mountain collective (de)tour – the traveling auto repair show

last summer when i bought my mountain collective pass it was with the idea of traveling around the west in the lavish comfort of the bumble beast, a spacious sprinter van with my partner in crime, hutchski. those plans fell apart but i wasn’t about to let the pass go to waste. so i told my boss i needed three weeks off in late march and prepped my jeep (coco) for the trip. by ‘prepped’, i mean got a roof rack and new tires. there were numerous things wrong with coco but there was no way i could afford to fix them all so i would just have drive off and hope for the best, armed with a set of tools and a few hundred extra dollars. the basic plan was to hit all the resorts from taos to banff and then come down from whistler through the cascades. there was no place i had to be at any given time so the plan was subject to change based on snow conditions. then my father’s failing health necessitated a trip to florida in the middle of the tour so i booked a round trip flight from denver. this cut out taos and banff (taos was having a sub-par year anyway).
my new plan had me heading straight up to whistler with some undetermined stops on the way. before leaving i got in touch with lindsey in bend and asked what she was up to. as luck would have it she was planning a trip to mount hood just as i was passing through. i’d never been so this was perfect. we had planned an early start but a partner coming from portland called to say he was running behind. and then again, and again.
mt hood in the not so early morning light

we finally set off at 11:00 with him still a while behind. the goal was only illumination rock so the delay wasn’t a big deal. in the back of my head i kept thinking about the summit however, but i knew our start was too late.

at 3pm i got to illumination rock a bit before lindsey so texted to say i was heading up to crater rock

at 3:49 i sent her the following “staring at the pearly gates and i’m not likely to get this opportunity again”. she said go for it, so off i went. not sure if i could ski off the peak, i left my skis under the hall of rime and put the points on (the pic is from the downclimb). i reached the top at just after 5pm.

afterward i enjoyed a citrus mistress before the ski. this may have been a mistake as things were firming up by the minute. it was 6 pm when i dropped. the skiing was less than stellar.

lower down i hooked back up with lindsey. her goal was to get 1 good pic from the day since it was the 100th of her awesome season. i think this qualifies.

while we may have missed the morning light, we nailed the alpenglow.

my goal for the night’s drive was to get up into washington so i could be somewhere east of seattle the next day. didn’t really have plans to ski but just wanted to see the cascades in winter (of course i would ski). coco had other plans. i made it to portland and holed up in a walmart parking lot and started researching auto repair options. everett street autoworks was able to replace the cv joint that day, and they were right downtown which allowed me some sightseeing.

as well as some smellsniffing. the food truck court was the bomb

the waterfront wasn’t bad either

beside chewing up most of the cash reserves, the repairs ate up an entire day which basically eliminated whistler from the trip. the good news was that without whistler i was able to take more time to explore and my cash reserves were back in case of another issue. my new next stop was anthony lakes. it was a place i always wanted to visit but i could never envision a trip that would take me near there. another place i wanted to visit was multnomah falls. the falls were beautiful but the overall experience was underwhelming. they basically sit right above a hyoooodge parking lot.

on the way to anthony lakes i spent the night at the la grande walmart. had i known how welcoming anthony lakes was to campers i would have continued on. a sno-park permit is required to park at the resort, even for day skiers. california sno parks are good in oregon

beer. it’s also good in oregon.

my first run in anthony lakes bc was a good one. my second run was the shot just to looker’s left.

next up was sun valley, the collective’s newest member. conditions in the resort were kind of meh, so i chose my beer accordingly (every resort has meh conditions from time to time. i try not to let my impression of a resort be based on 1 day so I’ll be back).

i only stayed a day and took off to jackson so i would have three days there including the drive to denver and flight to florida. but before leaving ketchum i hit the y for some time on the wall and my first shower of the trip.

stopped for coffee at the craters of the moon national monument

and i always stop at falls river falls. it was late night and this is one of several times on the trip i wish i had a working tripod. filters to the rescue!

for the first two nights i slept at the walking bridge across from the transit lot. it was after midnight and snowing when i arrived, and the ruts on the way in were deep enough that i wasn’t too concerned about being kicked out.

since it was the first day of a storm i figured conditions would be on the meh side so i made this a chore day. chores included laundry and getting a u-joint replaced on coco (there goes the reserves). i took a stroll while she was at roy’s. along flat creek i came across this kill zone. there were two spines in the frame and at least one more nearby. coyotes i would guess.

having been to jackson a number of times i had always heard of the t.a. moulton barn so i went to check it out

and have a beer

the following day i hit the resort for the morning before realizing i really don’t like skiing inbounds much. patrol at the top of the new teton quad chair successfully attempted to scare me away from granite canyon so i wandered around the cody bowl area.

my last day in jackson i hopped on the tram and went straight out the gates

i found an open slope and put some tracks in it while the hordes caught up, and boy did they. i rarely (never) do 8s but on my second run the light disappeared so my tracks were the only way i could see. only as i’m writing this did i find out it’s called the powder 8 face.

looks like no name was the place to head. a little local knowledge would have gone a long way for me here.

saw 4 people hit central while i was there that day. this guy didn’t make it.

the only two that cleared the rocks at the bottom took the path of the arrow

to finish out my stay in jackson i wandered up the chute on the right here and (you probably guessed) had a beer.

