Monday, November 23, 2009

It's Hard Living in the Wasatch, Seriously.

Well I can think of lots of thing people complain about in the grand Wasatch Dessert, the people, the government, the salt lake, the bad drivers, the unfriendly neighborhoods... how about the grumpy back country skiers? You don't usually hear about that... but now and then your friend will tell you about well, in this case me...

So the day started this morning at work at about 5:30am leaving Idaho Falls for SLC and work ended at 8:30am, just how I like it. But the problem is I have to work TWO days this week Tuesday AND Wednesday, Not to mention that its like from 8-6! So Today I had to make it worth it, so we loaded the VW up to the roof with everything nice and headed for LCC. First stop, Great White Icicle. If your an Ice climber in SLC you have already realized that a moderate climate, dessert isn't really the best place to ice climb.... So when people like me start getting the itch to go, we tend to go with ANY ice at all... Maybe its on your windshield... in your glass of water... ya. Being this is my Third time on the great white this year (yes I know your thinking, has it even come in yet? and the answer is a big fat no) and by far the most enjoyable. Pitch 1 was the best its been, stubbies in slush... just about normal. 2 screws later and a lot of steep thin slush over beatiful granite and the first pitch is complete, not nearly as fun as the M3ish crack line on the left side. Pitch 2.... getting thicker! I didn't step through into the waterfall even once, AND I had 2 cam's and probably 2 more good screws, that's a record. But what is really important is not the shower of icy cold water; or the beautiful, natural sky lights made of ice that you can see the water splashing up into from below... or even the deap resounding thud of the tool sinking into the huge (and we are talking huge) de-laminated sheet of ice you have you, the tools the crampons and all the screws in, but pitch 3. Here is where it is seriously hard to live in the Wasatch. In SLC there is 1, just 1, ice climb that comes in just about every year, and yes its the great white. being that there are hundreds of ice climbers (so it seems) in SLC, it gets pretty hammered--to say the least. I can't remember a time, EVER that I have climbed pitch 3 when it hasn't been stepped out, picked out, and turned into a staircase for pointy objects, and you come to expect to not really have to swing a tool, but to just set a tool. Today, although you really cant tell in the pics, I felt like I was the only person to climb it this year (probably the case since most don't grovel through slush, rock, river, mud for 300ft to get there). Yes, it was thin, and Yes it had some holes spraying water and yet, it was probably 30 percent delammed, but I didn't see a single pick mark, crampon step, ice screw whole at all. It was immaculate, beautiful; filled with shiny deep blues, whites ,dark black with all types of shapes from perfectly smooth dinner plates, to cauliflower of all shapes and sizes to sky lights giving you a glimps to the builder inside. But as the true capitalist that I was raised as, I took my sharp objects and sank them deep into that beautiful work of art, over and over again. It was definetly the best I have ever had the great white, pitch 3. Now that I've posted this I'm sure it will quickly be destroyed by the legions of ice climbers... but I must.

