Thursday, December 22, 2016

Three Things Thursday, Issue #20

Ice climbing. Super secret location, December 2016. 
Merry Christmas! It's amazing ski season, and I'm ice climbing a ton. Good stuff all around. Three random things:

  • I ate super clean for most of November. Did a "Whole30" sort of challenge, though only for 20 days instead of 30. It felt amazing. Maybe it's a coincidence, but the day after I let up on the strict consumption, I got a cold that I'm still fighting over a week later. Ouch. 
  • That cold has prevented much skiing for me in recent weeks. However, I have been brushing up on my avalanche and ski decision-making. Ask me sometime about Exum Mountain Guides new guide communication and avalanche decision-making format. It's leading the industry, and I'm honored to be a part of it. Formalizing your decision-making is the first step in making sound choices in the mountains. Ever evolving that formal process is the next "step". Thanks Exum for leading the charge!
  • Meagan and I recently bought a truck to complement our little Prius. The Prius has excellent snow tires, while the truck has four wheel drive. I've driven enough on snowy mountain roads to know that, if I had to choose four wheel drive or excellent tires, I'd choose excellent tires. The Prius does better than the truck, every time. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Ice Climbing Gear List, 2016-2017

It's ice season! Full-on...

I seem to ice climb in binges. And December is looking like it'll hold a bunch of ice climbing for me. I have trips booked to Dubois, WY and the Canadian Rockies, with some other ideas floating around. This list works in those places, as well as ice venues like New Hampshire, Cody, WY, Ouray/Silverton, and Valdez AK. This list is primarily organized for guests on trips with me, but it should make sense for just about anyone.

(*- optional, depending on venue, conditions, and, to some degree, personal preference)

First, individual gear. Each climber needs stuff on the bulk of this list. At the end is shared, group equipment. On a trip with me, I can provide some loaner individual equipment, and I provide all the group equipment. In parentheses, for a number of items, are the exact products I use and recommend. I work with most of these particular companies and highly approve of their equipment. 

Hard goods/technical gear:

  • Helmet. (Camp Speed 2.0)
  • Harness. (Cassin Jasper)
  • Belay device with accompanying carabiner (Edelrid Jul to belay leader, CAMP Ovo to belay follower.)
  • 2 additional locking carabiners
  • Prussik loop/rappel back-up
  • Nylon, double length sling. 
  • Crampons (Cassin Blade Runner)
  • Ice tools (Cassin X Dream)
  • Trekking pole or two
  • *Ice tool tether (bifurcating “umbilical”). 
  • *Avalanche transceiver (BCA Tracker 3)
  • *Shovel (BCA B1 Ext)
  • *Probe (BCA Stealth 240 Carbon)
  • *Snowshoes (MSR Denali)

Daily kit:
  • 30L backpack (Camp M2)
  • Insulated 1 liter water bottle
  • Thermos
  • Snacks and lunch foods
  • Camera
  • blister and headache medicine. Whatever other medications you might need 
  • Hand and foot “shake-and-warm” packets. 
  • Headlamp

Clothing. Much of this is redundant, allowing for tailored selection given the day’s forecast and agenda. 
  • Ice boots. (Garmont Pumori)
  • 3 prs socks
  • long underwear
  • soft-shell climbing pants (Arc Teryx Gamma AR)
  • Hardshell pants (Arc Teryx Theta SV bibs)
  • *Puffy insulated pants 
  • Synthetic boxers/undies
  • Synthetic t shirt
  • Light fleece long sleeve (Patagonia R.5)
  • Heavier fleece. (Patagonia Piton)
  • Softshell jacket for approaching. (Arc Teryx Gamma MX)
  • Light “action” puffy jacket. (Arc Teryx Nuclei)
  • Heavier "action" puffy jacket. (Feathered Friends Eos)
  • Shell jacket (Arc Teryx Alpha FL)
  • Belay jacket. (Feathered Friends Volant or Helios)
  • 4 pairs of various light weight gloves, rotated for drying. (CAMP G-Hot Dry, CAMP GeKO Hot, CAMP GeKO Touch. Arc Teryx Alpha FL)
  • Belay mittens (CAMP Hotmit’N)
  • Warm hat for approaching
  • buff/balaclava
  • sun hat
  • dark lens glasses
  • light lens glasses
  • *ski goggles

