Maybe not worth the flight...
Having said that, I wonder if the lack of snow fall is related to climate change, and if the ski seasons everywhere might be shortening dramatically. I'm already worried about Oz this year - hottest March on record, and April isn't looking like bucking that trend.
I'm not pessimistic though - I'll take what I can get, and I reckon I'm living and skiing in an amazing era of access, technological innovation and information. By the end of my life I fully expect the planet to be pretty well fucked due to climate change. For a while we all got interested in the issue, but now we are very much the drunk, obnoxious people at the party who know that the police are coming to kick us out, and we've decided to trash the joint just for the hell of it. It's almost like we've made a collective decision that it's in the too hard basket. I wish we did more, and that applies to me too.
Anyway, what to do now that I'm at home for this week?
Practice packing and gear loadouts, of course...
I've gradually been whittling away at the weight of my gear. Below is a photo of the latest iteration of the spring touring / Oz conditions rig - all up it weighs about 6kg.
Dynafit Broad Peak 28 - locked and loaded
Guys like Dane over at Cold Thistle and Andy Sherpa (better skimo bloggers than me!) have been using skimo race packs for a while now. The benefits include staying close to the body whilst skiing, reducing the space you can put extraneous crap in and offering features like convenient ice axe stowage and access to pack carriage of skis and crampons without having to remove the pack.
The weight is crazy light (700g empty). I can see me lugging my tent and gear up with the Black Diamond Speed 55, and then using this pack out of the hut or tent. I've also got the slightly bigger Cho Oyu 35, which could come in handy for bigger objectives.
Here's what's inside:
Starting top left:
1lt Nalgene - bladder hoses freeze. Bottles don't.
Petzl Charlet Ice Axe - super solid climbing axe. I'll be getting a lightweight CAMP model for general touring which is almost 400g lighter.
2x carabiners - at 30 grams each, why not?
Princton Tech H20 - bought years ago. Still going strong.
Arva Ultra shovel - lightest metal-bladed shovel at 300g.
Kannad Safe Link Solo EPIRB - absolute necessity when soloing. Dying from a broken ankle would be tedious and embarrassing.
Sunscreen / Lip balm
Rab Xenon X jacket - this jacket is synthetic - I'd take my down one for colder climates. I've always preferred to have jackets with hoods.
BCA probe - about to be replaced by a CAMP model at 130g (less than half the weight).
2x ski straps - the swiss army knife of BC equipment.
BCA Snow saw - I want to practice digging pits. Worth lugging around for 240g.
Spares / Repair kit - varies according to gear taken. I'm carrying spare batteries, patches for goretex, a spare pole basket and some cordage. I also take spare screws and a screwdriver if using binding inserts.
OR Alti glove outers - either these or the mitts below. I hate cold hands.
Arcteryx SV full bib pants - another item I'm not compromising on. They are heavy at 550g, but absolutely weatherproof and reliable.
CAMP Nanotech crampons - a new and unused addition. Just under half the weight of my Petzl climbing spikes.
Dynafit ski crampons - definitely a fixture for anyone touring in Oz or NZ.
Not pictured but usually on my person are:
Harness & ice screw
Between the new helmet, harness, ice axe and avalanche probe I'm getting, that will drop a further kilo from my back.
There's some other gear that I like to bring along depending on the context and task at hand:
Mitts - I hated cold hands whilst ice climbing, and nothing has changed.
Petzl Charlet crampons and hammer - if the terrain is serious enough, these guys come along.
Ascent Plates - best used for steep snow gullies - I'll be using them on Feathertop this year.
Stove and pot - for ultra-long trips where you might need to melt snow for water on the way.
30m climbing rope - a good length - not too short to be useless, but not so long to be too heavy.
Things get a bit heavier if I take the Black Diamond Saga 40 - it adds another 3kg for the airbag pack in lieu of the Broad Peak 28. It was going with me to Japan again this week, which gets me uncomfortably close to 10kg. In my mind, it's worth the extra weight in places like Japan and NZ, and every so often in Oz too. Soloing in avalanche terrain isn't for me without an airbag unless I'm extremely certain of the snow stability.