I’ve had my hands full with there being a very small, new addition to our family earlier this year but with family in town visiting to help out I took the opportunity to head for the hills. Two friends and I left town around 6am and headed for a mountain trailhead about 40 minutes away. We toured into a zone new to me, checked out a possible future camping zone we’d spied on satellite imagery and then rode a heavily tree’d face, avoiding cliffs as best as we could and then exited via a creek bottom back to the truck. All in all we skinned and rode just over six miles and were out around four and a half hours. The day was quite cold although sunny which made it an overall great day to be out in the woods riding cold, fresh pow.
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
Got out for a great nine mile tour on Saturday in the Bridger Range with a buddy visiting from town. Snow conditions were stellar and after much on-the-ground analysis and two snowpits we felt comfortable picking a thousand foot avalanche path as our line of descent. All in all we were out for around six hours under beautiful sunny skies. I forgot the memory card for my SLR so my apologies for the phone can pics.
Doug Chabot of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center with a somewhat in-depth description on recording snow pit data.
As mentioned in yesterday’s post I had to keep my snowboarding exploits to a minimum this season due to an out-of-whack sacroiliac joint. The trip highlighted yesterday was in November and was pre-injury and being able to dwell upon how great it was to get out ski camping with a good friend did a lot to keep me in a positive attitude the rest of the winter. I did get out on a few day trips with friends and my fiance which helped as well – but were certainly hard on my back and required some downtime afterward to rest.
Last weekend I was feeling the need to get out for some snow camping and hopefully get to ski some Spring corn snow. The snow line is continually receding higher and higher so I garnered sign-ons from Jon and Kyle to pack up overnight gear and skis/splitboards for a journey into the Northern Gallatin Range of SW Montana.
Kyle had an engagement until Friday evening so we opted to do a nighttime start, hitting the trailhead around 20:00. Darkness doesn’t fall in these parts until 21:15 or so and we were able to get a good chunk of the hike under our belts before the headlamps had to come out. Snowline was somewhere around 8,000 ft (2440 m) at which time we were able to transition from trailrunners to ski/snowboard boots and skis for much easier travel. Having the extra weight of skis and boots on your back when hiking is an absolute nightmare for those of us who practice ultralight backpacking!
The next morning we awoke about an hour after dawn and once coffee and calories were in our bellies we set off for the summit of Mount Blackmore. It was hard to tell whether the snowpack had frozen overnight but I expect it didn’t. If it had we would have needed to wait for it to melt out a bit before we could ski it so not summiting until approximately 9:00 was what we aimed for. Everything was perfectly soft on our approach, our snowpit yielded excellent results, and other than being wary of sloughing snow we presumed we were in for some great riding.
The turns were superb with a few inches of soft, sloughy corn atop a breakable crust and bomber base. We lapped the East face of the peak twice, grabbed our camping gear from our base camp, and were back in town with the whole afternoon to take care of those pesky domestic chores and backyard relaxing.
Cord and cordlock girth-hitched to shoulder strap of backpack for hat storage.
When ski touring I use variations of a trucker cap, a winter hat, and the hood of my merino hoody to thermo-regulate during uphill travel. When the winter hat becomes too warm I cinch it into this simple cord system I attached to my pack to keep it ready for quick access.
Having enjoyed a nice Saturday and Sunday relaxing but not having gotten out for anything epic (I know, I know, a potential waste of a three-day weekend) upon awaking on Monday morning I looked at my phone to see a text message announcing the automatic weather station at Bridger Bowl (now closed for the season) was announcing 6+ inches of fresh snow and that the previous 36 hours had been below freezing. This is the stuff that spring skiing dreams are made of so three of us quickly compiled our gear and were in the car headed North about an hour later.
The road travels nearly all the way to the base of the mountains and in a typical year would be completely snow-free at this time of the season. But this has not been a typical season and there was over six inches of slushy white stuff all the way into the parking lot. In typical Bozeman fashion there were dozens of cars there and skiiers and snowboarders dotted the face of the mountains, seen through patches of fog. We sipped our last drops of coffee, donned our boots, boards, and skins, and headed upward. The base of the mountains was just high enough in elevation and temperatures just low enough that it was snowing on us (and fortunately not raining). The temps were enough and the activity of skinning is steamy enough that we opted to skin in our base layers rather than rain shells and although the base layers were getting wet it was much more comfortable than the sauna created by a rain jacket.
Mike and Mason skinning at Bridger Bowl, Memorial Day 2011
The skin track was well-defined as there have been people skiing up in these parts everyday since the resort closed in early April. The precipitation has been full-on for the past week and new snow has been hitting the mountains like a deluge. The new snow of this day was perfect however as it came during a low temperature period that reached way down low in elevation allowing for a beautiful, creamy layer of snow that was upwards of 18″ in depth up high. This was not without problems however as it was sitting atop a very defined layer of hard, crusty snow that had little to no adhesion to the dense, heavy stuff sitting atop it. Wet avalanche activity was very prominent.
Many feet of snow still atop the Bridgers.
We gained the top of the Bridger Range in good time and with lots of energy. The snow continued to fall and without much discussion we headed to a point slightly south along the crest called The Nose. It provides for great fall-line skiing that’s not so steep that the wet avalanches would limit our descent and that also is home to a good quantity of trees which help ease the deception of skiing in foggy conditions with no point of reference between the snow and the sky.
Mason atop The Ridge
The first turns were made in only a few inches of fresh snow. Wind must have moved most of the freshies downward off the ridge and into the trees because after the first half dozen turns we quickly moved into calf-deep, heavy powder that was an absolute delight to ride. We played leap-frog, taking turns skiing and watching. We were riding in terrain that is in-bounds at a ski resort but given the resort closed almost two months ago this terrain is now considered avalanche-prone. Mason is a former ski patroller and Mike and I are avid backcountry skiiers and the propensity for a wet slide to push one of us down the hill gave us caution. We came to the choke at “Exit Chute” toward the bottom of The Nose and Mason opted to ski it very cautiously. Small slides were pushing off his skis as he made his way through the choke. I went next and opted to ski directly toward the chute and then away and left to a parallel chute. In doing so I pushed off a massive slide of avalanche debris that although moving very slowly would have taken a skiier for a ride. Mike, who was above me communicated the activity to me and I communicated it to Mason who was below. Everyone was safe as we knew where each other were located and were able to communicate effectively.
Adam skins across the creek.
The chickadees can be heard calling out to potential mates with their mating call, the once pristine piles of snow in town have been reduced to hunks of dirty, gritty ice, and the snow line is visibly moving upward from the valley toward the mountain tops. For those willing to walk the ski season is far from over however. With the intense snow fall of March there is still a very, very deep snowpack in the high country. Getting there provides for some adventure however as you can see in the photo here.