Thursday, March 31, 2016

North Basin Mountain

Back home and recovered from the Grand Traverse I felt the draw for adventure. I thought about giving the main couloir on Basin Mountain a go, but remembered seeing a nice chute on the north side of Basin during a trip a month ago.

Took this pic during that trip.

An inch or two of new snow blanketed the upper Buttermilks near sunrise.

The lower flanks are bare for this time of year. I headed to the left of the two little notches on the right skyline.

The weather appeared to be lifting for the first couple of hours then the clouds descended and changed the entire mood.

The sun came out briefly as I traversed loose snow covered talus into the chute. Not exactly fun.

Looking down it was hard to tell where/how the descent would go.

It turned out to be a beautiful run. There were three or four inches of new snow over a firm crust - which made for decent, if not great, skiing, but the setting was fantastic.

Real pretty for the hike out too.

Nice to be home!
Nice to explore a new line too!

Elk Mountain Grand Traverse

My buddy Steve and I were at it again this year racing the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse. Last year was our first go around and this year could hardly have been more different.

First off we did not do the traverse from Crested Butte to Aspen. Due to high snowfall amounts and the associated avalanche hazard we did the "reverse" route which starts and ends in Crested Butte.

Last year we raced under a new moon while this year the moon was nearly full which meant we could see the fine mountain scenery the entire night. Here the moon leers over the start of the race (pic stolen from the internet).

Another distinct difference was the cold. Unlike last year's balmy weather we skied in very cold conditions. There were several bonfires along the route, but these were a mixed blessing. Their warmth was welcome, but when we left, the coldness seemed doubly harsh.

The cold and our inexperience in the cold led to frozen water bottles and bladders. We managed to drink enough for the most part, but we spent a lot of extra time fussing.

Another problem with the cold is that the skin glue does not work as well. Early in the race I "threw" a skin which promptly collected snow and became useless. Fortunately my back up pair had better glue and although I threw one later in the race it kept sticking well enough.

The "reverse" is a completely different animal than the traverse. Not only is the route different (although it is the same for the first several hours), but the type of skiing is much different too.

The "reverse" requires a lot more technical skinning, particularly in the latter half of the race. Steep kick turns, side stepping, and overcoming logs, branches, and rocks were all part of the mix unlike last year. Furthermore, the trickiest sections come in the last four miles when strength, focus and patience are waning.

The descents were more demanding too with pretty wild "bobsled" runs down trails and narrow roads made all the more challenging in the dark with a fading headlamp!

Perhaps one of the best things compared to last year was that I felt good and healthy. Last year was a difficult ordeal as I had remnants of a respiratory infection, a queasy stomach, and lacked energy.

This time I could truly enjoy what we accomplished!

Tough and rewarding.
Thanks for being a great partner Steve!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Ruby Lake

I did a great quick tour today on my lightweight race gear. Up Rock Creek again. After a fairly long slog up the Rock Creek road to Mosquito Flat, I veered right and headed up to Ruby Lake.

The picturesque Bear Creek Spire.

The skinning was pleasant up this creek channel to Ruby Lake.

The stunning Ruby Wall.

Ruby Lake and the Ruby Wall

Looking back down to Ruby Lake and up towards Mono Pass.

Lots of snow and fine alpine scenery up around 11,000' with Mt Abbot, The Petite Griffon (spire in the notch) and Mt Mills.

I hooked a left to the shallow saddle southwest of pt 11,902 (Lookout Peak) and skied a nice drainage down to Long Lake. The corn skiing was truly fun.

Open water spots are growing at inlets and outlets.

The snow was still firm enough to easily skate the lakes and meadows back to Mosquito Flats.

Nice day!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Rock Creek Hut Day 2

I have to say it is great to wake up in the mountains - even if the wind howled all night and I had a pounding headache! After a couple cups of coffee and an incredible breakfast burrito (thanks Janet) I was ready to go.

The big winds brought clouds and light snow.

 Three heading into the darker part of the valley.

Those are nice couloirs above Chickenfoot Lake.

