Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Japanuary 2015

Skiers have a dream of floating through empty trees while huge snowflakes fall around us. It’s seemingly silent as the new snow drowns all sounds. Stopping to look up, individual flakes materialize and drift down from an infinite mass above.
The beginning.

That dream was my image of Japan. With the sun barely 7 degrees above the horizon at noon, I wasn’t going to spend all of January in Alaska.
The first lift ride.

The planning began back in July with an email to Miles Clark. The response: I’m in Indo surfing, getting over dengue fever, call me.
Free refills on day one.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lime Creek - 1.1.2015

When I bought my sled years ago, the first thing that I did was to pour over topo maps dreaming of sled skiing potential. Over the years we've explored the likes of Steamboat, Wolf Creek, and Crested Butte. Despite the iconic zones of North Shore, East Vail, Euphoria, and Black Lakes Ridge, we've neglected Vail Pass.

Almost ready to leave the trailhead.

Back in Colorado, and finally with plenty of light, the old crew reassembled. Ethan just back from Nepal, Jordan busy with the race team, and myself back from Alaska; basically all out of the loop.

Dropping into our first run.

Given our lack of knowledge about the snowpack, we wanted to avoid the deep instabilities lurking on north aspects. With easy sled access and a stable aspect, I settled on Lime Creek, halfway between Redcliff and I-70.

Photo: Jordan Scheremeta

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Pinnacle Tour - 2.1.2015

Tucked away at the top of Archangel, Fairangel Valley is one of my favorite places. With our non-stop window of high pressure, Alex and I wanted to visit the hidden gem.

The Lost Couloir behind us, a great low-vis line. 

Pulling into the Independence Mine parking lot last Sunday, we were greeted by strong winds flowing down the valley. Well, crap, there was high pressure parked squarely over the Gulf of Alaska, these weren't gaps winds. Hopefully just local katabatic winds from the night air draining from the mountains?

Still a bit thin in the Talkeetnas.
The winds persisted as we approached the last steep pitch into Fairangel, and crossing above a small convexity, cracks exploded from Alex's feet. We needed to figure out what was going on before moving on. I found a test slope that matched the aspect, elevation, and pitch of Fairangel. It slid as I skinned under it.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Kickstep - 1.25.2015

There are days that you know that you have everything in your favor: weather, stability, beta, etc. Then, there are days where some pieces of the puzzle might not fit, you don't know how it will turn out.

Josh on the approach up CFR ridge.

Sunday was a day that started out as a question mark, but in the end, it lined up perfectly.

The warm up run.

The question mark was the weather, forecast to be cold and breezy. Cold enough that a wrong turn, avalanche, or crevasse incident could mean hypothermia. We set our sights on a smaller objective: the Library via Tincan Proper.

The Library dwarfed by Kickstep.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Basketball Run - 12.13.2014

Saturday is a tricky day for weekend warriors. After spending the week out of touch, you have to sit down  and synthesize what you missed, and figure out how conditions will evolve. Ideally you think of a zone that has a few contingency plans built in: lighting, stability, and access come into play.

Starting the day with a new twist on the self destructive Plum bindings, this time a disappearing toe pin for Malcolm.

The 13th was such a day. Because we'd likely be dealing with flat light, we'd want rocks for contrast. Zones throughout Southcentral can fit the bill: Fairangel Valley at Hatcher, Ram Valley in the Front Range, or Falls Creek on Turnagain Arm. All those zones have snowpack problems at the moment.

Reaching Taylor Pass, dark and windy behind Pastoral. Coincidentally, that sub peak has a spectacular south face.

Turnagain has some good chutes, but they can be crossloaded. We needed to improve our stability odds by picking an area with options, and decided to skin towards Taylor Pass. Perhaps the South face of Pastoral, maybe the Granddaddy Couloir, or the Basketball Run?

Traversing under Basketball towards the start of the bootpack.