Thursday, April 27, 2006

Escape from Alcatraz Slot Canyon in Utah

Adventure report: Eric Godfrey and friends try to make their way out of Alcatraz, a deep, dark slot canyon in the deserts of Utah.Rappel into Alcatraz slot canyon in Utah

Popular Utah guidebook author Mike Kelsey and one of his companions Scott Patterson set out one hot afternoon to descend what looked like a short narrow slot canyon in a remote area of Utah. Mr. Kelsey had scouted the canyon from the rim and found an exit but what the slot had to reveal was still left to be seen. What they found was a deep, dark, very narrow slot that proved to be a little more than they had planned on. Had they been more prepared the canyon would have brought less challenges, but due to their unpreparedness for the obstacles the canyon presented, they opted to escape. Escape was extremely difficult and ended in using hooks to aid their way to a bench that brought them to a spot they could finally work their way out. Free from the canyon that had trapped them, they dubbed it Alcatraz. Alcatraz has now seen many descents from canyoneers, who thanks to our compadres, have dropped in knowing what was ahead of them.



My group consisted of four newbie'’s to canyoneering and me. The plan was to have another experienced guy along, but the group was getting large and everyone was pretty comfortable with navigating through the deserts of Utah. Shannon was an experienced climber; Jason had been down a few technical slot canyons and knew some of the basics. Ian and Tammy were experienced outdoors-people who moved to Utah from Michigan just to be able to do this sort of thing. Everyone had proven themselves in an easier canyon the day before and I felt we were ready to step it up a little by doing this incredible slot.

Fortunately for us we were able to make a descent of the canyon and escape via the conventional way, out the bottom rather than back up the top. One of the biggest charms of the canyon is the fact that you can drive directly to the rim where the slot begins. You can skirt around the rim and make your way down to a spot about thirty feet above the slot then rappel in from there, but you get style points and have more fun by backing your vehicle up near the rim, tie a rope to it, and rappel 160 feet to the canyon bottom from there. The canyon proved deep, tight, really narrow, and a romping good time for everyone. The slot section is only about a half mile long, but it takes between two and three hours to navigate because of the many “problems” encountered. It’s fun to observe from the rim on the hike back where the slot ends, and how long it takes to walk back to your car from there (about 15 minutes).

The weather was perfect, the conditions were great, none of the water was above our knees, and the canyon was as incredible as ever. Enjoy the video and be sure not to miss additional video of Not Mindbender, the other canyon we did this past weekend. Also read Scott Pattersons write up on their escape from Alcatraz found On Climb-Utah.com. Additional photos and larger video can be found atUtah Outdoors Blog.

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Perhaps Kate Moss is a snowboarder...

Head Skis has inked a deal with "Bad boy" Bode Miller to be their spokesman through 2008. Bode, who made a more significant mark on the Olympics news with tales of rabble-rousing than medals, is being compared to Kate Moss for marketability after her cocaine-abuse scandel in the UK.

Said Johan Eliasch, CEO of Austria-based Head, “I am extremely happy that Bode chose to join Head. Bode is the most exciting personality in alpine ski racing. He is also a globally recognizable figure due to his charismatic persona and exceptional ability.”

In addition to developing new equipment, Miller will participate in advertising and promotional initiatives.

“Head has a strong history in alpine skiing and an established supportive team environment,” Miller said in a statement. “With this opportunity I’ll be entering the next stage of my career by taking on new challenges and joining a talented and diverse team which shares my commitment towards excellence and innovation.”

From Brandweek.com

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Goat Sighting - Rick the backpacking guitarist

Summer. It's feeling closer and closer. I just got back from Moab this past weekend where it was 80+ degrees every day, I wore my Chacos the entire time (outside of a couple hours of rock climbing) and camped under the stars. Then this little gem landed in my inbox. Sure could have used it while in Moab.

This past week's "Show Us Your Goat" winner comes from the Rick's office. Rick and his traveling Martin Backpacker Guitar are now officially ready for summer delights.

As a weekly winner Rick will receive a Backcountry.com Nalgene water bottle that he can use on his next road trip and camping adventure.

Photo Shot by: Rick Vanderleek
Photo Location: In front of his work computer (where he should be working).
About the photo:
Aside from new strings I'm getting my Martin backpacker guitar ready for summer road tripping and camping. With the Goat sticker all is complete.