Group stuff:
  • Twin/half ropes. (Petzl 7.7mm, 60m)
  • Single Rope (Mammut Serenity 8.7mm, 60m)
  • 12 ice screws. (One 10cm, one 22cm, the rest 13cm. Combination of Petzl Laser Speed Light and BD Express)
  • V-threader tool. 
  • Set of 'draws. 5 alpine style, 5 dog-bone style. With big carabiners. Camp Photon is the absolute best ice climbing carabiner made... 
  • Cordellete
  • First aid/repair/shelter kit
  • Satellite phone
  • camera
  • Portable boot dryer 
  • file for sharpening spikes
  • binoculars
  • Extra clothes

Monday, November 21, 2016

Stuff to Sell, Fall 2016

I do this periodically. This time, it's priced to go. Good deals, I promise. You cover shipping, or pick it up in Victor ID. We could also likely meet up sometime in Jackson. Email me with your order, interest, or questions jediahmporter at Facebook msgs, forum "PM"s, text messages are all less effective than email. For local "shoppers" I have other stuff not listed here. Jackets, backpack, etc. Email to arrange to drop by. Prices and "inventory" updated 1/3/2016.

Scott SuperGuide 95. 180cm.  With Dynafit speed turn bindings. And BD skins. Retail: $1077 Asking: $538.50 firm. 

Dynafit PDG skis with race bindings. And Dynafit race ready speed skins. Used lightly over two seasons. No base damage, no tunes ever done. Mounted for 297mm BSL Dynafit TLT6. Can be remounted for a different boot size too.  $700
Dynastar Cham 107 HM. 184 length. With G3 skins. And Dynafit Speed Turn bindings. $450. Heck, the bindings and skins retail for more than that much. Buy 'em and you get free skis. Damn good skis at that. 

Hilleberg Nallo three tent. Lightest tent made for three people in burly weather! Barely used. $500 

Not pictured:

  • Brand new pair of Dynafit Speed Superlight 2.0 bindings. Like, in the box. $400
  • Brand new pair of Dynafit TLT 7 Performance. Size 27. Again, in the box. $525

Ski Helmet. Medium. $8 (unavailable for a bit. Stored away)

Small pelican case. $5 (unavailable for a bit. Stored away)
Nordic ski set up. Size 9 boots. 188cm skis. 160cm poles. $60. Or make an offer. (unavailable for a bit. Stored away)

Car roof box. Good shape. Maybe not all the requisite hardware? Surely you'll figure out something cool to do with it?  $40. (unavailable for a bit... stored away)

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Ski Mountaineering Gear List, 2016-2017 Season

Ski mountaineering is basically anything that isn't simple "backcountry skiing". And backcountry skiing is skinning up and skiing back down, to your car. Navigate a glacier, camp out, rappel a chockstone, protect a pitch of rock or ice climbing, and your endeavor enters the realm of ski mountaineering. The racer types talk about "ski mo". That's short for "ski mountaineering", but the lycra-clad, groomer-ascending typical races don't really seem all that similar to any sort of mountaineering I know of. It occurred to me recently that "ski mo" could also be short for "ski more". Which makes a ton of sense, and fits into the above catch-all. Going for distance or time isn't your typical backcountry skiing event. As such, it fits here. In the end, this is the page where I list the specialized ski gear I might carry for specialized missions. Whether it's a speed lap on Taylor Mountain, or a sea to summit burn on Mount Saint Elias, the list below will cover it. No joke.

I've gotten in the habit of updating this every year. This is the latest, as of October 2016.

Ski mo, don't ski less. Dropping into 11,000 vertical feet of powder on Alaska's Mount Sanford. Interestingly, the gear I used there has more in common with that used on a speedy roadside mission than it does with a typical day of "normal" backcountry skiing. 

Ski Gear.  Keep it small, light and simple.  Use skill to negotiate funky snow and terrain:
  • Dynafit TLT 6P boots
  • Dynafit PDG skis (or something a little bigger. From the OutdoorGearLab test roster)
  • Contour mohair race skins 
  • Dynafit race bindings 
  • Fixed length poles. Equipped with a sweet "Pole Clinometer" 
Clothes.  Most carry and wear too much.  Keep it simple, move fast, carry an awesome puffy jacket or two. I get very cold. Colder than most. And this clothing kit is all I need to 18,000 feet in Alaska. No joke. 
  • Darn Tough Socks
  • Crazy Idea Century pants
  • Syn boxers.
  • Syn/wool t-shirt. 
  • Light fleece hoody. Like Patagonia's R1. 
  • Camp Neutrino Hoody
  • Camp Magic Jacket. Or hardshell jacket for wetter endeavors.
  • Camp Magic Pants. Or beefy hardshell bibs for coastal AK missions. 
  • Feathered Friends Eos Hooded jacket. Or the Volant jacket for the high and wild. 
  • Camp G Comp Warm Gloves. Plus Camp Hot Mitt'ns for colder trips.
  • Warm hat
  • Buff
  • Sun hat
  • Kaenon Burnet Sunglasses

