“What?! You’re doing that, with your mother?” People would gasp, unbelieving. “A six-month long ski traverse of the Coast Mountains? Isn’t she like, 60?”. To which I say; “Yes, and yes.”
I chose my mum over anyone else for so many reasons; her fitness, experience, optimism and the absolute knowledge that if there was any chance of pulling something like this off it was with her. I agree we’re not exactly the spring chicken, energy drink chugging, somewhat egotistical athletic types you would expect to undertake such an epic sufferfest, but here we were with a dream and a willingness to try anyway. After a year and a half of mapping, dehydrating food and arranging virtually impossible logistics, we took a step up the first of many, many mountains to come.
My mum is not like most people’s mums. She’s the toughest and most resilient person I know. I was soon to discover she’s also impossibly cheery and positive in horrible situations in a rather annoying and helplessly amusing sort of way. There was the time we spent two miserable days searching for a food cache through a blizzard on a crevasse scattered glacier.
All I could think of was how hungry and dismal I felt, and how bad it would be if we never found the cache – (which we didn’t). Meanwhile, she would turn to me and point out how stunningly beautiful the intricate stellar arms of the new snowflakes caught on her sleeve were. Or in the midst of the umpteenth day of bushwhacking through choking stands of alder and baby hemlocks, my sanity at wit’s end; she would turn to me with a delighted smile pointing at some adorably fat chickadees tweeting away in a nearby bush. I’d catch her randomly hugging old growth spruce as we skied silently through ancient forests. Farting in the tent was also a source of endless amusement. She’s hopeless and hilarious and near damn unbreakable my mother is.
It was this ceaseless positivity, and the steady belief that we could pull this trip off that contributed enormously to our eventual success. When I say success, I don’t mean in achieving what we set out to do; a complete ski traverse of the coast mountains. Because we didn’t accomplish that. The most significant factor in this being a low snowpack year in the northern latitudes. While we endured insane cold spells and almost non-stop precipitation for months on end in the southern part of the range, northern BC and Alaska were sitting at about a third of their regular snowpack by the time spring rolled around.
In an effort to keep the expedition a ski traverse and not a bushwhack-hike-while-you-carry-your-skis-traverse, we had to skip some low elevation sections. We tallied our true success as doing the very best we could with what we had, every single day – while avoiding any sickness or injury.
Considering how easy it was to die out there we felt we deserved a medal just for surviving sometimes. It was one thing our pilots would almost invariably say when dropping off food for us – “You still look so healthy…?” I think they were expecting us to be all frostbitten with missing fingers, blackened toes, and chapped bleeding lips. At the very least limping from blisters or something…
For more information about Martina and Tania’s epic adventure then visit their website here, and if you’ve been inspired by this story then keep an eye out for Part 2 going live next week!