In March 2019, Ambassador Justine Mulliez set out to ski and splitboard the 33-mile Crater Lake Rim Route and find some extra elevation and good lines along the way. Read more Justine’s experience on her blog, Just A Wild Thought.
1) Nothing beats a full-on lady posse. Though I’ve had the pleasure of riding with packs of boys my whole life, I’ve been increasingly drawn to all-female crews in the outdoors and this trip hammered it home: riding with only ladies is an experience unlike any other. Lex, Rebecca, Josephine, and I had only spent a total of 4 hours all together and yet we all felt immediately at home from the minute we dumped our gear into Lex’s car before hitting the road, to our final schlep down to the ranger station upon our return to civilization. There’s really nothing quite like burping, farting, pooping, peeing, and snot-rocketing around 3 other girls who are just as happy to talk about life’s existential questions as snowpack quality and our dating lives. The camaraderie I lived on this trip was incredible, and the vibe created thanks to open communication, lack of ego, and sheer enjoyment is definitely something I’ll prioritize in the future.
2) Nature truly is the best medicine. This is my 4th winter season in a new location, and I have to admit, sometimes not knowing the area or who to ride with can get me a funk right around mid-February. Thankfully, I had an big adventure planned out in the wild and that thought alone was enough to get my excited on a daily basis. The melodic nature of putting one foot in front of another made it easy to admire the landscape’s colors, to ponder about Crater Lake’s formation and all that must have taken place in this area, to share gratitude for snow, sunshine, and wind. After 3 days in the wilderness, experiencing a landscape I had never seen before, I felt fully rejuvenated. And though I knew I would greatly benefit from being offline for a few days, I forgot how instantly curative nature can be.
3) When in doubt, dig it out. Though we expected a snowstorm and found a spot protected from avalanches, wind, and snow, we still awoke on our second day to a good foot and half of snow, and some wet gear. We spent our second day digging an 8x8x8 foot trench to place our tent in and give ourselves room to cook to avoid more stove problems (details to come) in order to protect ourselves from the elements and quickly realized the next morning that this should have really been our Plan A. So if you’re ever in doubt about whether your winter camping gear can hold up to the elements, dig. Not only will you be protected throughout the night, but it’s a great way of staying warm and occupied when visibility drops to only 50 ft in front of you.
4) Always bring more than 1 stove. All of us have backcountry experience and knew the importance of a warm meal so one of the gear requirements was that we all brought our own stove with a new fuel canister for this trip. Eating dry foods for 4 days is far from ideal and we didn’t want to take the risk. So when we had a minor stove malfunction that caused a pretty huge fire and required 2 of us to attempt to put it out while the other 2 focused on ensuring our tent didn’t get in it’s path, we were incredibly grateful to have extra stoves to boil water for drinking and to get our hot meals going. Another lesson learned on this trip: pressure and cold definitely alter the state of your fuel canisters so always take extra precautions!
5) Mush is what’s for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Even with the minor fire set-back requiring us to eat dry foods on night 1 and our inability to keep track of where we stored our food in each backpack, we ate gourmet backcountry meals throughout the trip. Snacks included Triscuits and cheese, avocado, nut mixes, Swedish Fish, Sour Patch Kids and other high sugar content, instantly caloric foods while breakfast, lunch, and dinner usually consisted of mush in a tortilla. Mush at this point could be any mixture of egg, beans, rice, quinoa, hummus, or falafel with salsa, cheese, 5 different salt options to add on for flavor. But don’t knock it till you try it! After hours of touring, digging, and more touring, anything can taste gourmet if you’re hungry enough. Or if you have enough hot sauce.
6) Enthusiasm can’t replace preparation. As excited as I was to embark on this trip, one thing lingered in the back of my head on the drive down, at the ranger station, when I woke up on day 2, while digging our pit, while laying awake in my snow-covered sleeping bag, or pretty much at any moment no matter how much I was enjoying myself: I didn’t feel like I had put in the necessary amount of time and research into feeling fulling prepared. After spending my college years and early twenties making decisions in the outdoors based on ego, peer pressure, and a need to prove myself, I may have gone overboard in the other direction requiring research, detailed plans, and maps to feel like I am confidently making good decisions on adventures. On this trip, I felt that my team partners probably knew enough about conditions, snowpack, and navigation to avoid any problems and while that was entirely true, the feeling that I hadn’t done my homework nagged me to the point of not enjoying myself at times. Enthusiasm, no matter how much you have of it, can’t overcome the security of knowing that you’re positively contributing to the wealth of team knowledge.