Safety Gear, etc:
  • Backcountry Access Tracker 3 Transceiver, BCA B1 shovel, BCA Carbon Probe.
  • Communication
    • Almost always have a set of BC Link Radios for comms within the group. 
    • And then, in terms of talking to the outside world, sometimes as simple as a cell phone,  occasionally (mainly in Canada) a 2-meter, 2-way radio, and most often my Iridium GO Smartphone modem.  Adventure is awesome, thriftiness is noble, but failure to consider communication with the outside world is ridiculous.
  • Navigation- 80% of the time the phone, preloaded with maps and apps, is enough.  Carry a "back-up" paper map and analog compass.  In big, new-to-me, complicated terrain where visibility is likely to shut down, I'll bring the full kit:  Dedicated GPS (Suunto Ambit 2), large-scale waterproofed paper map ( is brilliant), compass, altimeter, clinometer.  
  • Emergency Shelter- Very occasionally it is as simple as the mylar (space blanket style) bivy bag that lives in my omnipresent First Aid/Emergency kit.  Usually though, I bring the 8.5'x8.5' 9 oz Hyperlight Mountain Gear Cuben Tarp.  
  • Emergency Evacuation- Sometimes it's as simple as the bivy or tarp.  Drag someone on that.  In many cases, I'll carry the Brooks Range Eskimo Sled.  I also have a little bag of bolts and drill bits that can be used to bolt skis, shovel, and ski poles together into a sort of sled. If you are not already packing a rope, carry a chunk of cord for dragging a packaged casualty.
  • First/emergency aid kit.
  • Ski repair kit.  (it should be around a pound for groups.  Less is probably inadequate.  More is silly.  Let me know if you want more detail on what I carry)
  • Snow Study:  Saw, crystal card, magnifier, ruler, documentation.  Be equipped and trained to make sound decisions for yourself and large column tests for the avalanche center.
  • Food, water. Whatever's clever.  
  • Headlamp
  • Sunscreen, TP, hand sanitizer, lighter. 
  • If I need a rope while skiing it's almost never less than a 30m Petzl Rad rope.  If I need a rope while skiing it's almost never more than a 60m half rope.  
  • Spikes.  As it gets steeper and firmer, add in this order: 
  • Also as needed:
    • Camp Speed 2.0 Helmet
    • CAMP Alp Mountain harness
    • Rack of gear.  If it requires more than 5 of anything (cams, nuts, screws, slings) leave the skis behind.  
  • Glaciers?  Crevasse rescue skills and equipment.  
  • Pack:  Maybe the BCA balloon pack, maybe an alpine pack (Camp M3), maybe the little CAMP Rapid race pack.  
Multi Day Ski Touring
This is what we live for.  Getting way out there, going out of contact.  Seeing what few get to see.  Most of the gear is the same as for day trips.  But you'll add in camping gear.  And eliminate some things.  You won't need emergency shelter if you have a dedicated tent, for instance.  
Living the good life in British Columbia's Coast Range.  April 2013.

  • Shelter.  I pick from three, in increasing weight and weather protection:  Black Diamond Betalight, Black Diamond Firstlight, and Hilleberg Nallo 2.  
  • Feathered Friends Widgeon -10 sleeping bag.
  • Thermarest NeoAir XTherm.
  • MSR Reactor with 2 oz per person per day of fuel
  • Lighter and matches.
  • Bigger Pack.  Hyperlight Mountain Gear 4400 Ice Pack
  • Food.  Just add water for dinner and breakfast.  A mess of bars and energy candy and jerky and cheese for lunches.  It should all add up to about 2 pounds per person per day.  Depending on individual metabolism and work load. You'll need some way to serve and eat this food. Lightest is to just use the first night's freeze dried bag. And a spoon. 
  • Toiletries. Toothpaste and brush, eye care, sunscreen, personal medications.
  • Water bottles.  2 gatorade bottles.  Nothing more, nothing less.  

