Beau Fredlund and Kt Miller have spent a fair amount of time living in a small town in deep in the mountains of Southwest Montana that spends a good portion of the year buried under deep layers of deliciously low density powder snow. A Powder guide and photographer by trade the two seem to have an excellent rapport as ski partners who are both willing to put in great levels of effort to tick off exquisite lines in their “backyard” – the heart of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
Over the course of the 2014/2015 winter the duo produced a series of short films they dubbed the “Backyard Roots” project that focuses on the concept of exploration just outside the front door of ones home. Each episode then takes on its own individual theme ranging from the caution we must take, to how our peers affect our decisions, to overcoming and facing our fears.
Land of No Use takes a look at the controversy surrounding Wilderness through groups of skiiers and snowboarders who visit many of the state’s recognized Wilderness areas as well as through commentary from Wilderness proponents and opponents alike.
I've been on a bit of a pack kick lately and sewed up two new ones in the course of about a month. I shared pictures of my "Franken-ruck" recently but what follows was a previous work.
It's a bit more detailed and includes a foam framesheet in a tight-fitting sleeve, a probe/shovel handle/saw pocket, a daisy chain on the front, two rows of PALS on the bottom, simple hip stabilizer belt, and hooking top closure mechanism.
Fabrics employed are 1000d Cordura (both coated and uncoated), 200d Cordura, VX-21, spinnaker, silnylon, and then various bits of webbing and other notions.
I've had this out for one long day in the backcountry with standard avalanche gear, ten essentials, et al and it absolutely swallows everything up. I carried my split in a-frame very comfortably (using ski strap at top tips).
I did not include a small organizer pocket inside nor do a lid for this pack and I could see that being a future update.
Weight is +/- 20 oz.
Volume is 37 liters up to the collar
My wife and I have had a trend going this winter in which we break up our XC ski jaunts and hikes with a midday campfire and picnic. When the weather is cold a warming fire makes for a much more enjoyable lunch break. Besides, building campfires is just plain fun!
I injured my back in early winter and was unable to get out splitboarding as much as I’d like this winter but was able to get out on two meaningful overnight trips (second TR to follow soon). One of my go-to ski partners, Jon W. is pretty much always up for an adventure no matter how marginal the snow so back in mid-November he and I grabbed touring and overnight gear and headed into the Deep Creek drainage of the Northern Absaroka range. This drainage had burned almost completely black during the wildfires that raned in the NW U.S. during the summer of 2012 and hiking through this darkened landscape blanketed with white snow was both eerie and beautiful.
Our destination was an offtrail draw which is the headwaters of Deep Creek and located below the menacing NW face of Mt. Mcknight. A trail runs up the E/W length of Deep Creek but we planned to exit the trail at a natural departure point and hopefully find enough snow to ski into the headwaters. We knew snow levels would be low and opted for edged and shaped nordic skis (XCD) as opposed to splitboards which are our usual weapons for powdery descent.
Jon and I both have pretty good attitudes towards getting into the woods and regardless of the purpose of our destination (powder snow, quality singletrack, good whitewater) we don’t let the lack of action intended from that destination get us down. This trip didn’t provide as much snow as we’d like but we still had a great campfire and got to spend a night out under the stars in a pristine wilderness absolutely soaked in beauty.
There may not have been tons of snow but Jon didn’t let that keep him from getting rad on his 3-pin gear.
Yesterday morning after a very positive job interview (which I look forward to sharing more about in the near future) my buddy Mike sent me a text about going for a bike ride. We’d been talking about strapping our skis to our bicycles and heading up the most popular mountain access road in Bozeman – Hyalite Canyon. At this time of year the Forest Service gates the road to motorists for reasons based on impact but bicyclists are still allowed to enjoy the dry, clean pavement. The road winds about five miles (8km) and gains a few thousand feet of elevation which means its a great climb followed by an even better descent.
