Last weekend was hot! The final training weekend before Denali, we drove up to Fort William on Friday night to take on Ben Nevis with 35 kilo packs and double boots and vapour barrier socks on the Saturday morning. Come Saturday, I was feeling sub-par: underfed, under slept, and therefore slow and grumpy. Just under an hour up the Ben I told the others to go on ahead and I lightened my load by emptying some of the water bottles I use for weights. Still, I was roasting, I hadn’t packed any significant food, and between the vapour barrier socks, alpine trousers and 25 Celsius sunshine beating down on me, I could not rehydrate fast enough.
With a bit of cajoling from friendly people heading in the same direction, I made it to approximately 1100m, where I test-drove my new MSR Evo Ascent (22″) snow shoes. These beauties are exceptional. Light but sturdy, they gave me outstanding grip on snow slopes. Going downhill in slushy snow where thousands had walked recently, the snow shoes let me slowly slide a little down the slope till I dug the heels in. Walking on steeper snow, I flicked up the heel televator, which lifts the heel so calves aren’t strained on steep terrain. On the flats, I managed a run (without my pack!) with the snow shoes. There are four rubber bindings on each snow shoe, with an adjustable stud on each one. It’s worth playing with these to get the fit right, but they are forgiving if you don’t get it right first time round.
In summary, 7.5 hours carrying a heavy pack on a busy route in the scorching sun with no shade, getting sunburnt and dehydrated… Worth it just to test out my snow shoes on the hottest weekend in Scotland this year!