Friday, April 17, 2015

Peru 2015

I've got a whole bunch of cool things going on this coming summer. Most notably, I'll be in Peru in June and earl July and then the Tetons for the remainder of the summer.

In Peru I have three different missions. All are exciting and two of them may be of interest to you.

  • From June 8-28 I am working with my good buddy Josh Beckner and his School for International Expedition Training. We have one spot on this amazing course. Josh has set up an amazing course for the accomplished climber looking to enhance his or her big mountain and expedition skills. I am honored to come along and share what I can with our students. Check out this link for more details, and feel free to contact me with any questions. 
  • From June 29-July 10 I am available for alpine climbing in the Peruvian Andes. You should join me. We could team up with Mark and Janelle Smiley on Alpamayo, or develop our own itinerary. Because I will already be there, our itinerary and logistics are fully customizable. If you have a dream in the Cordillera Blanca, it can't hurt to ask.
  • After July 10, I go on a personal climbing and filming mission with Mark and Janelle. We'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

"Lawn" Sale. Spring 2015

I's got stuff to sell. Whatcha want? Let's use Paypal to make the transaction. I'll have to ask that we work around my travel schedule. Most of this stuff I can ship to you. Or you can retrieve it from me in Leadville CO after May 1. But some of it is in storage and will have to wait until mid-may to send out. If we ship, you cover shipping costs. Shoot me an email

Outdoor Research Balaclava. Barely used. $8

Outdoor Research Rumor Hoody. Lightly used. Fully functional. $50

Size 24.0 Women's Garmont Mega Star AT ski boots. $100 (in storage. must wait until 5/20)

Voile avalanche shovel. Handle extends. Well used. $15

Backcountry Access shovel and probe combo. Great shape. $50

Backcountry Access Float 32 pack. With canister. Fully functional. Lightly used. $330

Jetboil titanium. Wicked light. Makes water hot. Electronic igniter doesn't work. The whole package works, but is very well used. $20

Size 26.5 La Sportiva Spectre AT ski boots. Lightly used. Never heat molded. $200 (in storage. must wait until 5/20)

Black Diamond Amperage skis. 185cm. Dynafit Radical ST bindings (mounted for BSL ca 295) Used, with base damage, but not a ton of mileage. Still got life and snap. BD cut-to-fit Mo-Mix skins. Selling all together. $450 (in storage. must wait until 5/20)

Brooks range Hybrid Sweater. Size medium. No down insulation on the back. $40

The North Face Hightail 2S sleeping bag. 35deg rating. Used one summer. Well maintained and cared for.  $100

Dynafit Down Jacket. Medium. Lightly used. $100

Marmot Col sleeping bag. Size long. -20f rating. Used just 5 nights. $450 (in storage. must wait until 5/20)

BCA Tracker. Includes harness, but not shown. $100

Chalk bag. With belt. $8

Compass. Works. $11

Petzl Sarken Crampons. Used and scratched, but still fully functional. They've been sharpened once. $90

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Glacier Circle Ski Vacation Mini Guide

The Glacier Circle Cabin, near Rogers Pass in British Columbia and run by the Alpine Club of Canada is an under-appreciated resource. Part of the issue is its reputation. Multiple guidebook entries suggest that the day-trip skiing there is poor. While it’s perhaps not world class convenience skiing, there is enough small and huge stuff to keep most ski tourists busy for a week. Also, the information available is pretty poor. I wrote up a story on the Feathered Friends blog, and this page is a nuts-and-bolts complement to that article. 
Just before dropping in on the Witch Tower descent. Yes, its pretty. Yes, the sun is setting. Yes, we did have to find the hut in the dark. 

Maps and Books. 
  • The best text resource for the area is the summer alpine climbing guidebook. While it is a recent, modern guidebook, it sure seems difficult to find. Search out the "Rogers Pass Alpine Guide” by David P Jones. 
  • None of the Rogers Pass ski books or current convenience maps cover Glacier Circle well. In fact, both Chic Scott and Doug Sproul books are pretty down on the Glacier Circle zone.
  • For maps, your best bet is to get ahold of the Canadian government “quad” maps. You want Mount Wheeler. 
  • We also secured a map from a friend that worked well for us. It was fully prepared for skiing, waterproofed and everything. It extended south into the Glacier Circle zone. But it sure seems to be basically unavailable.
Yeah, pow happens in there. 

Approach and Exit
In good visibility, the approach is strenuous, but pretty easy to follow. Getting onto the Illecillewaet is usually marked by at least one skin track all the way from the car. Once on the ice field, follow your map and nose. Near the end of the approach, as the guidebooks point out, you have two options. You can descend the lower slopes of Mount Macoun, or go over to the Witch Tower and descend along its base. We did our actual approach and exit near the Witch Tower, but did a day trip up onto Mount Macoun that traversed the option there. So we did both options. And the Witch Tower is much easier to figure out from the top down. This is our route of exit. We were a little smarter on the approach, with better visibility. But we didn’t GPS track it. The line at that link will serve you well enough. Let me know if you want the data in a more “raw” format. 

Once you’re in the basin, finding the hut can be problematic. Marks on maps will get you close, but the zone is heavily forested, with giant boulders that all look like snow-covered huts. We collected multiple “ground-truth” gps coordinates at the hut:
  • 51.1722N 117.3925W on an Iridium GO satellite communicator
  • Zone 11U. 472508E 5669096W on an iPhone
  • 51.172661N 117.393097 on a Suunto Ambit GPS Watch.
Day Tours. Some are photographed and shown below, while others are linked to route pages. Some we did, while others we just looked at. All are at least possible in ideal conditions. Some are clearly better in tougher circumstances. 

