Twelve Months, Twelve Photos 2016

As in past I have chosen to reflect upon the year behind me by choosing a photo from each month that I feel was a highlight.  It allows me to think on how the year played out and helps to set the stage for the year ahead.  Thanks to Dave C. for the idea of the “Twelve Months, Twelve Photos” concept – – it has become something I truly appreciate.

January: The month started off pretty great although my back – – which I had been suffering through much pain over for the past years – – proved to be nice in that I got out with one of my best backcountry partners for a nice day of pow at a not overly used b.c. zone.

February: The outdoor gear development company that had employed me since 2012 decided to switch it’s focus away from gear design and as such let the majority of it’s R&D staff go in 2016.  This was a pretty huge hit to the way of life that my family and I had begun to build for ourselves but at the same time was a chance for me to design and develop some of my own gear as I said goodbye to that place.  In good news, the person who was part of that company that I most respected has started his own company so go give them a follow.

March: Young Mae began to take her first steps in March.  It’s almost hard to think back on this now that she is running and jumping all over the place.

April: The aforementioned closing of doors of my previous employer has thusfar proved to be an amazing improvement to my livelihood.  I have taken up employment with a local solar electric design and install firm and am exceedingly happy with my new line of work.  Excellent autonomy within the company and a management that truly cares for and understands their workforce.  Not to mention a product that provides legitimate and undeniable value to society.

May: Exceptional, quality camping with good friends from all over the country.  We picked a zone that was relatively close to friends living in Bozeman, Seattle, Helena, and Salt Lake City and we all gathered for the Memorial Day weekend to relax, eat, drink, shoot, ride bikes, and be lazy next to the creek.  Wonderful!

June: June brought more awesome camping with very good friends, albeit this time much closer to home than in May.  A favorite destination just West of Bozeman found us relaxing around the campfire, shooting BB guns, and brapping Mason’s moto around the plentiful BLM land.

July: My wife and daughter made their way out of town so I ventured up to one of our favorite campsites for a night solo with the Land Cruiser.

August: More super, awesome, quality, family camping was had in August as we explored a new zone in Paradise Valley.  I expect to have more adventures here in the future.

September: This month found my hunting partner and I deep in the Absaroka’s for the HD 316 bc hunt.  Although we didn’t harvest anything I did have what has proven to be the most successful stalk of my short hunting career.

October: What an amazing little person Mae is becoming.  Torie photographed her in some beautiful clothes during the autumnal colors of October.  Such a precious child!

November: Our family visited Seattle and Bellingham during November and I snapped this photo of some of our best friend’s “kids”.  Charlotte will soon be Mae’s good buddy.  Ol’ Jax we learned was ailing in health and I knew that when I left him the scratch behind his ear and gruff, but loving words I spoke to him would probably be the last.  He has since passed on and I miss him as a former roommate and punching bag.  RIP, buddy.

December: Neither of us having meat in the freezer, my hunting partner and I headed up to the cold, windy, and barren lands of the Castle Mountains in hope of catching glimpse of a herd of elk on BMA land.  It was a gorgeous, sunny, relatively mild, and quality day, but alas, no elk were spotted.  As such we have pretty much put the period on the end of the sentence of our hunting season and will re-group and begin planning for next September.

2016 was a splendid year and although I didn’t get out on enough backpacking trips I was happy to continually introduce my daughter to the wonders of the great outdoors.  I look forward to a 2017 plentiful with camping excursions and outdoor enjoyment for all.  May you and yours experience the same.  What do you have planned for 2017?  Let me know in the comments.


A Nice Day in the Snow

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.

MYOG: Winter Splitboarding Day Trip Pack

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




Splitboarding the Bridgers

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.








Shoulder Season Ski Camping 2012/2013 – Part Two

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.

DIY Hat Access Solution

DIY Hat Access Solution

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.


Memorial Day Splitboarding

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
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.
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
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.

Mason shot a short video of our day’s trip.