Thursday, March 6, 2014

Circling the Camel: Skiing an Iconic Vermont Peak

The CHC crosses many high-elevation wetlands, perfect for snack breaks.

My skis glide onto the edge of an alpine wetland. A dark rocky cliff face looms high above and a layer of spruce trees cuts into the grey sky. I’m about halfway in to my 13-mile ski tour, and the boulder at the opposite end of this frozen water looks to be the perfect spot to rip open my Snickers bar. In those first few bites, I’m rewarded with the sweet taste of chocolate peanuts and cold-hardened caramel, and the sweet feeling of being self-propelled over great distances of Vermont’s backcountry.

I’m skiing the Camel’s Hump Challenge (CHC), a tour that circumnavigates the summit of Camel’s Hump by traveling through both private and State forest. A knee injury left my partner at the halfway point, where some nice folks will walk out with her and give her a ride back to our car. I'm on my own on a long tour, on a big mountain. And it's pretty cool.

So happy to see each other.
The CHC route affords access to established birch glades, fragrant spruce-fir forests, and strings of upland wetlands not typically visited by hikers or skiers. It’s beautiful, but it’s earned. With many miles of climbing, dotted by sections of smooth tracking and fast dips in elevation, this route is both challenging and rewarding.The forests I've seen today flash in my head. Birch glades out of a story book; spruce forests that hang heavy with the scent of pine. It's all been so beautiful.

There's a greater cause bringing me out here today. As CHC board member Bruce Beeken puts it, “The purpose of this event is to enjoy this extraordinary ski tour and to raise money for a good cause.” In order to be here, we each raised $125 or more in donations from friends and family to support education and family support programs at the Vermont Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.I don't know this during my ski, but I will later learn that together all skiers raised $22,000 - a new record. 

Later in the day I will ascend and descend Wind Gap (a feat I am still amazed I did on my own) and then beautiful Bald Hill - a ripping fast descent that had me grinning ear to ear the whole long way down. And I will ski up to my friends. My dog will run out and greet me, hugs will come from all directions, and beer will taste better than it ever has. For now, I taste the melting chocolate again, and savor the fresh air, my health and vitality, and every minute of this beautiful backcountry. 

Happy trails.
- S. 

Also, for a look into behind-the-scenes preparation for the CHC, see:
- Clearing the Way


  1. I found your article on the Catamount site and came over to check out your blog. I really enjoyed reading about your trip and it makes me want to try backcountry skiing so badly! :) Following your blog and looking forward to reading more.

  2. Ashley, Thank you so much for your comment - this is exactly why we share our stories! If you are wanting to try backcountry skiing, there is a great annual festival that is good for beginners called the Get out and Backcountry Ski Festival at Bolton Nordic Center, put on by the Catamount Trail Association. It is an excellent event with gear demos, skills workshops, and more. So glad to have you reading along with us! Happy trails ( :