For those of you ready to book Rick for his campfire sing-a-long services word is on the street that although he hails from Michigan that he'll be roaming Colorado and Southern Utah in June. Leave a comment below and I'll be sure to let him know you're ready. Include your camping destination and your dates. Music provided by Rick and Backcountry.com.

If you think you've got what it takes to stick a winner but you haven't got a sticker to stick, well head on over to Backcountry.com and get yourself a FREE goat sticker. Then get out there and stick it, take a photo and submit it online.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Chris Davenport steps it up on Capital Peak

So this past ski season has been your year to step it up eh? There's been a lot of that going on...and it's still happening. Chris Davenport set out this season to ski all of the 14ers, those peaks in Colorado whose elevation is above 14,000'. It's not certain if he'll succeed in this effort as the snow is rapidly melting with spring setting in. Regardless, he's been skiing some VERY respectable lines and pioneering some of his own, including his recent ski descent of Capital Peak. (click the link and read it - trust me)

When a guy that has skied all over the world, is a two time World Freeskiing Champion, has been featured in dozens of films, coaches steep skiing camps, and is a solid mountaineer on top of it all (having climbed to 8000 meters on Makalu) says the following about a ski descent you know that he has been pushing the envelope:
Capitol Peak has only been skied once before, via the Knife edge Ridge, by Lou Dawson in 1988. Ours was a seriously committing line. I could go on and on with superlatives, but suffice to say this was the steepest and scariest line I have ever done on skis. For those of you that read the Pyramid Peak trip report a few days ago (we skied the first descent from the summit in almost 30 years) this line on Capitol was much harder, significantly steeper, far more exposed, and mentally exhausting.
Then there's this little parting shot:
If I never ski another line with that level of commitment and anxiety I’ll be a happy man.
So while the bulk of the ski world has hung up the sticks and pulled out the mountain bike there is still one man out there slaying the tall peaks with focus and purpose. For his sake, perhaps a little snow dance is in order.

The Full Story.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

"I want to ride my bicycle" - more snow in the Wasatch

On Monday a raging winter storm brought another 12"-15" of famous Utah powder to the upper reaches of the Wasatch Mountains. Winter just won't relent its grasp and give in to warmer temps and brown slopes.

As I headed out for a bit of lunch on Monday the snow was pounding, coming in sideways like a solid January storm...in April. I noticed that parked next to me was a shiny new Nissan Titan with a guy sitting in it. As I got closer I could hear music blaring from his stereo and saw that he was in full concentration mode, hands gripping the steering wheel (the truck was not running), staring forward into the falling snow, focused on an unseen distant point and unemotionally singing along to the Queen classic:
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride my bike
I couldn't help it, I had to stay and watch this scene playing out before me. If his focus and energy could have been harnessed in some way all of the snow then falling snow would have melted and evaporated immediately leaving a more appealing landscape for him to ride his bike. He kept singing along:
Bicycle bicycle bicycle
I want to ride my bicycle bicycle bicycle
I tried not to stare. It didn't matter though. He wouldn't see me. Although I'm all for winter to keep on giving through June, for just that moment I wanted to grant him his wish. I could feel his pain in the same sort of way I long for winter in the October when it's not uncommon for Utah to see temps in the upper 80's.

As I drove away there he sat, the music so loud it was as if I had it playing on my radio:
Cause all I wanna do is

Bicycle bicycle bicycle
I want to ride my bicycle bicycle bicycle
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride my bike
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride it where I like
Here's to you Mr. Bicycle Man in the shiny new Nissan Titan. I hope you can ride your bike soon.
P.S. - Like a faithful winter fanatic I had to get out and test the quality of the powder. I don't think it's going to melt soon enough for you.

Mike skiing Utah powder - in April!

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Friday, April 14, 2006

Got an old Avalanche Beacon? Give it a new home

Each winter there are many lives lost to avalanches. Although more and more of the backcountry skiers, snowboarders and snowmobiling who venture into the mountains are carrying avalanche beacons this is just the first step. You have to regularly practice finding buried beacons to stay fresh and ready. Most avalanche victims will not survive past 15 minutes.