After returning to the car and having the best cold cut I've ever created (really not that difficult to reach this catagory) we drove up the end of the road to start our skin into Albion basin near the gun sight. Now There may be leagions of ice climbers, but in SLC there are whole countries that migrated for the skiing, especially if you consider the wire riders. Two small things I've learned about the Back Country in the Wasatch is there are two times you are sure to get burned. Pre-season snow, and weekends. These are the times when the ignorant (yes I know, I was ignorant once too), the weekend warrior (yes I know they have a REAL job so they are forced to do things on the weekends) and the wire rider show up to hike the 1 day of the year they will actually reach the top (or in most cases far short of their actual goal) by their own power. This can be difficult for them because A) They are usually unaware of how to dress properly B) They are usually severely out of shape for the task (and yes it is much harder than it looks) C) They usually don't have the right tools for the job. But what selfish ME cares about is how the effect my perfect double hitter day. First of all, I have never (not once) had a pre-season day where someone didn't completely destroy the skin track with there nuckle punching boot pack trail, that of course should be in exactly the same place as the skin track. This annoys me to no end, especially since A) Its early season so I have skinny skis and even skinnier, crappy skins that don't really climb that well anyway) B) the skin tracks usually heat up enough to get really hard and very slick. C) As you learn when you ski with somenone from outside the wasatch, our skin tracks are always ridiculously steep. So because of their laziness (or maybe its lake of excess available energy) they must destroy our way to the top so they can reduce their pain by 5%. So what do you do? Do you tell them, 'hey I'd appreciate it if you walked anywhere else other than the skin trac, because it makes it useless to us.' or do you just skin by smiling, or scouling while secretly heaping curses on them. I've tried both methods and am always met with limited success. Have you noticed that when people (at least some) are new, beginner, or inexperienced with a new activity they are also very defensive (for lack of a bigger vocabulary) about outsider input? I find this to me true most of the time in this scenario, and so I usually end up being the selfish jerk (Honesty this is really the truth, maybe that's why I dislike it so much) who cant just be nice as he goes by us in our pure agony. The scowl approach is definetly worse, especially if they are the ignorant, because they don't even know WHY your scowling at them! Then I am a jerk for sure! Anyway, I guess the real answer is learn to accept their deferent approaches to the same goal, and appreciate them as a human, living person who is just trying to enjoy the beautiful mountains (just like me). OR I should just keep the ski's put away until all the wire riders, and such are at the Bird, Brighton, or best of all the Canyons. Funny the same answer really applies here that applies in most places... are you ready? It's not about me. If I could just get that through my scull, I bet this all would be easy! Too bad.

I know you love to hear about the snow pack, (oh wait, no one really does-- thats what the avalanche forcast is for) so here goes. The small hand pits that I dug today revielled that up high (maybe 9000ft) you have some old snow from the ground up to what appears to be a temperature crust of about 2cm thick with a thin but very noticable layer of facets directly underneath and a very poor new snow bond on top (I would assume its because it was pretty cold at the arrival of the new snow (maybe in the 20's or colder) and so there was little or now bonding. So we have basically a cement floor, turned up to a given angle piled with new snow. The new snow originally showed 10 inches at collins (9700ft I think)but by the time we got to it, it had settled to some where around 4-8 inches. But in some locations there was an additional week layer in the new snow approx. half way down, creating a shear at about 4 inches down and then the big shear at 8 inches then 1/2 inch hard (maybe between 1 finger and pencil, but I didn't check)over a 2-5mm of facets, then semi consolidated snow below. While skinning with a patroller friend I mentioned that if it breaks below the temperature crust I was thinking it would be a hard slab, but in retrospect I think that was incorrect. Unless just the temperature crust slide at a wopping 1/2 inch crown... but I don't think that would be very life threatening. More likely the temperature crust would just create a great sliding surface. I didn't do any measurements, but about the level the skiing starts to get really fun it also started to get unstable, so would guess around 35% (I didn't read the forcast but I'd be willing to bet above this the threat level takes it up a notch)

So we skin accross a large path that has the potential to go 2000meters if all was right and I start to get nervous and so does my friend, so we skin to a low angle section to de-skin a ski out of the uncomfortable zone. No later do we start removing our stuff but we hear a yell from above, it was Dus hba ggins. We are directly below a snowboarder on a splitboard with 3 way collapsible poles (which means he has a considerable investment in back country skiing, so I would expect some good judgement also) Aware that we are in his line we work quickly to clean up and move on. But after a minute or two, he loses patience (or something) and decided he should start skiing, directly above us, on a steeper slope, in what I consider slightly concerning snow. Perfect. I have been unable at the moment to come up with a similar experience in other activities that would help show the actual danger associated with this situation, but I will try to explain. IF Dus hba ggins pulls out a slide of ANY size even very small with are immobilized on the slope without a means of moving with a huge (and I mean huge) section of snow below us that would most assuredly come along for the ride and most likely leave all three of us at the bottom barried in 30ft of snow, rocks, and trees. The good news is, I've got my beacon on, so my friend (who just happens to be the fastest guy with a beacon like 5 years running in annual beacon testing) I am confident could save me, would be barried right next to me. And Dus hba ggins barried just above us. This is what some would call an objective hazard... But I think of it a little bit like negligent man slaughter. I personally don't want to leave this world because someone kicked a slide off on me. (and I'm sure this has happened before)... So Dus hba ggins was had invested the $800 in a split board and at least another $100 on the poles and I'm sure some other stuff, or over $1000 in gear, responsibility should come along with it. You buy a car, run over someone while texting, are you going to be held responsible? Maybe if Albion basin was some unknown snowy hill on the side of a boring mountain in a small town filled with lots of big trucks, and not lots of Skiers, this wouldn't happen--and others wouldn't gamble with my life regarless if they where ignorant or just uncaring. So, the moral of the story is yes, It's hard living in the Wasatch, but if you don't ski pre-season or on weekends, you can eliminate a significant part of those 'objective' hazards!

