We couldn't hit the right wax and travel was slow. By the time we got to Rondeau's Hermitage, temperatures were in the 40's and everyone was reduced to t-shirts. Skis were a cumbersome but necessary inconvenience to avoid postholing in the four foot snowpack.
By the time I reached Duck Hole, the group was well spread out along the route. One by one they trickled in. Doug was the last and he was spent. Even after the evening's heavy meal, he was lethargic and I was concerned about the next day. His friends reassured me that he was "still in great shape and he'll do fine." I fell asleep worrying about what the next day would bring.
I knew the route from Duck Hole to Moose Pond was going to be tough, but the mix of high water and untracked, wet snow really compounded matters. Within a mile's travel, we were down two ski poles.
After splinting the broken poles with saplings, tape, dental floss and shoe laces, the trip to Moose Pond took nearly four hours. Conditions changed drastically as a cold front descended on the Chubb River Valley, with gusting winds driving pellet snow with such force that it felt like rapid fire from a BB gun.
I instructed the two friends to carry on as I waited at the bridge below Wanika Falls for the Doctor to catch up. It was almost three o'clock and we had nearly six miles to travel. The cold weather had firmed up the wet snow and iced the tracks, making them fast but difficult.
By the time he showed up, I was cold. "No time to rest", I explained, "We've got to make the trailhead before dark."
For the remainder of the journey, we skied together. He was exhausted and struggling. We were reduced to walking on the skis, since he fell so often when attempting to glide.