Category Archives: backcountry
sunday night i got a message asking if i’d like to hit moon couloir the next day. the only tracks that should be there would be another couple of friends known for getting after things early. since i had taken out the pups for the last three days and i had the night off this would be the perfect time to leave them behind and get an un-dog-friendly line. we hit the south carson pass trailhead at 8, and found the cars of the group that would be getting there before us. an hour and a half later we were under round top waiting to see which way the group ahead would go. the two guys we thought we would see had come separate, with one tagging all three couloirs (you can see his bootpacks), and the other leading up this group of four. they went up the main crescent so we opted for the center couloir.
jeffjay heading up the gut of the central couloir. just after this shot the skier started descending the main couloir and he set off a pretty big pocket. greg and i were still close to the intersection as it roared below us sounding like a freight train. we all brought crampons and ice axes, but only used the axes.
waiting for our turn
jeffjay drops first
at this point it’s no secret tahoe had a great january. im fact, in terms many locations saw record january snowfall, while many others saw record precipitation amounts. we saw incredible avalanches and started some scary ones too. there were five days rated high on the avalanche scale and for the first time ever sierra avalanche center offerred up a completely black danger rose. We had some great days, but we also had quite a few down days. i think most would agree that the resorts were closed for weather more than any month in the past and i know the kids had more snow days than any month i’ve been here. enough of all that though let’s get to some pictures.
1/3 – waterhouse – last day skiing with ashley before her big trip. this was the beginning of the condition known as #januburied.
we spent a lot of time here and at powderhouse during the month since it’s always got a pullout plowed and it’s the ‘safe’ alternative on high avy danger days. more on that later.
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
pretty much every time you go backcountry skiing here in the sierra you’re treated to great views. often the views are alpine lakes or even tahoe itself. but every now and then, you get to slice through the powder with a lake filling you’re goggles so much it’s hard to concentrate on your line. since most of these zones at least start and stop at lower elevations, it’s been a while since they’ve had the level of attention they’re getting this year. all you need to find these mountains is a map, but a map won’t get you to the top. for that you need a friend or local knowledge. despite overlooking lake tahoe, or fallen leaf lake these peaks are typically not easy to get to. jake’s peak would be the main exception to this rule and as a result, can get crowded. the reward for the extra effort can be awesome though
as you can see the lakeside peaks are clustered together in two main zones. one on the southwest shore and one on the north and east
angora peak – there are three ways to get to the base of the peak, have the gate code or key, snowmobile, just under a mile skin. if you choose the latter chances are someone with access is gonna get there first. the views of fallen leaf lake with tahoe beyond are magnificent
it’s no secret that tahoe has been hurting for snow this year. as the year started we had promises of storms of the century that yielded nothing more than ‘much needed wind’. our best storms became the inside slider, which in most years simply ushers in colder air. when of these moves west enough to grab a little moisture off the pacific they can bring some decent cold snows, and with little wind. one of these storms came in at the end of february and as the day got closer the forecast got more and more promising. there was a forecast of up to 6-12″ (tiny by normal tahoe standards) with a possibility of twice that wherever the deformation axis set up.
so on friday morning we were a bit disappointed to find that kirkwood had only received around 7″ and apparently the north shore received up to 17″. we skinned up dangberg to get a few quick laps in with the pups while kirkwood’s finest did their patrol work.
febuly 28th. the pups couldn’t care less about no defamation ackses. they just like the snow.
catching up with more early summer adventures. after our trip to bowman lake we took a week off before heading up for some skiing at highland lakes. this would be a quick overnighter to get the pups out and makes some june turns.
a look at folgers peak as we approach just west of ebbett’s pass and just before we turn onto highland lakes road. our line ended up being off the saddle in the middle. the stuff to lookers right was wicked suncuppy and not as appealing as in this pic. the longer lines on the left may have been the call but were out of view when we were there.
as soon as we arrived stoke was stoked as there was a seemingly endless buffet of cow patties. yum!
