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Nov 20

2015

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Troll Hunting: Ski Touring in Iceland, Part 2

If you missed Part 1 of Ski Touring Iceland, you can find it here.

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After almost a week in Iceland and several days of skiing touring on the North coast of the island, we thought that we’d learned the tactics needed to put together an amazing line. The right approach, timing, and snow conditions would let us choose and then tackle a king line. With just a few days remaining before our flights home, the countdown was on.

Dalvik Round 2

Each afternoon after skiing, we had grown habituated to collecting our thoughts at the Kaffihûs Bakkabrædra. While slamming down coffees and sampling the full depth of local pastry, we stared up at the mountains around us. To the East, towards Akureyri, was the head of the promising valley called Skíðadalur. At the head of the valley was an enormous slope visible from the café,  stretching thousands of feet at a perfect thirty-five degrees. It was no extreme descent, simply an extremely appealing line.

Tempting views from the coffee shop.

Tempting views from the coffee shop. There’s nothing quite like a verdant valley surrounded by perfect ski mountains.

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Oct 12

2015

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Backpacking The Sierra High Route

After graduating college and spending a month on the PCT, I received an exciting invitation. It was from my badass mountain biker/backcountry skier/climber/ER doc (sound familiar?) cousin-in-law Tom, and it was for a week-long backpacking trip in the High Sierra. I’d just hiked the entire JMT, but I knew I had to go back to the Sierras because 1: they’re incredible, 2: it would be my first trip with Tom, and 3: he promised me the trip would be a “fine counterpoint” to the JMT (in other words, way better). The plan was to traverse west to east across the Sierra during the second week of September, mostly following the spine of the Great Western Divide. Our route would essentially be a summertime crossing of the famed Sierra High Route (SHR), a classic ski traverse seen by many as California’s answer to the Haute Route of the Swiss Alps, sans plush mountain huts. Since it is typically done over snow, the SHR is entirely off trail save for the first and last few miles, and it also stays high above tree line for the vast majority of its duration. This means it’s void of people, heavy on talus-hopping, and highly conducive to peak-bagging. Read on →

Sep 06

2015

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Troll Hunting: Ski Touring in Iceland, Part 1

Click here for Part II

It has finally started to turn cold here in the UpperLeft USA, and the Fall chill has everyone thinking about their favorite sport: CYCLOCROSS. Forget that. Fall is a season for ski stoke and impatient waiting. To fuel your stoke I hereby present the first half of a two-parter on ski mountaineering in Iceland. It was an amazing opportunity to travel internationally to ski, in the summer while somehow also in medical school, and I’m excited to share it with you.

I am grateful as always to the support of Icebreaker, who’s gear I used for this entire trip without washing, and which looked at the end of it all as if it had never been used. It feels good to smell good.

Iceland, panoramic.

Iceland. It won’t even fit in a panorama.

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Jul 30

2015

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Living, Working, and Running at 9,500′

I’ve been spending the summer living and working at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL, pronounced “rumble”) in Gothic, CO. Life is good. First of all, I get to pursue my love for ecology while being immersed in an inspiring community of scientists and students. Also, I get to run in the mountains every day. Read on →

Jul 06

2015

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Thru Hiking the High Sierra

Three weeks ago I was chasing a burnt orange sunset over Sonora Pass with my friend Andrew, trail name Sunshine. Sonora Pass marks the northern terminus of the High Sierra mountain range and mile 1017 on the Pacific Crest Trail. We had spent the evening anxiously looking up at thunderheads, and now we were looking up at the stars intermittently so as to not trip over rocks in the darkness. When we laid out our sleeping pads at 10:30 that night I had finished hiking over 400 miles since hopping on the PCT 27 days prior. Sunshine had hiked over 1050.

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Jun 02

2015

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South Sister Ski Descent

I ran into my new landlord at 6:30 am this morning as I was unloading my Uhaul trailer in the rain. “Damn”, he muttered, “I was hoping you’d be lazier and I would have time to take photos of the place before you moved in”. I laughed. “Brian”, I said, “I don’t have time to be lazy”.

It’s true. As a medical student, the primary obligation of my time is to my studies, and they fill sixty hours of my week at a minimum. That means that if I can’t stay focused at school, or if I don’t use my time wisely to tackle errands in my spare time, then I have little left for the other things that I love to do. To be able to spend waking time with Taylor, run around in the mountains, cook good food, and write this blog, I have to be ruthless. There’s no time to be lazy.

If I want this kind of time, I have to make the time.

If I want this kind of time, I have to make the time.

Last week, the pace was different– it was one of those rare weeks after a week of final exams when the demands of school totaled closer to six hours than to sixty. I needed to move from one apartment to another, a daunting task that would consume much of the week. Still, I had three days all to myself, an embarrassment of riches.

