We gain the ridge at a low col and contour up to its crest. Cirrus is building steadily overhead as we drop-in for a short run to get a feel for the snow. Up for another, and then another which finds us on top of something a bit more real: longer, narrower, steeper. These early season hurdles which we methodically surmount each year are part of the process of preparing for the months and objectives ahead.
At the bottom with heart and legs pounding, the light is just starting to fade. With time for one more, we retrace our steps one last time, arriving at a sub-summit just before dusk. The sky is grey and crystallized droplets blowing around us confirm temperatures are dropping. I put on every piece of clothing I have with me and then start down for our last, and longest, run of this short December day.