after the drive, the pups were excited to be outside
it’s a pretty place
after visiting sonora pass several weeks earlier, we couldn’t wait to get back. the skiing is still plentiful and the climbing is everywhere. it’s like yosemite minus el cap and minus the crowds. this time we got a little earlier start so we could get a few climbs in when we arrived. still, we didn’t have much time so opted for a roadside attraction, donnel vista. there are a few short but fun routes here
ashley leading the climb me flake (5.7). not sure if the passersby are looking at her, or casing the van. 😉
me top roping on the areas’s 5.9
sir fartsalot (left) and chief poopsinside (right) learning a bit about the area’s geology. chief poopsinside suffers from attention defishit disorder
he still can’t pay attention
after my recent adventure with a broken leg in the backcountry i’d like to share some tips on what to do in case of an emergency out there. i’m not an expert, and this isn’t all encompassing. just some more things to think about and maybe something to add to your pack. sure you can get a calstar membership in fact one in our group had only days before.
but what if there’s no cell phone service? in our case there was none, although oft times you can get kirkwood’s signal if you’re on the ridge above us, about 20 minutes away.
what if it’s storming and a helicopter rescue isn’t possible?
what if the injury occurred in terrain that precludes a rescue by helicopter?
the first things to consider is active self rescue. can you get out without seeking additional help? can you get help? it’s not uncommon to be hours from the nearest cell phone signal.
do you have the items required for self rescue considering the injury? below are some items that you may already have or can easily add to your pack that may help to move an injured person. in most cases they have other uses as well and will most likely end up fixing a broken binding. Continue reading
as ashley stood at the top of the run in i tried to convince her it was all good. ‘as long as you don’t under rotate, there’s no way to get hurt doing a backflip’. she had under rotated her first attempt this day and she was a bit shaken up. i couldn’t convince her to try again and in retrospect i felt bad for even trying. i made my way up top to give it another go since on my first attempts i had slightly over rotated and backslapped before skiing away. still can’t say i stuck it. this time i would get a little more speed and rotate a little slower. still i came down in the back seat and bounced into the air. when i returned to the white planet my skis augured into the slightly crusty snow. my body slammed forward causing my femur to smash into the tibial plateau with enough force that my season was over. i knew it immediately and let out a loud ‘fuuuck!‘ before coming to a stop and the whimpering started.
the tibial plateau fracture would require surgery involving the placement of a cadaver bone graft as ‘scaffolding’ for my bone to grow on plus the addition of two metal screws. i’ll add pictures of the post op xray as well as some of the knee during surgery as soon as i get them from dr. swanson. of course, none of this could happen unless we got ourselves out of the backcountry first. we were about a mile from carson pass and it would require about 1.5 miles of travel to minimize elevation loss and gain. i didn’t know what i had done but i knew i couldn’t weight the leg at all, especially at any angle at all. we made a splint by placing our probes on each side of the knee and then wrapping my skins around the area. then adding a couple voile straps to keep it as tight as possible (the video shows only one probe on the outside, we added ashley’s on the inside shortly after). the majority of the way back was downhill and i was able to ski it on one ski with the other ski on my foot but hanging in tele mode. the pain wasn’t too bad as we started but near the end the combination of the adrenalin wearing off and the snow becoming icy as we skied through refrozen tree pee sections had me on the verge of passing out. finally we hit the old carson pass road and i figured i could pole up that section since it’s uphill, but not steep at all. it was quickly apparent that i just couldn’t do it. ashley donned her skins and towed me through that section all the way to highway 88, where i waited for her to go get the car. if i was alone, things would be very different right now.
here’s the video, which starts out with a few short clips from kirkwood the day before
when we got to elephant back we skied one run to the bottom to check things out. there had been a huge slide during the storm cycle. note the rocks above the riders in the top of the pic. they are roughly 25 feet tall. the pic below is taken from roughly where ashley is standing in this pics (just follow the tracks below jeff)
it’s true! these conditions would be awesome if it were november, and not unheard of for october. unfortunately it’s the beginning of february. still, rather than look a gift horse in the mouth we took full advantage of the 16-20″ that mother nature provided. friday conditions were a little sketchy so we took it pretty easy and kept it above treeline (unusually, the advisory called for higher danger near and below treeline). saturday everything had dropped to moderate or below and the snow was still phenomenal. sunday another weak storm had pulled in and with slabby conditions and limited visibility up high we moved into the trees.
here’s the video from the three days to the sounds of alt-j
enough with the nonsense and on to the pictures. friday was jeff, myself, and nacho
jeff and nacho with elephant back in the background
meadow skipping with the emphasis on skipping
it was deeeeep