Friday, December 24, 2010

Xmas Eve Dawn Patrol

Splattski and I have a tradition of skiing on Christmas Eve.  We usually try to get out early and be back in town before the liquor store closes.  I love to dawn patrol and be back before noon.  Today we skied Freeman and had reasonably good snow conditions.  Good enough to take two laps on the lower half!

The moon was out, but not enough to see without a headlamp.  It was cold as we geared up to start skinning up.

After about 45 minutes the sun came up and revealed a wee bit of alpenglow.  John is surveying the potential lines on the way down.

This picture could be from last year's Xmas Eve trip!  I guess it IS better to be lucky than good!

Turns in the shade and trees were great.  Boot-grabby zipper crust was present elsewhere.  It's supposed to be warmer, so we'll see what happens to the conditions.

Here's to another great year!  I hope the 1.3 people that read my ramblings have a great Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cornice Cutter

After my trip up to Copper on Tuesday and seeing the fledgling cornices hanging over my favorite lines, I remembered my old Rutschblock cord.  I had made it out of 2mm cord and knotted very small nuts in the center.  It was about 19 feet.  Just long enough to cut a Rutschblock.  G3 also makes the G3 Rutschblock Cord, which is a wire version.  Neither are long enough to safely cut a cornice.

I had found a very cool product last year called the Backcountry Bomb.  It's a device specifically made to cut cornices.  I decided to make my own.  Here's how:

First you will need to head down to Lowe's or Home Depot or similar.  Pick up 41 feet of 1/16 uncoated wire,  one bag of 1/16 swage/stopper fittings (there's X2 per bag), and two 1/2 X 1/2 PVC Tees.

Then gather the following complex tools; hammer, blunt chisel (or screwdriver you don't like), pliers, duct tape.

Feed the wire into the stopper and then put on the swage.  Fit it so it makes it around the 1/2 pipe of the tee.  Have about 1/4 inch of wire sticking out from the bottom of the swage.

Crimp it with the pliers to hold it in place while you get your swage tool.  If you don't have a swage tool, a blunt chisel or old regular screwdriver will work.

Crimp the swage with the chisel or swage tool.

Butt the stopper up to the wire and flatten it with the hammer.  The swage should have nice, neat indentations on both sides.  Repeat with the other end of the wire.

Feed the loop up through the bottom of the Tee and out one side, then looped over the other.  The stopper should catch the edge when pulled from the bottom.  This helps give it more strength instead of just pulling on the loop.  This is how the cutter will look when you actually use it.  Grasp it like you are starting a lawnmower. 

Now paint the handles a nice manly color so the cornice knows you mean business.  Also it should be bright and not white since you may drop one in the snow.  Duh!  Push a loop through the side and poke it through the bottom and then into the other handle's bottom and out the side.  Place the Tee's together and start winding the wire around as see below.  DO NOT wind it like you used to wind extension cords when you were a kid and your Dad yelled at you.  Instead, turn the Tee's (actually, now an H) end for end and feed the wire on.  It will wind up and deploy a lot easier if you always do it that way.

It is about the size of a sandwich and weighs in at around 7 ounces.  If I wasn't sure that I was going to encounter cornices, I would rather pack another turkey sandwich.  If you are going to encounter cornices that you want to cut to test a slope you want to ski and you absolutely KNOW there's nobody below you, it's worth the weight.

The easiest way to use it is to probe the shit out of the top to make sure you aren't where it will fracture just by standing around.  

Then use a keychain carabiner to clip a loop (minus the handle) to your probe's top loop and sling it around the cornice from a distance.  It's probably not a bad idea to rope up, either.  Once around the cornice, start sawing.  Two people works well, but one is fine and the other person can manage the belay (if used).  Drop the cornice and observe what the slope does.  If you drop a 900 pound cornice down a chute and nothing happens, it's pretty safe to say that you can ski it!  Just don't get cut-happy and scour chutes of their snowpack before they can stabilize.  

I'm coming for you buddy!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Today was my first time on Copper for this year.  What a day to do it!  Excellent snow was down on the lower flanks.  Bob and I skinned to the summit and skied down the face, but the snow was less that great.  Still great, just slightly less great than the lower flanks.

The cornices are big, but not as big as I've seen them.  It still seems to unstable to hit any of the shots off the back.

After we got down off the summit, we met up with Joel and Charlie and made a couple laps on the lower flanks.

I didn't take many pictures.  I was too excited by the great snow!

