Your feet haven't been dry in miles, ice is beginning to slip and melt into your socks, your knees have been scrapped raw from tiny particles, your calves burn with the intensity of each step becoming a climb regardless of elevation change, you are waist deep in snow once again. Every time you step out of your waist size hole, you hope, you pray, you induct any Deity that your mind can find in that moment that the next step will be on firm ground. You begin to put more pressure in the new step, little by little, your hope grows. You feel your hope begin to soar as you haul yourself out of the 1,000th personal hiker size hole of snow for the day. You smile as you begin to take your next step now, having one where you were above instead of below the snow. Then everything comes crashing down, quite literally as well as figuratively. The snow only teased a promise of holding your weight, let your hope build to the point of belief, and then only once you truly believed, did it bring you back to its depths. The snow crumbles below your weight and you find yourself in the same hole, that you were just in a second ago, an hour ago, over many miles ago. You take a second to accept your reality again, look back at the little shadows of you in the from of giant holes left over the landscape as you feel every ultimate high of hope when you were on top and every ultimate low when you found yourself yet again waist deep in snow. You have been post-holing all day and as you scan the horizon in front of you, you realize you will continue to post hole all day, it is a fact, a reality, an inner truth. Yet, even in this unquestionable truth, every time you step out of that hole, you believe, truly believe the next step may be different, may hold your weight, may let your spirit soar as you soar over the snow. Is that the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? Maybe.... but let us live in this insanity and let us hope. Hope for compact snow, hope that the melting snow in our shorts will be kinder the next step, hope that we may have lost 50lbs since the last step, as our minds imagine us light as a feather across the snow, simply let us hope!
Look at that foot outside of the snow, and feel, feel the hope as it rises on top of the snow and in our hearts!
We realize that we have mentioned and briefly touched on what it means to be a part of a Posthole Party, but we want to let you know the realities of snow travel, in many forms. There is a true Posthole Party and then there is just post-holing. Let us begin by defining exactly what post-holing refers to. Post-holing is the act of when you are travelling through snow and it crumbles beneath your weight. This comes from the snow being soft and not compact enough to hold a hiker's weight. There are many realms even in post-holing itself. You could technically be post-holing and only your foot is being consumed by snow. This while not as physically demanding as the deep postholes still takes a toll on your body, because your feet are wet, soaked, and bricks of weight as they get colder and colder throughout the day. Then if you use your leg as a measuring stick, there is post-holing that can be any depth up to the knee. Post-holing in ankle high snow, shin high snow, and knee high snow all bring their unique challenges. Then there are the post-holes where it turns into a party! The post-holes that are never ending, all encompassing, all consuming. You do not hit bottom, instead usually your pack stops you from completely becoming one with the snow, that is how you know it is a real party!
Post-holing in any context is demanding. It is tiring because each step exerts additional energy. Occasionally that additional energy is more mental, with baby post-holes that only cover your shoe in snow. While not being much more physically demanding in the form of outputting more calories and more physical energy, it still consumes your mind. Having wet feet and having ice shred the socks and the skin inside of your shoes, can be mentally draining. Knowing that you have this type of snow travel for the foreseeable future can either amplify that draining feeling or you can shift your focus. Shift your focus to the beauty around you. Shift your focus to the blessing in the fact that the snow is not deeper. Shift your focus outside of your feet, which believe us is still hard to do, will always be an ongoing lesson, the snow our teacher, yet still you have to find that shift. Do not let the snow catch your feet and your spirit. Instead find the beauty around you.
You now can make a snowman with all the snow inside of your shoes, shorts, and gear!
Now let us combine the mental challenge with the physical. This starts to come when the postholes begin to get higher and higher upon the measuring stick that is your leg. Each step now becomes two-fold. You have to exert energy for the step itself, and now have to exert energy to get out of that step. It is as if ankle weights have attached themselves to your legs and there is no shaking them. This is when you begin to feel the physical affects in the exertion of energy. Your calves begin to strain the same as if you were climbing a steep mountain. Your breath begins to come in sharper waves as your heart rate climbs. Your shoulders begin to ache with the constantly shifting weight of your pack. The physical affects of post-holing have taken a hold.
Couple this now with the mental battle of post-holing. The same mental battle that came when you were just getting your feet covered in snow, but now it has grown. It has grown to take more mental energy to get unstuck as you yourself are stuck in the snow. Each step is going to demand more of you, and thus you will have to find more of yourself to give. It is there, reach it, embrace it, and look forward.
Now, our favorite, post-hole parties! Bring along the disco ball, the rave music, the champagne, it is time for a party of epic proportions! A party where there is no end in sight, it very well can become an all-nighter or even a multiple day long event. There is no announcement or invitation to the party, one moment you are a hiker, and the next you are the host, the party-goer, and the clean-up crew all in one! A post-hole party occurs when there is simply no escape from the snow. No longer using the measuring stick of your leg for the depth, but instead every step is bottomless, so make sure to bring bottomless mimosas for the morning! Your pack becomes your measuring stick. Without it, you would continue to fall deeper and deeper into the snow. Every footstep tries to bring you into the never-ending party. You are there, you have much partying ahead, time to enjoy it! Take aside the physical and the mental demand of this type of post-holing because as can be assumed it is immense. The only way to get through is to laugh. Laugh at the absurdity of where you have found yourself, laugh at the decision was yours not to carry snowshoes, laugh as you grunt and struggle for each single solitary step. If your mind can't shift quickly into party mode, you will be in store for an epically long day. So, remember it is a party, you are there to have fun, time for the Post-Hole Party of a Lifetime!
Scale is Accurate. Yea... it is going to be a LONG Party!
There are ways to avoid post-holing. First and foremost, hike later in the season. On a thru-hike this is hard to do because of weather windows, but it is possible to avoid some if not all of the deep snow. Another way to mitigate the amount of parties you attend, is travelling early morning. Wake-up early as the snow is still firm and frozen from the night before and crush some miles before the sun. This will still lead to a party later in the day, but you now have the option to take your time through these miles, instead of struggle within their grip. Another option is, snowshoes. We have never packed them out, and stubbornly never will, yet we have heard of the miracles, as hikers hover across the snow fields we spent hours inside of. You also have the option to hike late into the night as the snow re-freezes. Again, an option, albeit not a great one because you can't see the mountains around you, and depending on the terrain can be quite unwise. Of course, the option we utilize the most frequently is hoping and believing with all of our hope that we weigh less on the next footstep, have lost 50lbs. Yea, it has not worked yet...but again an option!
Well... we have 1 of the 2 necessities to hover above the snow. Our soul is light, now if only we can convince our body to do the same! Or maybe attach a few balloons...
Unfortunately, these are just ways to avoid the frequency of a Post-Hole Party, not a cure. On a thru-hike it is a simple fact of life that at some point, you will post-hole. That can be snow over the shoe, snow along your measuring stick of a leg, or a full-blown party. The only way forward is through. It becomes a mental and physical journey through the snow and through yourself. Will you get frustrated at the mountains around you for the never-ending snow? Yes, we have been here before and it does not work! Or will you laugh and smile as you party through your 1,000th hiker sized hole of the day? If the mountains are going to provide a party without any cover-charge you should seize the chance! The party will always be there waiting for you, now the only question is are you ready?
With strobe lights attached to our packs and champagne in our souls,