Backcountry Skiing Gear List, 2016-2017

I do this each season. In planning out my equipment before the season ramps up, I am doing a sort of risk management. Thinking through the equipment now leaves me free to better monitor conditions and choose terrain wisely. To be honest, much of my professional life is built around freeing up mental energy for making wise terrain choices. It is that important. I have similar lists for rock climbing, alpine climbing, and ski mountaineering.

Season opener. Grand Targhee BC, Wyoming. Yours truly. Selfie. 10/2016

Here and now we're talking about your typical day out skiing.  6-8 hours at most, a group of 2-7 people, hunting down good snow and good terrain with minimal "faffing" around.  Don't think too much about it; this is standard skiing.  See the other posts noting what I carry for more "specialized" missions.  

  • Darn Tough ski socks
  • Maybe, just maybe, long underwear
  • Arc Teryx Procline pants 
  • CAMP Magic pants (in the pack).
  • Synthetic boxers
  • Synthetic/wool t-shirt
  • Patagonia R1 Hoody
  • Camp Magic Jacket
  • Camp Neutrino Jacket
  • Feathered Friends Helios Jacket
  • Camp G Comp Warm gloves
  • Camp Hot Mittens
  • Warm stylie wool hat
  • Buff
  • Sun hat
  • Smith Vantage helmet (sometimes…)
  • Sunglasses.  Native Hardtop, Julbo Explorer, or Kaenon Burnet, depending.  Maybe, just maybe, goggles. Of the 60-80 days a year I ski in the backcountry, I probably carry goggles 10 times on average.  And use them for one run before I remember how annoying it is.  
Ski Gear:
  • Dynafit TLT6 boots
  • Any one of a number of OutdoorGearLab tester skis. 
  • And associated skins
  • Dynafit Speed Turn bindings
  • Black Diamond Fixed Carbon poles (mounted with a sweet Pole Clinometer)
Safety Gear, etc.  Some of this is individual and needed by each group member. Other gear can be shared by the group.  Divided well, even this comprehensive list of emergency group gear will go barely noticed in the pack:

Some gear failure is repairable.  Some is not.  
  • First Aid/Emergency kit.  (follow link for elaboration)
  • Ski repair kit. It should be around a pound. 
    • Candle for skin wax and fire starter
    • Scraper. Those made for nordic skiing seem to hold up better in a pack. And are more compact than your work bench scraper.
    • 4 voile straps. The long ones. 
    • About a meter of baling wire. 
    • 4 mid-size zip ties
    • Rub on ski wax. Like you see at the impulse buy rack near the ski shop cashier. 
    • 10 spare, random binding screws. A ski shop should be able to hook you up. 
    • "Binding buddy" ratcheting bit driver. I don't know who makes it, but its branded all kinds of different ways. This DaKine one would work. Make sure you have a flat bit, a regular phillips bit, a "#3 PoziDrive Bit" (looks like a beefier phillips bit), and, for newer Dynafit bindings, #15 and #20 Torx bits. I add a 1/4" drill bit that fits in the binding buddy. For improvising a sled (see below) and for drilling right through torn out binding holes. (see immediately below)
    • A handful of small bolts, washers, and "t-nuts" that can be used, in a pinch, to bolt bindings (or even just ski boots...) to holes drilled through the ski. In the event of a blown out binding hole, drilling those holes straight through the ski and bolting the binding on is likely one of the best choices.
    • Another good option for blown out binding holes is steel wool shoved in the hole. So carry some steel wool.
    • Carry some glue to mix in with said steel wool. I have a small tube of "Gorilla Glue".
    • I carry an extra boot cuff rivet. These are hard to improvise and, on some boots (ahem... La Sportiva...) they are especially prone to getting lost. 
    • Sometimes, when it really matters (like in a big group on an expedition), I carry an extra Dynafit toe piece. Life sucks if you don't have a toe piece. 
  • Brooks Range Ultralight Guide Tarp 
  • Brooks Range Eskimo Sled. Or my improvised bolt-based kit. Depending on the objective. The bolt-based kit basically replicates the K2 sled. I add a 1/4 inch, 1/4 inch hex drive drill bit that fits in my binding tool for making holes in hole-less skis. 
  • Thin sled dragging rope. The Petzl RAD rope is the best ski rope made. 
  • 2 locking carabiners
  • Navigation kit:  GPS, maps, compass, clinometer, altimeter.  Often the iPhone versions are enough.  Sometimes bringing the dedicated tools is justified.
  • Snow Study:  Saw, crystal card, magnifier, ruler, documentation.  Be equipped and trained to make sound decisions for yourself and large column tests for the avalanche center.
  • Extra clothes:  An extra puffy jacket and pair of over mitts are regularly appreciated.  Especially in a large group. 
  • Set of BCA BC Link radios, for intra-group communication. I was skeptical. But I'm a solid convert now. Even close together, radio communication is clean and simple. Have back-up plan and procedures in place, but use the radios too.
  • Iridium Extreme Sat Phone.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Three Things Thursday. Issue #19

