While hiking the TMB I spent quite a bit of time looking at Jack’s rear end.
His legs are much longer than mine and he walks a lot faster than I do. There were lots of jokes about me walking ten paces behind. Hardy har har.
Here we go … uphill. It’s a good thing I actually like looking at Jack’s posterior …
… because every once in awhile I got a view of this particular pose. As I walked towards him I wondered what in the world he was doing.
a) He’s posing and providing me with—in his mind—a money shot.
b) He’s tooting.
c) He’s got a cramp and he’s stopping to rest.
Although I was witness to this pose several dozen times I never asked exactly what he was doing. I was a little afraid to know. Sometimes the pink fluffy cloud that is my imagination is a much better place to be. Some people call it denial. I call it knowing how to be happy.
Anyway, any time we reached a summit or mountain pass I would scan the other side and ponder the way down. When you head up 2,500 meters you eventually have to go down 2,500 meters. I don’t know who made this stupid rule, but I experienced it on a daily basis and let me tell you, it’s true. What goes up, must come down.
Here’s the other thing that I learned on this trek: generally speaking, going up is more fun than going down.
Unless you’re running down a snowy mountainside. Than the down is more fun.
I learned very quickly how to run down a snowy slope from our fellow Dutch traveling companions.
I’m sorry to say that I cannot remember their names, but I’ll remember them fondly forever. This is a mother (right) and her son (left) trekking the TMB together for some quality relationship time. They were super nice and were always willing to share less explored trail adventures with us. They, too, preferred to stay away from the crowds. Anyway, the son lives in Switzerland and works for the Swiss Mountain Rescue, so we got to see an expert in action. He showed us how to run 1,000 meters down a mountain in a matter of minutes.
Here’s the secret: you hop like a rabbit, bouncing from foot to foot as you run down the slope. It should look like your running over hot coals, lifting your knees high into the air as you hop, hop, hop. You have to be a little careful as sometimes your leg will sink in snow right up to your hip and if you have a strong momentum it can be jarring, not to mention potentially wrenching on the joints. But with practice, you learn to read the snow. If you have a lot of powder, the hop-like-a-rabbit technique works well. If you’ve got slush than you skim your feet through the snow/slush as if you had on skates. If you hit a patch of ice, fall on your butt and start a speedy slide, then plant your walking sticks in the snow to slow your descent (similar to the way you might roll over and plant an ice axe). OR … if you’ve got lots of room and few obstacles (outcropping of jagged rocks), ride the slope on your butt …
laugh it up …
enjoy the ride (“Look ma! No hands!”) …
… and you’ll go 500m in just under a minute.
While I usually preferred the uphill treks this was by far my favorite way to descend a snowy mountain.