Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Current Wasatch Conditions? Good Climbing, Bad Skiing

Since the early November powderfest in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah, the weather has given us nothing but warm and dry conditions. It is rather depressing from a skiing perspective, yet from a climbing perspective, these conditions are wonderful! The snowpack is saddled with a thick sun/rain crust that makes backcountry approaches quite easy; and, the winter routes are in good condition for some enjoyable mixed climbing.

This weekend we hit the North Ridge of the Pfeifferhorn: a Wasatch classic (the sunlit route in the middle-left of the photo). Additional photos at Mountainalbum.com.

We traveled up the Maybird Gulch...

...and began our climb up the northeast couloir.

The couloir maxed out around 55 degrees and had some good mixed climbing.

The remainder of the ridge provided ample bare granite...

...for good hand holds.

At times, the foot holds were a little sugary and exposed...

..but protection was good and we simul-climbed the route.

Nothing like a good glissade down...

...and a nice ski home. Ah, the Wasatch!

If tomorrow's storm bares any fruit, maybe we'll be back to skiing. Pray for snow!


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Conan Vs. The Moose

I was out running here in Park City to get in shape for ski season (which hasn't started yet, I don't care what y'all say), and as I came down the hill to my house I spotted this baby moose. I say "baby" but if you've never seen one of these beasts, they are massive. I'm not a small guy and I could have saddled up this infant and ridden it, no sweat. Spotting a moose on a trail in Park City isn't a huge deal, usually, except I was in-between baby and mama when I realized that they were there. Anyway, baby ran right up to mom and they both started looking at me like an angry bar bouncer at 1.30am (yeah, that's early, but remember it's Utah). They were not about to leave and they started giving me the "moose eye," so I had to go all the way back up and around to give 'em their space. Twice as much running as I had planned, though I did snap a picture with my phone and the evidence was worth it. -Conan Norkus, BC Gearhead


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sean Busby Rides Antarctica

A few of the Backcountry.com team athletes and blog contributors recently headed to Antarctica for a ski and snowboard expedition. Unfortunately, many of them never made it - the cruise ship from Argentina broke down and the original trip was canceled. However, a few hardcores persevered and found another boat to make the trip happen.

Sean Busby on his trip and travails, and bagging some turns in Patagonia while waiting for the boat:

November 7, 2008
"It’s go time folks! I have to keep this email quick as the luggage is being loaded onto the boat this morning and need to get going. I am suited up in my snowboard gear and am going to make one more trip into the surrounding Patagonia range for the day. Our new ship, the Akademik Sergey Vavilov, is supposed to leave dock at 4:30 P.M. I am stoked! I can't wait to get down there and see my riding objectives and complete this expedition. Thanks again to Padre Foundation, Radio Lollipop, and all the kids at Children's Hospital Orange County for hosting a wonderful live feed last night. I will talk to all when I return!"

November 17, 2008
"I am back in Argentina and heading home now. I will go into detail with everything when I get some time to decompress. The emotions of this expedition are finally hitting me and I keep getting overwhelmed and can't help but shed tears. This is a dream come true and I can't wait to share the experience with you all. Thank you for all the support and enjoy this preview!"

Check back soon for Sean's rundown of his epic trip.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

First Turns of the Season

Finally, the snow has arrived! Here in Wyoming I have been watching my friend, Steve Romeo getting out and making the best of the early season at TetonAT. Well, our season has started and the early birds get the worm.
I have to admit, I love early season turns almost as much as rippin' pow in cold, deep January. What is there not love? There are no crowds, you get to set the skin track, and it is just so great to finally be skiing or riding again. I hope you enjoy these pics taken this weekend on Togwotee Pass, WY.
Kevin and Al enjoying a wintery mountain morning:

Kevin looking into B-Couloir and getting ready to drop a sick early season line:

Kevin getting his second turns of the season. His first were on Bear Butte, South Dakota:

Big Al from Chadron, Nebraska (originally a UT boy) gets 'er done:

Finally, booting back out of French Spy Bowl on Togwotee Pass:

It was a great first day of the season! The waiting and anticipation for snowsliding is finally over. Now, we wait for those first face shots, gnarly lines, and many good times to be had this season. Game ON!

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Eight Pics & A Show


February is back in Utah*
*I use a powder calendar, not a Gregorian one...

2 Pix & 1 Clip to Prove it!

Shane fighting his way out of a waist deep bucket of awesome!

Shane does his best Dan Treadway imitation...