but wait. as i was leaving town for denver i got a call from american airlines. denver airport was closed for the first time in 10 years. my next available flight was two days later from colorado springs. looks like i get to play in jackson for a couple more days. wanting to get into the park, i had planned to go up albright peak the next day. as i drove toward wilson the cloud deck got lower and lower over the tetons. with no visibility and no local knowledge i decided skiing above treeline alone would be a no no. my google told me i could get a long treed run off jackson peak so i decided to check it out. the first blog about it i found sent me a long way the wrong way through the national elk refuge. when i got to where the interwebz told me to go i was surrounded by no hiking-no tresspassing-no entrance signs. but i didn’t mind as on the way there i got to sit and wait while a herd of hundreds of elk crossed the road right in front of me. a few miles later i came across a roadside herd of bighorn sheep. i never knew that all the males hung out together while the females gathered elsewhere.

after a call to the fine folks at skinny skis i got my bearings straight and made my way to the cache creek trailhead. a few hours later i was nearing the top of nowlin peak. it had been snowing heavily for quite a while and it was clear i was hiking up a slide path so i stopped in the trees to the right of the lone tree in the center and changed over. the skiing was awesome.

the best part of waking up (i actually was drinking folger’s instant for the trip)

my last day in jackson i decided to hit the pass. i parked at the bottom, skied to the road and caught a ride before i could even get my skis off

glory bowl. the problem with getting first tracks in a somewhat scary place you’ve never been before is that it’s hard to know where to go. i had great turns down until the forest of little trees. then things started to roll over and i had to ski it very timidly. it’s a good problem to have though.

after 3 days in florida i was back to colorado springs heading to aspen. google maps was really upset with me when she found out i was taking the slower road. but as usual, it was worth it. garden of the gods looks like a good place to return to sometime and get some climbing in.

ugggh, again. coco was coughing and hiccuping more and more. a quick scan however revealed it was just a misfire in the 5th cylinder. finally the tools i brought would pay off. a new plug and she ran like a dream the rest of the trip.

then there was this place, conveniently located between where i was, and where i was going.

i spent three days in aspen. the first was at snowmass in poor light so no pictures there (should be some video though). the second day i headed to aspen highlands. on the way up to ski highlands bowl i looked at the sidecountry to the right. it looked lonesome so i fixed it.

after hitchhiking back to the resort i headed back up and ran into these two goons, all dressed in their 4/1 attire

they even brought me this awesome onesie. the zone for tomorrow’s fun is just over my head

the next day my goal was, well, i try not to make goals in these situations, or, at least, keep them very vague. so my goal was to go back toward the maroon bells and maybe make it up onto the flank of the north maroon just under all the rocks. on the way out i got a beautiful view of the terrain i started in the day before

as well as a beautiful view of pyramid peak in the early morning light

my ‘if everything comes together perfectly’ goal was to get to the col that separates the north maroon and sleeping sexton, and then see if it’s safe to go higher. clearly that wasn’t going to happen and would either require camping or a sled to get to where i was now.

other options were opening up on the northern flanks of pyramid however

it’s hard to beat colorado in april when then lines like this are safe to access


powtrails and chemtrails.

then it was off to take advantage of my two days in snowbird/alta. i wasn’t super stoked since it had been 4 days since the last snow, and the skiing inbounds was not going to be awesome. as i drove west on i-70 i glanced south and the la sals caught my eye. i stopped at the next rest stop and had a chat with my google, then beelined it towards moab.

utah sure has some beautiful country

and some good policy for recreation. they plow this dirt road to the trailhead around 9,800′, complete with restrooms and 4 bars of lte

at this point i want to give a shout out to the folks at google for their incredible maps app. my goal was mount tomasaki but i was surprised to find out the entire gold basin is riddled with trees where there should be a giant parking lot ;). google kept me on course without losing elevation (this was something that was repeated throughout the trip, and that doesn’t even take into account how it helped me on the road).

my first view of tomasaki made clear that i wouldn’t be skiing it. the north side was probably awesome but out of reach for me and the southwest side was basically snow free. so my google pointed towards mount mellenthin (12,645). i booted up it and was able to share my beer with a herd of mountain goats at the top.

just kidding, i wasn’t sharing anything. the goats are the white dots on the left. mount tukuhnikivatz is across the way, and probably the most popular skiing destination in the la sals (along with little tuk).

a closer view of tuk

and even closer. the way it funnels sort of forces everyone to take the same line.

i was happy to share mount mellenthin with someone from the past

after scoring pow in the elks and the la sals i was looking forward to hitting up jeff davis peak in the great basin national park. i made my way late night to the road closure at the upper lehman campground at 7,600′. with the peak at 12,772′ i was in for a big day. nature had set an alarm for me. these turkeys were all over the place.

sadly, as i geared up i also watched all the fresh snow blow off my line.

my fears were confirmed. it still went, but didn’t look like what i came for.

so i decided to make the day about sightseeing and hiked and skinned up into the cirque between jeff davis peak and wheeler peak. wheeler (on the right) is the tallest peak in nevada at 13,064′.

this coolie petered out near the top and ended in the talus at the bottom, but looked fun nonetheless

i kept going to the back of the cirque and chose another

it was kind of a long way to go for a beer, but it was a good beer. knowing what i know now i would have hiked up wheeler and skied down to the shots i’m staring at here.

back in the jeepdominium i went over the day’s pics and prepped dinner for my last night, which was at spencer hot springs near austin.

the next day i took a soak before heading back to tahoe. the hot springs have a great view of the toiyabe range.

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