Thursday, March 25, 2010

East Dickey Chute

John and I skied an excellent gully off of the east ridge of Dickey in the Lost River Range on Wednesday. We got an early start from Boise and were originally going to attempt McCaleb but there were drifts in the road and we were faced with a pretty long walk just to get on snow. Then we thought about the Super Gully but we would have been a little late in getting up the gully and we had noticed a slide path lower in the gully. After getting back to town, there was a trip report from Dean Lords that had them in the Super Gully that day! We had already decided that we should go do something that had us making turns ASAP so we went north to Dickey. We opted to look for something different and took the road to Doublespring pass and walked in on supportive crust. We found what appeared to be an excellent chute. After following cow trails we stumbled onto a beautiful gully that streamed from the sub-peak. We skinned up until John had some icing problems on his skins. We stopped at an old snag and busted out a skin wax kit. John was an animal skinning with chunks that probably weighed as much as his skis! Problem solved (for the time being) we continued up. Straight up. We couldn't cut switches in to lessen the angle because the chute was too narrow. There was a thin skiff of wind deposited snow on crust and anything less that full skin on the surface and you were sliding.

Booting was out of the question. We wanted to go from the very top, but I was sinking in way too far to be worth it and our turn-back time was approaching.

We started down and encountered soft wind deposit, dust on crust, corn, trap crust, and finally slush over rock (ouch!). Something for everyone. The turns were fantastic once we dialed in what aspect of the chute had the corn.

We made it down a lot further than I expected. From the end of the slide path we got right to work doing the Mahogany Limbo. Once we were on the road it was smooth gliding almost back to the Suby. Beer and socks changed, happiness. It was a great day. Once again, I am very happy to be able to have solid partners. And if you are asked to play hooky to go to the mountains your answer should always be, "Does the Pope shit in the woods"? The only downer of the day is that John's homemade grouse jerky wasn't done in time to enjoy.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Fried on the Skillet.

Bob and I got the opportunity to ski a classic line in the Tetons on Mt. Moran. The weather was perfect, but the snow could have been a little better. I was invited by splattski , but he was unable to come. Since we didn't go to the summit (we were skiing, not climbing!), I'm sure that we will be back. My other friend Chris was going to go, but work wouldn't let him go. So Bob and I left on Sunday in the nicest Sportsmobile 4x4 conversion I've seen. I have a VW Westy and I may have to upgrade. We made good time and were loading up on bagels shortly after noon. Bob is very knowledgeable about the best spots around JH. Bob is also a very good climber and is mentioned in Stone Crusade, guidebooks and magazines. He was prolific in the Shawangunks and has put up a route that Henry Barber had to rest for 20 minutes on before sending it! Now Bob pushes the envelope with snowboard mountaineering.

There is a long slog across the frozen lake. After the end of the flat travel, we both had blisters. We are used to going up, not flat! It took 3.5 hours to go from Colter Bay to Bearpaw Bay. Partially due to a mistake in setting the azimuth on my compass and that we woke to a total white out.

We pulled the sleds as far as we could. Which was too far. We packed another 500 or so vertical feet and set up camp on the glacial moraine. We melted a gallon or so of water and I made Pad Thai noodles and had some tea. Heaven.

Four o'clock came and we started up. There were headlamps behind us. We had problems skinning on the bulletproof snow. We should have brought ski crampons. I have a list of things I would do differently. We had to start booting and the four guys caught us and passed. We stopped at the bottom of the glacier and fueled up. Then we started skinning again to the 'schrund. The bergschrund was barely open and we were able to go between the cliffs and the 'schrund instead of swinging way left.

We started booting again at the 'schrund and made our way around the corner and into the couloir. The angle is not nearly as steep as it looks from across the lake! It's still 40+ degrees and the snow was NOT softening up. Which brings me to my next item on the list of things to do differently. If the snow is hard at the 'schrund, put your crampons on then. You will not be able to until WAY up on the couloir. Probably make sure you can get to your axe, or bring Whippets. I'm glad I brought two tools...wink, wink, nudge, nudge (inside joke alert)!