I know that was just a big complain fest and I appologize, Just don't be Dus hba ggins when you are in that position? Yes they may have skinned right into your fresh tracks, and are taking forever to get out of the way, but is it worth risking their lives?

So, Dus hba ggins I forgive your attempt on my life and hope that others will forgive me when I do the same dumb thing and Today was a most excellent day in the Wasatch and tomorrow will be another fabulous day!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Run, Bike... Ski?

October 1st was the first snow day for the 09-10 season with a wopping 15inches reported a the Collin's snowtell. The question is really twofold at this point, the first is do you have rock ski's? If the answer is yes, than we've got more to talk about; but if its no, then really your decision has already made--your not going skiing. Really the answer should ALWAYS be yes in October as this is when the snow pack is WAY to thin, but some people are like kids in the candy store and feel they MUST ski on the first snow day of the year, regardless of the cost... When I arrived at Albion Basin this morning around 11:00 it was clear that I wasn't the only one with faulty decision making skills as I would guess maybe 20 others had already made tracks high on the mountain. But what those powder hounds should have been asking was when is there enough snow to ski? A friend once told me the '100 inch rule' that went something like if you don't have at least a 100 inch base, then you should be not skiing, or skiing conservatively, in areas where you know whats below, and probably not killing it on those huge drops and kickers that you usually hit (ya right). I tend to be a little more liberal on my decision making mostly because of a few good experience in an army of bad experiences. Last year, for example, on about Oct 15th ish we had 40inches in one storm and I must say the skiing was excellent, and I didn't leave one trace in my bases. This is not the norm, but the abnormal.
So what should we doing this time of year instead of skiing on rocks grass, and a little snow? I don't have any idea BUT I started running seriously again late summer of this year and have been enjoying my new access to the uncycle-able trails in the Wasatch. This has inevitably let to a marathon. So of course the one I wanted to do, the mid mountain in Park City, was full so I had to choose something else. After looking around and around I landed in the Adirondacks, NY. It turned out to be a very nice run with lots of hills, endless forests, and a beautiful lake. I finished, just about as I had planned at about 4:33. I felt good about it, but figured out its not really a very good time. Anyway, its a good thing I'm not a real runner.
If I was going to do some training for skiing that was fun, I think I'd either run or bike. Running is probably better for muscle training, and you can do it in just about any temperature, while cycling is more fun (to me anyway) and easier to burn calories, but very limited to sunny, warm, days. I've read that the only way to train for free healing is to run up hill, backwards. I won't be doing that anytime soon.

After driving up to the end of the pavement in the upper Alta parking lot to see how deep the snow really was and then again in the BC access lot above I got out of the car to feel the brisk air on my face. There is something special about the first breath of cold fresh mountain air that brings back the memories of endless powder turns in a beautiful, free Wasatch wilderness. I look up as far as I can see at Alta and see good turns, executed not by the beginner, but by one of the many, many excellent skiers from the city below. I guess that's why we are all here, because of this. For the first time, (ever actually) after seeing the snow, feeling the cold air on my face, I make the right decision--to get back in the car and drive home to wait for the 40 inch storm.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Island Life In Thailand: Part 3

Day 3-5: This has blurred together in my memory (not uncommon) but we spent some time exploring the island we walked to Hat Yao (long beach) to see about possible accommodations and a nice beach. We tried out our new snorkel gear from TJ Macs and it worked well, except we had about 1 inch visibility under water because of the residual turbulent water. But we enjoyed a little sun bathing and relaxing. After figuring out the actual distance we decided we should stay in our pink bungalow.

