Hitting the E-Break

Yeah, I pulled up hard on the E-brake and slowed my electronic presence to a crawl, beginning last spring. Tetonsandwasatch, no articles, despite nailing some beautiful Wasatch lines after returning from a blindingly excellent trip to Alaska. Very few FB pix. Same with Instagram. Checking in to see what others had been up to; infrequent. It was intentional. It felt good for me. Time is precious, and even tossing up a quick photo on social media takes time. Or maybe I’ve gone off selfies. Only time will tell.

Thanks to the many – I was surprised how many, really – who inquired through various avenues if I was okay. Maybe that’s the reality of social media, huh? People you do, or even don’t, know worry about ya if you disappear. Yep, I’m fine. Life is going as life goes. Onwards. Ever onwards. Often, on skis.

In my electronic absence, I filled my life with some things that were unusual for me. There aren’t any pictures to present, as I also set down my characteristically present camera for a change. (threw in some recent ones at the end, have a look) The interesting parts of April to October/November could be summed up thus:

1) Well, for starters, I have grown a fu Manchu mustache. Yes. And not that trucker ‘stache imposter. A true Fu. Cheers.

2) Skied, or re-skied (depends which ones) a bunch of lines in Spring that I don’t see people standing on top of, or tracks in, ever. Well, nothing new there. Next.

3) Books read completely in that timeframe: 43 (2 were skimmed, one because that was fitting to the format, one because it was among the worst books I’ve ever read).

Books unfinished: 10.

Topics: Varied. Behavioral psychology, behavioral economics, mountain stuff, probabilities, logic, finance, biographies, sociology, history, books by scientists about science, autobiographies, it was a wide swath. In six months I suspect more pages were read and ideas absorbed than during my four years of college. Thought I’d fill in some gaps in my knowledge base. That felt good. Sometimes the brain gets hungry.

4) As a trail user here since the day SLC became home base, I’ve been dismayed by the apparent lack of Forest Service attention to otherwise fine, scenic trails. Many have grown in and are being slowly overtaken by the mountains. This forces users to endure what seems like a bushwhack on an actual Wasatch trail.

Don’t know if this is due to state or federal budget cutbacks, or a focus on the more mainstream trail mileage, or something else. I decided to take matters into my own hands. Literally. Clippers in backpack, I headed up and took care of some business. You may have been on a trail and noticed that it had recently been trimmed. That may have been me. It may not have been. You may never know, as I was only ever seen by one person – an IG friend I’d previously met in person – who recognized me despite the fu Manchu disguise. I begged secrecy and he politely obliged, despite snapping a photo to document the scene best described as follows:

(He, running along the trail, stops) ‘Oh, hey. Wait, I know you!’

- greetings and pleasantries exchanged -

‘Hold on, you’re trimming Wasatch trails by hand, solo? Why does this not surprise me?’

‘Uhhh, ….. dunno?’ (no good answer) If one is Roger the Shrubber, then I guess one is Roger the Shrubber.

5) For some reason, Mountain Hardwear saw fit to bring me aboard one of their smaller boats. Thanks, MH people. Too kind. Maybe, unlike Clif Bar, they actually like people to push their limits inside of their chosen sport. #pushyourself Anyway, check ‘em out, they’ve long had bomber gear, and these days they even have a reasonable selection of lightweight stuff for mountain people inclined in that direction.

6) The idea behind Food not Lawns is clearly starting to resonate deeply the more I become disgusted with the concept of GMO-based, overly processed stuff that passes as food in this country/globally. Digging out yard grass and replacing it with garden growing space is a reasonable endeavor. Replacing flower beds with edibles works, too.

The back and side yards were producers this year, and next year should see impressive expansion of both food and herb growth, with the inclusion of some of the front yard in the growing space. In the Autumn, leaves and other fertilizers went into the soil. Next year’s dirt should be a top notch, nitrogen rich, worm-friendly place. In contrast to this year’s soil. If someone whose thumbs to his shoulders have long been (accurately) considered either black or snow white, with not a hint of green, can contribute to such an endeavor, you can do it too.

