"Why do we do this?" I whined.
J, on skis, beamed. "Because it's fun."
I was reminded of my marathon training days, when my running partners and I embarked on a 22 mile run, starting from Whale Park to the fish hatchery gate, then doubling back past the park and all the way to the other end of the road at Starrigavan. The first four miles were always awful, something we had to slog past until it became, if not effortless, something we were meant to do, could always do, for hours and hours.
We headed for the hut, marveling at how much snow there still was, this late in March. Later, J dug a pit and showed me how dangerously unstable the snow was. We wore our avalanche beacons and carefully moved higher, leaving spaces between us and staying on the safer terrain.
There's a delicate balance in the slog. You don't want to redline it on a slog. We saw it last week in Hells Canyon, where an enthusiastic group of kids bounded out of the campsite at the same time we did. We stepped aside on the climb to let them pass, only to have them stop breathless on the first switchback. You don't run a marathon the same way as a 5K; you don't hike in deep snow the same way you do on bare ground. In a slog there is nothing to prove but longevity.
This was night #8 spent in the backcountry this year. It seems like a paltry number. Does a hut count? Yes it does, especially if you carry your stuff on your back and have to shovel out the toilet.