Dynafit mount and test run.

Skiing is up at Sunset. Great snow this weekend up there. It was the place to be and we met quite a few people up there. Plenty of pow for all!

Friday, December 17, 2010

New Book...

I love to read!  Tim Ferriss had written a book called "The Four-Hour Workweek" and I liked it a lot.  I was not surprised he followed it up with another book about a nonconventional approach to a conventional method.  He is a fitness freak and basically made himself a guinea pig for some wild experiments!  Here is his new book:

People may scoff and he has his critics, but a lot of what he has done in the realm of "body hacking" is backed by proof.  I don't mind working hard, but I don't like wasting my time!  Check the book out.  You won't be disappointed!

Sorry to throw a promotional up on here, but I am stoked about this book!  I promise I will be skiing the backcountry this weekend and not reading!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sunset Peak

Toured up to the lookout at Sunset.  It's great snow up there.  Almost worth the long skin up there.  Might not be there tomorrow with the rain that's supposed to be coming.  Damn!

Freeman Peak looking pretty bare!

Pilot's looking pretty bare, too!

Totally cool Ore Smasher!

John is standing on the dam that powered the Ore Smasher.  He's taking a picture of me taking a picture of him taking a picture of me.

Terrain selection is great up at Sunset.

Very good tour!

Sunday, December 5, 2010


I have been wanting to explore some more of Idaho's lesser skied Backcountry.  I use older guidebooks since it seems that people in the past were a little more into exploring and did some really cool traverses in the 70's that I love to read about.

I decided to head over to the Smoky Mountains north of SV.  I picked up Chris very late after I forgot to set my alarm.  We started about an hour and a half later than I wanted.  It worked out pretty well and we got to the pull-out north of Baker Creek road at around 9 a.m.  As we were getting our skis out, Chris Lundy and Simon Trautman pulled up behind us.  We were going to have fun and they were going to go work.  

We set out first and broke trail up to the bottom of the ridge and then Chris and Simon took over.  We enjoyed our government sponsored skin track up to about 8200'.  The Avy forecasters stopped to dig a pit and we continued on up to Elk Flats (8632).   We continued to skin up the NE ridge.  Chris and Simon caught up with us and broke the rest of the way to the summit.  Chris R. started not feeling very well and waited below in a safe spot while I continued on to the summit.  They skied down to the SE and I skied back down the east ridge to the nice open shots above Elk Flats.  Turns from the top were NICE!  Very deep for the time of the year.  I wasn't expecting such great snow.

The open slopes above Elk Flats are only about 300'-400' of descent.  But they are sweet.  In the video below, I am the small speck enjoying December 4th knee deep powder!

Chris wasn't feeling well at all so we made one run and skied back out.  I misjudged our traverse trajectory because of an awesome face that needed to be skied.  Unfortunately, this put us at the top of the old clear cut.  It was an awesome run of Class V survival skiing!

We got back and jumped in the Subaru, cranked the heater, and made our way back to town.  We stopped at KB's and I devoured a regular sized burrito in about 10 minutes.  I love that place!  We are having a great start to this year!  

Friday, November 26, 2010

Freeman (11/25/10)

I wanted to get in some birthday turns and I HAD to be home by 2.  Freeman would have to do.  Even with the combat skinning up to about 6500', it was still great to get out.

There is about 105cm of snow at around 7500'.  It was surprisingly heavy.  I figured with the cold temps it would have been lighter.  We didn't have time to skin up to the "lunch rock", so we skied down from the point above where we made the igloo last year.  We made a one-run-wonder-run and went through the street fight simulator on the way out.

The other cool thing worth mentioning is that Mr. Plow has hooked us up so far.  In past years it seems like we get a couple car spots at the Freeman pull-out and the snowmo-derps get a Wal-Mart sized lot at Mores Summit.  

Hopefully, we will have more snow in the near future and our close to home playground will be Merry for Christmas Eve turns!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Dark Side & Skateboard Ramps

Our work schedules have been very demanding and it's put a cramp in being outdoors. I really wanted to just BE outside. We had some time on Saturday and I wanted to head towards SV and go up towards Silver Lake. I also wanted to sleep. Sleep won out.

I decided to go to the new Oregon Trail Interpretive center across from Lake Forrest drive and hike the Dark Side loop. Starting from the Center parking lot and hiking towards the Dark Side of the Black Cliffs, we skirted along the cliff bottom and linked back up with the upper road. We turned around and followed the upper road back. About 3 miles total.

