Mike Meru and Tanner Crow were still in town for another OZ Team shred day but after a long tour into the Gore the previous day (SEE RED PEAK, BIG BAD WOLF), Greg and I figured we could take the Utah boys on a short couloir mission that has a lot of bang for it's buck. A quick 15 minute drive from the house and under 2 hours later we were staring down at this beauty! Great pics boys!
Spring. The time comes with long days, sunshine, stabilizing snow, and unfortunately the time of year when my work life picks up. Still needing to fuel the passion now is when I find myself trying to squeeze in a tour whenever I can. Here is a few of the recent missions from within the twilight.
-Coin Slot by Headlamp-
There had been talk amongst Gary Fondl, Greg Hansen, and I about getting into the slot for a nice headlamp ski at some point. The time came and Greg hit me up for a sunset tour. I got off work in Idaho Springs and then met Greg and Gary in Frisco at around 6. Up the trail we went just in time to enjoy a beautiful sunset.
Then we headed on down to our anchor spot and setup the rap. Donned our headlamps as the light faded away and down we dropped.
We had originally planned on a sunset ski but it looked like we were to fulfill our Coin Slot night mission needs. A bit of an interesting tour as my headlamp died, and then the spares died. And then Gary broke his binding. Nevertheless, a great way to spice up a now common local classic.
Another work day and another sunset mission. Greg hit me up wanting to get out after work and of course I was down. We had a recent snowfall that night and morning followed by warm temps and a lot of natural wet slides. Driving up from Idaho Springs I met Greg across from CDOT and up we went, not really knowing what the snow was going to be like but either way stoked for another sunset mission.
A lot of the new snow had naturally wet slid throughout the basin as we made our way further back. Continually assessing the snow we talked about a few options of ski descents for the evening and eventually settled on our original plan. Up we went racing the sun to get to the top of our line for sunset.
The light was starting to get good and so once we made it to the top of our intended line we started to transition. Then as I started pulling my ski's off my pack my binding un-clicked and went tumbling down the couloir and around the corner. Awesome. Luckily Greg has the same bindings and so gave me one of his and then we setup for the shot.
Greg captured this amazing shot as I rode down to find my binding. As I rounded the corner there I found it stabbed into the snow. Yes. I grabbed it and then booted back up the couloir to Greg. Stoked on the shot and the lighting we headed on down to the trucks enjoying the last bit of light. Another beautiful sunset tour in the books.
Yet again another day of work. I get a text from Brennan Metzler wanting to get out for a sunset mission and so trending with the common theme here of course I was down. A couple of options were talked about. We opted for a nice mellow sunset tour down the Wave on Cupid.
We hung out on the summit for awhile enjoying the lighting as we waited for the sun to drop.
Then the time was right and we enjoyed stellar alpenglow lighting and chunder-fest skiing back down to the truck. Totally worth it!
On the trail at 3am. Skin by headlamp under the stars for a sunrise ski of Christo Couloir at 14k and at work in Idaho Sprungs by 9. Separate TR up soon.
Scott Bellow and I had been in contact about getting a nice tour in ever since we last went out on Jones Pass in like November. The spring is in the air and couloir season among us. With the snowpack starting to get a bit friendlier we decided a more committing line could be in the cards. After getting a little beta from a recent tour into Steven's Gulch I mentioned Dead Dog to Scott and immediately he was game. Colby De rounded out the crew and we headed down 70 to Bakerville from Dillon at about 430. The road still snow covered we parked pretty much off of the exit and started our 3 mile trek up to the summer TH by about 5am.
Enjoying a beautiful sunrise and a valley to ourselves we headed up the standard route to the summit of Torreys. As we got higher in elevation we noticed an amazing cloud inversion all across the eastern plains. What a view.
About 6 miles, 4500ft, and 4 1/2 hours later we found ourselves enjoying 360 degrees of stunning views. I have never seen a cloud inversion that big in Colorado before.
The summit was pretty pleasant weather wise with the wind not being too crazy. We snacked and pictured up and then headed on down to the top of our line. Wanting to assess the snow before skiing the line we opted to not ski the East face into Dead Dog as is a common entrance and the way I had done it the last time I skied her. I had brought a short rope just in case we wanted to belay into the top but after seeing the snow and line we didn't deem it necessary. I booted down into the couloir about 10-15ft and then poked around a bit to find corn on the skiers left (southerly) side and firm snow on the skiers right with softening snow throughout the middle. Everything felt great besides just being a bit suspect about the far skiers right side. A quick briefing on the way we wanted to ski her and we were off, enjoying about 2k feet of beautiful couloir skiing.