Shane surfs his way off the snow!

I break in my new skis with style!

I thought rockered skis were supposed to float?!?!

I time travel into the future and start skiing February pow!

I hang ten on some funny shaped boards...

Alex (the photog) making some turns after packing up his camera!

Camera! Lights! Powder!!!

I know, it ruled.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Get into the Backcountry!

Blogger after blogger on this site shows you the craziest adventures in the coolest places around, myself included. But is it time to actually get out and do these things yourself? One of the reasons I post here is to inspire more folks to get out and enjoy these amazing persuits; I mean if we all did these things this world would be a way better place!
Getting the Goods at VMT! Tommy Chandler Photo

So, has anyone out there been intimidated by learning how to get into the backcountry? For me when I started, it was one of the scariest things I could imagine. Avalanches, gear, weather...it all adds up to be a lot to think about. So if you are really wanting to get into backcountry skiing, I am running some week long trips at Valhalla Mountain Touring in British Columbia. January 4 to 11 and March 8 to 15, $1700 Canadian/person gets you lodging, meals and guiding and instruction from an IFMGA Mountain Guide in one of the most amazing ski touring locations in the world. Fresh tracks every run, gourmet meals, saunas at night...sounds like fun.

Backcountry Bliss. Tommy Chandler Photo

So if you want to join us up at VMT to get into the backcountry, drop a line via www.vmt.ca or find me on my blog at evanstevens.blogspot.com. I'll help you get into the backcountry from start to finish so you can find your own untracked lines!

See you in the backcountry!

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Notes from an East Coaster.

Most of the other contributors on this blog have the good fortune of living in such splendid locales as, well, anywhere in the Western half of the US. Mountains, good snow, mountains, and well, mountains are the supreme benefit of this. For some of us however, we must make use of the (comparatively sized) molehills on the other half of the nifty fifty. Now, these hills are nothing to scoff at; Mt Washington can pack a punch when the breeze is blowing – aka always, and Tuckerman’s ravine offers up some superb spring skiing.

In the summer we must look elsewhere for adventures, and elsewhere is Maine. Our quest led us to the Bigelow Range, a stretch of the Appalachian Trail just across the way from Sugarloaf/USA, one of Maine’s premier ski hills.

The range consists of a series of approximately 4000’ peaks, traversed along the ridgeline. It offers splendid views of Sugarloaf and the lakes and mountains in the surrounding area. It covers 18 or so miles from one end to the other. So in early August my friend Rusty and I set out to hike some AT along the Bigelows.

Rusty near the summit of Avery Peak.

To borrow some words from Summit Post.org:
“In May 2005, Backpacker Magazine named the Bigelow Range Traverse the tenth most difficult day hike in America in an article titled America's Hardest Dayhikes. Backpacker cited the 17 miles of black flies with attitude and 10,000 feet of elevation gain as reasons for inclusion on the list.”

In our infinite wisdom Rusty and I decided to set out at 1 AM in the morning. Our reasoning at the time was that, since we had just one vehicle and didn’t know how long the hike would take us; we needed to budget sufficient time to hitchhike back to the car at the end of the day.
The forecast called for scattered thunderstorms, but as a couple of college kids we were just amped to hike and reasoned that they “would scatter elsewhere.” We set out from a rutted dirt road off Route 27 and into the darkness.

The hike went smoothly until about 3 AM when Rusty’s headlamp battery went. On the drive up we had intended to get fresh batteries, but in our anticipation of a nighttime hike we had completely forgotten. So there we were. Halfway up a mountain in the middle of the woods at 3 in the morning, with one headlamp. Our first strategy was simply to hike close together so we could both benefit from the lamp, but as the terrain got more and more difficult this was less and less effective. Then we decided to scrap the lamp altogether and let our eyes adjust to the low moonlight. This worked relatively well, with only a few real tumbles between us.

As it turned out the hike didn’t take us very long. We emerged into the sunlight where the AT crosses Route 27 after hiking the traverse in about 7 and three quarter hours. This included the distance on the trail itself, as well as the hike up from our launching point.

This left us walking along an out-of the way, 2-lane highway at 8:30 AM on a Sunday morning. Needless to say, we didn’t have very good luck with hitching a ride. After ambling an additional 5 or so miles along the road, a friendly traveler stopped and brought us the remainder of the distance to the dirt road where we had began earlier that morning. All told, we estimated that we covered about 27 miles, a portion of which was in the car that gave us a lift.

