Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Week in Valdez

I was in Valdez last week, part for work, part for play.
I drove in on Sunday. It’s 5.5 hours from my house to Valdez, and when the weather is nice and the roads are dry, it’s pretty sweet. The falling rocks of the Glenn between Sutton and Eureka are sketchy, but after that, some good tunes, a book on tape, and endless views of the state’s most stunning mountains, pretty much take care of the rest.
While work was super busy, I did bolt to Thompson Pass on Monday afternoon to get a lap in.
It was the first time I ever skied in “the real TP” alone, and there weren’t too many people out. I spied some tracks on Catchers Mitt (I didn’t know that’s what it was called at the time) that looked like they had avoided the pervasive, variable wind effect, and seemed like a good tour.
On the whole, the run didn’t ski that great. Every turn was different, and ranged from up to a foot of wind-blown powder, to varying density slabs. The good snow was predictably deposited, and all the slab was easily carvable, though, plus, I knew what I was going to get from the skin.
Mostly I was just happy to be skiing after work in Valdez. I’ve been there enough to have had the opportunity numerous times, but I’ve not always had a board with me.
Rain and work kept me in town even after hours after that, so I was glad to have gotten at least one after work run in.
Late Wednesday night, Cody pulled into town.
The next morning we got up and met up with the H2O crew.
When Narva visited in March (pics coming), we did a cat ski with H2O. Actually, Narva did a day and a half.
At the time, I wanted to do a day of mechanized skiing with Narv. Basically, I decided to ski with H2O for a few reasons.
A couple falls ago I went to a talk given by H2O owner Dean Cummings, and for whatever reason, a lot of what Dean said clicked for me
Although there are a lot of operators in the Valdez area (I think we counted over a dozen?), H2O is the only one that is based in Valdez proper, that I'm aware of.
We cat skied with H2O back in March as it dumped. It was early in the season for them, everyone was stoked to be out and to be skiing and the vibe was really positive.
One the mountain, they had their A-game on, even as the wind howled across the ridges.
Even though the day we skied with them was pretty tough (storm skiing), they got us into some fun terrain.
I was impressed as well that a number of H2O’s guides call AK home all year, and a few even live in Valdez all year.
The guided ski industry and fishing industry are incredibly alike. There are a lot of good anglers and a lot of good skiers out there, not all are fit to be guides; when the fishing is good or the snow is deep, anyone can hook you up, it counts more when the goods are hiding; knowledge of local spots, and knowing when and where to go makes all the difference.
Lastly, a bit more unique to skiing, is safety: mountains, machines, and machismo stack up quick and make deadly bed fellows.
Having a handle on all these variables is stressful, but I liked how H20 handled themselves.
That being said, it's not news to anyone familiar with the sport, heli skiing is spendy. I justified the expense this year thanks to a generally crappy winter. Runs that I can say I've been proud of, and days that I can say I didn't constantly feel stressed, have been hard to come by. Since I'm not doing any fly-in trips, a day in a bird with professionals seemed like a worthy expenditure, not to mention it's something I've wanted to do since I moved here.

The day, definitely did not suck.
Our first run demonstrated the sharp contrast between the melt line and where the goods were stacked deep: high. The transition was quick, and went from about a foot of high quality powder to carvable crust in a turn.

Valley of the Tusk.
H20 has a huge amount of permit space in the Chugach, over a million acres. They generally operate alone, and they have a lot to chose from.

My favorite run of the day. This east-facing line had Dean on edge.
There real treat of the day for me, was skiing with Dean. We had a strong group  in our chopper, two snowboarders from Switzerland, and an older skier from LA who was openly intimidated to be skiing with 4 young guns, but showed he could step up.
Listening to Dean point out lines across valley and on nearby peaks, direct the pilot to drop in on areas to check out popped slabs and overhanging cornices, and just generally spout off about how much he loves those mountains, was fantastic. Better yet, our group, of the three that were flying that day, got to open every run, and never skied over anyone else's tracks.

Looking at a potential run from another run.