Variable snow throughout the line. There was old wet slide debris down lower and a small point release wet slide from warming rocks went through as I was riding down lower in the line. We skied the top 200 yds or so to a safe zone and then ripped her one at a time all the way to the bottom. Another spectacular ride down the Dead Dog!
Scott and Colby were able to snowboard all the way back to the truck from about the point of the above picture. I decided to hone in my split ski skills and so had an interesting ski all the way back. About 7 1/2 hours later we found ourselves back at the truck drinking brewskis with grins from ear to ear. Cheers to spring mountaineering season!
With some footage laying around from the past couple of months I went ahead and put together a little edit. Click the above link, grab a cold one, and enjoy.
A beautiful day in the alpine with a backyard summit ski. Click the above line to see more!
With the increasing popularity in splitboarding season after season, the gear that goes along with it is also improving. From boards to bindings to boots it's great to finally see company's out there putting forth the effort to produce quality product for use outside of the resort. For years I had struggled in the boot department of things trying to find a boot that would fit the bill for what I love to do, split mountaineering. A few seasons back Deeluxe boots in conjunction with legend Xavier De La Rue came out with a boot for the niche. As soon as I could I got my hands on a pair and had been riding them ever since. While not to get into that side of things this review is about the Fitwell Backcountry Snowboard boot. Over the past couple of seasons I had heard the name "Fitwell" from time and time again and what seemed like the new boot to hit home with. Finally, I got my chance to put them to the test and have now been riding them for almost a month and so figured I could put this review out there.
With there not being much out there in terms of a splitboard boot, I will be comparing with pictures the initial looks and dimensions of the Fitwell Backcountry boots v.s the Deeluxe Spark XV boot.
Just off of looks alone, you can see that the Fitwell's have a bit of a slimmer profile. Both boots have Vibram soles and are semi-automatic crampon compatible. The weights of the boots are very close weighing in around 2.5kg a pair with the Fitwell's being just a tad lighter. The Fitwell's do have a slightly lower boot height as well as a traditional lacing system vs the Deeluxe Speed Lace but both have the power strap. They both fit my Petzl strap crampons better than my tech semi-auto crampons (Cassin).
My first look at these bad boys and I was immediately impressed by the sleek look and just overall great craftsmanship of the boot. These things are handmade in Italy, so you know they are built well. My draw to these boots was the traditional lacing system, stiffer toe box, and the overall trim and profile of the boot. They seemed a bit stiffer off the bat but with a lacing system that allows you to control how stiff you want them. I come from a soft- softboot backround and being able to control how stiff or loose I want them was great. They also have a powerstrap and the speedlock lacing system that allows you to lock them down on the ankle which is an added bonus. The liner seemed great after I put in small footbed, which I do for all my boots. The lacing system of the liner also very quick and easy to use.
The first thing that I noticed about the Fitwells was the stiffness. Again, I am used to some pretty soft boots and had to do some adjusting on them to get them right. They took some time to break in but now after a month they are starting to feel like a second pair of tennis shoes with the capability of getting much stiffer again just by tightening up the laces and power strap more. I've really liked the lateral stiffness of the boot for side-hilling and have noticed a huge difference over other boots I have worn.
I have had the chance to take them on a variety of conditions from hiking miles of dirt, to booting couloirs, to hiking 3rd-4th class ridgelines and I can say that they have excelled in all conditions. Every day they seem to feel just a little a bit better as they mold to my feet and movements. With the great quality I can see years of use and comfort ahead. I enjoy the ability to keep them loose on the skin up and with a quick tightening of even the power strap if needed they can be adjusted to the terrain to be ridden. They fit perfect with my Petzl strap crampons and I have used them on everything besides vertical WI. The overall stiffness of the boots provide for excellent protection while kicking steps in hardpack or the occasional alpine ice, which was another major reason I was drawn to them.
Again, coming from soft boots and what I am used to the Fitwells initially were a bit stiff. A quick fix by adjusting the laces and I was back into the surf. As the boots have been breaking in I have found them to be transitioning into a perfect flex for me. On the stiffer side of what I am used to I am able to get a bit more response out of them but still have that surfy feel that keeps me in softboots (my main reasoning for not going the hardboot route). The stiffness also helps a lot more on the way up as well which is a perfectly fine trade-off for me with the balance of stiff to softboot. I've had the opportunity to take them surfing pow to bulletproof couloirs and they have been great for all terrain I have had them on.
