It’s the end of May—maybe your mind is not on going skiing, maybe you’ve transitioned to warmer thoughts. Let’s be clear—there is nothing wrong with that. For some, Winter is a season that is a constant chase, and with a deep snowpack in much of the lower 48, the spring skiing is epic. One of the places that is having an especially unique spring is the Sierra’s which happens to be Red Bull Athlete and Freeski Legend Michelle Parkers stomping grounds.
We decided it would be smart to give Michelle a call to see what’s in her pack this spring, and a few bonus tips for recovery as she heads out for some good ol’ fashioned corn harvesting.—ML
Hey Mountain Life! Just unpacked my bag from a camping trip so the timing is perfect as I am repacking for another adventure….below is the list of things that I bring and why. Let me know if you need anything else.
What’s in my spring touring kit? This all really depends on the objective, but I primarily ski tour in the Sierra during the Spring where the opportunities are endless and you never know what you are going to find around the corner. You can keep it as tame as you want, or spice things up with a little rock and or ice approach. For this, my pack is filled with the necessities and sometimes, regretfully a little bit more.
Skins – A must. Never forget your skins.
Aluminum crampons – I prefer aluminum because they are light weight. Thus far they have performed great on rock and snow, but if I were getting into some ice I would want steel toes. My choice crampon is the petzl leopard LLF. If you would rather have a steel toe they also make the Irvis Hybrid with an aluminum heel.
Lightweight waterproof gloves – Usually the temps are warm and I tend to tour with no gloves (remember to put sunscreen on your hands), but when you start skinning up an icy face or changing over from touring to booting up a couloir, a thin pair of gloves are great to have, especially for the early morning approach when it may be cold.
Leather gloves – A warmer glove for the boot up and descent. When your hands start touching the metal of your ice axes or you’re in a shaded couloir, warmer gloves are a must.
Ice axe – The Petzl Ride axe is a really good place to start. It’s lightweight and plenty sufficient for most of the time. If you are getting into slightly firmer conditions or more technical climbs then you could step up into the Gully by Petzl. Oh, and often times you may want two axes. Usually one axe and a ski pole does the trick.
A small plastic scraper – when you deal with warmer temps, cleaning the ice and or warm snow off the bottom of your skis is far easier with a scraper on hand.
Sunscreen and lip screen – A necessity for spring!
Breathable baseball cap – Anything to get out of the sun on the approach.
A warmer fleece beanie – For the descent.
Sunglasses – You can even make your own glacier glasses with a little duct tape.
Goggles – Optional, but I prefer them.
Helmet – I love the Anon griffon because it’s so lightweight!
First aid kit and SOS bivy – A necessity as you are your own rescue in the backcountry.
Garmin Inreach mini – Your rescue if it’s really bad.
Garmin Fenix 5S plus – My choice watch not only for tracking your route, but it’s proven to be a great tool for navigating. There is a map and elevation and all kinds of fun beta to aid in route finding and getting home efficiently!
Half-liter Nalgene for the hip— I run the bottle through a caribiner on the hip of my backpack so that my water breaks are quick and efficient.
Light weight water bottle for the pack – on longer breaks I fill up my hip water bottle with this.
Snacks on snack on snacks! – I keep some easy to access snacks in my pockets (usually blocks, or gummies of some sort and a gel). The rest of my snacks are in my bag (sandwhich, maybe two if it’s a really big day, and more mountain food).
Electrolyte tablets – I usually only use one and put it in my hip water bottle and just keep diluting it.
Lightweight puffy – Even if it’s a super warm day having a puffy is key in case anything were to go wrong in the mountains. If there is an injury, it’s super important to keep the injured person warm.
Beacon, shovel, probe – Your rescue equipment. Know how to use it before you enter into the backcountry.
Avalanche Level 1 Course – Maybe it’s not in your literal backpack, but this is the basic knowledge that you must have before entering into the backcountry. It’s amazing how many people don’t take this course before heading out there, but in my mind it’s mandatory knowledge and I take these courses regularly and very seriously. To couple your avy 1 course, you should also definitely take a first aide course.
Headlamp – Mostly for safety, early mornings, and late nights.
My camera – I love bringing this with me, but definitely adds weight.
Small tool kit – In case anything breaks, I have a tool, bailing wire, tape, and about 4 ski straps.
I think this pretty well covers everything that I carry on a typical day of touring in the spring time. I always have a pair of shorts and flip flops, snacks and water, waiting for me at the trail head too! If you end your tour near a river, lake, or any cold body of water, take a dip! The ice bath is good for the body and challenging for the mind. Enjoy the spring!