One of the things that is very different in Thailand is how they deal (or don’t deal) with there trash. Especially on Ko Phi Phi don. Word on the street is that after the Tsunami, an overwhelming number of volunteers showed up to clean the place up and left it spotless and ready to be taken care of. Well if anyone had doubts, they you where right because they have successfully turned certain area’s into smelly, growing piles of trash. For example on the hill side between Ao Ton Sai beach and Ao Lo Dalam beach where it seems a good portion of locals live had a large metal fence at the bottom. Well it looks like the locals just throw there trash down the hill to the bottom to the point where the smell is almost overwhelming at the fence, The fence is about to break from the shear weight of the trash, and overall is a very unpleasant place. I think it is a culture difference as they don’t seem to see anything wrong with just piling up trash and letting it sit, for ever. A new friend told a story about a thai woman he saw that was just finishing a bottle of water and then proceeded to ‘wing’ it into the woods, without even looking to see if anyone was watching, as if everyone did this. So I would guess the problem is cultural. But for us westerners its a big deterrent.

The next day we took a trip on a long tail boat to the south Island called ko phi phi leh to enjoy some AMAZING scenery, beaches, and snorkeling. Although the snorkeling was ‘game on’ type where you are in a bay, a long way from shore in a boat with vertical cliffs and 20 feet deep water with sharp coral below. I hope you know how to swim well! (oh wait, I don’t swim that well) Either way it was an excellent experience. Its one of those things that is pretty foreign to me (being that I’m land locked) and every time I go I am just amazed at the colors, variation, different creatures, and up close and personal experience with the wild life you get. Not the same as having an up close and personal experience with a bear. We also visited a beach called Ao Maya that was pure breath taking.

Because it is a national park, the boat driver literally drops you off in a rowdy lagoon filled with sharp rocks and you swim to a ladder coming out of the crashing surf. If you miss the ladder you may end up cheese graded on the rocks. Again, this was game on tourism! Then you climb the later though a gun sight in the rocks, cross through some palm trees and arrive at Ao Maya beach.

Ao Maya beach was the main filming location for the movie The Beach in 1999. To our suprise there was a beautiful, large beached sail boat ready for another movie! We also stopped by Tham Phaya Naak; (Viking Cave) to see the Swiftlet nest collectors, an interesting and fiercely competitive trade. After returning to Ko Phi Phi Don, we stopped by monkey beach to watch the monkeys, which have been being fed every day forever and now live on a trashy beach filled with old water bottles, and rotting fruit. But as a Westerner, its not everyday you can see monkeys up close and personal. The snorkeling was very good near this beach also.

The next day we took another snorkeling adventure, although this time it was unguided. We went north to Ao Lo Dalam beach on the north side of town and rented kayaks with our new Canadian friends (and no, they are not all Canadian, but I’m going to go ahead and stereotype them as Canadian) and kayaked to a secluded beach on the North West edge of the bay. There we spent about 1 minute in the water until Laura got tied up (literally) in a jelly fish. Wish much pain and suffering she got out of the water to find sings from here lower thigh to her shoulders, ouch! So of course as the urban myth would dictate, one of the boys urinated on her. Although it was to no avail... Turns out it really is just a myth. So Tim was kind enough to paddle her back to shore where the locals quickly located a green pulpy plant that the crushed and mixed with water. They then applied it as a sort of cream to the stings. It seemed to be pretty effective. Laura was smiling again by the time we arrived. While Laura was dealing with her pain we paddled across the bay (not recommended) to the North East side of the bay for some more snorkeling. This time we where much more successful. Being that one of the dive boats was parked in the same bay, we figured we made a good choice. I would say we spent a good 30-45 minutes of snorkeling in some beatiful coral and deep water. Maybe the highlight of the snorkeling. We where surrounded by limestone cliffs on three sides with about 15 feet deep water. You could see at least 15 feet in the water that was turquoise and warm. I’m not sure how long we where in the water, but this is when my dear wife over cooked her back to the point of blistering, with spf 60 sun screen. After we couldn’t do it anymore we paddled back to Ao Lo Dalam to return our kayaks.