Saturday: Taylor and I rallied up to Mt Hood to explore new trails with our man Eric, who lives up in Government Camp. With quorum for a shuttle, we dropped a car at the highway and drove to the apex of the ridge just East of Mt Hood. From there, twenty miles of singletrack wound down a few thousand vertical feet through changing forest. The view from the top of Lookout Mountain, a side mission through some snowdrifts and muddy road, was well worth the trip.

Taylor on Lookout Mountain with Mt Hood and the Central Oregon Cascades beyond.

Taylor on Lookout Mountain with Mt Hood and the Central Oregon Cascades beyond.

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May 15

2015

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Mt Hood Circumnavigation Attempt

It is true for many endeavors that mistakes are a catalyst for learning and growth. Two Sundays ago I made a mistake and broke of one of the most important ski mountaineering commandments: Thou Shalt Not Get Cliffed Out. My hope is that by sharing my story I can cement the lesson I learned and help you avoid making the same mistake.

I’ve dreamed of circumnavigating Mt Hood on skis ever since Patrick and Ethan did so in February 2013. After a season with a healthy dose of long days, steep snow climbing and avalanche terrain navigation, I finally felt confident enough to attempt the “High Orbit.” Furthermore, I saw this objective as a capstone to my three years of climbing and skiing in the Pacific Northwest, and I thought it would provide satisfying closure before graduating and moving away.

After climbing and skiing the Wy’east Face and Superbowl on Saturday with Patrick, Taylor and Hallie, my legs and spirit felt hungry for more. I began skinning from Timberline at 4:45 am and soon thereafter found myself transitioning on Illumination Saddle.

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Wy’east casts its shadow past Illumination Rock and over waves of coniferous forest.

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May 11

2015

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Wy’East Face Ski Descent

The Wy'East face at sunrise with descent route marked.

The Wy’East face at sunrise with descent route marked.

My dream of a Wy’East Face ski descent has been parked in the closet for a while. The first time that I saw the Wy’East Face was as a freshman at Reed College, in 2006. Riding the Vista chair at Mt Hood Meadows ski resort, the face spread across the upper reaches of Mt Hood, a huge white expanse which from afar looked steep and serious. In 2007, from the same chair, I saw someone skiing the face. Later that year, I also saw an enormous avalanche crown in the same spot, and in the following years, the face ripped each spring, at times depositing debris near the bottom of the Heather Canyon chairlift several miles down-canyon.

Approaching up some particularly dirty spring snow.

Approaching up some particularly dirty spring snow. (Photo: Taylor)

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Apr 26

2015

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Skiing Pahto (Mt Adams)

Route: Suksdorf Ridge

TH: Cold Springs campground. Road to trailhead is unimproved. High clearance and AWD recommended.

Map: Green Trails Maps 367S. Strava track here.

Stats: Approx. 12.5mi and 6700′ vert car to car.

Gear: Entirely non technical, but crampons and ice axe/whippet recommended.


Saturday was a long day for all of us, but we were determined to rally and ski Mt. Adams (hereafter refered to as Pahto) for the first time. Shortly following a “brutal” race at the Yakima 50k, Ethan and Richard drove three hours to meet me in Trout Lake as stars began pricking through the sky.

Pahto towers over Trout Lake as a Guardian of Serenity

The guardian of serenity towers over Trout Lake.

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Apr 23

2015

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Columbia River Gorge: Angel’s Rest to Larch Mt

Spring is in full swing, and that means at least two things:

Trails across the Pacific Northwest are drying and calling out to runners weary of winter mud and wet pavement.

Volcanoes are basking under a hot sun and shine like voluminous diamonds in the eyes of climbers and skiers alike.

Running and skiing typically occupy distinct seasons, but springtime in the Northwest harbors ideal conditions for both. I took advantage of this duality last weekend with some friends of mine. The plan was to climb and ski Mt. Adams on Sunday. The only complication was that Ethan and Richard were racing the Yakima 50k on Saturday, which boasts 10,000′ of climbing. Thus, they demanded I run at least 20 miles and 4000′ on Saturday to even the exhaustion score. Despite a relative lack of fitness for long distances and vert, I consented and drove to the Columbia River Gorge for a long run amidst its new verdure.


INFO

Parking/TH: Angel’s Rest Trailhead. Oregon Gorge exit 28. No restrooms at TH. Very busy on sunny weekend days. Go during the week or early in the morning to beat the crowds.

Map: Angel’s Rest to Larch Mt USGS (trail in red). Incomplete Strava track here.

Stats: 22+ miles, 6500′ vertical. Bring water and food. Water refills available from streams/springs after Devil’s Rest (drink at your own risk).


The journey begins with a long and moderately steep climb to Angel’s Rest. The trail was incredibly crowded up to this point, and I did my best to politely weave past hikers. As a runner it’s easy to get annoyed by crowds, but it’s important to remember that the trail belongs to everyone. Plus, it was great to see so many people being active and connecting with nature. If the human race is to make any progress in preserving the integrity of the natural systems upon which we ultimately depend, I believe this is the first step.

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Pahto (Mt. Adams) shines bright on the horizon. The next day I would be standing atop her flat head.

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