Wednesday, November 19, 2014

PCMR is getting ready

It sure looks like Vail resorts is doing what it takes to make a good first impression for the 2014/2015 season. With the recent low temperatures and the ensuing ability to make snow on the one hand and the latest storm on the other, there is already enough snow at the resort for this week's opening. The resort has been making amazing quantities of snow and today the Pisten Bullys were in full swing getting the snow whales into shape. With a couple of storms in the forecast, the opening on the 22nd should be a no brainer.
Lately I have been able to skin up to the old angle station, then I would "run out of hill" and just ski back down. Today I was surprised to see that a lot of snow has been made well above it and I was able to skin almost all the way to the yurt.
Here are the pictures I took today (click to enlarge):
Looking up homerun

Skadi on Homerun below Silver Skis

Past the Bonanza base there was enough snow to make it close to the yurt

Sunday, November 16, 2014

PCMR from Empire Lodge

Sunny but brisk is a way to describe this morning's start: Now clouds in the sky but 2° F on the ground. At Empire Lodge you start in the shade so you better book it if you're going to keep any heat going at all... The good news is that it only stays that way for 10 - 15 min before you get in the sun.
This was yet another typical pre-preseason tour with minimal snow coverage. There is not much to ski up there just yet so you end up clomping around on your skins alot. This tour went first to Jupiter Peak and then down and up to the top of Daley Chutes then back traversing through the woods to the meadows. On the return what you do get to ski are the low angle meadows before the parking lot. They have enough snow and skier compaction the allow you to let loose and have some fun.
Here are the pictures (click to enlarge):

2° F in the shade sure feels like winter.

Looking up towards the Daley Chutes area.

Snow "pack" went from marginal on windblown ridglines... OK on leeward privileged spots. My poles are set
to 125 cm i.e. 4 feet so about two feet of snow here.

Guradman's Pass.

To the left Clayton Peak - to the right Peak 10,420.

Jupiter from the top of Empire Express.

This tour was mostly about clomping around on the skins...

...but Skadi didn't mind!

From Pinyon ridge: Jupiter , Pioneer ridge and BCC in the horizon.

Mt Timpanogos in the distance.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Mt Baldy

In an effort to wring out the last drops of snow out of the latest storm I got up Baldy today. Hoping against hope I took a look into Main Baldy chute but no cigar (see the pictures below) so I kept going to the summit, completed yet another heroic oxygen-less ascent and had lunch on top. The sun was out, not a cloud in the sky and no wind at all at 11068'. Now we need to become storm watchers again because we are rapidly running out of the few inches we got last week-end. The forecast looks hopeful, we are looking at some snow on Monday and maybe quite a bit of it from Thursday till Saturday. That could do it. I just wish the probabilities were a bit higher than 50%... In any case, here are the pictures of the day (click to enlarge):

From the Baldy shoulder: View down Little Cottonwood
Canyon all the way to Salt Lake City

Main Baldy entrance is not so steep right now
but those rocks are everywhere and....

...they go for a lot farther than just the entrance.

This must be Snowbird's attempt at finally giving back to Hidden Peak
the feet it cut off from it at inception of the tram a lot of years ago.

I didn't expect there would have been enough snow but
poeple have been poaching turns at Snowbird. You can
see them between the two rows of trees.

Provided next storm keeps it's promises,
the Cirque will be skiable next week

Mt Timpanogos from Mt Baldy.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Second outing of the 2014/2015 season

I went back to the same spot, Alta, the only one with enough snow to do anything with right now. If you are addicted to SKN2SKI (my new friend John's registration plates) and can't stay away from copious amounts of heinous skiing then today's outing was just right for you. I LOVED it! It feels like winter up here, the gear gets out and heinous skiing beats no skiing any day of the year. Heck, when I lived in Massachussetts ages ago, I'd go skiing Wachusett "Mountain", now if you click that link don't let the marketing pictures fool you. That place almost never felt like what those pictures look like. If you couldn't see last years ski pass through the blue ice then it wasn't  Wachusett... In any case that skiing too was a ton better than no skiing!
At Alta the cover or lack thereof was very close to identical to Tuesday's (click link or just see below) i.e. close to a foot up high and close to 100% man-made at the base. With that though you get to skin from the parking lot.
Here are a couple of pictures taken from Germania pass (click to enlarge):

Devil's Castle


Mt Baldy with too much sun for a proper picture...