Later that evening Julie and I decided to do some climbing (we had been puttin it off for 2 days) so we went up to Ton Sai Tower, just a short walk from Toh Sai Bay. We climbed maybe 3 climbs but pushed it a little too long and ended up cleaning up in the dark. One thing I didn’t mention before is that the monkeys tend to want whatever it is that you have, water, sunscreen, food, etc. And we had successful scared them away, up until it got dark, but now we couldn’t see them anymore, and they new it.

So as we stumbled through the dark a handful of large monkeys followed us through the jungle. If you weren’t aware, monkeys are not nice creatures and tend to have no moral standards (weird huh?) We later heard a story about one of the Ton Sai Tower monkeys that had decapitated a baby kitten, and not eaten it, but just left it to rot. These where the monkeys following us through the jungle. Needless to say, I had my knife handy. Finally we emerged on the beach, unscathed.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Southern Thailand

Day 2: Actually day two started on the bus ride down somewhere in the middle of Thailand. We then boarded the ferry and took a scary ride across raging sea’s too the island. I’m not normally sea sick, but I got a little uncomfortable on this trip.

Finally we arrived at the Island in the early afternoon where we found our bungalow in Gypsy village for 400 bhat a night, with no hot water, no AC, and a manual flush toilet, oh and it had a large selections of bugs, gecho’s and pink. Finally we had reached our destination. We had some expensive Thai food at a safe restaurant high on a hill above the Tsunami level. Some excellent Thai food later we where ready to experience a little of town.

Phi Phi island is one of the premier tourist locations (to our dismay) and is filled with everything you could want from fire shows, to boxing rings, to diving trips and more. Needless to say you will read in some places that Ko Phi Phi is still in the process of rebuilding and it may be difficult to find places to stay and such. This is not true anymore, its probably 98% back in business with probably almost 100 eateries and loads of places to stay from super cheap (200 bhat)to super expensive.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Thailand Part 1

Day 1: Leave SLC forget your iphone (or think you forget your iphone). Try and make sure everything is ready at the house. Travel for 26 hours to arrive in Bangkok at around 1200am. Take a taxi to Th Khao San for 400 baht ($12) to get a room with A/C and hot water (livin’ it up) for 500 baht ($15). Sleep oh precious sleep. Wake up around 700am and the strip is completely dead. Nothing open, just a few tuk-tuk’s (3 wheel motorcycles) and taxi’s looking to take some blok somewhere he doesn’t want to go. I walk to the only open store, 7-eleven to pick up some drinking water. By the time I return I’m covered is sweat and need a cold shower. Next we get our included breakfast (a sorry excuse for eggs and bacon) and head out on foot in the town With everything we have on our backs. We head towards the Mae Nam Chao Praya (River) and Thammasat University, with little to no understanding of the map, or how to even recognize the street names. The good news is that every Thai that will talk to you is willing to help you find anything, for the right price of course. We head through the university where everyone is in there white shirt and kilt or whit shirt and slacks. We emerge in a Thai market by the river filled with nic-nac’s that are protective spirit representatives for use in numerous locations. In retrospect we should have spend some baht here and got some authentic souvenirs as we didn’t run into this type of market again on our trip. We then emerged into a small group of temples where I saw one of only three of the female nuns in a purple robe with a shaved head. Later we ventured to the old grand palace on Th Na Phra Lan.

From here we took a tuk-tuk to see the different wat’s, or temples of budda. We saw the sitting budda, and the standing budda (30 m) as well as got a general ride through town and ended at a jewelry store which of course we didn’t ask to go to. But, in a nice building with A/C, fresh tea and 5 different people waiting on you it was difficult not to select some nice peaces as gifts for the important people of the family. We then took another cab to the TAT (the tourist authority of Thailand) a somewhat shady business that you shouldn’t give your credit card number to, yet probably the easiest and safest way to travel.

We book a VIP bus to Krabi on the Phi Phi Family. At one time I’m sure this bus was nice, but I’m pretty sure it hasn’t been cleaned since the purchased it 3 or 4 years ago. Not exactly VIP. Not to mention we get on the bus at 600pm and they start playing these raunchy, rejected US movies and max volume... life you would expect on a spring break bus for a bunch of freshman going to datona beach florida. Needless to say 12 hours later we arrived in Krabi at the phi phi family ferry station to phi phi island. So of course we had no choice but to purchase a very expensive ticket from the phi phi family to get us to ko phi phi don island. While standing around, an enthusiastic thai tried to bleed us dry with anything he could sell us from ferry tickets to money exchanges.

