Every mountain adventure involves a series of decisions: Who will my partners be? When will we go? Where will we go? What equipment will we bring? Just like in business (or, for that matter, any other aspect of life) we often make decisions with incomplete information and in a constantly changing environment. Unlike many other aspects of life however, the choices we make on our mountain adventures often have a direct and immediate effect on our enjoyment and safety.
In the case of the Owl-Tenquille traverse, many of the big decisions were made back in July. The first decision was the “who?”. That one was easy. My friend and I are always keen to get out. Plus she’s great company and an awesome adventure companion. Decision two was the “when?”. With our busy schedules it took some advance planning, but we were both able to block off Aug. 14-16 in our calendars. The third decision was “where?” The Owl-Tenquille traverse has been on my tick list for a few years now, so I was stoked that my friend was keen.
With the big decisions made, we put trip planning out of our minds for a while. Fast forward to August 10. With hot, sunny weather in the forecast, it looked like the trip would be a go and it was time to attend to the many small details that make a mountain adventure a success: What’s the route like? How will we manage vehicle logistics for a point-to-point hike? How much water is on route? What gear would we bring? What food to bring?
Route details: The Owl-Tenquille traverse is a 30-ish km point-to-point traverse that is about 50% above treeline, and 50% below treeline. Route finding on the below-treeline sections is easy (follow the well-defined trail). Above treeline things are more complicated, as much of the alpine traverse is through talus fields. While there are plenty of cairns to mark the way, there are also sections with few markers. Having a GPS track was definitely helpful, even if it mostly served to reassure us until we found the next cairn.
Vehicle logistics: my boyfriend is awesome and came to pick us up on Sunday so we didn’t have to organize a car shuttle in advance. Woo hoo!
Water: lots! There were plenty of lakes, tarns and snow-melt creeks along the route, so we never had to carry much more than a litre of water at a time. Being able to make ice-cold lemonade on a hot day was amazing! Even though it’s a remote alpine area, I always treat my water because a gastro-intestinal illness would really suck. It was a tough call between treatment tablets and carrying a filter. In the end I went with the treatment tabs because they were lighter. Despite the slight taste of chlorine, I think that was a win?
Gear: This is where I start stressing out. A few of the decisions were easy, like bringing individual tents (because covid-19) and a bug head net (the bugs have been terrible this year, so the extra 10 grams to maintain my sanity was a no-brainer). Others were tough.
Would trail runners be sufficient? I didn’t want to bring my mountaineering boots, and I don’t have anything in between. In the end, trail runners were fine.
Do we need helmets? Not many trip reports talked about helmets so we decided to leave them behind. I think that was the right decision, as it really was mostly hiking. In the short scrambly section we just paid attention to the fall line so that we could avoid knocking loose rocks down on each other.
Bring the Goretex? The forecast was calling for sun, but I threw my lightweight Goretex in the pack anyways. Even though I didn’t use it, I would probably make the same decision again.
What clothes to bring? I actually have a harder time deciding what clothes to bring on a summer trip than a winter one! In the end, I packed shorts (didn’t wear them), tights (lived in them), and hiking pants (worth it for the bug protection in the evening, but too hot otherwise), a merino tee (wore it for the first two days), a plain tee (hiked out in it on the last day because I had it, but didn’t need to bring it), a fleece hoodie (great in the evening), a wind shell (excellent bug protection, even if it was hot), and a down puffy jacket (I only wore it briefly in the mornings, but it was nice to be toasty when I crawled out of bed. I could have gotten away with a lighter puffy, but it was nice to know I would be toasty even if the overnight temps were colder than expected).
Food: It was a short summer trip, so rather than carefully consider what to bring I just brought everything. Everything was way too much to fit into the bear canister at night. Discovering that we had both brought too much food, and especially too much fresh food to fit into the bear canister was a bit of a shock. We put the fresh food into the canister and hung the pre-packaged stuff in a makeshift bear hang well away from camp. But lesson learned: only bring as much food as required (pay attention to the calories) and choose foods that are compact, especially when you are not prepping your gear together the night before.
Was my decision making perfect? Definitely not. However I try to learn from each of my decisions, so that I can make better decisions for future trips. Like our upcoming adventure at the end of the month. Any suggestions as to where we should go?