Mike and I planned this for the later afternoon so it wasn’t within our time constraints to ride directly from town and up to the mountains so we can’t claim pure smugness for this trip. We loaded bikes, skis, poles, boots, clothing, water, warm-temp ski wax, and panniers into Mike’s Suby and headed out.
Arriving at the trailhead and setting up the bicycles with ski gear is fun for a couple gear/bike dorks like Mike and I. The best part of it is living in a town like Bozeman doesn’t even proffer up a bunch of goofy what-the-hell-are-you-doing looks from other trailhead users. People just give you a nod of approval or a vocal ‘way to get after it!’
We had a great, albeit short ride up the asphalt road, then down a dirt and snow covered side road up to the snow line. Mike and I both chose to ride our “townie bikes” which have +/- 2″ MTB tires which made for a good choice given the multiple surfaces we rode upon.
From here we transitioned to skis and other than having to walk three short sections of dirt we were able to ski about four miles of pretty decent corn snow. We applied some Swix warm-temp wipe on wax before setting out which kept the snow from sticking and provided good glide.
Mike and I both ski on Madshus Epoch skis and were really enjoying the control that the shape and edges provide. In the downhill sections of our ski we were both making alpine turns in the slush and whooping with enjoyment. Mike skis in a Fisher BC NNN boot and I ski in a Rossignol 3-pin boot.
The United States Forest Service has a series of cabins, fire lookouts, and other shelters available for rental at a nominal cost all over the country. In SW Montana there is a LOT of federal land and therefore there are a LOT of these rental cabins. Navigate your way to recreation.gov to see for yourself.
A couple weekends ago my lady, a friend of hers, and myself put some winter gear into a big ol’ Otter Sled (designed to normally be pulled behind a snow machine) that I hand fashioned into a pulk and set off for a four mile ski to the Spanish Creek Cabin in the Northern Madison Range of the Gallatin National Forest. I was prototyping a pulk system that I will ultimately build onto my Mad River Rocket sled using a far lighter and better performing system. I plan to cover this in more detail in a later post.
As you can see in the above photo weight was of absolutely NO CONCERN whatsoever. I set three Rubbermaid tubs on the floor in the living room and told the ladies that if it fit into the tub I’d pull it in the pulk. Water, food, sleeping bags, pillows, books, wine, beer, slippers, warm clothing, you name it – it all went in. They each wore a small backpack with the day’s water and food in it and I wore a pack that I put my sleeping bag into (simply to give it some shape). I attached the pulk with a couple carabiners and set off through the sticky snow.
The hike into the cabin is along an asphalt road that is not plowed in winter so the gradient is very mellow. The area is very windblown however and given the low snow levels of the season there were many portions that contained exposed asphalt. About a 1/4 mile into the ski I removed my skis, placed them onto the pulk and walked for about two miles over asphalt, hardpacked ice/snow, and through minimal drifts. At about the two or 2.5 mile mark the snow levels increased and I was able to ski with the load behind me.
The system I was prototyping for the pulk uses a commonly-known method of two five foot lengths of PVC pipe crossed in an “x” pattern and connected to the hipbelt of the pack. I ran lengths of rope through the PVC pipe for this prototype but the final version will not use rope. The “x” pattern tracked behind me on uphills and downhills very, very well. It did roll over on my twice when I was attempting some sidehills that were simply too steep. I estimate however than in my upcoming design the load will ride much lower (aka no more spacious Rubbermaid tubs) and will therefore allow me to attempt steeper slopes with a lower center of balance.
This was also the first overnighter I took using the Madshus Epoch skis I procured this year. In the past years all of my backcountry travel has either been on snowshoes or via my splitboard but I have been entertaining the idea of using a set of skis that would allow me to focus on making miles quickly and easily on trips where descending wasn’t the primary focus (as with splitboarding). I chose the Epochs because they allow for excellent edging and control in offtrail as well as groomed trail situations. To complement the ski I went with a vintage three-pin Rotefella Telemark binding and the Rossignol BCX11 boot.