WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH...
Our tough ski touring Jack Russells cadge a lift. The Rando Chiens, surely the only ski touring Jack Russells in the world, sometimes need a dog's best friend as in a man to carry them on the traverses...
They may be small but a Jack Russell has the heart of a lion. There's not much that fazes them except maybe knowing when to stop. Twelve kilometres is no problem. Deep powder, though, will always spark a debate, shall we take our Jack Russells, Kiki and Beanie, known locally as the Rando Chiens, ski touring? Although spring touring with hardpack going up and sugary snow coming down is perfect for them, powder is another story. Beanie, who has longer hair that creates icy snowballs, has even been known to ride down in Gav's backpack.
The good thing about Jacks though, apart from their lion hearts, is that they are light on their small feet. Whereas bigger, heavier dogs sink in the snow, they can often walk on top of crust or hardpack and they're, also, intelligent enough to stay in our tracks rather than leap around getting tired.
They are also light, full stop (except our Kiki or Mama, who eats like a labrador, socks and all). Being light there is always the ability to pick them up or put them in a backpack when the going gets really tough. You can't do that with a German Shepherd.
On Sunday, we were 'shall we, shan't we' before deciding to take them for our planned tour up the Boussardes trees where the metre of powder from the previous week should have stayed cold enough for a decent ski down. Of course, as soon they heard the zip, zip, zip of bags being prepared and the ping of a transceiver turning on, they were hopping around like loons waiting for those three magic words, 'Come on then'
Going up, there was a well-defined ski tour track from ski tourers ahead of us so, for the Rando Chiens, it was just like a walk in the park (er literally, as it is part of the Ecrin but don't tell anyone).
Reaching 2230m, it was tempting to go higher but we could see that, for the Jacks, the powder would to be quite a workout for the descent, so it was agreed to transition.
This is when Kiki becomes incredibly animated. Not at the prospect of a run down, but at the thought of the pate en croute that she invariably receives when we take off skins, food being her number one incentive to do anything in life.
Meanwhile, as we tighten our boots putting them in ski mode and click into the bindings, Beanie starts to shake with excitement and wag her tail, knowing we're heading downhill.
But from the first traverse to find a higher line away from other tracks, it was obvious with breaking crust that for us, skiing, it was going to be 'technical' and for the Rando Chiens, running or rather ploughing through the snow, it was going to be 'challenging'.
As I said, they generally stay in our tracks but there was too much soft snow under the crust to make it easy. And the tracks were fairly deep so even craning their heads up like giraffes it was hard for them to see over the top of the snow where they were going. But we never skied far, always whistling and waiting for them to catch up.
Then Pike and Gav decided we'd go faster if they gave the girls a lift along the traverses. In Kiki's case, with that little extra winter blubber from too much pate en croute, this added an extra 10kg to whoever was carrying her.
About half way down the snow had less sun and was boot deep powder so I kept behind to make sure they were in Gav's tracks and then skied 10 or so turns and waited for the two little heads getting faster and faster as the snow became lighter. When we finally hit the cross country ski track Beanie rolled over and over with happiness.
It was then a short ski down to a treat for all of us as in Sunday lunch and beer at one of the best end-of-ski-tour restaurants in the world shared, of course, with the Randos followed by a lazy afternoon back home fighting for space on the sofa. #theonlyski touringJack Russellsintheworld #thisdogcan #perfectSunday