Tuesday, December 30, 2014

That's a Wrap

I just want to take all of about 90 seconds to acknowledge something here: this blog. As the year comes to a close, this blog has hosted 43 posts in the past 365 days, one more post than last year. Though I don't post nearly as much as I did when I wrote for a living, the blog has in some ways become more active. The Trail gets hit 2,000 times per month, and in the past two years has nearly doubled its lifetime hits. The most active posts remain gear reviews. Trip reports such as Bomber Traverse, skiing Mount Ascension, the Ruth and so on are fairly active as well.

It’s satisfying to see those numbers. I’ve found links to my posts in forums far and wide. I’m glad some folks get something from it. Admittedly, this blog is just as much for a public audience as it is for my own entertainment. I really enjoy keeping up with it, and equally, enjoy looking back on weekends, adventures, thoughts, and life stages gone by.

Thanks for reading!

In other news, here are some photos from skiing the past two weeks.

Skiing with Jeremy and Anthony on Sunburst. With a dangerous weak layer in play, conservative skiing was the name of the game but still fun.

Nathan and I went over to Magnum the same weekend to get a better look at the layer. Here was our second pit of the day in PMS bowl.

Nathan gets a better look at old slide debris on Magnum's west face from the November meltdown. The mini-fridge sized block was full of ground debris and hard as a rock.

The fabled ptarmigan pit. Though worthless in determining snowpack stability, these pits can shed important light on the diet of the feathered mountain dwellers.

This grainy image was captured during the 1940 International Split Ski Championships held on Magnum Mountain in Alaska. Here, an Italian competitor exhibits immaculate split ski free-heel form in the Pushki slalom course. Photo N.W.

Cody came up with the best skin track snack idea: Dinner rolls with ham and cheese (or prosciutto and prov) wrapped up. The two-bite snacks don't weigh much, pack easily, and are loaded with carbs, fat, salt, and a bit of protein.

Skiing solo on Xmas day it looked like I wold have Tin Can largely to myself. The day started with heavy snow, but the winds kicked up hard and blew out to blue sky, inverting tracks in the bowl.

The trees still skied well, and the quiet was much appreciated.

Miles and I made the best of what we thought would be wind-effected Sunburst on Friday. Conditions were much better than expected.

A nice view of Basketball from Magnum.

Nathan leaves a contrail as he drops the low cornice into PMS.

Joe drops into PMS Bowl

Joe squishes ants on a log on Sunburst. While the neighboring ridge looked like the Chilkoot Trail, we shared PMS with 4 other skiers, one big dog, and 2 avi forecasters. Not bad for an otherwise busy day.

We assessed exiting via the west face. The thought was that the first pitch was going to be pretty scratchy, even peppery, hopefully below that better. As we discussed this, the bowl lit up in vibrant orange. The choice was obvious, we took a third lap in PMS. Photo J.E.

Our choice to take the long route out let us enjoy a gorgeous twilight and headlamp ski back down Sunburst.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Tale of Two Turnagains

The Turnagain Pass of yester-weekend is something of a fickle legend. Was there ever snow at the road, was skiing something we have ever done from car door to car door? Things were starting to return to close to “normal.” Maybe this is normal.
It’s hard to imagine this October landscape, intermediated by the most heinous of bullet-proof rain crusts, could yield to anything but disappointment, and yet, it can and did.
With blue skies still hanging overhead, Cody, Aaron, and I headed to Taylor Creek with the plan to climb Gold Pan Peak and look at dropping into a line in Gold Pan or Super Bowl.
We took the obvious line up the ridge from Taylor Creek Pass. Our wind
slab avoidance was rewarded with a terribly crappy boot pack on slick, rime-crusted shale that later lost its icy coat and instead just slipped away beneath us with each step. Every limb contributed to upward progress. Eventually we reached a safe-looking patch of snow, and the boot became more forgiving.
By the time we made it to the summit, the storm was coming in strong, viz had reduced greatly, and wind speeds were hitting 40 MPH on the tops. The sight into the twin bowls before us was nightmarish: large crowns hung above slides that had run to ground; further down, in the murky milkiness, we could see the scattered, gaping grins of open gliders. With thoughts of the school-bus sized chunks of cornice that had failed the day prior, we backed away and focused our attention on Basket Ball, and its gully skier’s left.
We probably could have just skied B-Ball proper, but the gully held more appeal in the storm lighting and we knew held better snow.
The massive wind slab entrance grasped us for a few tenuous moments. The wind-lip transition into the gully was around 4 feet high. Cody lead the charge, skiing a straight shot across the plane, and with a motion, disappeared over the edge of the lip. He re-appeared at the top of the run in a safe spot. We watched as he stared down the run, watching some slough, invisible to us, disappear into the storm, before he turned and waved us in. One at a time, we got in as fast as we could.
From there, that line went down as the best of the season so far. It felt so good to be in something real, something steep, something that just felt worthy. The short-shots and hot laps that have dominated the last month’s-worth of outings have been fun, but this is really what it’s all about in the end.
Getting to the crux nub? Photo C.G.

Cody opens it up into the murk goods below. For lousy viz, the line skied fantastic.

Quick stop in a safe spot.