Dean points out what in most years is a gaping hole in a small glacier.

Dean drops in for the last run of the day on Chapter of the Tusk.

The camera caught Cody blurry, but I actually liked it more that way.

Another bonus, I got to ride up front!

Toward Thompson Pass.

Toward Keystone
The only bummer about the day: it had to end. We were efficient, and clocked out our vert by 2:30.
I guess we could have gone to the bar and drank away the rest of a beautiful day, but instead we got our gear together, drove up to the pass, and did a long, sun-soaked run.

Reverse view toward Catcher Mitt where I skied Monday.
The snow at the highway elevation was corn, and higher up it was about an inch of warm, carvable, perfect for opening up and making big GS turns on. We skied between Gully One and Snatch. We got chastised a bit in the parking lot for having a sled in the truck but skinning, but then, we didn't mention that we'd been skiing from a heli all morning either...

Photo: C.G.
Looking into Gully One, where we would ski the next day with much more limited vis.
The next day dawned gray and rainy in town, with snow and rain falling in the pass.
We grouped up with Nick and Crystal of H20, and two of their clients, Gene of N.C. and Kevin of Coloardo, who were doing a mellow down day tour.
Nick gave Cody a really comprehensive tutorial on sled skiing, two-upping, and towing. We both learned a lot from Nick.
Because it was snowing pretty good, we used the sled to shuttle the group about 800 feet up from the road, and toured into Gully One from there.

The snow intensified as we climbed, but Nick and Crystal lead us around to a ramp that got us to the top of a sweet run.

Top of the run, can't see a thing.
 Pure luck intervened while we transitioned, and the snow let up, opening into a surprise sucker hole.
We excitedly clicked in and took advantage of the light.

 Skiing with Gene and Kevin, and watching them get their first real taste of AK was awesome.
Valdez snow is so uniquely maritime when it falls, sometimes, I think if I make a snowball and lick it, it will taste like the ocean.

Saturday and Sunday we put what we learned with Nick to the test, and used Cody's sled to ski till we dropped.
Turns out, snowmachines are awesome.
Yep. I said it.
Touring is great and all, but despite what my friends say about how much I love uphill, I really just like to board. With the machine, we were slamming in runs faster than we could at a ski area. The more we did, the more efficient we got, and the better we handled it. By Sunday afternoon, we were climbing at 35 mph or better every run, not because it was cool, but because it just felt better the faster we went.
My favorite drop was on a ridge, where Cody would slow enough and I'd step off the side and just start running, letting him maintain some momentum and not get stuck before steering off the side.
I laughed everything we did it
I'm not going to say we were good, but we were having a blast.
To take a break from boarding, we'd mess around with the sled. I'd say this was wasteful, but really, our confidence with handling the machine just got better and better the more we rode.

Helicopter landing on Python. They were skiing the backside.

The true high speed chairlift.

Riding a sled changed the way we look at the mountains.
 I have to say, I really want a sled now. This is the third time I've used one this year, and they really change the game for skiing. Sometimes, its just nice to ski, and in that case, they're a veritable chairlift. More though, I like the idea of using them to extend the range of my skins, and bring distant valleys into the fold.
My wallet doesn't foresee a sled living in the garage, but you never know...