I also haven't climbed out at the Dark Side for a LONG time. So it was nice to check it out. I think that there is the potential for some moderate routes to go in there. Sandy and the guys did a great job with the clean up during the Adopt-A-Crag. I missed this years event. I'll have to earn some Karma points elsewhere.

I like the Dark Side because it lures you in with a nice doable crack and then smacks you with the feeling of being slightly overhung. Because you are! Sweet cracks and overhung gorilla hauls are sweet out here. The sun doesn't hit the Dark Side, ever. But the wind seems to not affect this aspect as bad. Combine all that with no people, a two mile total walk to the crags, no top ropes (sorry REI bunnies), and nothing less that 5.9, you've got good times!

Since I have been confined to the home. I built a ramp for the Little Man to practice dropping in on. The picture above is without the final masonite sheet, but you get the idea. He likes it and has been making me wish I was able to bounce off the concrete. I'll stick to my longboard.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Black Cliffs

"Number Nine" at the Mids

We decided to try to get a couple pitches in at the Cliffs since the weather cooled off. We were wanting an early start, but there was shoe shopping to do. So we got up there about 1:30 and it was pretty warm. There were four others climbing on the Short Cliffs so we went to the Mid Cliffs. Last year, I started to try to climb the "obscure" routes out there. We climbed some cool routes, we climbed some routes that might not have been the right grade, we climbed routes with "good pro" and generally had fun! The Project Obscurity routes are mostly gear routes and sub 5.11 so they rarely get done these days.

"Prominent Crack" with bush

Today's selections were "Number Nine" (5.8) and Prominent Crack (5.9). Due to the heat and the poison ivy-like bush, we didn't attempt Prominent Crack. We almost didn't start up "Number Nine" because the rock is black and south facing. But I geared up and started up.

The route starts out easy on in-cut edges and flakes. The seam in the dihedral is micro small so there is no real opportunity for pro and I didn't want to place anything behind a flake. You could probably get a couple micro-nuts in the seam, but the climbing isn't too hard down low. I placed a cam horizontal in a flake that was wedged in the dihedral. After the edges and flakes, the pro is great! Plenty of constrictions in the crack for perfect nut placements. This is good because the climbing gets into the meat of the 5.8 about then. It's a really fun route because you do everything on it. Starting with easy, positive edges into a stance to place gear. Then a face section that takes some balance to another nice stance to put in another piece. A short finger/hand crack to a fist crack to Fixe anchors. Nice. I did have to do some gardening on the upper crack to get a cam in, but I won't complain!

Bonnie at the finger/hand crack

We climbed it three times. Highly recommended. As I've said before, if you climb gear routes at the Black Cliffs, you will rarely be around other climbers. And who cares if you are! We are all just there to have fun! Like the Bible says, "Love thy Neighbor as you love yourself". I personally like Anton LeVay's, "Do unto others, as they do unto you."

The first ascent of "Number Nine" was in 1973 by Charlie Crist and Barry Dewane. "Prominent Crack" was first climbed around 1975 by my friend Bob Jahn. The norms that were broken in the past should serve as a guiding light to us now. When I climb a route that is now obscure (not covered in chalk or bolts), I think about the mental fortitude these guys had to push harder. I try to push, but it is over known ground. Not nearly the same ground those before me covered. They serve as an inspiration to me. Thanks for shining the light...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Outdoor Climbing Gym

Everyone that lives in Boise knows where Table Rock is. Everyone that climbs here knows that there is some excellent bouldering and top-roping up there also. But, there is a side of Table Rock that is not as classic as the South side. It's called the Traverse Wall in Sandy's guidebook. Drive up past the gate and park at the first spot on your left after you level off. Don't park in front of the quarry gate or you can be Federally executed since they are protecting History and nature by blasting the shit out of it.

Walk around or climb down to the bottom of the cliff and there will be a nice shady wall that runs for a hundred or so feet. Start anywhere and traverse on jugs and pockets until your forearms quit. You don't really need climbing shoes since you are going for the forearm pump and there's not much finesse in footwork on this wall. Some footholds have been epoxied to prevent further erosion.

I like it because it's cool in the summer, the kids are safe, there's no techno music blaring, nobody is shouting beta, but best of all... it's outside!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Snow Pickets

Since it snowed a little while ago, it made me think that it's not that far around the corner until ski season and it made me excited! Also since I didn't do anything this week worth writing about, I thought I would blog about... Snow Pickets!

