Photo by Elina Sirparanta
It wasn’t the ascent of the Chardonnet Glacier in blizzard conditions, or skinning with 50-lb packs or the lack of wood for heat through single-digit nights. No, the hardest part of our Haute Route trip was quitting. The odds were in our favor. We had the best guide in the Alps, a strong crew, a deep, relatively stable snowpack and an early start to the spring hut season. But out of nowhere, the temps skyrocketed. In Verbier, wet slides went to the ground. Four days into our 10-day trip, our guide said it was shaping up to be the most dangerous week of the winter.
I thought of the months Julien Regnier had spent planning the route, the money we’d spent to get to Chamonix, the gear we had dropped ahead, the story I was supposed to write… But I was fortunate the guide made the call. Who knows what we would have decided on our own. It’s hard to turn around when so much is invested. The ability to quit is perhaps the hardest skill of backcountry skiing and the most underrated. There’s no reward for not accomplishing a goal except the promise of tomorrow, which, when you are a skier, is the greatest prize of all.