Thursday, April 10, 2014

How To Splitboard

I’ve heard a menagerie of reasons why snowboarders who were lured to the backcountry on a splitboard have quit and gone over to skiing.This never ceaces to both annoy me, and make me sad.
There is only one reason I ever find this transition to be acceptable – and that’s a topic for another post – anything else is just an excuse.
What I will say, and have said before, is that splitboarding absolutely takes more effort compared to backcountry skiing.
It’s not surprising that splitboarders are often known for their “hustle.”
They need to be much more actively engaged in their terrain choices to determine the best line, and to understand what their options are for a mode of travel, and which will be most effective.
I grew up snowboarding the east. I aimed for hardwood glades and mogul fields. For me, it was all about the challenge presented by the terrain and the mountain..even if they were smaller mountains.
To complain that splitboarding is too much work, is to miss completely the point of going into the backcountry at all.
If you simply want to whiz down a hill with minimal effort, consider staying on area…the green circle trails are usually the easiest.
While you should absolutely quit and take up couch surfing if the idea of having to work a bit for a fun line scares you, here are some tips to make the ride that much better.
My target audience here is pretty broad, so I apologize if some of the advice seems either basic or generic.
Learn how to ski, at least a little bit:
OK, despite the fact that the basis of this post is to keep snowboarders boarding as opposed to AT skiing, the fact of the matter is, at the very least, 50% of splitboarding is skiing.
Being comfortable on two boards is key. I have seen more than a few talented boarders lock up in fear when they had to point their split down a short embankment a fraction the size of your average Iowa sledding hill.
Splitboards don’t make for good skis, there’s no question about that, and you will never make skiing on a splitboard look good, but that’s not the point.
My advice: head to your local lift serve hill and rent or borrow skis for one day a season and ski groomers on a day when the backcountry is not inviting/safe. If that’s not an option, try Nordic skiing (WHAT!?).
The time spent on skis will help immensely with balance and technique, not to mention, skiing is actually fun (YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!) Remember too, if you do any Nordic: neon lycra makes you faster.
Here’s some easy tips. On uphill travel, remember that splitboards are wide, and will struggle to sidehill across firmer terrain. Be aware that your downhill ski, which will have the shaped outside of the board edge as the inside ski edge, will have less bite than the straight edge of the uphill ski (inside for board). Expect less security from your downhill leg on firm snow. A set of Voile touring mount riser blocks will give you more leverage on an edge. Investing in ski crampons, which are offered by all splitboard binding makers, can make tough, low elevation rain/melt crust, or wind hammered ridges, easier by many fold.
Steep kick turns are not a splitboarder’s friend.
While overall board weight can make climbing hard in general, heavier boards are especially tough to repeatedly swing around kick turns.
The next two biggest factors when it comes to steep kick turns are the inside edge issues already discussed, along with the shovel action created by the twin tips of the boards.
As discussed, the side-cut issue will make it difficult to have confidence weighting a downhill ski.
The twin tips create twin  issues. The up-turned tail means you can’t anchor the tail of a split ski. If you follow a someone without a twin tip, you may see them anchor their tail from time to time. Meanwhile, the nose of the board can “shovel-tip” itself into the snow of a steep back wall on a kick turn.
The best bet to remedying all of this is to first recognize if a kick turn is going to be a problem before making it. 
If the turn is steep, hard packed, or washed out, plan on taking the extra second to hammer your inside edge in place with a firm stomp while executing the turn.
Always try to get you heels at least on level with, or slightly above the apex of the turn. Cutting a corner is not only harder, but it washes the track out, making the kick turn worse for the next person. I always like to tell people to try and step down into the kick turn if they can.
As for the shovel-tip issue, if the backwall is steep, and looks like it will try and capture the tip of the board, use your pole to cut away some of the backwall first, and create more turning room. Do this by planting the pole and cutting an arc in a semi-circle through the wall, cutting away a block of snow.
Be sure to push this snow away if possible.
Steep kick turns suck up energy. If you’re already feeling pumped before you have to make a difficult one, slow down as you approach it, or take a breather before you begin. Never stop in the middle of a steep kick turn, you’re almost guaranteed to pump your legs or lose your purchase holding the awkward position. It’s much easier to rest above or below a turn. When you begin the turn, just keep moving, no matter what.
Typically, I modulate my pace on the skin track, moving with long strides as I leave a kick turn, and slowing and shortening my stride as I approach aggressive turns. How much I throttle my pace depends on how hard I anticipate the kick turn being and how steep the track is.
You will learn your pacing in time, and get stronger the more time you spend out.
Lastly, if the track is too steep, or too washed out, instead of cursing the creator, consider making your own.
