beinn Eun at 11:30 gave us the boost for the climb up Allt a' Choire Odhar. The snow had formed very steep banks on the west side of the burn and it was a challenge to cross safely with three of us continuing up the East side until an easy crossing point was reached.

It was decided to build the Igloo in Coireachan Odhar at about the 800m contour. This gave panaoramic views to the South but with some shelter from the North Westerly breeze which had strengthened during the morning. We all helped form the level platform for the Igloo before stopping for lunch. It was 1:30pm when Donald, Andrew and Graham Bull headed off up the hill towards Toll Cregach. Radio's allowed us to keep in contact and reports coming back indicated conditions were extremely icy higher up. Rhona, Graham Boyle and myself set to with the Ice Box Igloo Tool to build the 8ft diameter Igloo. Good progress was made with the snow being fairly crystalline and compacted allowing quick filling of the mould . To get a good idea of how the tool operates visit the Grand Shelters Web Site.

 

The Igloo was up to the third course of blocks when Donald and team returned from the icy slopes declaring the skiing a bit scary. Using the part built Igloo as a shelter for the cooker we soon had the water on the stove for tea break and snacks. Break over, we then had the prospect of too many helpers overwhelming the block maker. Donald took a spell at this job and was soon getting the hang of the process and building the third round of the Igloo. With time marching on the day visitors decided to head down the hill before conditions became too icy and light faded. The late afternoon sun provided Donald with some great photography conditions, casting a rosy tint across the hills. We kept in touch by radio until the team reached the first deer fence and they had managed to ski most of the route back.

 

With just two of us to complete the build progress slowed and with another tea break we only completed the build about 6:30pm. It was a very clear starry night so despite the late finish it was a pleasure to be out on the hills with the prospect of spending the night high on the mountain. We decided not to fit the hi viz door cover and allow more ventilation. The trench entrance doorway was facing south east opposite to the wind so there was no problem with any spindrift or draughts. Mats, sleeping bags and cooking kit were soon unpacked and food prepared. Pasta, Mediterranean Bolognaise sauce, grated cheese, spicy Chorizo as main course, Bramley Apple Pies and double cream for dessert, Red Californian Merlot to help with digestion. Fruit cake and Scotch Whiskey rounded off the evening and encouraged us to snooze contentedly after a successful day.

 

The Igloo insulates very well against cold but also sound so despite the breeze outside the quiet inside makes for a good sleep. It is however essential for any winter camping to insulate well from the ground and we both made use of Thermorest self inflating mats. I supplemented with a short piece of Ridgerest. Igloo Ed reckons that a full length Ridgerest and Thermorest will provide comfort down to -30C so we were well in the comfort zone.

The usual comfort breaks interupted sleep (must have been the tea not our age!) but when the sun started to light the Igloo entrance it was definitely time to get breakfast organised and make the most of the day. I must say that saving and apple pie and some double cream really did make the muesli delicious!

Conditions had warmed up from the previous day and with the wind creating a light spindrift layer skiing conditions were looking good. With very light sacks we headed up to the summit of Toll Easa where the wind was very much stronger and probably blowing at 50mph. It was not a place to stay long so carefully we turned back and as I was still using the skins they helped to prevent me shooting off like a rocket. Once skins were off we very quickly dropped down to the more sheltered slopes. There was some serious sastrugi but these were easily skied being quite soft.

The surface lower down was smooth and even so we thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the skiing back to the Igloo.

Tea and lunch followed after which we packed up the rest of our gear for the descent down to the path. We headed towards Allt Toll Easa where we had seen a large snowfield on Saturday during the ascent. The ground steepened considerably and a slight crust made the skiing a little more challenging. I was beginning to with I'd brought my new skis with NTN bindings instead of my very light weight Fischers and Riva 3 cable bindings.

The ski down was all over too quickly and the final challenge was to ski out as far as possible. I was determined to make the first deer fence and with old skis this was a fairly easy task. Graham valued his skis more so decided to walk about halfway between deer fences.

The final walk out was on the stony track but with so much distance skied it was no effort compared to my previous trip in December when the walking distance in total for the day was about 6km. I know Graham enjoyed the camping and I hope that I've inspired others to try out the Igloo experience. Let me know if you're interested in the next trip.

 

Lochaber weekend - Leum Uilleim - 31st January 2015

A large group assembled at Àite Cruinnichidh (the gathering place) in Glen Spean on a snowy and wintery evening. Spirits were high and everyone looking forward to some great skiing out on the hills.  Unfortunately the weather decided to come along too and brought some very high winds. In fact, the conditions on the Saturday were some of the wildest any of us had ever skied in.  

Despite celebrations the night before, everyone was up and ready on time for the day's challenges. There were two plans of action; one group went to Meall Clachaig and the other group continued with Plan A and caught the train to Corrour. There was some unease in the party as the snow was deep and whilst snow plough trains were spotted going up and down the line, there was always the chance that the team would get to Corrour but be unable to get back thus forcing a long and testing ski back over the hills in very challenging conditions. We missed out on that though.  

Arrival at Corrour was special, and windy. Two groups formed and aimed for Leum Uilleim to the west of the Station. Peter led one group on a contouring route round to the south hoping to escape those northerly winds. Another group made a rising traverse in the same direction but higher up the hill. The great thing about Leum Uilleim is its terrain which is varied and provides sport enough for anyone. It looks rocky but there are lots of dips and hollows with great features for skiing. 

As altitude increased, so did the wind. It's hard to explain just how strong the wind was. Everyone has been out in tough conditions and the pictures make it look fairly normal for mid winter. MWIS said gusting 100mph and everyone had difficulty staying on their feet. The danger was in the falling and injury potential. Some of the party had real difficulty staying upright. 

Matt and Gordon decided to make a dash for the summit which was by all accounts extremely challenging. The rest of the higher up party skied back over the gullies and humps to the Station. Fun it certainly was and the wind reducing to hurricane force made it even more pleasurable. 

On arrival at the Station bothy we met members of An Teallach Mountaineering Club. These were the vagabonds that deprived us of staying at Loch Ossian, cheekily booking the place before we did. Some good natured banter followed and they invited us down to the hostel. No one said it, but we all knew that this weekend had been claimed for IBSC. No one nodded in agreement.  

The purchase of Club radios had generated some high energy discussion before the trip but they proved to be very useful whilst on the hill with different parties able to speak with each other through the hurricane force winds. "Pushing them hard" was the message back from the President when he informed us that it wasn't certain they would make the train back north. They did, by five minutes. "Corrour delivered" he exclaimed.  

Train on time again and we were all nearly aboard only it went past the station and then reversed back. This caused some excitement and not everyone heard the explanation so here it is. Apparently, when there is snow on the line, and there was about two feet on this occassion, the train passes the station and clears a path forward. Then it reverses back on to the bit it's just cleared so it can gain traction on the rails to get going again. Remember that for next year.  

Lochaber weekend - Meall Clachaig - 31st January 2015

By Derek Knox.  While the main party went to Corrour a splinter group decided to park at Laggan Dam (had to dig our way into the carpark)and head up from Roughburn through the forest.

The snow was about 12 inches deep on the forest trail and, with the snow covered trees, had an Alpine feel to it.

The target destination was Beinn a' Chaorainn or as much of it as time would allow (an attempt to get to Fersit earlier had to be abandoned due to deep snow on the road).

We lunched just inside the forest out of the wind and then headed up Beinn a' Chaorainn.

It was decided to stop just above the outcrop Meall Clachaig and ski down from there. Fun was had by all negotiating the varied snow conditions as we made our way back to the road.

 
   
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