Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Exum Ridge

With Bria out of town and no local climbing partners yet, I responded to a partner posting on MP of someone looking for an exum ridge partner.  I met Nico for dinner in Jackson the night before our climb.  He was from Germany, in the midst of a month long US climbing trip and had never been to the tetons before.  The following day we had a blast climbing the full exum ridge together in perfect weather – a spectacular introduction to the tetons for Nico! 
classic view from the lower saddle
nico following the black face pitch
golden stair 
friction pitch
looking down the V pitch
We swung leads on the lower exum (III 5.7) with me lucking out and getting to lead the stellar black face pitch.  We simuled and soloed the bulk of the upper exum (II 5.5) but pitched out the friction pitch.  Although I had climbed the upper exum previously, I had apparently bypassed the friction and V-pitches since both were new to me this time around – go figure.  There was a line at both rappels but we eventually made it down to the upper saddle and continued down to the car, arriving a bit before dark.  A long but outstanding day.
teton shadows above bradley lake on the hike down
Rose: the exposed jug-hauling on the black face pitch
Thorn: crowds – at the base of the route and the rappels
Bud: this was my third time up the grand by a different route but there are still several more I’m looking forward to climbing

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Buck E ridge loop

On a day with a marginal weather forecast and no climbing partner, I set out to climb the somewhat classic east ridge of buck, one of the last major teton summits I hadn’t yet climbed.  The climber’s trail up stewart draw was well established and easy to follow. 
early glimpse of buck on the approach
I reached the still frozen timberline lake in 2 hours before starting up the approach couloir to gain the east ridge.  Having carried microspikes, I put them to good use climbing snow all the way to the ridge, rather than exiting L onto rock mid-way up.  The scrambling on the ridge was awesome.  Solid rock, nice exposure, and a fun mix of 3rd-4th class with optional low 5th sections as well. 
approach couloir 
E ridge scrambling
Rather than do the customary out-and-back, I opted to make it a loop by descending the SE ridge and coming down the death canyon switchbacks.  Downclimbing the SE ridge was straightforward 3rd-4th class to gain the prominent notch north of the tower.  From here, couloirs drop E (towards timberline lake) and W (towards the no wood basin).  I descended the W couloir til it cliffed out towards the bottom.  I traversed skier’s R, linking together a series of exposed and often loose, low 5th class ledges and steps til I reached the talus slopes below.  
the SW side of buck from the trail
I then trended S to gain the trail and made the short climb and descent to static divide.  Through here I encountered a number of backpackers and day hikers that oftentimes had no clue how to properly hold or use their ice axe while traversing the remaining and often exposed patches of snow.  This was a little comical at times but also frightening.  From the divide I ran down the enjoyable switchbacks to the cabin and then out to the trailhead (with a quick detour to jump in phelps lake to keep the heat at bay).  All in all a great little half-day outing with a good mix of hiking, scrambling and running. 
looking north from the summit
Stats: about 13mi/6k vert in 6 hrs 

Rose: exposed 4th and low 5th scrambling on the ridge
Thorn: getting cliffed out on the couloir descent and the resulting downclimbing
Bud: the skiing down the N couloirs looks awesome

Thoughts: while I would recommend this loop to others, I think descending the E couloir from the notch in the SE ridge to bypass the tower on the E side and then climbing up to the buck-static saddle and descending to the trail would be a much better route

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Welcome to the Tetons

Bria and I have been having a blast (both together and separately) exploring the running & biking trails around town and up at targhee.  Two noteworthy outings include table mountain and a climb of symmetry spire.
excited about our new backyard
We took the steep face trail up table and spent nearly an hour on the summit, drying out shoes and socks and taking in the awesome views.  We had been planning on descending the huckleberry trail but could see from the summit that the initial N-facing switchbacks were still completely buried in snow so we opted for the face trail instead.  I’m excited for some training on this steep, technical trail – over 4 thousand vert in 4 miles and up to 11,000ft and only 25 minutes from home!
this sign was an attractant, not a deterrent to me
up on the ridge, looking E towards the "table" and the tetons behind
We spent the weekend after the 4th over on the E side of the tetons, excited for a redemption climb of symmetry spire’s SW ridge, after bailing on it last summer.  The climbing was good, the rock surprisingly solid for how chossy the ridge looks from below and the views outstanding.  We took our time and had a blast.  Looking forward to many more moderate routes in the park this summer.
approach above jenny lake
symmetry's SW ridge - it climbs better than it looks 
bria approaching the top of pitch 1
top section of pitch 3 
funny faces with the cathedral group behind (photo: bria)
a family of mountain goats on the way down
we love the tetons (photo: bria)
Rose: redemption on symmetry and the awesome view of the cathedral group at each belay
Thorn: low food, water and stoke levels on the symmetry walkoff back to our stash at the base of the route
Bud: knowing that playing in the tetons is now a weekly occurrence

