In the spring of 2011, my friend Rich and I entered the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse, a backcountry ski race from Crested Butte to Aspen, Colorado. This race began at midnight in Crested Butte and covered 40 miles of gnarly, mountainous terrain–mostly at night and in the freezing cold.
We packed our backpacks carefully before the race…
…making sure that we had all of our required gear, which included our choice of a survival stove. We chose to carry the Esbit® Folding Pocket Stove because it’s a superlight stove, and it’s easy to use in an emergency. We hoped that we wouldn’t have a type of reason to use the stove, but we had to carry it, nonetheless.
At the starting line, my backpack didn’t feel very heavy at all, even though I wouldn’t say that it was superlight, either. The race organizers published a list of required gear months in advance, and they checked our backpacks the day before the race to make sure that we had all of the items. Disqualification can result at the end of the race if participants fail to carry the required items for the full duration of the event.
So, like all of the other participants at the starting line, our backpacks contained a stove, a sleeping pad, a shovel, an emergency blanket, and a bivouac sac, among other items. We wore avalanche transceivers and carried avalanche probes.
Completing the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse was one of the most brutal, physically challenging things I’ve ever done. We skied through the night and into the next afternoon, but we were still smiles here at the finish line.
Photos © Traci J. Macnamara.