Friday, April 4, 2014

Mount Lewis North Couloir: Winter skiing with Spring Access!

Today Brian Drew and I drove north to check out how the storm snow was holding in the North Couloir on Mount Lewis.  As luck would have it even days after the recent dump we were able to drive all the way up into Sawmill Canyon to the Walker Lake trailhead.  You need something with 4WD but the drifts weren't too bad.  

After a gentleman's start, we were skinning away from the truck at 8:30am, able to put our skis on right away.  The snow was thin down low but we were able to poke our way through the trees and rock benches up higher keeping our skis on the whole time (or at least I did sporting my chewed up rock skis…Brian still has nice skis!)

It took us just a hair over 3 hours to skin the 3,500ft of vertical up to the ridge below the summit proper, which we forewent due to time, wind, and the fact that the snow was going to be getting even softer.  We were impressed at how high the sun is right now in early April and how much exposure this shot gets, as it is pretty wide and open.  

 We couldn' have timed it much better as some of the firmer snow was softening high in the chute as we cut a pretty steep skin track to keep the main line open for our turns.

After a bit of a snack we put out skins away and I took the first turns down the chute, amazed at how good the skiing actually was!  By the time I got to the bottom though my legs were jelly from making 1,500ft of turns in pretty sticky snow and got to take some shots here of Brian getting some too.

Staying close to our skin track were able to piece the descent together and only take our skis off once- not too bad!

Over and out for now…  looks like things are going to turn back into spring this coming week so it might be back to the corn skiing/rock climbing grind!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Despite a long hiatus from writing anything for the blog, I have been really busy with a ton of different projects since coming home from Patagonia.  The main has been the remodel of the Four Wheel Camper which I bought the week before leaving, and which I gutted and rebuilt from scratch.  More on that in a separate post.
Also, it has been pretty much summer time here in the Sierra, so I have been cragging a lot in the Owens River Gorge, bouldering in the Buttermilks, and skiing spring like conditions on Mammoth Mountain.  There has been a few work trips, Intro to Winter Mountaineering and Whitney climbs, but I think a lot of folks have thrown in the towel for winter, though despite the strange winter we have had, there is still a TON to do.
So with a week off at the end of March, and the electrical system finally wired in the camper, we were ready to take it for a test trip.  After skiing the first day of the set of storms that were impacting the Sierra, and getting amazing wintery deep powder skiing, we loaded up the rig (yet to be named), and headed south to J Tree.  

Five days of climbing classic cracks, drinking cold beers, exploring for wildlife and wildflowers and hanging out with friends was just what the doctor ordered.  Equal parts adventure and relaxation.  Except for the sandstorms.  Those were an uncalled for side effect of the big front that was dumping snow in the mountains.
But we prevailed, the camper performed beautifully, and has changed the perimeters of road tripping as we knew it.  I am really excited to take this thing on the long upcoming trip up to the Northwest and then over to the Tetons for my Alpine Guide Course.

The week was over before I knew it, and now am back in Mammoth planning on skiing everyday this week.  Come for a ski or climb- conditions are ripe for double or triple sport days!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Last day in Patagonia? Kayaking Adventure!

Just before leaving Bariloche, I was planning on heading over to Villa Angostura to go for a long trail run out to the end of Bosque Arrayanes.  My friend Diego said, "Yeah I could drive you over there, or if you want you could join me and a couple of my clients on an adventure to kayak to some remote mountain on the other side of the lake…".  Not a really hard choice right?

The paddle across the northern end of Lago Nahuel Huapi was about as glassy and calm as you could imagine, which is unusual given the lake's orientation to the nearby mountain pass leading into Chile.
A 6 km paddle got us across and we landed on a beach with a blue green water that made us think we had landed in the Caribbean!

The most interesting part of this adventure however was our proximity to the 2011 eruption site of Volcan Peyehue which covered the area in a thick blanket of pumice and ash.  Hiking up to Cerro Dormillon, we were visiting a lunar landscape which few people had visited since the eruption, and was only beginning to show any signs of recovery.  

After reaching the top, 2 steps up and 1 step down at a time, we headed back and enjoyed the cushioned descent courtesy the thick layer of pumice before jumping back in the kayaks and paddling to Villa Angostura for a cold beer and a drive back to Bariloche.

Now that I am back in the Northern Hemisphere, it is time for…