Research carried out in Italy (Nature vol 368 p21) based on 422 buried skiers indicates how the chances of survival drop:
  • Survival drops very rapidly from 92% within 15 minutes to only 30% after 35 minutes (victims die of suffocation)
  • Near 0% survival after two hours (victims die of injuries or hypothermia)
  • Historically, the chances of survival were estimated at 85% within 15 minutes, 50% within 30 minutes, 20% within one hour.
(Stats courtesy of Wikipedia.org)

Considering these statistics Teton County Search and Rescue will be setting up a new beacon basin type practice area for next winter. It will probably be located up at Togwotee Pass but that has not been finalized. They are currently looking for older 457 (or dual frequency) avalanche transceivers that people are willing to donate. If any of you have one laying around just gathering dust please contact Ted Kyle or mail your beacon to Ted. This donation will be tax deductible (hint - this weekend is tax weekend for you procrastinators)

Phone: 307-733-4052

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 1885
Jackson, WY 83001

If you'd like to contact Ted via e-mail: tkyle AT jhre DOT net

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

In between seasons - skiing or rockclimbing?

Once again the big dilemma for those of us that are addicted to all things snow - Do I keep skiing and peak bagging in the Wasatch or do I hang up the sticks and pull down the mountain bike or throw piles of climbing gear into the trunk and head south for some Indian Creek splitter paradise. Decisions!

Last week I was skiing steep chutes on Mount Olympus near Salt Lake City and it felt like winter was going to keep on keeping on. Just yesterday morning before work I was skiing wind buff pow in a storm that felt like mid winter and now it's 70 degrees outside. Then this lands in my inbox - a photo from our friend Tree while he's climbing Red Rocks in Nevada.

I just picked up some new Salomon XA Pro 3D trail running shoes that I'm itching to use and the trails seem to be drying out in a few south facing locations. I guess it will be trail running today, possibly a little climbing tomorrow and then skiing again on Monday as another spring storm is predicted. Is there a better place to live in the spring time than in Utah? I think not.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Silverton Mountain - Free at Last

If Silverton Mountain, rated tops for steeps and powder among North American Resorts, is not on your radar screen it should be. After six long years of legal battles, environmental impact studies, BLM paperwork and applications and too many sleepless nights for owners Aaron and Jenny Brill the time has finally arrived that Silverton is open for skiing and riding just like any other hill in North America. That is you buy a lift ticket and you ride the hill.

After the announcement ski message boards lit up with excitement and enthusiasm for this next step for Silverton. Photos and trip reports have been the talk.

As one that has skied Silverton on two separate occasions when it was guided skiing only this news makes me so stoked for those that have had a chance to ride Silverton on their own.

From the press release:
Silverton Mountain is unique as it is the only all-expert ski area in the nation with no beginner or intermediate routes down the mountain.

Skiers are now allowed to brave this intense mountain on their own as long as they carry appropriate avalanche safety gear including avalanche transceivers and sign liability releases.

Because the mountain is extremely challenging, skiers should expect to encounter cliffs larger than 20 feet high (with some cliffs as large as 150 feet high) or slopes steeper than 50 degrees on portions of every ski run on the mountain. Professional ski guides will still be available for those who want guided skiing.

When was the last time your local hill used the words "all-expert ski area" and "brave this intense mountain" and required that you use an avalanche beacon? Yes indeed, Silverton is the real deal.

April is a notoriously epic month for them. What are you waiting for?

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Marc-Andre Beliveau Paralyzed in a Ski Accident

One of the funniest and happiest skiers I've ever known has suffered a serious accident and now finds himself changed forever. Marc-Andre Belliveau was skiing in British Columbia when he lost his line due to poor visibility and fell down the mountain impacting jagged rocks which left him with fractured spine and spinal cord damage. He will no longer have use of his legs - a serious blow for anyone but more impactful when skiing is your career.

Marc blew onto the ski world scene in Volume films with a flare for mixing backcountry lines with gap jumps and urban jib. He's been featured in TGR films and has skied all over the world.

It's been said that he continues to make jokes, laugh and sing while recovering in the hospital in Vancouver. Our thoughts go out to you Marc. Up up up!

If you'd like to donate to help Marc:
StandStrongAgain.org is pleased to announce that current financial donations and pledges will be dedicated to help cover the costs of helping Marc adjust to his life after the accident. The adjustment costs are significant and include medical expenses, physical therapy and modifications to his house to make it wheelchair accessible, to name a few. To learn more about challenges facing those with spinal cord injuries, please visit The National Spinal Cord Injury Association at www.spinalcord.org.

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Monday, April 10, 2006

Goat Sighting - Cameron Pass, Colorado

The snow theme continues despite the warm temps. This past week's "Show Us Your Goat" winner comes from the Colorado backcountry. Jordan snapped this photo while hiking his favorite stash, Cameron Pass, Colorado.