Take care of you skins, both on and off the mountain. Spark R&D makes splitboard skin tail clips, which are highly recommended. There are also some DIY options out there. Keep your skins out of the snow during transitions. Incidental frost build up will usually occur around the tip and tail on the underside of the skin regardless. Rapidly rubbing the effected part of the glue on a shell or snowpants easily wipes the frost away and rejuvenates the glue. I don’t use skin savers and have had few problems, but certainly use them, or fold the skins on themselves, when you put them away at the top of a run. On colder days, it may be helpful to throw the skins inside your jacket while you transition at the bottom of a run so the glue rejuvenates a bit. On really cold days, I usually make my descent with my skins inside my shell.
If you’re riding for days in a row, make it a priority to dry your skins before each outing if possible, treating them like you would a critical base layer you need to be dry. If I don’t think my skins will have time to dry on their own, I will use a hair dryer to help them out. Otherwise, I hang them up in a warm, dry spot. When putting them away for a few days or an extended period, let them dry first, and then keep them stuck together, and sealed up as much as possible.
Skin glue will wear out with time, and the skins traction will fade. It is your decision on how much TLC your skins need, and when to replace them.
Identify the terrain and the appropriate mode of travel
OK, now we get into the meat of it. As a splitboarder, you have a number of different travel options. Deciding on the fly which is most appropriate takes experience, but here are some tips.
·        Board
Duh. You’re a splitboarder. This is what you came out here to do after all. For the most part this is fairly obvious, but what about running into a short decent on a long approach? My criteria, is that I typically won’t put the board together for anything less than 400 vertical feet. It’s just not worth it. There are caveats though. One for sure, is safety. I’m pretty comfortable on my split skis, but if you’re not confident in your ability to split ski a slope, whether due to steepness, snow quality, or obstacles like trees and rocks, do what you know best.
·        Ski
Pssst, I’ll tell you a secret: split skiing is easier with your skins on. Skins are like training wheels. They slow you down and give the skis some consistency. If you’re intimated by a descent, but think it’s too short to make it worth going into board mode, try descending with your skins on. You can traverse around easier, climb out of tricky situations, and avoid losing control. While a more advanced skier might rip skins and milk the short shot, it’s probably not worth your time, and you may be down it, and moving onward before they even get their skins back on. Making a descent in ski mode without skins is more ideal if you need to trudge out a long, powdery valley bottom where you can maintain some glide, but cannot cross country snowboard, or need to drop a short, mellow slope.
·         Cross country board
Ah yes, this is my favorite: Cross country snowboarding, also sometimes called Euro-boarding, is when you keep your board together, and whip out the poles to help keep you going. Ideal terrain for this is either a descent punctuated with shorts flats or a short rise; or gradually descending, firm packed valley bottoms. Typically, you will want to stay on an established track or other packed surface where you can stay afloat and get some pushing power out of the poles. I use this frequently on gradual exits where momentum and gravity alone don’t let me maintain speed, but anything from a regular to intermittent boost from the poles will be enough to keep going for anywhere from 100 yards to the car, to a few miles of winding fire road.
Flat/gradual or short uphills
·         Shuffle ski without skins
Basically, the same as skiing, but now you’re pretty much just shuffling. This is more effective in flat valley bottoms, crossing lakes, etc, where the snow is either cold or dry, or firm packed. In the former, the abrasive cold powder may actually provide enough friction that you can begin to classic ski. Start with very short quick strides to get moving and then lengthen the stride until you get into a good rhythm without much slip. On firm packed surfaces do this and double pole, or skate, sometime a mix of the two. I use this technique often when heading across a short valley back to the car.
·         Skin
Yep, this is obvious: You’re headed back up. Also, if you’re traveling through rolling terrain, or fast, wetter, fresh snow in flat terrain, you’ll be better on skins. In the latter, you may find this to be the case even on slightly downward tilted terrain.
·         Boot
AKA, getting back to your roots. In some situations, the best bet is just to step out and walk. Classic terrain for this will be a long rolling descent punctuated by either small hills or flats that can’t be powered over/through with poles, or well-traveled traverses where a track will provide decent footing. In certain situations, I will pop out of my bindings on a flat, and find skier friends down the trail, trying to duck walk with their skis on, while I walk past them, step back in, and wait for them to catch up. Keep in mind, booting can also make other peoples’ lives suck. If you’re tearing things up, don’t be a jerk and make everyone else suffer.
Splitboarders have a lot more going on with their gear than skiers. Regardless of what binding system you use, you have more stuff mounted to your deck and secured to your feet.
In general, investment will pay off. You have to schlep your gear to the top of a mountain, and every pound you carry is a pound trying to keep you from the summit. More, you actually want to enjoy the ride back down.
