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Monday, August 25, 2014

Therapeutic Pictures?

Over the years I have taken a ton of mountain pictures. Most of them are unremarkable at best but I am doing something about it: I am signing up for an October "Landscape Digital Photography" class. Hopefully that will enhance the photographic standing of this blog. In the meantime, every so often, I have gotten lucky to get the odd good shot. Whatever the case may be with that it is in the fall, when the wait for winter becomes unbearable, that I spend time staring at my average pictures and draw unmistakably positive therapeutic effects from it.

Here are some of the less mediocre selection (click to enlarge):

Grands Montets, Chamonix, France

One of many unnamed peaks in the Chugach, AK 

Little Cottonwood Canyon north of Alta, UT

Lighting effects on Glacier de Lescheaux, Chamonix, France

Iguana Backs, Chugach range, AK

Cathedral Gap, Mt Rainier, WA

South face of Mt Superior, Alta, UT

Aiguille du Midi, Chamonix, France

In the distance: Mt St Helens, Cascades, WA

Mt Blanc, Chamonix, France

Cardiac Ridge, Wasatch, UT

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Good tidings

It is always an exciting time when the temps drops and our precipitation becomes productive. Yesterday Mike sent me below picture of Pinecone Ridge in Park City:
Blue arrow shows a sprinkle, red arrow: Is that coverage?

















Then today I took these from Maybird Gulch. It's not a lot but hey! its only August 24th!

For detailed view see below...

Yep, That's SNOW!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Alaska: Post 4/4 April 11

The last skiing day was by majority vote a day dedicated to heli skiing. The pictures below show some of the great terrain you can hit in the Alaska back country. That may be a bit redundant as I am not sure Alaska has any real front country... In any case if your into skiing this is a place that I recommend. If you are into back country skiing also known as ski mountaineering then I recommend you drop the whole heli skiing thing. It's a mix of, on the one hand, assembly line skiing where quantity (of vertical) and speed of execution will trump quality any time and, on the other hand, spending a fair amount of the day aimlessly sitting around waiting for a chopper to show up... I couldn't help thinking I'd rather be on my skins.

Here are (some of) the pictures (click to enlarge):

The chopper drops you off...

...is going and...

...is gone.

Now you ski some cool slope (Mike in this one)...

...and me here...

Then you get picked up and here is a picture
from within the chopper...

...then you get dropped off and on it goes.
What you don't see here is the wait in between

So, where's the slope?


Spicy traverse...
and cool access..

...then down...

...and further down..


Nice line

The guide pointing out our next landing zone

Winter wonderland...

...and yet more winter magic.



Yours truly skiing God knows what,
just can't remember...
It's not Chamonix but they do have spires and Aiguilles.

Alaska: Post 3/4 April 9 & 10

After the initial one drop and our first ski down we are back to skinning. By far human power is the most satisfying way I know to get up a hill. Having said that and although reticent to be the cause of more choppers getting into the back country, it comes with one benefit that really kicks but: The first downhill run is on perfectly fresh legs!
In my view what sets Alaska apart as a destination is the combination of gnarly terrain - no people. This is one place where there is a lot more ski terrain than population density which makes for a unique and very different experience. The solitude on extraordinary ski terrain and the sheer infinity of it is in my book what makes Alaska such an amazing destination.

Here are some pictures (click to enlarge):

Long meandering skinning sessions.

Those long fun steep runs? Well they are long and steep on the up too...

Spires and more peaks than you can count.

The beauty of rock and ice.

Nothing like some glacier cruising to relax
from those pesky avalanches...

Did I mention Alaska also has powder...

Then there's just hanging out...

This is the kind of stuff you have to get through to make it back
to the Richardson HWY...

...in addition to fording streams...

...but eventually you get there...

In Alaska you don't even have to be good
with a camera to land shots like this one.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Alaska: Post 2/4 - April 8

This is where the fun starts for me, I get out and I get to ski! I popped a fair amount of uppers and got myself convinced that I'm as good as new. If attitude is everything this should be a cakewalk!
It starts off easy enough; we are "one drops" off of the Valdez Heli Ski Guides operation. An operation that I will characterize as efficient and unpleasant. Mostly I experienced a bunch of people taking themselves waaay to seriously and an assembly line approach to skiing that I don't care for. In all fairness it doesn't help that I, in the first place, have an uneasy time embracing choppers in the back-country. Having said that the general ambiance at the Tsina lodge and the heli operation does not help. In any case, there is no arguing that the terrain configuration off of Richardson HWY on or about Thompson Pass is such that it does lend itself to this type of transportation or the approaches are going to be fairly time consuming. The main claim to fame that Valdez Heli skiing has today is that it once, a long time ago, was pioneered by Doug Coombs. Now he pioneered something a lot larger than just Valdez Heli, he pioneered heli skiing in Valdez! He was a towering figure of back-country skiing with remarkable stints in Jackson Hole, Valdez and La Grave, France. He met an untimely end looking to assist a friend down an icy Couloir de Polichinelle at La Grave where he lost his edge and fell 2000 feet down. A truly tragic end for definitely one of the absolutely best skiers that ever lived.

Every day starts at the helipad for a drop of somewhere we like and that the conditions allow (click to enlarge any of the pictures).
Valdez Heli Ski Guides - The heli pad.
















...we get pretty intimate with these birds...















...and the reward is that you get to places like this:

In the Iguana Backs
















...and the drop zone is not too bad either:

A cosy mountain corner
















Now finally after all that travelling, the transiting and prepping we finally GET TO SKI!

In the slope: Mike in blue, me in orange
and Ray with his ski tips still up
























FINALLY!























...and there's yet a long way to go...























...reaching for the island of safety...


Mike's turn...























...and reaching for the island...























Safe!
















Alaska is huge so one slope each., one to the left..






















The other to the right...
















...and that's a wrap!






















After a good ski never neglect the reward upon the reward:

Mike, Adam and Pierre in the art of eating the cake and having it left...