6.2857) Between the garden and the trail trimming, let’s just say renaming this site Wasatch Gardens seems apt. Fortunately, that website name is already taken. And, there’s snow on the ground. It is, after all, time to ski! See below.

7) Gear reviews: I punish gear, and have been hard at work doing just that. Reviews are forthcoming. Some gear I’ve been privy to use is top notch, and you’ll love knowing about it, I bet. A few duds in there, and you’re going to hear about those, too. Because objectivity is key here at t&w.

And that’s a decent summary of a good portion of the E-Break. Let’s just see where the posts head from here. Maybe in a backcountry skiing oriented direction?

Because the effort to ascend was solid, if unsuccessful. Because this was the first time I ever saw him in a race suit. Because it was a fine day, complete with some obstacles.

Because the effort to ascend was solid, if unsuccessful. Because this was the first time I ever saw him in a race suit. Because it was a fine day, complete with some obstacles. J-Bo, getting’ rad.

That. Did. Not. Suck.

That. Did. Not. Suck.

Snorkel Meter 3. One of several of these events this year. J True hoggin'.

Snorkel Meter 3. One of several of these events this year. J True hoggin’.

BBQ on the Pfeiff.

BBQ on the Pfeiff.

He'll be representing America in Verbier this year. Proud! Good on ya, buddy!

He’ll be representing America in Verbier this year. Andy Dorais. Proud! Good on ya, buddy!

Up the hill, always up the hill. Until it's time to descend. Pic by Andy Dorais.

Up the hill, always up the hill. Until it’s time to descend. Pic by Andy Dorais.

Another day, another Snorkel Meter 3. That's Ian, and, believe it or not, he's on a snowboard. Shhh. It happens.

Another day, another Snorkel Meter 3. That’s Ian, and, believe it or not, he’s on a snowboard. Shhh. It happens.

Apt. It is always apt to see this man in the mountains. Swain.

Apt. It is always apt to see this man in the mountains. Swain.

When lightweight gear manufacturers ski with lightweight gear users and retailers.

When lightweight gear manufacturers ski with lightweight gear users and retailers.

Unless you're extremely well versed in the Wasatch, this isn't where you think it is. I repeat, extremely.

Unless you’re extremely well versed in the Wasatch, this isn’t where you think it is. I repeat, extremely.

Nor is this.

…Nor is this. This was fun. After umpteen turns in breakable crust, I found 3 or 4 very soft powder turns, hit either a rock or a hole (I forget which), and promptly face planted. Would have made a good photo, but fortunately there isn’t one to share. Pic by J-Bo.

Action sports photography = stand in the way of oncoming skiers and pretend to be fearless.

Action sports photography = stand in the way of oncoming skiers and pretend to be fearless.

Ultra Classic: Did you say skiing, or shrubbing? 'Cos they're not the same. Quality means taking it all in stride.

Ultra Classic: Did you say skiing, or shrubbing? ‘Cos they’re not the same. Except, they are.. Quality means taking it all in stride. We strode.

 

For the Greater Good: Whippet Recall

Pretty stoked to learn that Black Diamond has issued a voluntary recall for the (stainless steel pick) Whippet ski pole as of yesterday, November 18th, 2014. Briefly summing up the recall notice: “…recall announced because of the possibility that the pick could break during normal use. Recall is a result of a small quantity of picks receiving an incorrect heat treatment. ..All potentially affected units are subject to the recall.”

Check the recall link for fuller details, but the short answer is that the affected poles are the ones whose pick is made of stainless steel. If you’re riding with Black Diamond Whippets that have stainless steel (shiny) picks, take the time to trade them in for safer gear. As reported here on t&w last spring (the previous post, actually), the stainless picks aren’t safe, even for ‘ordinary’ use. Glad to see Black Diamond admit the truth and make it right.