The weather gradually intensified as we got up around treeline.

Happy to find some good skiing here.

Then a bit more slogging back to the hut.

By this time I was really dragging with a headache and slight nausea. Got to the hut and bailed out a day early with Brian who had to go to work Monday. Thinking/hoping it was just altitude sickness - we'll see.

Still a memorable trip and I was glad to be able to spend some quality time with good people. Thanks Elysia, Brian, and Janet. 

Rock Creek Hut Day 1

My pal Elysia set up this great trip up to the hut at Mosquito Flat in the Rock Creek drainage. Friends Janet and Brian joined to make it four.

I think we all figured it would be a short haul up to the hut so carrying some "luxury" items would be no big deal. All of our packs were pretty heavy and we all suffered a bit on the way up  - especially our feet.

Elysia at Mosquito flats. Yes, it was windy.

At the hut we refueled and tended to our feet. Sorry I caught you mid bite Janet.

After a bit we decided we needed to get out and go for a tour. Three coming.

Three going.

We wound our way up towards a knob with some nice views.

Near the top.

At the top.

The treed slopes on the north side of the knob had collected enough snow to make for good skiing.

Brian enjoys some pleasant turns.

Back at the hut Elysia fixed us up some fine vittles!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Lake Sabrina Ridge

After two days of travel and one day of unpacking and relaxing I was eager to tour again on home turf. We had two good storms roll through, so I was hopeful for good conditions.

I started in Aspendel where there was very little new snow - not encouraging.

But by the time I was up on the North Lake road I was breaking trail in several inches - better!

Yes, I take this picture every time.

This section of road is very popular for photographers in the fall. Doesn't look too bad in winter either.

I came across this amazing ice circle in Paiute Creek above North Lake. It was slowly rotating in place.

As I climbed I enjoyed the nice views of Mt Emerson (left) and Paiute Crags (far right).

I got into a little micro terrain. Fortunately this was the only spot requiring these tight kick turns.

Up on the ridge the views were truly astounding. Lake Sabrina drainage.

Lamarck drainage right of the ridge.

Oh yeah. The skiing was pretty darn good too!

Even got a face shot or two in here! Nice to be home skiing fresh blower.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The South Teton

Yesterday I hooked up with my buddy Jed for a big tour in the park. Grand Teton National Park. We arrived at the parking area under bright blue skies.

A little bit of skier scene here, but nothing like The Pass.

The morning started out cold and crisp, but quickly warmed as we skinned up Garnet Canyon.

A bit further up canyon the views open up. Middle Teton is the prominent peak. Our original plan was to head up the sunny slopes to the right to the Middle Teton Glacier, but the rapid warming on the sunny slopes gave us cause for avalanche concerns.

 So we continued up the valley which became more windswept as we ascended.

We skinned high onto the shoulder of the South Teton where we switched to booting.

Jed heads to the gully that leads to the summit.

The rimed summit zone was simply unreal and amazing.

 Jed took this one of me exiting the gully just below the summit.

Jed makes his way along the west ridge with a little bit of Wyoming and a whole lot of Idaho behind him.

Me on the summit with the Grand Teton off to the left. Elation!

We spent a nice spell on the summit admiring views and feeling good about life. Downclimbing the gully to our skis was easy. Then we had a bit of steepish windboard skiing which wasn't too bad. Jed makes it look easy.

Lower in the canyon the skiing improved.

I didn't realize how crooked the horizon is in this shot until I loaded it onto the blog. Left it as is. Pretty good skiing here too.

Fun line.

We enjoyed a little more good skiing on gentle slopes below here, but the lower canyon was a mix of powder and refreeze. By the time we reached Bradley Lake our quads were burning!

On the way back down to Jackson Hole we pulled over and I took this shot back towards the massif. The Grand dominates! The South Teton is somewhere to its left.

Definitely a ski for summit day versus a ski for turns day which was more than fine with me. The alpine scenery here is simply astounding. I feel blessed to have summited a Teton.

A memorable day for sure. Thanks Jed!!!