Saturday, June 24, 2017

My Sentinel Salute

Inspired and intimidated by the “Sentinel Salute” farewell tours of Justin Yates (17 laps in 24 hours back in 2014) and Mike Wolfe (19 laps! last june), I always told myself I would throw down my own “Sentinel Salute” if/when the time came for me to leave town.  After graduating and accepting a job in Driggs, Idaho, I found myself both excited and scared by the task that lay before me.  Granted it was completely voluntary, (not to mention ridiculous and meaningless to most other people), but it held significant meaning to me.  Over the years I’ve ran Sentinel hundreds of times and I even had a childhood birthday party at the cave.  So it felt fitting to spend one of my last days in Missoula pounding out lap after lap on this iconic mountain.
Given the relatively light running volume I’d yet accumulated this spring (and the fact that I was still on the tail end of a nasty 2 week viral sickness), I opted to “dumb down” the Salute to my level, with a goal of 10 laps in 12 hours.  What unfolded was a memorable goodbye to Missoula, capped with a beautiful sunset on the summit on my last lap with two good friends. 

With a well stocked cooler in the back of my pickup at the trailhead to serve as a self-serve aid station, I started up the ridge trail at 9am with mixed emotions of excitement, trepidation and nostalgia.  After 4 solo laps, it was awesome to enter the parking lot to see Jeff with my tailgate down, campchair and waterjug at the ready.  The conversation with Jeff on the ensuing lap was a nice reprieve from the mounting fatigue in my legs (mostly on the down) and the glaring hot sun (80s and bluebird).  After parting ways with Jeff back at the trailhead, I opted for a quick dip in the river to cool off, which was nothing short of spectacular.  

I bumped into Jeffrey on the way down from lap 6, who demonstrated tremendous support by joining me for the remainder of the day.  By the end of lap 7, it was evident from my splits that I wasn’t going to get in a 10th lap before dark, which has a little disappointing but also somewhat relieving.  Lap 8 came and went, with poles providing a nice boost on the climb and my downhill pace slowing to a mere crawl.  On the final climb (#9), we bumped into John a few minutes up the ridge, which was an awesome surprise, who would join us for the final climb and descent.  On the summit, we relaxed and watched a beautiful sunset, a fitting end to a memorable goodbye to Missoula. 
summit #9 (photo: john)
A big thanks to Jeff, Jeffrey and John for coming out and helping keep me motivated and to all those who couldn’t make it but were there in spirit.

Stats – about 34mi and 18k vertical in 13 hours

Rose: mid-day swim in the river, mid-day gatorade courtesy of Jeffrey and Teresita (thanks!)
Thorn: relentless sun and heat
Bud: although leaving Missoula will be challenging in many regards, I’m really excited for life in Driggs and having the Tetons practically in my backyard     

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Apathy in the Missions

In early May, Jeffrey and I were able to connect during a spell of high pressure for a day in the missions.  With an early departure from town and a nice forecast, we had high hopes for an awesome day.  Our plan was to head up to lucifer and picture lakes and then ski “whatever looked good.”  The dry trail to mission falls went smoothly but we lost the rough climber’s trail once or twice on the way to lucifer lake but eventually found our way, 3.5 hours into the day (slower than planned).  We skated across the lake before making the short climb to picture lake.  
garden wall, from picture lake
With the strong sun quickly warming E and S aspects, we opted to climb and ski the S face of shoemaker before it got too baked.  We managed to skin about halfway before transitioning to spikes and booting to the summit.  The ensuing run was marginal, already being too soft and grabby despite being firm enough minutes prior to warrant crampons.  From the bench below the run, we sought shade to discuss our next move.
climbing shoemaker, with the E side of sonielem ridge behind
nearing the summit of shoemaker, with S glacier peak behind and N glacier in the distance
Despite our gorgeous setting and the nice weather, we were both feeling rather uninterested and unsure of what to ski next.  Lots of recent wet slide debris on and below most runs and the blazing hot sun already having cooked E and S aspects left us with limited options.  We lazily decided to start up the garden wall couloir.  Mid-way up with very firm conditions in the shade, we decided to bail, not wanting to wait for the sun.  We skied down towards picture lake til we found access to running water.  In a huge departure from our usual style, we spent a solid 30+ minutes sitting around BSing and refilling bottles. 
sonielem ridge dominates the view looking west from atop shoemaker
Both in agreement that our stoke and motivation just wasn’t happening today for whatever reason, we decided to bail and make it back to town by dinner time.  Our egress took longer than expected, due in part to our decision to skin around the N side of lucifer lake, due to the amount of open water on the eastern shore that we hadn’t seen in the morning.  Even from the outlet of lucifer it took us nearly 3 hours to get down to the car.  Despite our funky mood and only skiing 1.3 runs, it was a beautiful day out in the rugged mission mountains. 
N and S glacier peaks from lucifer lake
About 6k vertical in 12 hours car-car