My experience with DIY boards is that while they may offer a more familiar ride and a bargain price if you already own it, they’re climbing performance will suffer, and they likely won’t be the right board for technical terrain. It’s rare that I espouse true board elitism, but my experience is that if you want a good ride and performance, buy a board from a snowboard company. Jones is hands down my top pick, but I hear a lot of positive reviews from riders on LibTech and Venture. My first board was a Voile Mojo. I still have it, and call it “old reliable.” It’s base has been scared deeply by early and late season thin cover, it’s not very light, it’s ride quality in deep pow sucks, but it was a pretty good jack of all trades, and a great starter. Voile, while also a ski company, has been in the split business for a long time, and while their boards lack somewhat compared to the competition in overall performance, they won’t beat up your wallet as bad either.
For bindings, I’ve gone back to basics, and recommend a puck and pin system. I think that either Karakoram, Spark, or some unknown upstart will eventually emerge with a proven, reliable system, but based on my own experiences and reviews online, I’m going to let them battle it out and smooth out the kinks in their respective systems before I sink any more cash into unproven tech.
Boots are straightforward: comfy, warm, lightweight, and responsive. I’m rocking Burton Driver Xs. They’re all the above. They do have known issues with the lacing, so beware. I will say that I have never heard someone on the skin track comment:
“Dang these boots are chaffing/killing/freezing my feet, but I’m sure glad I got them for dirt cheap.”
If you’re on a budget, consider splurging for the boots…there’s no lodge in the backcountry to retire to if your feet are shredded.
Keep hardware mounted to the deck and the bindings tight, watch straps for wear, and pivot points and connections for play. Touring is stressful on equipment. Sure, you may only do a few runs a day while touring compared to dozens at a resort, but you are actually probably working your boots, bindings, and boards as hard. What’s more, in certain cases, failure may carry consequences. Keep everything tuned and replace worn parts before you head out on an epic.
My standards for gear are reliability first, lightweight second. I want to be confident in my stuff, and I don’t want it to weigh me down.
Kind of in the same vane as equipment maintenance, keep your bases waxed for conditions. Skinning is nasty on the bases. Ice crystals that sit between the skin and base will dry things out. Meanwhile, no snowboarder wants to get caught in a flat. Good glide can keep you cruising through. I usually wax every other weekend, or after a significant change in weather. I usually put the boards away for the season with a coat of Swix pink I can scrape off quickly should I do any summer skiing. In the late summer or fall, I will throw on swix purple so the bases are more inclined for colder glacier powder in September or October.
Make sure to do a good job scraping and brushing bases after waxing. Residual wax will end up stuck to your skins, killing the glue, and possibly your run. Resort skiing, you can get away with being lazy on scraping, and just slam a few icy groomers. Not so when skiing powder.
Travel with the right crew
Probably nothing kills me more than the following two statements:
“I quit splitboarding because I was tired of being the ‘slow-boarder.’”
“I quit splitboarding because I was tired of my friends dragging me on huge traverses and making my life hell.”
If this is you, if your friends can’t wait 60 extra second for you, if your friends are intentionally taking you places to make your life suck, or intentionally skiing lame traverses, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but these people are not your friends.
First off, your transitions should not take significantly longer than a skier’s. If they are, you need to figure out why and speed it up. It’s true, you may have to stay on the hustle, but that’s fine, you came out to ride, right?
If your skier friend(s) can’t sit tight for an extra 60 seconds though, what makes you think they’re gonna have the patience to dig you out of a slide, or have the patience to keep eyes on you while you drop a technical line?
As for your friends trying to make your life hard, well, good-natured ribbing is a part of the skin track conversation. If your friends intentionally ski areas for no other reason than so you suffer though, that’s both your fault for going with, and their character flaw for being d-bags.
Snowboards perform best in steeper, deeper terrain. This is what you should be looking for when you go touring, and your partners should be looking at the mountain the same way. Most my skier partners would be described as having an “aggressive” style. They like to open it up, and look for direct fall lines, or playful features.
It’s not to say they’re doing it right, and any other way is wrong; I also have ski partners that can work a mountain to death, eeking out turns where no one would imagine them. I admire them as well. That doesn’t mean I’ll traverse halfway across a bowl to wiggle a half-dozen turns on some roll-over, but you bet that I’m happy to share trail breaking, and keep eyes on them while they get after it if they do the same for me.
The best dynamic in touring partners is teamwork. Everyone is out there for the same reason: having fun and skiing pow. Your crew should be talking the whole time about what’s best for everyone. When it works, it’s awesome, and you know it.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Marching On