Monday, May 4, 2009


So, This isn't an official post, being that I haven't posted for some time. But I just noticed that something OTHER THAN MY playlist has arrived on my page, and I have no idea how, or why (which on of you has been hacking into my blog hmm?). But it doesn't represent my tastes or choices in life.

That being said, its kayak season and I am not good at taking photos with my water absorbent camera while kayaking, so bear with me for a while...

Monday, March 9, 2009

Not much in life compares to good crack.

So a few weeks ago I was going crazy feelinig holed up in SLC (kind of like I am right now). I drove to Southern Utah for some relief in the desert to spend some time in Indian Creek, some of the best splitter crack in the world. I left SLC Sunday night solo (after much begging for partners) and made it to the rest stop in Spanish fork canyon where I had a nice sleep on a stone picknick table.

The next morning I drove to Moab and to my dismay it raining. So after moping around town for a while I finally asked the guys at Pagan (the climbing store)if there was anyplace to climb in the rain and of course he mentioned Crack House. I remember this place because of a huge picture of Steph Davis upside down in a crack with tape gloves that went up to her elbows, and of course I wanted it. So after very complex directions and scary 4 wheeling in my VW golf I arrived at crack house, all alone. What a cool place! It is seriously a 100+ft roof crack in a cave. Just about the coolest thing I've ever seen.
So I set up camp and spent the day working some of it out. I remember thinking it goes at 12- but after working out parts of it I think its probably easier than that... but then again I haven't climbed all the sections. One problem I learned about facing roof cracks, by yourself is that you can only climb a short distance before you leave your crash pad behind. Definetly a problem when you are 20 miles from anthing climbing upside down with your scull being the closest thing to the ground. All in all it was a great time though. After a day in the Crack House I drove to Indian Creek in hopes of finding some partners to climb with. To my luck I found 2 guys from Vancouver BC that where very nice and let me tag along with them. They also took some stellar photo's for me to post! Saar and Vince where their names. I didn't have a lot of time so I only got in 3 routes that day, but they where good. First we climbed some unnamed 5.9 then we moved to Super Crack of the desert and followed that by an unnamed 5.10 that was rather difficult. Good stuff, hope you enjoy the photos!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Experiencing the Obelesque

Most of this post will be pictures, because my personal photographer is pretty much a rockstar and takes excellent photos. Today was another beautiful cold day in the Wasatch filled with wind, new snow, clouds, Sun, and Solitude. Perfect. I don't know about you but I feel like we are having more of those days that are good powder days that its still snowing, but not too bad... like today. Its great for keeping the crowds down. (where else do you say that about the backcountry?) Even though the skiing was excellent, and I mean excellent, today was really about spending some time in the mountains. We spent hours skinning and just a few minutes skiing. We crossed 4 drainages and only skied about 3 lines. Granted one of those lines was big. If you read the forecast (and I hope you did: ) you would have noticed as I did that we have got some serious snow form this storm 24-28 inches, and after testing and evaluating the depth, i can say that its just about right. Densities where up today which caused me a little trouble, but it was definitely 'worth skiing.'

2 notes worthy of mention today are 1.)The Obelesque, and 2.)Hogums 200.

We where really just messing around and ended up on the ridge between Maybird and Hogum and decided we should skin to the top in Search of Hogum's 200. After reaching the top we noticed that not more than about 20 yards was the Obelesque. A unique rock feature that can be seen clearly from Maybird and always looks like a person, that never movers and is always watching. I have no idea the history behind it but it would be nice to learn. So we spent some time looking, touching, and photographing. There are also some stellar lines into Maybird from this location that I plan on skiing soon. After this we skirted the ridge in search of Hogum's 200. I'm personally not very familiar with this but my ski partner remembers clearly seeing it form the top of the Y. We looked for a long time and finally came up with a very nice slide path that we skied, as you can see in the pictures. Not sure if this was it or not, but it was definitely the highlight of the day. Big long run, good turns, deep snow, face shots, and snow covers glasses. A good day.