Rose: incredible views of the mission range atop mt. shoemaker
Thorn: weird, apathetic mood
Bud: returning for a ESM to lucifer lake traverse

Thoughts: while there is a tremendous amount of good ski terrain around lucifer and picture lakes, the approach is more challenging than the riddell lakes trail, ESM trail or ashley creek in my opinion.  Next time I would do a traverse from ESM to or from lucifer so that you only have to cover that approach/egress once in the day rather than twice. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Rattlesnake ski traverse, 2017 edition

Well, life is busy and I’m behind on write-ups.  But let us jump back to a beautiful spring day in mid-April, for one of my best ski days of this season.  
the classic view looking north from stuart peak
I joined John and Justin for a Stuart Peak to Snowbowl traverse, despite having done the same tour with Jeffrey a few weeks prior.  However Jeffrey and I encountered horrible breakable crust conditions on nearly all aspects and all elevations.  It was so bad we cut it short across the grant creek basin from atop mosquito peak, without even skiing a run down to glacier lake.  So I was excited to return for better conditions and excited to share this outstanding tour with John and Justin, who have both spend extensive time running through this terrain but never on skis. 
justin in the eagle chute
We made good time up the ravine trail on foot before hitting snow and transitioning to skis and continuing up to Stuart.  On the summit, John wasn’t feeling well and decided to head back down, but encouraged Justin and I to continue on together.  We reluctantly parted ways before skiing great boot-top powder down the N side of stuart to upper twin lake.  The short climb to eagle point ensued, before skiing again excellent powder down the eagle chute to mckinley lake.  (note- this was my third time in the past 12 months (and second time in the past month) skiing the rattlesnake traverse and boy did it feel good to finally hit it in great condition).
eagle chute
adjacent run just E of the eagle chute.  the cliff band at mid-height
does not appear to fill in even on a big snow year
We botched the route-finding a bit on where we chose to gain the main ridge S of mosquito. However it worked, and we both breathed a big sigh of relief as we got off the steep-ish E facing slope, sluffing warm storm snow under the strong sun.  We continued up to the summit of Mosquito where we discussed our descent options down the N side (at least 5).  I voted for a particular couloir that I had not yet skied and Justin was game, so we skied down the NW ridge to the entrance, followed by nearly a thousand feet of outstanding steep and deep couloir skiing down to glacier lake.  Under the glaring sun, the ensuing climb up the S ridge to sanders peak was a hot, sweaty grind but we were rewarded with another excellent powdery descent of the N couloir to the bench above sanders lake. 
steep powder on the N side of mosquito
apron below the N face of mosquito
We strategically used the shade cast by the NW ridge to climb to the saddle in relative comfort.  From here, we elected to skip murphy peak due to condition of its S couloir on such a warm afternoon so we made a skins-on traverse to the W before dropping into the grant creek basin.  I had promised Justin hours earlier that we would find access to running water down in the basin but alas we did not (granted we didn’t look very hard but in the past I’ve always readily encountered it while crossing the basin).  Therefore the ensuing climb up point six was a hot and thirsty one but we slowly grinded our way to the top.  We opted for the S ridge to snowbowl over a mega-slushy jenny bowl descent and then ripped down a fun, slushy paradise and the standard 5 minute walk to the car.  All in all one of my best ski days of the year, with great weather, great terrain, excellent snow and a fun new partner. 
justin atop sanders with the N face of mosquito behind
sander's N couloir
Stats: about 20mi and 9k vertical in 11 hours car-car

Rose: finally nailing this classic tour in perfect powder conditions
Thorn: hot, sweaty and thirsty climbs the latter part of the day
Bud: a full stuart to mcleod traverse awaits

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Lake Louise Skimo

I ended my race season with an outstanding weekend in late March up in lake louise with Bria.  Saturday was a sprint race (which I had never done before) and then a typical individual race on Sunday.
the view across the valley from the ski hill.  mt temple on the left, lake louise itself just right of center (photo: bria)

