I've been thinking about it for years, and my 67 year old buddy and I have been talking about it for years. We even tried it almost twenty years ago: ski touring/mountaineering. With visions of figure 8s left in our wake from the summit of Mt. Adams, we got a reality check in early April back then. We rented touring gear from a local shop, packed up, and were outraged by the gas prices down in The Gorge on our trip to Adams: $1.40 per gallon! We were able to drive the access road to within about 5 miles of Cold Springs Campground and proceeded to skin up the road, trying out our rented equipment for the first time. Somehow we successfully found the campground and continued up; however, we were soon engulfed in blizzard like conditions with sideways snow and low visibility. We found a place right at treeline as we were reluctant to continue on in those conditions, set up a mountaineering tent, and tried to sleep that night with 3 season bags. When we woke up the storm had passed and we were greeted with sunny skies and calm winds. HooYah, let's get to that beautiful track laying! When we reached approximately 8500', we thought we just wanted to get to it, so we buckled down, tightened up and launched into the sun warmed windpacked snow. Down we went on the first turns, expending lots of energy getting back on our feet with 40 pound packs on. Embarassingly, we resorted to snow plows, hop turns and stem cristies until we got into more corn like conditions and were able to link turns. Maybe 8 of them. On the road back to the car I didn't want to remove the skis and ended up falling over on ice and popping my shoulder out, driven into the ground by the heavy pack. That hurt for 6 months. To this day almost 20 years later we both have marks on our shins where the boots tore us up.
Well, we're back for another go. The lines between touring gear and alpine gear have blurred, especially in the ski department. A test skin and ski had us marveling on how light the stuff was, how cool it was that those skins allowed us to go straight up a hill....I constantly caught myself trying to herring-bone up, a familiar technique in alpine skiing. The boots were comfortable in walking mode and more than adequate for ski control. The skis are fatter, stiffer and lighter than my alpine set up. We found ourselves doing figure 8s in a foot of new sticky glop right out of the box. So now, with a way eye, we launch into ski mountaineering/touring to see if it indeed opens a whole new way of enjoying the outdoors. I'll report back after a Mt. St. Helens attempt within the next few weeks.