Overall, it's only been a month but I am thoroughly impressed with these boots and looking forward to continually putting them to the test. For me they fit the bill in what I need and look for in a backcountry splitboard boot. A stiff softboot with a traditional lace system and the ability to adjust and lock at the ankles, a powerstrap, Vibram soled, semi-automatic crampon compatibility, slim profile, stiff toe box, and excellent craftsmanship. Game, set, match.
A most excellent time riding in one of the classics!
The blog has been a bit stagnant but not due to the fact that I haven't been getting outside. I spent the past few weeks on an AMGA Ski Guide course in Utah and Nevada that went extremely well. Originally set to be held in the Cascades, the lack of snow promptly led the course to a venue change. A couple weeks in the Wasatch and Ruby Mountains did not disappoint. Im stoked to have started the process and looking forward to the journey that lies ahead!
You talk with a buddy and solidify plans on putting in a long ski tour for the day. Wake up at 4am and on trail at 5:30. Skin by headlamp for an hour and a half to watch first light on the beautiful peaks surrounding you. Hours and hours and thousands of vertical feet pass and finally you break treeline. Stunning. A weird feeling starts to make its way into the back of your head but you ignore it. Eventually you and your buddy make eye contact with the days objective. Your eyes drool as you feast on the sight of the mountain. A little feeling is still in the back of your head. "I'm not feeling 100% sure about this right now", you say to your buddy. "I have a weird little feeling". A quick break and a reassessment. No red flags, snow has a slight crust on top but feeling good. You both decide to push on and continually assess. Step after step with your skins you both make it to the top of the apron. Snow still feeling good but heating up. The little feeling still in the back of your head. You talk with your partner who is still feeling pretty good about the objective. "Lets did a pit", you say. A pit is dug to reveal some pretty good conditions. Still no red flags. The weird feeling still there. You talk with your partner and reassess. "Lets keep pushing on and keep communication open". A few switchbacks get set. The weird feeling in the back of your head now speaks. "You shouldn't be here right now". You want to ignore it. Everything has been feeling good. The snow feels pretty good. The snowpit looked pretty good. Why am I having this feeling? You then ask yourself, "what do I do"? And now I ask you fellow readers...what would you do??
The mind is a powerful thing and the mountains have an energy in which I cannot fathom. Everytime I go out I try and learn from them. Today was especially a weird one for me. I can't explain it but I just had this feeling in my gut that I could not shake. Nothing throughout the day showed me a sign of doubt and somehow this feeling just overcame me. I don't think it was fear but I cannot explain what caused it. I didn't want my feeling to turn Frank around either and so I kept telling him that if he felt good he should push on. I had finally made the decision to bail. A decision that is very hard but the more and more I am in the mountains the more I am ok with it. Knowing that Frank was going to get the line was hard for me to make that decision as well. All the work for nothing? Wrong, I had to keep telling myself. Just enjoy the surroundings and beautiful day that you are a part of. I made the decision, transitioned, dropped and rode down the apron and onto a little bench where I would sit and hang out for Frank to finish the line. How badly did I just want to go right back up there? Very. For the next hour I just couldn't stop thinking about my decision and what led up to it, ect.. For those backcountry users out there that know the feeling of skiing a new line, imagine that feeling flipped 180 degrees. Dissappointment, regret, shame. These feelings and more just flood your mind. But then I had to just sit there and look around and smile. Its a beautiful world we live in, and I want to be a part of it as long as I can......
Frank reached the summit about an hour later. Watching him ski down I was very happy to see that he pushed on and skied the line. At the same time that 180 degree flip of feelings was still there. Why did I have that weird feeling? Should I have turned around? These thoughts never left my head and are still lingering now. I was and still am pretty bummed. On the way out I spotted a little pinner line and Frank was so kind to give me 30 minutes to boot and ski it. I had to get my spirit back.
Today was a weird day in the mountains for me mentally and spiritually. I would love for anybody reading this to chime in with any feedback or to share any similar past experiences. 10 hrs later i'm glad to have had another beautiful day hanging out in the mountains and thats what I have to keep telling myself. The line will always be there to ski another day...
Great job Frank!!
UPDATE: The next day I had some buddies around the zone and saw that that 3/4 of that whole face had wet slid. . . Yea I think I had the feeling for a reason
Couloir hunting in the Gore Range.