If next storm is as good as the last one AND this stuff does not melt
 between now and then, we may be starting a snow pack...

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

First outing of the 2014/2015 season

I was out at Collins Gulch (Alta) on the anniversary of last year's Alta outing and although it was nice to be out the conditions were not anywhere close to as good as last year. However there was enough snow to skin up to Germania Pass right from the parking lot and ski down the service road that was compacted enough to allow rock avoidance. The slopes themselves were only acceptable if this was your last run on those skis as the rocks were numerous and absolutely everywhere. The cover outside of the man-made was generally a bit under a foot of pretty nice powder but obviously not enough to provide a cover, this was not a powder day... Here are the pictures (click to enlarge):

Accross the road we can see that Suicide Chute
benefitted greatly from the storm.

Clearly a pre-season situation at Alta base...

...but enough snow to skin right from the parking lot.

Starting to feel like winter...

Skier compaction in Main Baldy... makes you wonder
what rock compaction will do to your skis.

Rock and roll! My favorite rock skis (notice the old Dynafit volcano heel
pieces).  To the right of the tips is Sugarloaf and to their left my castle.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Is this the 1st storm of the 2014/2015 season?

This winter is taking for EVER to get off the ground. So we are reduced to tea leaves and weather forecasts. Not completely sure which one is the most reliable... Typically I just pick the one with the "best" message and on the NOAA end of things we have below hopefull thing. Is this the one we'll remember as the first storm of the 2014/2015 season? Gotta love the "Winter Weather Advisory", the only downer on this forecast is that the whole thing is over on Tuesday and after that, no precipitation and the temps are inching back up, but let's keep a positive attitude...

Click to enlarge:

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Andreas Fransson and J.P. Auclaire are no more

I was hit in the gut when I found this out. I met Andreas a couple of times in Chamonix during the 2012/2013 season and he was probably the most centered, calmest big mountain skier I ever met. A gentleman and an athlete... It hurts just thinking about it. I can't even begin to imagine how hard this must be on the loved ones.

J.P. and Andreas were climbing a couloir up the on the Argentine side of Monte San Lorenzo (12,159 feet) when an avalanche carried them in excess of 2,000 feet downhill. Their two camera carrying collegues made it. For the ESPN news on this click here.
One thing that gnaws at me is that often in our sport (as in this case) it seems dangerous even when you don't do particularly dangerous stuff. Andreas and J.P. got peeled off the mountain in climbing mode, Doug Coombs died looking down a couloir he skied a ton of times before. Remy Lecluse and Gregory Costa got taken asleep in their tents. It doesn't seem to me like these guys were being particularily reckless when they got caught.Sometimes I think that just the fact of being present in the mountains in winter is enough to get you. 

I do struggle with the way I often feel we rationalize the accidents. In order to reassure ourselves I feel that we often seek the preventable reason why the accident happened in the first place. Something along the lines of "if they only had paid attention to this, that or the other predictable factor it would never have happened" and therefore I can go on into the mountains under the illusion that I can make myself safe. More and more I feel that premise is as false as prevalent. These were absolutely expert mountaineers, they sure would push the envelope but incompetent they were not. Neither were  Remy Lecluse, Gregory Costa or Doug Coombs and so many others. I can only dream of getting to their level of competence let alone skill. However they still got caught. 

Not that the sedentary life seems to be all that safe, it only takes a cursory glance at health statistics in this country to realize that. I guess that at the end of the day it is all about figuring out what we want out of life for our loved ones and for ourselves.  I do feel a tension between my love for my loved ones and my love for the mountains. That's probably why I would love to believe I can be safe out there and so make sure I'm there for my loved ones too. It's just that as time goes by and one of these accidents comes after the other, I feel it's getting increasingly hard to believe that. 

To leave on as positive a note as possible here are some words from Fransson:
"Society has an absurd general belief that life is about hanging on as long as possible. So people [are] often hanging on for the sake of hanging on and not for really living. I can go on for days about this, but the important things in life are unsayable, so let's just live it out and see what we find behind the curtains in front of the big game we are all playing."
I'm pretty sure I mostly agree but it still hurts to know they are gone. Here is to hoping they are in a better place.

The pictures (click to enlarge):

Monte San Lorenzo (12,159 feet) straddling Chile and Argentina

Andreas Fransson

J.P. Auclair