Can’t tell for certain, but during a quick look on BD’s site at this year’s Whippets for sale, it appears the picks aren’t so shiny and that they’ve switched back to the formerly used, unproblematic chromoly. A glance at the REI site definitely shows the current batch of Whippets for sale being labeled as being constructed with chromoly picks. ‘Incorrect heat treatment’ or not, glad to see BD getting back to producing gear I can recommend again.

So, before you start hitting the steeps again this season, get rid of your stainless steel Whippets, and get some safe versions in your hands!

One very well used, reliable, custom painted in Chipped Red, Whippet with the old, safe chromoly pick.

One very well used, warranty-violatingly-sharpened, reliable, custom painted in Chipped Red, Whippet with the old, safe chromoly pick. Even old and beat up, this is safer than a shiny new stainless steel pick.

 

 

 

 

Black Diamond Whippet Ski Pole Defects?

You know I love this most essential of ski mountaineering tools, the Whippet, manufactured by Black Diamond Equipment. Long ago, I penned two different homages, with such creative titles as, A Dozen Uses for the Black Diamond Whippet Self-Arrest Ski Pole, as well as, Another Dozen Uses

I don’t bring them out on low-angle, high avalanche danger days, but I do use them on any sort of steep ski missions, including steep powder days. That’s because the scope of their utilization is infinitely wider than mere self-arresting. Check the links above for 24 other simple uses.

Not only do I ski with these tools regularly, but I’ve recommended them to many ski partners as well, partners who’ve paid heed and picked up one or two for their own good. And they still ski with them; once you get used to having a Whippet in hand, it’s hard to go steep skiing without them. In fact, so many partners ski with them that I’ve taken to painting mine, both because I appreciate a different color, and because it makes it easier to grab my own out of the group gear pile.

Hooking rock with the Whippet in hand during my recent descent of Tora Bora. Ski mountaineering isn't the same without this tool in one's hand.

Hooking rock with my custom painted, and very chipped, Whippet in hand while deciding whether to not to bail during my recent descent of Tora Bora. Ski mountaineering isn’t the same without this tool in one’s hand.

The point is, this is gear I use. It’s gear I usually trust, from a brand, Black Diamond Equipment, who usually manufactures bomber gear. This ski pole is gear I recommend to friends. But the new batch of Whippets (with stainless steel picks) appears to be plagued with a manufacturing defect, or the stainless in use is not as durable as other metal options. For all of my use, as well as that of my partners and friends, I’ve never seen (nor heard about) a Whippet pick failure.

That changed recently when Continue reading ‘Black Diamond Whippet Ski Pole Defects?’

Tora Bora, Monte Cristo

Tora Bora. The name conjures up memories of caves in Afghanistan housing militants, and other less wonderful parts of American history. But that’s only for one meaning attached to this name. Another version of Tora Bora exists right here in the Wasatch. It’s another one of those relatively uncelebrated Wasatch ski descents. Here comes a little celebration, with some details on the history supplied by ½ the team who skied it first!

Tora Bora, the ramp just looker's right of center.

Tora Bora, the ramp just looker’s right of center. The one with ski tracks coming out of it.

I read about the first descent of Monte Cristo’s Tora Bora on Fritzrips.com, shortly after Derek Weiss skied it with Tom MacFarlane in April of 2010 or 2011. Neither of us is certain of the year, though my guess would be 2011, the big snow year.

Reason for the uncertainty? The aforementioned Continue reading ‘Tora Bora, Monte Cristo’

Things that Happen in Just a few Days in Alaska

When one rides their home mountain range with regularity all season, it’s wise to expect a few oddball things to happen every once in a while. Maybe once a week. On the other hand, go on an expedition to the middle of nowhere, and you can expect any of these formerly infrequent scenarios to rear its head on a near-daily basis. Or you might even see a few on a single outing. Maybe it’s related to the groove we get into by repeating familiar patterns, but it seems when I ski away from home, the quirks come pouring down the mountainsides in abundance…

Case(s) in point:

  • Sunglasses fog up and you’re blind just when it gets zesty. Like 60° couloir top-out in hollow névé spicy.
  • Skins freeze over with snow on the sticky side and cause double skin ejects. Resulting in person-sawing-their-planks-with-skins syndrome. Works like a charm.
Double eject!

