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Tagged ‘backcountry skiing‘

Skiing the Wyeast, Fast

After a few months of playing phone tag, Tom Nelson and I finally managed to get out for some skiing this past weekend. Tom is a financial planner by day, ex-nordic skier, and strong skimo racer by night. For a guy with a wife, kids, and business, he really finds a lot of time to go run up hills.

Tom smiling above Vista top shack.

Our choice for the day was Mt Hood’s Wy’East face. I’ve skied this before, but Tom had never been. It was a good choice for our first outing together before seeking out some steeper objectives. I still think that this run is one of the crown jewels of cascades volcano skiing when it’s in good condition. Unfortunately, spring has been rocky out here, and just a week ago the mountain saw almost 30 inches of new snow.

Clouds, inversion, and cold East wind.

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Breaking the Curse: Mt Mcloughlin Ski Descent

Mt McLoughlin is an often forgotten volcano of the Cascades chain. Hidden in southern Oregon along the highway between the modest towns of Medford and Klamath Falls, it was a feature of Taylor’s childhood. Legend has it that her mother, Cecilia, hiked Mt McLoughlin with Taylor in her womb. We all know what that does to a child.

“We all know what that does to a child.”

Taylor has hiked Mt McLoughlin four or five times in summer, but never in Winter. As an isolated cone of a mountain, it just begs to be skied, so we’ve already tried twice. But we were cursed. It was not to be.

Climbing along the upper crater rim.

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Haute Route Part 1: Chamonix to Verbier

Taylor and I in Chamonix, enjoying a final cup of good coffee before hitting the road to Zermatt.

Our plan to ski the haute route was hatched casually. It’s easy to imagine success from half a world away, especially on a route deemed the classic of classic ski tours. In typical style, Taylor and I bought plane tickets and booked a few Airbnbs the better part of nine months in advance of when we would be in Chamonix. Our dates were picked based on the guidebook, aiming for deep snowpack but sunny spring weather. What else could we need?

Just. about. everything. It turns out that there is little to no beta about the haute route on the internet aside from guide’s descriptions of the route (Day 3: We’ll tackle massive glaciers as we cross the spectacular high terrain of the alps!) or mismatched trip reports. There’s no accurate or reliable information about what equipment is reasonable for an experience party. There’s not even a day-by-day mileage or vertical tally. Finally, there are certainly no fewer than six major variations on the route. Read on →

Notes From The Elk Mountain Grand Traverse

by Ethan Linck and Peter Innes

Two weeks ago, we had the privilege of lining up to race the 20th annual Elk Mountain Grand Traverse. The “GT,” as it’s commonly known, is a 40 mile point-to-point backcountry ski race from Crested Butte to Aspen. Because of the stunning tableau of mountains en route, the unpredictable weather, and its midnight start, it’s hard to think of a more iconic ski mountaineering event in North America. As both of us have served as winter caretakers at the nearby Rocky Mountain Biological Lab, where daily life provides ample preparation for a long day of low-angle mountain travel at high elevation, the GT is near and dear to our hearts as a celebration of one of Colorado’s more beautiful landscapes.

Gothic Mountain and the East River Valley: home to the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab and yours truly, team Rocky Mountain Ski Lab. Photo (c) Ethan Linck

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Shorts: How to Wax Skins

This Saturday as we were skiing up on Mt Hood, I noticed that my skins weren’t getting amazing glide. The snow was a bit wet, and the skins are new, so it was no surprise. My solution to this problem is to wax the skins, a tactic stolen from the Euro race scene that is largely unheard of in the US. (Most US skiers will think of glop-stopper when talking about skin wax, but we’re talking about hot-waxing).

It’s hot-wax time.

The technique of skin waxing is simple and easy to do at home. It improves glide as well as water/glop resistance of the skins. It causes no damage to skins when done properly, and it takes just a few minutes to complete. I’ve waxed both nylon and mohair skins, though waxing nylon skins is pissing into the wind as far as glide goes. Read on →

Is it snowing?

October is a damned month, when the single track is ripe but all forces conspire to distract a fellow with the prospect of skiing. Highly-produced ski films, like Christmas decorations, come earlier every year, and the internet is abuzz with atmospheric predictions and ski porn live-streamed from South America.

I’ll admit, I am excited to go skiing, but with a trip to Japan scheduled for the middle of December, the feeling isn’t too pressing. There’s just no getting around the beautiful fall leaves and crip, clear days that make anything but skiing seem deeply appealing. I managed to work in day of turns-all-year quality skiing last week, so the piper has been paid for now.

Still, that’s not to say that I’m not preparing for the season. Two international trips and a wedding make it unlikely that I’ll be doing much racing this year, but I still want to come into the season fit and ready to go fast. Read on →

Mt Baker Easton Glacier Ski Descent

Author’s note: This post is one week old. I’m now sleep deprived and sporting the dorky combination of scrubs and a white coat. Looking back on this gives me a satisfied smile. Enjoy!
I’m on a ferry, out on puget sound, sailing from Friday Harbor to Anacortes. Despite my best efforts (hours of quietly watching at the rail), I’ve yet to see an Orca. That’s the only hope I had for this trip that I have yet to fulfill.
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Sunset over Mt Baker

In eighteen hours or so, I’ll be starting one of the rights of passage that every medical student is forced to endure: a surgical rotation. For four weeks, I’ll work longer than twelve-hour days for six or more days per week. Sometimes I’ll be there overnight. Thank goodness there are restrictions; I’m not supposed to work more than 80 hours per week averaged out over four weeks, or more than 28 hours at a time. So reasonable.
That’s not to say that I resent the rotation, or that I’m not excited. I don’t, and I am. This is what I signed up for. Still, it’s a transition moment from a few months that have afforded me a lot of time in the mountains to a few that will afford me little.
To mark the occasion, and to ornament some travel that we were making to a wedding on San Juan Island, Tay and I decided a few weeks ago to climb and ski Mt Baker It is one of the cascades volcanoes that has managed to avoid attempts by either of us.
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Punching through the snow line.

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Mt Adams Southwest Chutes Speed Lap

Earlier this season, Taylor and I walked a really long way to try to ski Mt Adams’ southwest chutes. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite spring, so we didn’t get to ski the route. April passed, and so did May, and now in early June the conditions are fully ripe for cascades corn harvesting, so I made a quick solo trip to try to nab the route before it melts away.

Mt Adams looking mighty fine.

Mt Adams looking mighty fine.

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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 →

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.

three fingered jack backcountry

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 →