The month of March has come and gone. Normally the highlight of the long ski season, this year, it featured not only the deepest, but the most consistent conditions. That being said, in general, conditions were passable, but meager in comparison to what we know.
Instead of doing a bunch of posts, here's the bulk of the month, sans Narva's visit, in one, mostly photo, conglomerate post.

March 8: Delia Creek

Nathan, Cody, and I  started our day in Stair Step on some 16" of fresh with the consistency of cotton fluff. Unfortunately it was sitting on a base that hadn't seen a refresh in over a month and a half, and had been subject to two significant melt events. Basically, it was a lot of dust on a crust; and Mr. Weend showed up and helped to unevenly distribute it.
We learned pretty quick that the terrain we often seek out in the Stair Step and Delia area was not ideal, and that broad slopes were the better bet.

Also, this happened. Busted Ankle straps.
The ankle strap on my Karakoram Split30 snapped off at the inside strap as I was unbuckling after our second lap in Delia and third lap for the day. I was pretty ticked off, but could not help but laugh at the fact that this was the second time my Karakorams failed in Delia. This was also the Karakorams last tour.
Also, I came up with a new slogan for Voile ski straps, since Nathan and I have made extensive use of them while we used Karakoram: "Voile ski straps: You can't ride Karakoram without them."

Nathan made three great turns in the top of one of the Stair Step couloirs...than he hit the base.

Cody over a powdery knoll.

The Stair Step couloirs. Last April they were our playground.

March 21: Pyramid Peak

After the mid-March refresh, Turnagain was skiing well, and the west face of Pyramid seemed like a good call, having slid to the ground already earlier this season. I called Mike Kelly, and he suggested we use machines to access.
I had no objections.
Colleen, Mike and I buzzed up the snowmachine uptrack on the motorized west side of Turngain in a hurry. I had a good laugh at how quick it was to power up the slope on the well broken trail, compared to the normal tour I've done when the area is closed to machines. Both Colleen and Mike are competent sled riders, and though none of us had been to Pyramid before, we cruised the sometimes rocky ridge, riding right to the summit, with one machine staged about midway in a nearby drainage.

Mike staged his machine below and Colleen and Mike rode to the summit together on hers.
 The west face had some big cornices, but Mike kicked steps down the northwest corner of the peak and scoped out an entry. It was a bit aggressive, especially with the steep, icy north face falling off on the other side. The upper slope skied marginally, with some wind-impacted breakable that gradually transitioned into more consistent powder. Looking back at the slope from the bottom, it didn't really matter!

Mike drops in.

Colleen follows.

