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May 22

2016

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Skiing the Bomber Traverse: Part 2

This is the second part of a two-parter on our trip to the Talkeetna Mountains. If you missed the first part, check it out here. For our map/beta of the route, click here (pdf).


 

The ski down from backdoor gap was our first taste of surprisingly good snow. Five inches of recrystalized snow blanketed every slope approaching a northerly aspect. It wasn’t deep, but it skied fast and soft.

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Our first north-facing tracks down the pennyroyal. And with heavy backpacks no less.

A quick skate at the floor of the valley let us to the Bomber Hut, and much roomier and lighter affair than the mint hut.

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Taylor makes a quick skate on the way to the Bomber hut with the Pennyroyal glacier shaded in the background.

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May 13

2016

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Skiing the Bomber Traverse: Part 1

I first learned about the Bomber Traverse while doing something that I often do: reading a guidebook while sitting on the toilet. Some time ago, I heard about The Alaska Factor by Joe Stock, and I’d ordered it on impulse. Then, in January, in the depths of boards-study distress and desperate for something to look forward to, I was looking for an adventure idea. Taylor and I had a meeting. We nixed the plan we’d been talking about to travel to Japan; it was too soon and too much money. For once, I had no other ideas. Until I sat on The John.
Descending into Anchorage over the Chugach.

Descending into Anchorage over the Chugach, building stoke.

The Bomber Traverse is a ski loop outside of Palmer, AK, in the Talkeetna mountains. It begins near the locally famed touring zone of Hatcher Pass and cuts a modest circle of 20-ish miles and 6000’ across two passes. It’s clearly possible to ski in a day (and it has been many times), but three huts situated around the loop make it equally well-suited to going heavy and skiing the surrounding terrain.

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May 08

2016

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30th Birthday Mt Hood Circumnavigation

I’m still wading through all of the photos and video from our Alaska trip. It’s making my computer crash just to think about it. In the meantime, and more importantly, my fiancé and chief adventure partner Taylor turned 30 this week. To celebrate, she wanted to take on an epic day. With good weather stretching onwards, we settled on the Mt Hood ski circumnavigation.

Thirty. Dirty Thirty.

Thirty. Dirty Thirty.

I’ve been around Hood this way ages ago. Peter took a crack at it but with my nonspecific beta, he got sidetracked. For detailed beta on the loop, I have a post for you here.

Skinning up timberline

Skinning up timberline

We were later in the season for this loop than the last time that I did it. That meant more open crevasses and more ropework to make the loop happen safely. Where Ethan and I had been forced to walk with crampons, Taylor and I skinned. Where Ethan and I had skied unroped, Taylor and I skied roped and belayed across bridged crevasses.

Reid Glacier

Reid Glacier

The loop is still a favorite of mine, as there’s so much of Mt Hood that so few people get to see.

Taylor on the Reid

Taylor on the Reid

Headed down the first real glacier of the day, Taylor and I found that what had been a ‘couloir’ for Ethan and I was now spanned by a deep crevasse. Out came the rope, crampons, and classic sit-on-planted-skis hip belay.

Crevasse hijinx

Crevasse hijinx

Taylor sent the first crux with no sweat, and we cruised down into the sun, where we started sweating.

Past the first crux.

Past the first crux.

 

Yokum ridge

Booting the broad Yokum Ridge towards the Sandy Glacier.

Sandy glacier

Sandy glacier crossing, Taylor dwarfed.

The warm temps did mean that we had little hard snow to mess around with, so travel through the middle of the loop was pleasant and smooth.

Cathedral ridge

Cathedral ridge

Cathedral ridge

Exiting Cathedral Ridge to gain the Ladd/Coe glaciers.

 

Seracs

Seracs on the Ladd Glacier

The Ladd and Coe glaciers gave us some food for thought, with lots of refrigerator-sized ice blocks littering the crossing, dropped unceremoniously from the seracs above.

Pulpit rock

Below Pulpit rock, considering more serac trash.

We made quick passage under the seracs, which have a nasty tendency of collapsing without any warning. Though the scientists seem to think that collapse has little correlation to daytime temperature, it’s hard not to think that it’s more likely when the sun is hot. The sun was hot.

Debris on the Coe

Taylor jog-stumbles through debris on the Coe glacier.

The exit from the Coe glacier involved a quick scramble up what the local guide outfit refers to as Dick Pumpington ridge. I’ll leave you to consider the name.

Dick pumpington.

Dick pumpington.

We skied roped across and down the Eliot glacier amongst some big cracks and sagging bridges. This is one of many places where Ethan and I had it easy, and where Taylor and I had to pull out all the safety stops.

Our tracks on the Eliot.

Our tracks on the Eliot.

Exit from the glacier was considerably easier than on my last loop, and we made good time gaining altitude towards Cooper’s spur to begin our last descent.

Up Cooper's spur.

Up Cooper’s spur.

After kicking off wet slides all the way across the Newton and Clark glaciers, we made it to White river and a view of the car.

Exiting white river.

Exiting white river.

At a generally casual pace, we wrapped up the trip in 8 hours and 40 minutes, with 13.4 miles and 6700′ of elevation gain.

Parking lot.

Parking lot love.

Much love to this one!