We were stuck in boots on hard snow. It wasn't too bad until the sun hit the right wall. Then the icefall came. First a baseball sized chunk hit my kneecap. Bitch. Then at around 11,000 I felt dizzy and sick to my stomach. We pushed on and it got better. I have never had a problem with altitude, but then again, the highest I have been to is 14K+ so who knows. We pushed on and the Bozeman 4 made their way onto the summit ridge. The icefall continued to get worse and bigger. I heard a crack and thud. Then THUD, THUD, THUD. The thuds were getting further apart. I strained to see what was coming and saw a chunk of ice the size of a couch cushion coming right at us. Bob was about 20 meters below me and I yelled, "ICE"! He ducked into the slope and I tried to fit up into my helmet. It whizzed over me and landed about 5 feet in front of Bob and bounced over and on down. For the first time in awhile, I thought about mortality. I decided that I came to ski the handle and not worry about the summit. Bob continued up another 200 feet and found no soft snow. Bulletproof hardpack. The Bozeman guys continued up to the summit and I transitioned to skis. I told Bob that I would wait for him at the bottom of the glacier. He was going to wait for it to soften more. I really wanted to ski from the summit, but it wasn't there for us. I think we are both happy to just get to ski the Skillet. My first turns were nerve wracking. I skittered down 10 feet after each pedal hop. I thought about stopping and waiting for it to soften, but the shade of the chute was starting to come across and the East Horn was casting a huge shadow below. I pressed on and found great snow 1000 vertical feet below. Now it was fun! The whole chute from the notch to the cliff is pretty much the same angle. It is sublime! I couldn't recommend it more. I know I'll be back to finnish the job!

I stopped at the glacier and set up a chair with my sit pad and skis and waited. I fell asleep and woke up to see the Bozeman guys skiing by in the distance. No Bob! I was worried since there were more and more sluffs coming down the couloir. Finally Bob came out of the chute and down by the cliffs.

We skied the final chutes down to camp and packed up. We were going to stay another night to rest, but we decided to take one good kick in the nuts instead of two small ones. Good choice. We wandered around blistered and exhausted in the dark until finding the van. Soup, water, sleep... heaven. Bob has an uncanny ability to wake up at exactly 5 minutes to 5 a.m. I don't know how he adjusted for Daylight Savings, but he did. We stuffed and stashed, hoisted the main sail and were on our way for the breakfast special at Bubba's. I am very grateful to be able to go on such a great trip. Thank you Bob and thank you John. I am lucky to be surrounded by great partners (Chris is alway ready to go on one of my trips that my mind wrote a check for and our ass can't cash). I have yet to regret going with anyone. Now, I am off to lick my wounds and get ready for the Sawtooths in April.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Going somewhere?

I haven't packed this much stuff since Rainier! I'm really hoping that the weather window will open and stay open for a couple of days. Back on Wednesday!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Burnt River

It doesn't get much better than backcountry skiing on Saturday and then climbing limestone on Sunday! I had been promising my wife that I would take her to Burnt River and show her the limestone stash. So today we drove the two hours over there. It's more than worth it!

She stepped up to the plate and got the seasons first lead! She cruised up a 5.8. I guess the climbing gym membership IS useful after all! We ran laps on the 5.8 and a 5.10 that was near. I love limestone!

The Little Man even got in some limestone action. We climb on Basalt, Granite, Smith Rock Tuff, and Limestone. We need to get to Moab to round out our experience. My personal favorite is limestone, but the City and it's granite calls to us a few times a month in the summer!

We went back to the truck and had lunch in the peaceful canyon. It was a very nice day. I need to figure out how to work two days and have five off! On the drive out we saw some sheep. They were close to the road and weren't too shy.

The Bighorn sheep was reintroduced in the late 80's to the canyon and they seem to be doing well.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Spring Skiing

We skied Freeman today and had our first dose of corn! It's sad to see winter go, but there is still plenty of skiing left! We skied some south facing chutes from the main ridge, but first we skinned to the top to check the snow. It wasn't good enough to stay up there so we came back down to ski the softer snow.

The skin up in the early morning was exciting. Ski crampons would've been nice!