Namely, how to make them. I make a lot of stuff like sleeping quilts, packs, tarps, and clothes for the Alpine for myself. But, the only piece of climbing gear that my gremlin fingers will make (and I trust) is a snow picket.

If you want to read an EXCELLENT article by Don Bogie that explains pretty much everything about pickets and their placement (and their failures). Click here. It's PDF and 20 pages long.

DIY Picket

Now, on to the DIY picket. First you have to understand that you can have access to the same aircraft grade aluminum that commercial picket makers have. It's the same with fabrics for clothes, shelters, and sleeping bags. You CAN find the source! My source for metal/aluminum is here in Boise. Actually it's Garden City, but we'll let that slide. The owner supplies material for a lot of weird things. Here's the place:

Gem State Metals, LLC
5220 N. Sawyer Ave., Unit H.
Garden City, ID 83714

When you get there, you want to have them get you the 2"x2" angle 6061-T6. Figure how many pickets you want, and multiply 2 feet (optimal picket length) by that number. To make it easy on yourself, you can have them cut 2 foot sections at a time. It's free.

When you get your 2 foot sections home, break out the drill with a 1/2" bit and tape measure. The first holes will be centered on the 2" sides and in the center of the length (at 12" from either end). The next holes are 3" down from the ends and centered. The next holes are again centered on the 2" sides and are 7.5" from each end. This makes the holes symmetrical from the center hole.

You will want to use a round file to smooth out the holes. After all the holes are smooth enough to run a finger through with zero burrs, pick a side and thread a 12" long piece of 5/8" webbing through both of the top holes. Tie a water knot. Tighten the knot every time you rack your pickets.

DIY Picket and pack on Rainier

I use a lightweight wiregate 'biner to attach it to my pack. It's secure in a way that is easy to get out in the event of a crevasse rescue. If I am snow climbing and need to rack it, I slide it between my back and pack, then clip it on a shoulder strap. I usually have another picket in or on my pack for setting up a belay. I also take a large locker and 48" sling to T-slot the picket (read the above mentioned article if unsure). You can girth hitch the sling through the center hole.

Now the bottom line. How much do you save making your own? A commercial picket will be around $18-$20 + shipping. DIYs will be about $7 a picket. Is it worth it? Only you can decide. I like making shit, so for me it is. Plus, if you are outfitting a group to go up Rainier and need 5 or more, you can really save some money!

One last thing... If you decide to make pickets, your life is in your selection of materials and craftsmanship. Remember that the 6th Satanic Sin is "Lack of Perspective". Your choices are yours alone. Become educated, own your decisions. AMFYOYO

Monday, August 23, 2010

Beaverdam Peak

I was looking for a close trip to a peak with some Alpine rock options. I started looking in the Lick Creek range in Lopez' book and started noting that there are A LOT of untested N. faces of mountains. They may have been tested, but there is nothing written about it. Either way, I just like aesthetic looking peaks and lines. I consulted my friend splattski about some slabs he saw when he was descending Beaverdam. It sounded like a perfect peak for what I wanted. We took the kids to my parent's for the night so we could get an early start. We made the drive in good time and were soon at Summit Lake and going cross country through some very neat terrain.

Once we made it through the old burn area, we started up the boulder field towards the looker's left of the peak. The bush was thick, and I really don't like thick bush (giggity). To avoid the huckleberry bushes we opted for the boulders.

The boulders were fun for about 15 minutes. We then moved over left of the field and mixed bush with boulders. We made it to the gully and had some water. We were running low on time (we had to pick up the kids). So Bonnie waited under an overhang.

I third classed up a large fracture in the slab. I popped out into blocks and small trees a hundred or so feet below the summit. I ran up and signed the register. I then used the same gully John and Art had used to descend.

If the slab went all the way from the base to the summit it would be awesome! If you want to take someone on an easy Alpine rock route with a summit, Beaverdam is it! From the base to the blocky section there is probably about 3 to 4 pitches of slab climbing. I didn't start at the base, but instead traversed from the gully across the face. The granite is white and solid. I will be back. This area is bitchin'!

The only problem with the area is driving the highway to McCall. You could be driving 470.44 mph and in no time there will be some asshole in a big truck with a trailer riding your tail. Oh well.

Thanks again to splattski for the pictures to get the inspiration to go up there. Much better than the Moob picture from El Cap...