 

Apr 15

2016

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SkiMo Race Report: The Father Dyer Postal Route

A century and a half ago, a minister by the name of John Lewis Dyer journeyed over 1000 miles by horse and by foot from Minnesota to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. His mission was to teach the gospel to morally bereft inhabitants of the mining camps popping up across the state. Settling down in a mining town called Bucksin Joe, “Father Dyer,” as he became known, made frequent crossings of 13,100′ Mosquito Pass in order to spread the word of God and deliver mail to various locales. The route was rugged, dangerous, and often snow covered. Dyer became a frontier legend after nearly three decades of tirelessly traveling between camps and preaching.  Today, he is remembered foremost by an eponymous mountain in the Mosquito Range outside of Leadville (Dyer Mountain, 13,800′). Read on →

Apr 06

2016

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Mt Adams Skiing, the Long Way

I’ve been really frustrated with skiing in the Pacific Northwest this year. A big part of my frustration comes from living in Portland, which is not somewhere that you live if skiing is a priority for you. The weather has been the source of the rest of my frustration: week after week we’ve had storms with significant moisture roll through, but temperatures hovered just a few degrees too high. Sure, I’ve gotten a few good days this season, but largely I’ve put in a lot of work to ski some pretty bad snow.

A couple weeks back, I was seriously considering shelving recreational winter skiing in the PNW. Next year, I’d focus on skimo, and I wouldn’t think about going out until corn season, which is the only good thing going around here. Thankfully, before I could make a rash and bitter decision, the weather turned sunny and it started looking like the corn might have arrived.

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Based on a report of what sounded like a pretty miserable car-to-car mission on Mt Adams, Taylor and I planned a two-day trip up there to try to ski the Southwest Chutes. Both Taylor and I have skied the South side of Mt Adams a couple of times, including car-to-car efforts both (TR from Peter here), so there was no need to suffer excessively and try to get that done in a day. Instead, the SW Chutes offers a 4000′ fall-line alternative in the 35-degree neighborhood: very appealing.

Image stolen from Skinsanity: Denied on Mt Adams. Annotation is mine. Photo links to original post.

Image stolen from Skinsanity: Denied on Mt Adams. Annotation is mine. Photo links to original post. SW chutes descend SW from the false summit of Mt Adams (Piker’s peak). The South climbing route follows the large snowfield on the right.

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Mar 29

2016

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Three Fingered Jack Backcountry Skiing

This past weekend, a bit sad that we weren’t driving out to Colorado for the Grand Traverse, Taylor and I went looking for some new terrain in the Mt Jefferson wilderness. Neither of us had ever been to the Three Fingered Jack backcountry off of Santiam Pass (near Hoodoo ski area), and the forecast looked favorable for skiing on Friday and Saturday.

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Approaching Three Fingered Jack through the burn area.

On the North side of Santiam Pass is Three Fingered Jack, and to the South (and slightly more distant) is Mt Washington. While Mt Washington is a picturesque peak reminiscent of the Paramount Pictures logo, Three Fingered Jack is a much more rubbly remnant of a volcano, forming a sawtoothed projection aligned from North to South. Read on →

Feb 25

2016

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Southern Oregon Backcountry: Siskiyou Skiing

southern oregon backcountry

Taylor on the skintrack, with untouched Southern Oregon backcountry gold behind her.

This weekend, Taylor and I headed South along I-5 to Southern Oregon aiming to sample the Southern Oregon backcountry and ski a smaller cascades volcano, Mt McLoughlin. Unfortunately, with a busy week last week, Tay forgot to move her shovel and probe from her race pack to her touring pack, so on Friday evening we discovered that we didn’t have the right kit to go ahead as planned. We cursed bad fortune and looked for alternate ideas.

southern oregon backcountry powder

I found a few good turns here and there in some of the lightest snow the PNW has to offer.

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Jan 21

2016

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DIY: Resizing Fixed-Length Ski Poles

I have a quick tech tip for you today. Fixed-length poles are becoming more popular for backcountry skiing because they’re stiffer and generally lighter than adjustable poles. They are, however, not adjustable. If you get too big a size, you’ll find yourself walking around with your hands up like a mummy, feeling like an idiot with cold hands.

When we were in Salt Lake City a few weeks ago, we stopped by Skimo.co to say hi. The store is amazing. If you like skiing lots of vert on light, capable gear, you’ve got to check the place out. When we asked Jason if he would shorten Taylor’s carbon ski poles, he suggested a simple home fix: boil the handles off, cut, reglue. Perfect!

Skimo.co: all of the lightweight european kit that you can't buy anywhere else.

Skimo.co: all of the lightweight european kit that you can’t buy anywhere else.

So, if your poles are too long, or you can find a great deal on longer poles and want to cut them down, I’ve got you covered, step by step. All you need is a big pot of boiling water, a hacksaw, and some glue. Buyer beware: some poles have a tapered shaft, and if cut too short you’ll have a hard time filling the extra space to glue the handle back on. Read on →

Dec 03

2015

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November in Gothic

On the second to last day of October I came across a set of bear tracks. My friend Richard and I had set out from Gothic on bikes and were six miles up valley when the snow became too deep to ride. The tracks appeared in the snow, large and clawed. Unmistakable. We followed them for over half a mile up the road until they meandered up the hillside. Strange, I thought, that the bear should be wandering up in elevation, into deepening snow. Surely it was focused foremost on food, in the midst of building the last of its fat layer before hibernating. What it hoped to find in the snow I know not.

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Bear tracks are good reminder that there are animals out there that can kill you. Photo by Richard.

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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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