Post subject: A Preview of Adventures in the American and Southern Alps
Posted: Tue Aug 13, 2013 4:04 pm
Joined: Mon Feb 25, 2008 12:40 pm Posts: 527
This is a collection of stories both from the past and in the future. This week is hectic, from buiding two slideshows to packing my gear for a 3 month hiatus from the Summer sun. I've been very fortunate to be able to travel the world with Splitboard in hand all the while meet like minded people. There's something about the mountains that pulls us in day after day, year after year. The silence, the simpleness, the adventure, the friendships.
The list of reasons why I love the mountains is endless.
Before I leave for New Zealand and Austrailla I want to tell some of the random adventures that made this season one of if not the craziest season yet.
First story is the subject of a Slideshow being put on by the Mountaineers, Jason Hummel, Lowell Skoog and myself. If you can please check it out. It shall be RAD!!!!!!!
The American Alps Traverse
I can't say I am responsible for this dream. This one goes wholeheartedly to Lowell and Carl Skoog and Jens Kieler who dreamed up such an ambitious trip through the heart of the North Cascades Crest in one continuous push. It seemed like a grand adventure, but far beyond my abilities and desire to pull off. For numerous years Jason would joke about trying to attempt it and I would simply laugh it off. Well, until I received a email in mid May that would change my perspective.
I received an email from Forest asking what Jason and my plans were for the month of June. He was looking for partners crazy enough to attempt the traverse, but for the first few days I wanted nothing to do with it. However, after a lot of thought my perspective changed. What changed, you ask? The allure of having a splitboarder, Cascade born and raised, pulling it off held an incredible amount of value to me, not to mention that my family has deep roots in the Skagit valley (Sedro Wooley and Marblemount). I didn't think I could pull it off but I would put my blood, sweat and tears into it. I had never been in most of the terrain and couldn't think of a better way to check it out. In the end Forest bailed leaving only Hummel and I. We felt comfortable with the group dynamics as we have been at it for years now, and so I packed with only 48 hours before the trip.
The Isolation Traverse
It was a mixture of rain and new snow as we made our way up and over the Isolation area. Travel was smooth sailing for the most part until we got to Backbone ridge, which was a sluff nightmare. Our ski tracks caused wet slides that would run below us and made travel both slow and insanely cautious. But in the end we made our way up and over Dorado Needles and at the end of the 4th day we made our way to the Eldo Trailhead where James Rowe (our hero) waited with our food for the second round of the trip.
The Ptarmigan Extended.
We walked from the Eldo trailhead to Cascade Pass before making our way into the Ptarmagin Traverse. We were fortunate that we ran into Trevor Kostanich and partner at the 21 mile mark parking lot. They were kind enough to put in the bootpack across the Mix Up Arm Traverse, but after that we were on our own. Our packs were huge but we slowly followed the main route, putting in the path on Red Ledges and making our way out to White Rocks Lake over 3 days. From there we had no specific path to follow and would make up our own. We dropped to the valley below the Chikamin Glacier and made our way up to the Sinister/ Gunsight col and camped fearing the crux of the section, the NE side of Bannock Lakes. The next day we wrapped around and followed Ross Pass all the way to Bannock via a mellow slope and celebrated with hours of resting in an area that sees little traffic. The next morning we went up and over a low col and rode down to within a few hundred vert above the PCT trail. I persuaded Jason to hike down into the Agnes Valley but upon arriving we realized it was a bad mistake and got back into the alpine, traversing around Sitting Bull Mountain and riding the SE flank down to Agnes valley once again but at a higher elevation. From there we skinned up and over Cloudy Pass and camped at Lyman Lake for the night before ditching our gear and making our way down to Holden where we had mailed our last cache.
Construction has changed the valley temporarily, but Holden is still Holden. It's nice going to a small town where people recognize you and are happy to hear of your adventures. We were insanely fortunate that they were kind enough to feed us and recharge the occasional battery before kicking us out of town as visitors are against the rules during summer months for the next 3 years. Our packs were filled with gear and it was time for the final push to Glacier Peak.
Suiattle High Route
We left Holden Campgrounds early in the morning, making our way up to Upper Lyman Lake in the early afternoon. It was raining and I wondered why in the hell we had left Holden, but we had to work with the weather. The forecast wasn't looking good BUT was calling for two good days of weather so we had to push it and get out before things went bad. The next morning we woke up to whiteout, followed fortunately by blue skies and knew we had to go while we had the chance. We climbed up the NE face of Chiwawa and rode down the SE face before heading up Fortress and summiting via the spicy east ridge. We descended the west face via a route Jason had not-so-fond memories of and camped right off the Buck Creek Pass trail. The next day we went over the high country of High Pass down into the one area I was familiar and fond of, the Dakobeds. Finally, we were in my zone and we made good time up the Napeequa Valley before camping under the NW side of Ten Peak in a campsite we had been at 3 years prior. The final day in the alpine was spent climbing up the Honeycomb Glacier, then the Suiattle and Cool standard south route.
Ever since I went out to Glacier Peak in March and had to turn back on the Sitkum Glacier I wanted to return to do it. I knew the trail was destroyed but felt I could deal. We summited as an electrical storm was heading in from the east. With our gear buzzing, I thought “If I did die from lightening that would be one hell of a way to go...” Once we stepped foot on the summit the sun came out and we celebrated for a few minutes before making our first turns down the Sitkum. It was pow and it was pollen but most importantly it was 5000 vertical feet of riding before we would be transitioning to hiking for the final time.
