Ski Touring in Pirin is a strange mix of wild, remote, untouched nature and glitzy modern ski resort.
Yesterday I went out for my first tour of the winter, just a short 2 hour walk along the cliff top above Damianitsa valley. A thin crust of snow gliding under my skis, blazing sunshine filtering through the trees and silence. That magical silence of a forest bound in winter. A silence of everyone sleeping away the winter months. A communal breath held while we are crushed under the pressure of short cold days and even colder long long nights.
A few of the forest beasts had been around as their tracks littered the trail that was as much a road for them as a track for me. Rabbits, deer, boar maybe a trace of man… But then, at that moment, I was alone just the sleeping forest and I.
Ski Touring is a strange pastime, a mixture of brutal physical exercise and transcendental peace. There is a Zen like place where your body works at a tempo that can be maintained for ever, your brain is all but shut down just a small fraction of it keeping track of direction and place and you arms and legs just swing and slide, swing and slide swing and slide, eating up the meters in a wonderfully efficient symbiosis of man and kit.
Most people head off into the hills in ski touring groups in the winter, the danger and remoteness of a winter bound environment is daunting. A sprained ankle or twisted knee can suddenly turn a nice little stroll into a life and death nightmare. Having a group to share the work of cutting the trail, friends to offer moral support and the camaraderie of an adventure shared all add to a jovial time.
Fortunately yesterday I was within close range of civilisation so forgetting simple things like water, food and other survival basics didn’t matter much, O.K. I was pretty hungry and thirsty by the time I got home but nothing fatal. I’ll re-pack the bag before I go out again! I normally take at least a litre of water and loads of raw almonds. These two can keep me going for days and weigh nothing! There will be my Opinel , a lighter and some matches in the back pack next time. On the kit front I am still on my Rossignol B3’s a great all mountain ski just as good going up as down, they will charge through powder, crud and ice with abandon. O.K. they are a bit all purpose so not “The Best” at any one thing and my god they are old (2006) but we get on and they do their job well.
I’ve fitted them with some Marker Baron bindings which are super heavy duty. They can take the beating of being thrown in and out of cars, clipping trees and rocks on the downhill as much as being clouted against trees and rocks on the up hill. The only downside is their weight. By touring standards their 2600g is properly in the heavy weight category! Especially if you compare them with some of the less than 400g modern stuff. When it comes to Ski Touring skins I have fully embraced the modern trend of cut to fit skins. Colltex offers some great skins mine have a ridiculously cool snake ski pattern on them! Their grip on the snow is incredible offering access to much steeper slopes the my old thin 1990’s specials! My big investment this year has been in a new pair of boots. Light and sturdy they ski like a dream. If you put them in walk mode they are more comfortable than my hiking boots. Yup you heard it here first, ski boots that feel like shoes!!! CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO
Vihren and Kutelo
The plan for this winter is to get fit enough to get to the top of Todorka from the Secret chair. So if you see a huffing and puffing fool slogging his way up the piste stop and say hi! I will probably be in need of a rest.