The rare, simultaneous, double skin eject!

  • Tech binding toepiece pops off while skinning steep firm snow. Ski then begins slide downslope.. Multiple outcomes may result, depending on the speed of all involved.
  • Water lid freezes to the bottle. Never mind bottle straws. They’re frozen solid within mere minutes of being in contact with liquids. Actually, before you’ve even begun your tour in Alaska, expect your straw to be frozen solid, despite all your tricks.
  • Someone forgets real gloves, leaves camp with light gloves meant for skinning, yet unsuitable for booting/crawling up couloirs. Glove shopping amongst partners results.
  • Water runs out or completely freezes. A solid chunk of water-bottle ice thawing for a few hours next to your baselayer, inside your coat, will provide a much needed sip of water just minutes before camp is back in sight at the end of the day. Plus it will assist in cooling you down, aiding your toes (see below).
  • Falling ice chunks disguised as snow will hit your party. This game stings anyone who involuntarily plays a game of catch.
  • The day’s food ration runs out. Long before the tour is over. Because you wouldn’t want to overeat in the early days of touring around amongst a billion tons of ice, now would you?
  • Toes will go numb for two hours at a time inside boots causing days worth of wondering whether you’ve landed some level of frostbite. Typically, the extent of this parlor trick begins creeping onto your feet a few minutes after you’ve exited the warmth of your sleeping bag, continues to worsen during breakfast and the general ‘get ready’ phase, and reaches maximum pain/cold level during the first minutes of your tour. From there, over the course of an hour or so, some semblance of feeling and normalcy returns to your lower digits. The cold toes syndrome gets worse/more prolonged with each day’s outing. Which is nice, because it really helps moderate body temperature and prevent excessive sweating. Once you’ve returned to camp, the process reverses until you’ve been in your sleeping bag for some time…
The Numb Toe Brigade...

The Numb Toe Brigade…

  • Monumentally large cornices will hang overhead during your couloir ascent. Enough said. With any luck, these will be getting blasted with sunlight on the windward side, increasing the odds of finding some cornice chunks atop your backpack later in the day.
Ascending beneath the Lost Cornice Formations of You'll Be Smashed To Bits Couloir.

Ascending beneath the Lost Cornice Formations of You’ll Be Smashed To Bits Couloir.

  • Some sort of snow offering up completely borderline stability characteristics will present itself, usually after you’ve committed some time and effort to find yourself where you are.
Waist deep sugar overlaid with ice, always a nice afternoon treat!

Marginal, steep, waist deep sugar overlaid with ice, always a nice afternoon treat! It helps add a bit of mystique if a tumble would send you over a cliff.

These are a sampling of the extraneous joys easily relished while touring Alaska in beautiful, sunny, and comparatively warm weather. To experience a more comprehensive, lengthier list (all in one day, even!), simply tour there in inclement weather.

Got any favorites that pop up on your own tours?

 

 

PSA: Skis lost in Coalpit Headwall Zone

Received this (edited) note via t&w during my Alaskan absence:

Adam: 
Was the unfortunate victim of a huge slide today 3/29/14 on the Coalpit Headwall. I lost my skis up there somewhere in the avy debris. Luckily not hurt. Thought I’d put it out there: If anyone heads up to Coalpit and finds my skis, I would be much obliged to have them returned! They are a pair of Dynafit Manaslu’s.

So, help a brother out when you’re up that way this Spring/Summer/Fallingbackintowinter. Keep your eyes peeled and maybe you’ll spot a pair of sticks poking out of the snow. If you see or retrieve one or both skis, drop a line to Spencer at: skweiler17@gmail.com.

You know, the Coalpit Headwall. Smack dab in the  center of the photo, veering out to looker's right..

You know, the Coalpit Headwall. Smack dab in the center of the photo, veering out to looker’s right..