The storm came in as we started bushwhacking down steep forest looking for the old climbers trail. It was raining hard and thunder was going off above our heads. I loved it and found it fitting. That night we camped on the river side in the zone that used to be the Kennedy Hot Springs, stoked that we had 4 miles of easy exit ahead of us. The next morning we awoke to sunshine and started making our way downstream. Landslides have taken out the most complex of areas and made it a total pain to make our way back. A lot of the areas have huge consequences for a slip but we carefully bushwhacked our way down valley at a pace of around a mile an hour before making it out to the Whitechuck road. Jason hitched 3 rides back to his car at Pyramid Lake trailhead and drove back to pick me up merely minutes before a rainstorm hit. We were back home in the early morning hours, celebrating our achievement with fast food and warm showers.
In total, our trip was 16 days, 120 miles and 60K of climbing. Thank you Lowell, Jason, James, Cori and the people of Holden for making this dream/fear a reality.
Post subject: Re: A Preview of Adventures in the American and Southern Alps
Posted: Fri Aug 30, 2013 4:38 pm
Joined: Mon Feb 25, 2008 12:40 pm Posts: 527
Not trying to rub it in but I am tired from breaking trail the past few days so I thought I would write up a TR.
First off huge thanks to EB for making this possible and the main reason I am down here is to promote Splitboarding and to tell my story through slideshows at both the Kiwi and Aussie splitboard Festivals with a few additional days in Australia and 3 months (yep 3 months) in New Zealand.
My adventures are not all in the snow but since this is turns all year I will focus on those. For more pictures updated almost daily here is a link to my Photo Album on Facebook.
It's not an official Australian TR unless there is a mention of the food of choice, The meat pie.
Day 1: Deadhorse Pass: NSW Main Range
My first day of touring in the Southern Hemi was at a place called Dead Horse Pass. Like my standard tradition I brought snow with me but it had came with avengeance, all on whiteout with snow blowing us sideways. I was touring with Adam West, owner of Firstlight snowboards and creator of the Down Under Splitfest so after running around in circles breaking a fresh skin track we thought it would be bad for the owner and pro athlete to get lost on the day of the event. My first turns were ski turns in powder. It was weird but it was rad!!
This is what they call tree skiing
Its been months since I broke trail
Look at that rhime ice
Day 2: Gothika: NSW Main Range, Australia
The next day we woke up to sunshine and made our way up to the backside of Gothika ski resort and I saw the alpine for the first time. It was big, open, rollish and most off all affected by a rain event then frozen over night. Conditions started firm but as the day went on it soften up to mank conditions. People would comment have you ever skied anything like this to which I would respond, every April in the Cascades. The terrain was great for touring with endless options of whatever you wanted both steeps and mellows were there to be found. In the end I came to the conclusion, if this terrain was in Washington people would be all over it. Lets say Snoqulamie Pass but steeper terrain and a few trees here and there but it is no Alpental, actually there is only one Alpental.
Our adventure starts and ends at this dam.
In these lands wind rules supreme
I thought at least Amar would find this interesting
April style turns from corn to mank in 1,000 vertical feet.
I love these trees
Looking back on at the Terrain.
Adam West of Firstlight Snowboards and the one random Red tree
Day 3 Dead Horse Pass NSW Main Range Australia
The third day brought me back to Dead Horse Pass but this time it was blue skies. There was at least 15 splitters all putting in steep skin track so I put in a nice guide style one and beat all them to the top. I joked that I hoped to return in two years to see everyone putting in 12 degree skin tracks. While the terrain we were on was quite mellow off in the distance was a few steep rock lines to get the adrenaline pumping. The day was short because our ride back to Norwa (Adams house) was 6 hours long, Yes a 6 hour commute.
Didn't expect that did you!
The next day we went back to Sydney and after a nice plate of Kangaroo steak I was off to the Airport and more specifically Queenstown, New Zealand.
Thank you Australia and Adams Family for being so kind to a dirt bag backcountry ski bum.
The Remarkables, New Zealand
I arrived at the end of a two month drought and the next day it rained in town and dropped almost a foot of new snow in the high country. We were off to the Remarkables and riding the B.C. My first run was a steep couloir which was wind loaded and I carefully dropped in and hoped around until I got it to move, luckily I was insanely cautious and after it slide I rode next to the debris all the way to the base of Double cone and lake Alta (I would say it was in Lord of the Rings but everything here is). The rest of the day we stuck to mellower slopes and had a blast riding in nice wind blown pow before calling it a day and enjoying the view of our tracks to the left and moguls to the right from the parking lot.
Welcome to the Southern Alps
There's no snow in the High Country
Until I arrive
Yeah, Queenstown is a rather rad spot.
Thank you Adam Fleming for showing me around your home
Back to trail breaking mode
We're back in Winter cation mode
I can get used to this
Ahhh, the Double Cone
Cardrona Backcountry, New Zealand
The next day was spend around Cardrona Peak which is just outside of Cardrona resort. We skinned and rode around a few different couloirs and the nice mellow slopes that would be a Heli ski delight. There were a few other lines that caught my eyes but whatever you went down you would have to climb up and the climb up looked hellacious. The terrain was really fun and had options for anyone from beginner to advanced.
Home of the Skittle skiers
That Couloir looks nice
Queenstown and the Double cone from Cardrona
Adam skinning up the back bowls of Cardi
Welcome to the Southern Alps
Adam skinning to the summit of Cardrona Peak
Yes please, May I have another
Why, yes you may!
I could do this for 3 months
I originally visited New Zealand ten years ago when I first got a splitboard and it is amazing to see my progression and some back stories on the terrain. Quite a few people here in NZ are like "Oh god, it's a splitboarding gaper" that is until I crush them on the up track and ski semi aggressive lines that they are following me too. I'm almost a week deep into a spring season in the Southern Alps and each day gets me more excited for the next. It's like the Cascade Range just in the middle of the Pacific.
It's been great putting my mark in the Backcountry of the Southern Hemisphere.
This sign seems to fit this experience quite well.