Thursday, 6 December 2012

Snowshoeing - A Cautionary Tale


We've been a little tongue in cheek recently about the reputedly "fastest growing winter sport" of snowshoeing, fuelled mainly by two hilarious videos that have me in fits every time*, but we've still been dying to give it a go.  Yesterday we finally did.


Boy, did we have fun!  And what a work out.  In true Kokopelli style, we were also under-prepared and under-planned.  Harsh lesson learnt if said snowshoes are to remain on feet and not be used as missiles.

We were only supposed to be trialling them, so said he.  Just out for an hour, he said.  In my usual  excitement I got my maps and Garmin - "ha, you won't need those", he laughed at me.  Yet again I blindly believed him.  The clue to what was about to become was in the statement "we're only going round the mountain and down the ski run".

So rucksacks were packed with a single flask of coffee, no food, no maps, no extra layers, no emergency kit.  No nothing.  Idiots.  

Tip Number 1:  Don't do the same, you never know how long you're going to be out, or the conditions you're going to come across.  Prepare for every eventuality.

It started well, we drove the short distance up to Passo Lanciano**, where we can see from our house that there's snow.   

PASSO LANCIANO SKIING (from our house)

And there was!  Great delight!  Proper snow too.  So pole lengths were sorted, and snowshoes were fitted and adjusted around new boots.

Tip number 2: you need ankle covering boots to protect against the snowshoe bindings.  Being a bit of a minimalist in the shoe department, I didn't have any boots so had to buy some.   I couldn't see the point in spending heaps of money - all they need is to be comfortable, warm, dry and big enough for a couple of layers of socks, including my indispensable Sealskinz*** waterproof socks (I never trust shoe "waterproof" claims).  


Parting with €18 at the market and I was the proud owner of a pair of uber comfy sheepskin-lined plastic boots.  They may not cut a dash at trendy ski resorts, and they may not last as long as high tech/high price hiking shoes, but they were perfect: super warm, super comfortable and they kept my feet super dry.

So off we went into the woods like excited children, skipping through the snow with gay abandon.  This was great!   It was so easy, and we quickly got the hang of it.  Even me, with my knock knees and pigeon toes.   Up and down banks, over logs, through the trees.  Until we (he) realised we'd gone the wrong way.  


Tip number 3: even if you're "only going out for an hour", discuss your route with your partner, plot and plan it, use and take a map.   Terrain looks very different in the snow - usual markers may not be there and it's very easy to get confused.

But I didn't care, we were having fun.  It may be mid afternoon (ie dark in a couple of hours) but we were only going to be out for an hour.  

So we back tracked and picked up the proper trail.

After an hour of more skipping through the snow, we started to climb the mountain we were supposed to be going around.   And we climbed and climbed and climbed.  This is where the beauty of these little devices strapped to our feet really came into their own.   I certainly felt the burn!  Great low impact workout!  Boy, could I feel my glutes!   This was great! 

Tip number 4: if you're after a strength training, low impact with high cardio vascular workout to see you through the winter, this has got to be it!

Tip number 5: you may only be going for a walk in the woods, but you will work.  Dress warm, but with sports kit, ie breathable layers and quick drying.   I didn't.   Warm yes, but my layers of cotton ensured I got very sweaty wet very quickly.   And wet I stayed.  And very very cold, hyperthermic cold, once the effort of climbing was over.

The dipping sun, and incoming storm clouds, combined with the confession that this was longer, harder and further than anticipated, meant there was no time for slacking. 


Eventually, after a mini "I'm never trusting you again!" tantrum, we finally (with huge relief) found ourselves at the top of the ski run.  In the dark and in a blizzard.

Now this is where we should have had skis strapped to our backs.  


Tip number 6: snowshoes are designed for gripping.   Their inbuilt crampons and studs means gliding gracefully (and fast) down hills just ain't going to happen.  And long downhills takes its toll on the ankles.  You will need poles and, no matter how fit you are, don't underestimate the impact on unfamiliar muscles.

Finally we reached the warmth and safety of our little, snow covered car.

The smell of our turkey curry cooking slowly on top of the fire as we made our way through the door, was heaven indeed. 

Final tip: have a warm fire waiting for you at home with a big pot of something hearty bubbling away. 

At least we got one thing right...


*   Extreme Snowshoeing
     Beginners Guide

** Passo Lanciano Skiing

***Sealskinz waterproof socks


PS. we are open for the winter (with snowshoes thrown in) if anyone wants to join us...?

1 comment:

  1. Moan moan moan :') i always get us down ( eventually ) but good tips it does get pretty cold up there. Cross country Skis for Xmas me thinks. x