I had a rough go in the sprint race, throwing down a mediocre time in the seeding due to a poor skin-to-bootpack transition and then somehow clicking into my R heelpiece on the final switchback and having to stop, step out and step back into the toe before continuing.   After the seeding, the format was 4 person heats with the top 2 advancing til down to just 4 people for finals.  In my first heat of 4 racers, I found myself beside Peter Knight, one of Canada’s fastest sprinters so I knew I had to take second to advance. 
sprint race - i'm on the R-hand boot pack (photo: bria)
Fast forward to the top of the climb and I was transitioning with another guy, well behind Peter.  I was confident I could out-transition and out-ski him to advance but for some reason, my R boot would not lock into my heel piece so I dropped in to the gated descent still trying to stomp my heel in (probably a rule violation).  This allowed him to pass me around the first gate before I tried to pass him around the second gate.  Then this happened.
going down in spectacular fashion (photo: bria)
My boot may or may not have been locked into my heel piece as I blew up, losing a ski in the process.  I sat up dazed, wiped the snow from my face and glasses before continuing down around the gates on a single ski.  I had to continue another ~500 vertical feet down the hill to find my ski which had fortunately come to a stop.  I was disqualified for finishing without all the gear I started with but stuck around to watch the remaining heats.  I was disappointed with my showing but not too upset, since I cared far more about the individual race the following day.  After a few hours of riding the lifts and skiing with Bria (a rare treat for me), we swung by the swanky Chateau and Lake Louise proper, before retiring to the awesome and affordable lake louise hostel for the night.
lake louise proper.  picture certainly doesn't do it justice (photo: bria)
I was up early the next morning, for the pre-race meeting and a chilly chairlift ride to the mid-mountain start.  After a quick warm-up, we were off, at a painfully fast pace off the line, til I scaled back on the throttle to a sustainable pace.  I was a little taken back and disheartened to spent the bulk of the first climb in 15th place.  I made a move near the top of the climb and passed 4 guys in quick succession before coming into the transition.  A quick skin rip and some aggressive skiing down the first run allowed me to pass another 2 racers.  I transitioned with a chase group of about 5 people and after two quick switchbacks, I managed to pass two of them in the ensuing skin-to-bootpack transition to move into a more reasonable 7th place.  I followed Kylee and Joel up the long bootpack before skiing a longer second run down into the basin below the resort’s back bowls.  I came into the transition a few seconds behind Joel but managed to out transition him and start up the third climb in pursuit of Kylee (canada’s fastest female racer).  The third climb back up to the ridge went well but I was unable to close the gap to Kylee. 
view from approximately the top of the first climb
The third run was again packed powder down to the basin below the bowls to the transition area.  I transitioned with Kylee and gave her my spare gel when she asked for one, saying she had dropped one earlier.  I past her a few meters out of the transition to move into 5th but well behind the top 4 of Rob, Joel D, Peter and Travis who I could see in a super close battle on the technical switchbacks further up the climb.  I maintained position ahead of Kylee on this climb and from the ridge, ripped skins and began the LONG descent down to Temple Lodge.  At one point after skiing what felt like several minutes, I stopped to wait for Kylee to make sure I was still on the right track.  Fortunately I was and I continued bombing down the wide cat track, feeling a little silly in a full tuck cruising past resort skiers. 
the incredible log cabin-style lodge (photo: bria)
Once at the Temple Lodge transition, it was fun to see Bria cheering as I threw on skins for the final climb and started up a few seconds ahead of Kylee.  This climb ended up being quite a bit longer than I was expecting but I built a small gap on Kylee and eventually crested the top of the climb, and left the transition as she was arriving.  The ensuing final run was predominately bombing down a groomer followed by a LONG and flat skate/tuck to the finish.    I crossed the line in 5th place, several minutes behind four of Canada’s finest, who had had what sounded like an exciting, down-to-the-wire finish.  I was very happy with my result, considering how sluggish I had felt on the initial climb and my poor performance the prior day.  Full sprint and individual results for those who care.  The remainder of the day was spent enjoying the bluebird spring conditions with Bria on the lifts and poutine in the lodge before embarking on the LONG drive home.
at the finish (the 2 guys behind me were amongst several racers who accidentally skipped the fourth climb) (photo: bria)
Rose: a gorgeous day of skiing on day 2, both during the race and afterwards
Thorn: jumping jacks in Arlee at midnight on the drive home to help stay awake
Bud: although it sounds brutal, I’m intrigued about trying to put together solid performances on consecutive race days at future multi-day races (3 days at powder keg next year..)

Thoughts: this was hands down the most BEAUTIFUL venue in which I have ever raced.  This race is an awesome value at $100 canadian for 2 races and 2 days of lift tickets.  If doing this individual course, make sure to wax your skis beforehand for the long/flat 4th and 5th descents