The Art of Uptracking: Digital HandbookThrough the writing of 'The Art of Up-tracking handbook (2nd edition)', ACMG/IFMGA Mountain Guide Alex Geary has nuggets of advice to share with both novice and seasoned backcountry tourers. Within its 40 pages, Geary gets granular as he uses photos and anecdotes to describe what is and what is not the proper art of setting a skintrack.
If you just read that first paragraph and found yourself rejecting the idea of needing any advice on putting in an efficient skinner, I think you might be surprised. Geary gets into details about setting consistent incline, contouring around knolls, setting a path in glaciated terrain, digging out corners, when and when not to use kick turns, and more.
Take contouring over knolls, for example. Geary explains:
"Things you might encounter if you walk straight up over the top of a knoll:
- Crevasses if you're on a glacier (tension zone)
- Thinner snowpack, so increased possibility of triggering an avalanche
- Rocks or grass if the snowpack is thin
- a flat section or a dip, meaning you're going to have to lose elevation."
And on glacier travel:
"On glaciers it’s generally best to follow the areas of compression where the crevasses are smaller, closed, and the snowpack is deeper. Avoid areas of tension where the crevasses are bigger, open and the snowpack shallower. This means when you’re making an up-track on a glacier, you normally want to link together the low points and gullies, avoiding convexities and ridges (avalanche conditions allowing). Understanding how glaciers form and flow, including what stresses cause crevasses to form is key to making a low risk and efficient up-track on a glacier"
It's important to remember that increasing efficiency can increase safety, but not always. While still a difficult choice, you must consider all variables and make a decision based on the incorporation of an 'adequate safety margin', whatever that means for you.
So, if you're new to backcountry travel, someone you routinely tour with is set on flexing their endurance on the skinner, or perhaps you're all to familiar with the mindset that "steeper=efficiency", then this handbook sounds like its for you! In generous spirit, Alex Geary has set a sliding scale "give what you can" purchasing option online, so that everyone who wants to read it, surely can! Check it out here.