"It was the best of lines, it was the worst of climbs, it was filled in and deep, it was bulletproof rain crust, it was effort-less booting, it was rime-crusted death shale" - Cody Dickens in "A Tale of Two Turnagains"

Monday, December 8, 2014

Build Some Base

Fall is training for winter. It's on a weird plan, too much upper body; the mountains are built up in the alpine, thin and wimpy down low.
Warm and wet is good this time of year though. The layers are making friends with each other and ganging up on the alders. Mid-elevations are smooshed down nicely compared to the past two seasons, and despite gray bird conditions this weekend, the consolidated maritime snow skied great, even in the milky alpine.

Pics: talk!

More action in Seattle Creek on Friday with Kellen and Aaron.

Not sharing his soup.

Cody and I headed to Tincan on Saturday. Viz was in and out and there were a lot of familiar faces on the mountain. Perfect place to be.

The gliders from November are turning into perfect pillows.
Too stormy down south, and alas too slushy to ride the upper portion of Middle Fork.

Perfect tack lower down though and great lighting.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

What Are You Going to be for Halloween?

I’m gonna be a snow skier.
Yup, with Canadian Thanksgiving out of the way, it’s just about looking like November out there.
In the meantime, it’s not really so bad in those mountains.

Climbing above the clouds riding Abbott Ballfields to Glen Alps and back Wednesday night.
I met up with Rachel and Kyle for a planned one-and-done pre-turkey lap on Sunburst on Thursday morning.
We had sunny skies, no wind, and pretty nice snow off the top.
Unfortunately, some idiot forgot to put the memory card back in his camera, so no photos.

With gray skies and a chance for new snow on Friday, Cody, Joe, and I headed up to Seattle Ridge.
Here’s a fact: when we finally got up to the first bench and went to skinning mode, Cody and I kind of let Joe ride it out on the struggle bus behind us.
Joe usually gets up Seattle Ridge in a couple minutes via sled, and we knew he didn’t usually skin for his turns, but we assumed he had skinned at least a few times before.
You know how sometimes your friends think they’re being helpful offering you advice: “don’t use your poles so much,” “use your poles more,” “get through your kick turn faster,” “don’t try and go too fast”…and all you really want to do is just struggle on your own without Captain Obvious’ commentary and pitying stare.
Ya, so Cody and I, we think we’re being nice, giving Joe some space.
We get to the top of a selected run in Main Bowl, and Joe catches up just a few minutes later, and informs us that was his first skin, ever, and it wasn’t so bad…
Legendary on Joe’s part though.
We proceeded to knock out a couple runs in some gullies and trees in the stale boot-top snow.

Joe discovering the joyous freedom of the hills unhindered by mechanized snow transport, unleashed his inner-butterfly spirit child...or is just stoked for the first run of the day.
Maybe favorite picture from the whole weekend.

After a lot of thought I've decided to sell my snowmachine. Yep. I'll take $500 cash. It's pretty much good to go, just needs a ski, belt, track, motor, a couple other odds and ends, and a lot of WD-40. A shovel would be good too. Only serious inquiries please.

Photo: C.G.

Photo: C.G.

Photo J.E.

Cody checks the spacing between trees for conformity.

Photo: J.E.

Saturday, I stayed in town and caught a nice leg-refreshing spin with Phil. The snow was coming down hard while we rode, and I was reminded of why I prefer a classic or skate ski instead of a fat bike in soft conditions, but hopefully those activities will come soon enough.

Sunday was forecasted to be partly clouds, or partly sun, and for sure busy.
Cody, Joe, and I were joined by Aaron, and we headed back to Seattle. We climbed into the part that was not sunny, and for sure cloudy: solid white. We hit the ridge, and the skinner went south toward Triangle. We wanted to go north. The ridge is easy enough to navigate even when you can’t see up from down, but I pulled out the p-cord and practiced my rhythmic gymnastics. It proved its worth within 25 feet when we hit the first wind lip.
We located the trees at the top of Junior’s Bowl and Cody lead the charge into the white room.
It was sweet!
The wind had loaded the trees and gullies with knee deep, unconsolidated, cold snow. In the steeper slots we pushed a good deal of slow-moving fresh slough.
We hit the base of our buried skinner in Main Bowl, re-broke it, and lapped the gully for the rest of the day.
At one point I lead the group in a circle looking for another patch of trees.
Group: Dante, we just went in a big circle.
Dante: No we didn't.
Group: Yes. We did.
Dante: OK, maybe we did.
Cody: Want to look at the GPS.
Dante: NO! OK, maybe...damnit.
The exit wasn’t bad, we broke above the cloud layer and charged down the main face of Seattle Ridge. In the hemlocks it was sweet, but definitely more peppery farther down. We also helped mow down the grass and pushki, and were able to ski a couple hundred feet lower than on Friday with only a minor scuff or two to the bases.

End of the world?

Viz = 75 feet?

Joe used to sing for the hit boy band 98 degrees in the late 90s. (Photo: C.G.)

Aaron attempts the fabled telekinesis turn off an invisible wind lip.

Precious moments.

Emerging back into the light late in the day (Photo C.G.)

Photo: J.E.

Photo A.H.

When we could finally see what the snow we were skiing looked like...

...we realized it was pretty awesome!

Oh ya, we got snow in town again. So, November has started.