Mt. Everest is well-known for its trash; remnants of expeditions that have passed through and littered their unwanteds everywhere from Base Camp 1 on up to the summit are well documented. Discarded oxygen bottles – one particularly large, ubiquitous, and pernicious type of high-mountain trash – lay partially buried in snow, resembling nothing so much as non-exploded ordinance on a wartime battlefield. They lay there in such quantity as to indicate a very large ‘war zone’ on this single peak. But mountain trash isn’t limited to this highest and most popular of mountain massifs. It’s in your neighborhood mountains as well.
Not the worst anchor mess ever, but it could be a lot cleaner. There’s a lot of unnecessary stuff there: 5 slings, 2 old ‘biners, and a tied off rope under plenty of pressure. The only thing missing is some sort of Hefty trash bag advertisement, or maybe an old car tire.
The last time I passed by the Owen Spalding’s fixed rap station, I counted no less than 11 brightly colored slings, many dull with age, encircling the large horn above the overhanging rappel. Closer to home here in the Wasatch, most popular ski rappel stations that I’ve seen are littered with mountaineering trash.
It’s hard to guess what people are Continue reading ‘Mountain Garbage Clean Up’
Introductions to Alaska’s radness come quickly. Photo by Jason True.
There are two main types of snowpack out there, and they’re not referred to as ‘deep’ and ‘everything else.’ They’re called maritime and continental.
Continental snowpacks grace the slopes of inland places such as Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. In the mountains of these cold, high-elevation places, dry, light powder falls in copious amounts. Occasionally, heavy wet snow or even rain falls, but this isn’t the day-to-day norm.
Continental snow provides for some ridiculous champagne powder experiences. Beyond that, cold, dry snow doesn’t stick to really steep features. This leads to the formation of couloirs – white stripes of snow on an otherwise rocky peak – as newly landed snow funnels off the rocks and into the low spot. It’s partially for this reason, combined with my enjoyment of precipitously angled skiing and couloir aesthetics, that I gravitate toward couloir skiing.
Compared to continental snow, maritime snowpacks come in wet and heavy for the most part. This wet snow sticks thickly to everything. Maritime snow is found mostly in coastal regions. In the Sierra Nevada, they’ve come up with a cheerful and loving term to describe this snow: Sierra Cement. A nice summary of one aspect – snow stability – of the differences between continental and maritime snowpacks can be found at this summitpost.org link.
The mountains around Haines, Alaska receive maritime snow. I was blown away by Continue reading ‘AK: The Snow’
Dromedary’s South Gully, immediately to the east of the well-known Tanner’s line.
‘Oh shit,’ I suddenly hear. These are not words I want to hear my ski partner speak. The accomplished mountaineer Jim Madsen uttered them as his last words when he rappelled off the end of his rope on El Cap’s Dihedral Wall in 1968. The message behind the words has withstood the test of time: they portend trouble.
Time immediately elongates, stretches, distorts. I’m engaged in removing my skis; one is off, I’m bent over and about to remove the other. In the infinitesimal space of time that passes without further clarification, I wonder if he’s slipped and about to come tumbling past. Will he hit me? Can I catch him and arrest his fall? It’s steep here, and we have both noted the presence of wind loaded pockets. I also wonder if he’s just cracked out a slab. In short, I don’t know what’s going on, and staring at my feet doesn’t provide the best position for finding out.
During the last 100 vertical feet of ascent, I’d started making a separate skinner from his. I wanted to add a margin of safety in case he pushed a pocket down; I was now on the other side of a slope-dividing mini-ridge. However, in my last view of him, Continue reading ‘Dromedary South Gully*’
I’m not sure who made a burnt ski offering to Ullr for a touch more snow following the recent heat wave, but thank you. Sincerely. It worked, and Ullr’s generosity led to, as many people have noted, some of the best skiing of this Utah season.
Just like this. True in motion.
Jason True, Wills Hapworth, and I headed up early to do a bit of harvesting, aiming to land some decent turns before the sun makes quick mank of flawless snow. We succeeded, and the rest will forever be Continue reading ‘Snorkel Meter 3 in the Directissimo’
Asking anyone for money, even small amounts of cash, can be pretty tough. It’s probably a matter of cultural pride; and I’m just as culturally indoctrinated as the next citizen. I get embarrassed when I forget my wallet at home and need to borrow a few bucks from my ski buddy to buy lunch après turns. In most instances though, the person in question gets their money back in time.
The oddball part of the equation is that I sometimes don’t lay eyes on certain ski partners for months at a time. When I do get out with them again and hand them about 8 bucks, they almost unanimously utter in a completely bewildered voice, ‘What is this for?’ as if I’ve suddenly paid them for the pleasure of meeting in a darkened carpool lot.
‘Lunch, you know, that one time..’ comes the answer. Blank look in return, virtually every time. I think I remember things that other people don’t. It’s how my brain is wired. Or, people are good actors. Either way.
In the event that I don’t pay someone back in cold hard cash, I typically just pick up the tab the next time they’re seated across the lunch table. And that’s how I try to roll, because asking for money is challenging. Partly because Continue reading ‘Asking for Money’
Here are two photos that helped me suss out the location of the hidden Memorial Couloirs.
Memorial Couloirs #1-5 from a good vantage point. #6 is just visible in the lower right of the photo.
The lower exit of #4 can be somewhat nebulous (options abound) depending on conditions, but the main upper couloir is pretty distinguishable (it’s dotted). #3, and #4 by default since they merge at some point, terminate in a sort of waterfall, just where I stopped drawing the line. Downclimbing, skirting to the side, reascending, or straightlining are all options, depending on your brass. Or conditions.
Memorials 5, 6, (what I call the 6.5 face for lack of another name) and the approach gully for #’s 7 & 8.
The eagle eyed will notice there is what looks like an obvious line immediately to the looker’s left of #6. It goes to the height of #6, but the section that extends above looked really, really rowdy for a ski descent. Super steep, super skinny, ridiculous Ciochetti’s Ribbon style double fall line, seemingly thin snow. The lower section goes, but doesn’t have the sweet feel of the #6 line. I don’t think it’s a contender for a hidden memorial designation. Others may disagree. These details may not become obvious until you’re there in person…
The ’6.5 face’ was just a mistake route I took trying to find #6. Great bonus skiing during this project. It doesn’t give much of a birds-eye view of #6, though. Too much rock in the way.
#’s 7 & 8 will become obvious once you get up there.