We ended the drive home with a stop in at the busiest diner we could find, satisfied with our Maine adventure.

NOTE: Photos taken from separate day hikes to the area. Neither of us remembered to bring a camera that day…

The view.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

60 seconds of joy.

November 5.

Doesn't get much better than this...

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Wasatch Powdah!

I woke up this morning at the base of the Wasatch, looked out the window, and had a rush of excitement. A good dense layer of snow covered the upper elevation of the Wasatch Mountains, and the next wave is coming tonight. Here's some of last season's photos to charge some stoke for this winter. YES, YES, YES!!! Pray for snow!







Riding the Burn

Less than a month ago several of us decided to take a trip up to Ketchum, ID to get in a long weekend of mountain biking in beautiful Indian Summer weather before the late fall blew in and the weather turned.

I’d heard over the past couple of years how great the mountain biking up in the Sun Valley area is.

The trip started out in perfectly – the mountains were alive with sparkling gold aspen leaves and the mild temperatures made for some stellar riding conditions.

Saturday morning we drove down to a local bike shop – Formula Sports – to ask advice on the favorite local trails. The young man at the bike shop suggested Fisher Creek, which is located between Ketchum and Stanley on Highway 75.

The shop worker said it was only a half hour out of town but an hour and a half later we finally got to Fisher Creek.


Fisher was the real deal. It started out with several miles of steady uphill and then at least 12 miles of rolling single track back to the highway.

The ride started out in a burn area – and we were all fairly surprised at how grippy the trail was. The track swung through several canyons and reached a pinnacle with a log jump that entertained our crew for a good half hour.

After the log jump it felt like we were on endless downhill.

Fisher Creek was a blast, but the Ketchum hot springs that we soaked in after the 18-mile ride were even better.

The next morning for some reason we decided to go back to the same shop even though the kid at the shop definitely had a deficiency in the math department.

Another shop employee spoke up and suggested a ride off of the local favorite Greenhorn Trail. I had heard of Greenhorn. One of my friends back in Park City had suggested it because as she put it, “there’s almost no uphill and then unlimited downhill.”

Now we should have been tipped off when this guy (who did seem older and fit the mountain biker stereotype a bit more) suggested to us that when we got to Greenhorn everyone would take the trail head left but instead we should go straight up the trail to the right side of the parking lot.

From the beginning something seemed wrong. We are all in pretty good mountain biking shape, but all five of us where gasping and wheezing to catch air as we ascended the first part of the trail. In my head I kept thinking, “Jen said endless downhill – this is all up.”

We rode steadily uphill about 8 miles before we hit the burn. Unlike the burn at Fisher Creek, this was insane. The sooty sand was a good 6-8 inches deep which didn’t make for solid riding. We figure we ended up walking at least half of the 6 or so miles up the burn.

Walking up this dead mountain was almost surreal. The air through the scorched pines still smelled of fire and the view in every direction was dark and bleak.

By the time we reached the trails summit we were out of water and exhausted. Lying beneath a Lodge Pole Pine, I was inhaling energy bars when my buddy Jim said, “Lookout! Here come dirt bikes,” Jim & I leapt off of our perch to carry the bikes farther away from the trail so that they were not veered into by the careening dirt bikers.

I know one thing – the next time I see dirt bikers I am heading the other way.

Further on down the trail we followed the dirt bikers through what felt like feet of quick sand. The dirt bikes had churned Sun Valley’s loose dirt to the point that the trail was a river of sand.

After gashing my foot on my chain ring, landing on my butt after a spin out on a hopeless switch back and on my third fall of the day flying over a young live pine tree to crash head first into a pile of dead branches, I was ready to walk the rest of the trail but a funny thing called pride was keeping my flying forward on my bike.

Luckily, the last couple of miles spit us out onto the real Greenhorn Trail we were supposed to take. After we turned onto Greenhorn, 3 miles of hard, fast single track was a significant reward.
The final three miles almost made up for the first 20 brutal miles. Greenhorn was definitely everything it was cracked up to be.

As we loaded the bikes up in the parking lot, the conversation turned to our trusty bike shop employee. Was he sitting back in the shop with a beer, laughing his &*(^% off at those poor suckers who heeded his advise blindly?

I figured surely not, until the hot springs he recommended us hitting on the way home turned out to be a hoax – after a couple locals agreed that they had never heard of that set of hot springs I began to feel like we were the brunt of an excessively long and painful joke.

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