Level 2: The Level after Level 1

Snow geekery at its finest. Note the shovel placement to keep those centigrade dial stem thermometers nice and accurate. Is that a 90-degree corner? Why yes it is. Thank you for noticing.

I beat Level 2 of Avalanche Education last week. The end boss was real hard. I had to get all funky and whip out an up-down-left-left-A-B combo, front flip over the avalanche path of death, and then memorize about 12 gazillion codes and acronyms, BIWWWI (but it was well worth it). ILAT (I learned a ton). And I got to splurge on some new fancy, SST (snow study tools).

I couldn’t have asked for a better learning environment. In Crested Butte, the trailheads and field labs (a.k.a Sick gnar pow slopes) are only a 5-minute drive from the classroom. It’s the next best thing to a hut trip course. Plus, CB finally got a bunch of the white cold stuff that makes our world go round – that’s right, snow. Good old fashioned frozen water that falls from the sky. So we got to tromp around in the backcountry measuring the weather and digging snow pits while the second-largest slide cycle I’ve witnessed boomed, whumphed and [Read More]

Hot Springs and Cold Belays

Jamie on top of the 5.7 first pitch. Don't let the picture fool you — he copied my jacket/helmet combo.

Here’s a day-by-day synopsis of the past week:

Wednesday – By way of two morning trips to the airport, I said “fare thee well” to Michelle and “howdy” to Jamie Dial, my boss at Vanderbilt’s Outdoor Rec Program and my major climbing mentor. Jamie is the type of climber whose stories often start with things like “the second time I soloed the Grand…” and “I’d probably been on El Cap for two days when…” His climbing resume reads like a North American bucket list, and, lucky for me, his skills in the mountains are rivaled only by his ability to impart that knowledge and experience to others. He was just a few days removed from a Vandy trip to J-Tree and Red Rocks when he hopped on a plane to Bozeman for a little ice climbing R&R.

Three hours after his plane touched down, we were racking up at the base of Mummy Cooler II (WI 3) in Hyalite. I gladly accepted his offer for the first lead and soon found myself in a familiar situation – belaying [Read More]

Take what you can get!

I aspire to be a well-rounded climber. What’s a well-rounded climber? Well I believe it’s someone who holds a sense of adventure and an appreciation for nature above all else. In the most recent issue of Alpinist Magazine, Jim Logan describes how he and Mugs Stump prepared for their successful first ascent of the Emperor Face on Mt. Robson: “we’d spend the whole summer doing whatever it took. We hiked in, set up camp and simply observed it [the Emperor Face] for a few days, learning.”I believe respect and admiration for the rugged beauty and power of the mountains is paramount. [Read More]

The Mini Wapta

Pow powty pow pow, eh. That's Canadian for "awesome skiing." Craggy St. Nicholas Peak looks on approvingly.

First face shots. They’re an inaugural event that ranks right up there with the first night sleeping under the stars, first Brass Monkey, the losing of virginity, etcetera. My first face shots came in some glorious Cameron Pass powder – Montgomery Bowl, to be exact. I spent most of my youth snowboarding, so when I learned to Tele ski, snow in the face was quite novel.

I got the skin track blues. En route to the Mt. Gordon summit.

My friend Levi recently got his first (Cheers!). He drove 24 hours, toured for six days into the Canadian Rockies, and summited two peaks to get there, but get there he did, by god.

Levi and four mutual friends – Sam Riggs, Michelle Bodenhammer, Judith Robertson and Monica Reuning – recently completed the so-called Mini Wapta Traverse, a 16-mile round trip along the Wapta Ice Field in Banff National Park. The tour, with multiple day excursions including ascents of both Mt. Gordon (10,500 ft.) and Mt. Thompson (10,200 ft.), took them 8 days. The route is a shorter version [Read More]

Cameron Pass Conditions January 21st

A small cell over the Never Summers has allowed for some light and varied accumulation. Winds have been whipping around and redistributing what has fallen. I skied up Seven Utes on Tuesday and found decent skiing. Though the area had been heavily tracked out over the weekend, enough new snow had fallen to partially cover the old tracks and allow for some pleasant skiing. [Read More]

Rap Party

Hyalite in the morning.

Climbers spend a lot of time, energy, and money in the effort to keep themselves safe. A full rack of gear costs a small fortune, and the ability to use that gear efficiently and effectively takes years of experience. It’s no wonder there are literally volumes written on the subject.

A good belay anchor is a thing of beauty – equal parts gear, applied physics, and creative use of space – and, in this case, beauty often translates to safety. When you know those three large cams are equalized, backed-up, and bomber, it’s easy to relax and lean out over the five hundred feet of rock and air beneath you and focus on the task at hand.

Of course, the same things that make the belay so comfortable can make getting down a much more stressful situation. A pretty basic rock belay set-up will consist of three cams ($225), three wire-gate ‘biners ($25), two big lockers ($30), and twenty feet of 7mm cord ($8). That’s almost $300 worth of piece of mind at each belay. On the way up, it’s no big deal; the second climber just breaks it all down and hauls it [Read More]