Awaking to a message that my cousin (adventure chaperone for the day) was on his way, I quickly began shoving gear into my pack. I had stayed up past midnight with an assortment of everything camping and survival gear that I owned, now scattered across my living room floor. As I gulped down my coffee and hastily poured the rest into my new Yeti for safe keeping, the doorbell rang heralding the arrival of my guide. It’s go-time!
We picked up the third member of our expedition and grabbed sandwiches from the Backcountry Delicatessens in Fort Collins’ Old Town. With hunger subdued we aimed north and began the two hour+ drive into the mountains, winding up toward Cameron’s Pass - final destination [redacted].
“Are you ready for this?” asked my cousin as he tightly strapped his Tubbs Snowshoe to his boot. “Left right, left right” I shouted back with an affirming nod, and gleefully unabashed grin. With an awkward shuffle I reached one foot forward off the asphalt lot and sunk into the fresh powder. That’s it sports fans, I’m a real life snowshoer now!
After a quick selfie with the three of us and a mountain looming in the distance we set off without further dilly-dally. From there on out we kept a steady pace to start reclaiming lost time. As the only trekker in my party utilizing snow poles, I enjoyed some newbie heckling for making use of “training wheels” so to speak. It didn’t take long before any embarrassment was replaced with appreciation.
Our path began packed tight and well traveled by other snowshoers and more notably, a band of college-age thrillseekers riding past us, 4 people deep on a single snowmobile. They had X-country skis strapped to their backs and sought a very different experience..
After a good half hour of pushing uphill, each step began to sink deeper. As my foot plunged knee-high into snow I felt myself teater, attempting to keep balance and avoid keeling over. I gripped tightly onto my Black Diamond poles and pushed hard to remain upright. With a Christmas-morning giggle I leapt forward and worked to catch up to the other two.
By about this point I started to feel the onset of one of the biggest dangers on this trip: sweat! “Hold up” I exclaimed, ripping my heavy coat off and rolling it up for safekeeping, strapped to my pack. The trip had begun as a frigid foray from our vehicle, but now it felt barely brisk. The exertion of uphilling rapidly built up warmth in my inner jacket layers.
Tip: Avoid beginning to sweat during a cold weather hike. It is recommended to slow your pace when needed and remove layers to avoid building up too much heat.
After the three of us paused a moment to ventilate, we resumed marching onwards at a steady pace until reaching our destination about another hour later. The snow began to deepen as we strayed off the quite literally beaten path and into fresh unpacked snow. My Itasca snow boots plunged deep into the snow with each step and I struggled to keep my balance by leaning hard on my trusty snow poles (who’s laughing now)!
An untouched clearing within the trees quickly became our makeshift basecamp as we enjoyed a well deserved break for lunch. That much exercising at a higher altitude had given us a healthy appetite, and we began a neighborly exchange of beef jerky, potato ships (hey, why not?) dried mangos, kashi granola bars and in my case, an eagerly awaited 2nd backup sandwich from Backcountry Delicatessens.
After the chilly hike I was thrilled to have something warm nearby and grabbed my new Yeti Rambler that I had filled with coffee that morning. To my surprise, it was still warm many hours later and offered a welcomed energy boost.
After some time on the mountain, our all-too-brief break came to an end. With daylight waning, we packed up our gear for the descent. The biggest hazard on the way down were the other skiers we had seen passing us on the way up. It became important to keep an eye and ear out for skiers zooming around corners of our pathway.
I hope you enjoyed joining me on my first snowshoeing trip. It was a journey that offered great exercise, fun and lasting lessons to share with friends and would-be adventurers I meet.