As a weekly winner Jordan will receive a Backcountry.com Nalgene water bottle that he can use on his next visit to his backcountry snowboarding stash.

Photo Shot by: Jordan Drysdale
Photo Location: Cameron Pass, Colorado
About the photo:
We hike this pass twice weekly and it never ceases to amaze us. The pass was mentioned in last month's Outdoor magazine. Hopefully this does not represent the changing of our virtually unknown backcountry spot in to a gaper's paradise. I love your site and purchase most of my gear, including my beacon, from here. We will keep shredding the backcountry as long as we can get our hands on the awesome gear you provide! Thanks a million!


Don't worry Jordan, Coulior Magazine did an article on it too. Heck, you know it's no longer a backcountry stash when Wikipedia.org has a page about your favorite location. We feel your pain. Just get up early and you'll still get freshies.

If you haven't got a sticker to stick well head on over to Backcountry.com and get yourself a FREE goat sticker. Then get out there and stick it, take a photo and submit it online.

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Yurt Trip in Colorado - Getting away from it all

Having never been backcountry skiing before, I wasn’t entirely sure of what I had gotten myself into with an acceptance of an offer to join my friends on a Yurt trip in Colorado. I had no avalanche training and had only watched people make tele-turns at Snowbird, but I figured it couldn’t possibly be that difficult. While the area surrounding the Yurt was avalanche free during our stay, and I quickly learned to find buried beacons, I was quite mistaken about tele-skiing itself. I’m definitely going to practice at the ‘Bird and on day excursions before taking on something like this again. Still, it was awesome to be outside with absolutely no one else around and more powder than we could handle.

Our trip began at the Wolf Creek ski resort which was close to our Yurt. Blue skies, a slight breeze, and a few happy smiling spring breakers helped to offset the awkwardness I felt with a bulky pack and rented tele-skis. We quickly lost the crowds and found ourselves in a gorgeous winter wonderland. As a climber our trek in certainly left me with a much greater appreciation for those who strap on skins and hike up for their turns. Though the distance to the Yurt was not terribly far, I was completely exhausted by the time we arrived, and was extremely relieved to shimmy out of my pack and collapse on one of the beds. The Yurt was far more comfortable than I had expected, stocked with the amenities that you never think much of until you must go without. We got a fire started and were warm and cosy in no time. Having started fairly late, it was nearly dark by the time we arrived, so we decided to postponed our first turns for the morning.

We awoke to several inches of new snow with more coming down, and we excitedly set out to take advantage of it. Tomas and Lisa are quite experienced telemark skiers and had a fantastic time the first day, making some beautiful turns. Rob didn’t seem to trust dropping his knee and mostly opted to ski alpine style on his gear. I managed to spend most of my time trying to get back up out of the snow after face planting. It seemed that becoming accustomed to a free heel setup would take me a bit longer than I had anticipated. Despite these difficulties, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and was determined to get a few “real” tele-turns before the time there ran out.

It snowed almost continually through our trip and we got some absolutely amazing skiing in. The snow kept coming down during our entire stay. All told, we got over two feet of snow over four days. It was absolutely amazing. As the snow got deeper, we moved to steeper slopes (always making sure to be cautious of any avalanche danger) and I finally discovered the meaning of “hero snow”. Everything seemed easier in waist deep powder.

Our trip was a total blast and I am definitely going to join everyone on next year's adventure. But this time I'll definitely train beforehand- no more face planting for this chick. If you’re looking for a fantastic winter backcountry trip- you should seriously consider checking out the Colorado or Utah Yurts.

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Monday, April 03, 2006

Legend Doug Coombs killed in a fall

Updated and edited (4-5-06)

I didn't believe it myself that the legend Doug Coombs had died in a fall earlier today but sadly it is true.

Doug was skiing a steep coulior in La Grave France when his skiing partner fell and was swept over a 600' cliff. While trying to inspect his partner's situation Doug himself fell off the same cliff.

He was one of the most prolific ski mountaineers of the past 10-15 years having pioneered lines in Alaska, the Tetons and Europe. He was an Exum Mountain Guide and most recently had guided ski descents of the Grand Teton.

Beyond that and perhaps foremost he was a loving father to his son David and a loving spouse to his wife Emily.

We'll miss you Doug.

Backcountry.com will be donating to the Doug Coombs Memorial Fund and urge you to do the same.

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