  • Lower West slopes of Mt Macoun. 800-1200 vf. Forested ribs between open avalanche paths. Up and back the same way. Slope angles 25-40. SW aspect.
  • Summit slopes of Mt Macoun. 5000f. 45deg. W and SW.
  • N. Shoulder Mt Macoun. W. 4500vf. 45 deg. W and SW
  • MIni Macoun. 4500vf. 35 deg. NW and SW.
  • Mt Selwyn. 5000 vf. 6 miles round trip. Up and back the same way. Max slope angles in the mid to upper 30s. N, NE, E aspects. Glaciated and crevassed. Historically, negotiating the icefall in order to gain the toe of the Fox Glacier has been impossible. However, as the glacier pulls back, it appears more and more doable. 
  • Lake Slopes. Below hut. SE Facing. Open. About 600 vf. Max slope angles ca 30. Down, then back up to hut.
  • Deville Glacier.  5 miles or so. 3000 vf or so. Down from hut, then up as far as you want to go. The Deville icefall can be passed in two different ways. See the climbing guidebook for the best info. 
  • Pt 1793.  5 miles. 2300 vf. (With option for more laps.). North and NW facing. Forested. Max slope angles ca 30deg. Ski down from hut, then down valley a bit, then laps in the trees. Entirely below the hut. As low as 1400m.
  • Poo View Peak. Super short, great stormy skiing. Or an excellent vantage point for scouting the area. 
  • Mount Fox lower slopes. 800vf. 38deg. Along either side of a band of trees. 
  • Ice Wall Chute. Steep and narrow. An ice cliff hangs over the top. This section of the Illecillewaet may pull back as the glaciers retreat. In which case, this 2000vf, S facing couloir could be an excellent line right outta the hut. 
  • Witch Tower PPP (Protected Pow Place). 500vf slope, E facing, seemingly threatened by spindrift and serac fall from Mt Fox and the Witch Tower glacier. However, a concave basin protects this slope. 

Weather and Avalanche Info

Mount Fox lower slopes. 

Lake slopes

Mini Macoun

Hut outhouse from the top of "Poo View Peak"

Mount Macoun with its summit slopes somewhat obscured and the N Shoulder run traversing down and right under the cliffs. 

The Ice Wall chute. Cool looking, higher objective hazard. 

Taken from the NW corner of the basin, with the Deville glacier in the distance and the  treed horizon indicating Mt Fox's lower slopes. 

Deville icefall from Mt Macoun

Selwyn Ledges zoom. An option for gaining or descending the Deville. 

The Deville Chimney zone from Macoun. 

A historical photo of the Deville icefall. 

We did our entire exit in white out. Do your homework!

Poo View Peak

Protected Pow Place

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Classic Chuting

How do you choose your ski partners? I sure try to be careful about it all. We'll scoot around the ski resort, ease in with some roadside pow shots, go to known ground, all before launching into more committing ventures. However, sometimes you just know. 

But how? How do you know? I'm starting to find that, almost as much as my IFMGA training and certification increases my own efficiency and safety and improves the quality of what I can provide to clients, the international certification serves as a vetting process for potential ski and climbing partners.
Jeff. Kick turning. Cheops. Rogers Pass, BC.
Jeff's prepping for his final IFMGA guide's exam. He and I were little more than acquaintances a week ago. He's prepping to ski hard in Chamonix in April, and I'm just into skiing hard. We were both in Jackson on what was looking to be a good day. We hatched a burly plan, but then notched it down. Still, we busted out a 7,000 foot day, including Nez Perce's classic Sliver Couloir.

Jeff. Sliver. Nez Perce. Tetons, WY.
I rested a day, then drove a long day north. Jeff convoyed north with me.
STS. Cheops. Rogers Pass. Fresh outta the 15 hour road warrior stint. 
It started as a ski mission. But with our respective ladies on other agendas for the time being, we bromanced a little. Jeff cooked me dinner. I cooked breakfast. He scouted Rogers Pass, while I cooked us up a quest over in the Rockies. On which I'll elaborate more eventually.

Meagan's here! Jeff's great and all, but Meagan is the real deal. Jeff caught us in this moment. Illecillewaet. Rogers. Jeff Witt Photo 
Meagan's grandmother passed away late in February. She went back east to be with family these first weeks of March. She was honored to speak at the ceremony and touched to be able to celebrate Doris' life with her family. And I was honored to have my lovely wife back with me, in her home country. 

Higher on the Illecillewaet Glacier. Weather closed in. 
But it opened up enough to let us down into the Forever Young Couloir. 
Meagan made her first turns in the backcountry in a month and half right down into untracked goodness on this mega classic gully at Rogers Pass. Hot stuff. We picked our way down this steep route in intricate conditions. Jeff made the most of the conditions, checking off a number of his preparatory goals.

Yours truly. Feeling "forever young". Young Peak, BC, Canada. Jeff Witt Photo.

Another moment. Another Jeff capture. How often do M and I get to share a photo together with such an amazing chunk of mountain? Thanks Jeff for the shot! Jeff Witt Photo.
The last objective on our week of ski mountaineering (a week that, I must add, included climbing basically the equivalent of Mount Everest from sea level. We can use such an otherwise trite comparison. Jeff's been to the top of the world) was the Aemmer Couloir above Lake Louise, Alberta. Meagan's travels and family time and the big exertion on Youngs Peak caught up with her. A burly cold virus pinned her down in town, where she watched and chatted with us on the radio. I drafted the uber-fit Jeff through another big climb, this time straight up a super-steep chute on the shoulder of one of the gnarliest peaks in the Canadian Rockies. We rested briefly with an incredible view, and then skied a vertical mile back to the posh resort neighborhood around Lake Louise. 
First turns in the Aemmer. Perhaps the most sustained line I've skied. No joke. 

Below the Aemmer. Mount Temple, Alberta.