Colleen finds a sweet spot.
 The face reminded both Mike and I of Spiritwalker. Though not as steep, or as long since we did not chase it all of the way to Seattle Creek, it was still expansive and long.
The beauty of using machines for this trip came out as we began to skin back up to Mike's staged machines. At mid elevations, the snow was awesome, boot-top+ and consistent. If we had toured all the way in, our best freshies would have been on the uphill, but with machines, we were able to ski the big face, and then get several laps in on the ultra playful bowls nearby before calling it a day.

Suns out, guns out.

The summits were covered in a rime-encrusted satsrugi. Though this one did not, they often resembled oak leaves, and some were very large.

We skied in the bowls near Pyramid and found more ski tracks than machine tracks.
On the way out, climbing out of the last bowl before we were to begin the descent down the uptrack, Mike's sled had a major mechanical. He was able to limp it out the rest of the way, but it made for an interesting and icy dusk descent back to the highway. We were glad the machine decided to give out when and where it did though. One bowl back and we would have had to leave it behind to a later tow and possibly a late night of skiing or shuttling.

March 22: Pastoral

Nathan, Cody, Lizzy and I headed to Pastoral. After several days of mid-week sun, there were a lot of people out and about, and I saw more people on Pastoral than I have ever seen before: 12. I guess in comparison to other places, sharing a mountain the sized of pastoral with 12 people is kind of having it to yourself, but it felt different.
Conditions were pretty marginal, but worthy of a couple laps. We found a bullet proof crust off the summit, and breakable but easily caravable the rest of the way.

Photo: L.P.

Sword fighting at Taylor Creek Pass. Photo: L.P.

We could start a boy band. Cody is the sensitive one, and we all know Nathan is the bad boy. Photo: L.P.

Photo: L.P.

Photo: L.P.

Photo: L.P.

March 23: Plan B Ridge

I don't really know what this place is called, I called it Plan B last year, after Lizzy, Colin, and I aborted a summit bid on Kickstep. Basically, it's whatever Center Ridge grows up and turns into. Nathan, Cody, and I headed back here and notched some laps. The higher elevation stuff skied similar to Pyramid, but the mid-elevation was the same boot-top, and south facing chutes were supportable enough to make GS turns in.
No ski is complete without a...

Do the chutes behind Pastoral even have names?

Cody makes the variable look good.

March 29-30: Arkose Peak and Ski Camping

Lizzy and I set up a base camp a few miles up the Little Su and did some exploring around Arkose and Souvenir peaks.
Bear tracks, a few days old. Lets see if we can find the den and make it into a snow cave. Photo: L.P.

Arkose Peak. Want perspective? Look for Lizzy.

Arkose Key Slot Couloir. It goes.
Conditions were really variable thanks to Mr. Weend and his dog Mr. Woompf. It was one turn on recycled pow, one on breakable, one of supportable wind slab, and another on February melt crust. We picked an anonymous, sun-cooked couloir. It probably skied more consistently than anything else around: 2 inches of corn on a rock hard base.I would not have been able to boot it without strap on crampons.  If it slid, it was going to go catastrophically. We aborted the climb less than 50 feet from the ridge when I hit very old hang fire. The two inches of corn turned into 16 some odd inches of sun hammered mank that was sitting on a hollow layer above the rock-hard crust. While the amount of hang fire was somewhat insignificant, I knew if it popped, it was going to go, and rip out really fast with high consequence. Honestly, I think it would have held, and it was frustrating to have to drop from so close to the top, but I've also learned that my two closest calls have come on days like this one where I'm skiing extremely variable. I think the fact that every few steps I'm on a different surface with different stability numbs me. I was glad we decided not to push it.
Photo: L.P.

Photo: L.P.

Photo: L.P.

Photo: L.P.

Photo: L.P.

Back at camp: Photo: L.P.

We set out camp up close to water, but in the shade in the morning. It was pretty cold. Photo: L.P.

Souvenir. Sometime. I also really like the hanging field and chute looker's left.

Skinny skis

Some random shots from mid-week.
Luge track down Rovers.

Fresh snow in Campbell,

When I grow up, I want to drive one of these.