The entire Perumal family. City of Rocks. September 30, 2016
  • The growing Perumal family pictured above climbs more pitches with a baby in tow than your average simple climbing partnership. How do they do it? With creaky joints and a recent baby delivery, respectively, it can't necessarily be credited to incredible physical fitness (though they're no slouches in that department, and I mean no disparagement...). They also make sure to apply modern, conservative safety systems. So their accomplishments aren't due to reckless boldness. No, it's quite simply a combination of three basic principles: 
    • First, they have professional-level training. They've each taken a number of formal climbing courses, over years now. 
    • Next, they climb together a lot. They share a common vocabulary (born of their respective formalized training) and common goals and objectives for the day and for their climbing careers. 
    • Finally, they are together and individually motivated. They each climb for their own reasons, but they have that burning desire. They like climbing individually, and they like climbing together. It's not rocket science, but these three principles are remarkably lacking, and people's performance suffers. 

Cube Point, Grand Teton National Park. October 4, 2016
  • Shifting to the alpine... It's supposed to be rock climbing season. But I have quite the fascination with alpine climbing. I'm not tough, I'm not strong, I'm just fascinated. I get cold, I get scared, but I dig it. Speaking of getting cold, my feet are a wreck. When others are in flip flops, I feel like I should be in insulated boots. In lots of "three season" alpine climbing conditions many people get away with uninsulated mountaineering boots. Shoes like the Garmont Tower LX GTX are the most popular category of mountaineering boots on the market. They walk well, they rock climb well, and they take crampons for snow and basic ice climbing. Catch is, they're uninsulated. The next step up, in most manufacturers' boot lines, are insulated, but rigid, ice climbing boots. These can be pressed into duty for colder three season use, but they aren't ideal. Thankfully, my business partner Garmont makes just the ticket for those of us with cold feet. The Tower Extreme is basically an insulated version of your typical three season mountaineering boot. The rubber is sticky, the toe is low profile, and the sole is flexible for walking. I just guided a very autumnal (read, "snowy") ascent of Grand Teton National Park's Cube Point in the Tower Extreme. My feet stayed largely warm, and surely dry. In lighter boots, I would have been uncomfortably cold. 
Targhee. October 5, 2016.
  • Rock, alpine, let's wrap with something skiing related. I skied this morning! Earliest start to a ski season ever for me. And it was very good skiing!  As you look ahead to the ski season, its time to look ahead to whatever's next in your avalanche education. And what is next for you (and something should be next... we all can always keep learning) is likely informed by a bit of a "sea change" in the business. Partner Backcountry Access has published a summary of the coming change. It's a good change, and IFMGA Mountain Guide Rob Coppolillo spells it out very well. Here. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Three Things Thursday. Issue #18

Topping out the Exum Ridge's "Golden Staircase" pitch just before sunrise. August 16, 2016. 

  • First, a follow up to my last, curmudgeonly blog post. I'm doing ok. I'm doing more than ok. Thorough acceptance of certain ugly truths is the ultimate in catharsis. Mountains are dangerous and hard. That is all. I'm not quitting, I'm not "toning it back". I am sharpening and tempering and examining, but the danger and difficulty is an inherent part of the draw. It isn't noble to be drawn to dangerous things, but it is ultimately human. And humanity isn't all noble. In talking with others about the thoughts I shared, and in examining my own motives and responses, it seems that there are two polarized viewpoints; some go to the mountains despite the dangers and work to minimize their exposure to said hazards, while others go to the mountains because of the dangers and work to minimize their exposure to said hazards. Notably, the end result is exactly the same. Because you may see my fascination with the risks as morbid doesn't mean that my approach is any less diligent than yours. As long as we are both letting our perspective sharpen our attention, the product is the same. 
  • Next, let's climb this fall! I'm mapping out my autumn and early winter. I will travel a great deal, and book up the remainder of 2016 in the next few weeks. With ever decreasing availability, this is a rough outline of the options for climbing with me (as always, bookings are made through a patchwork of partners, depending on timing and permits):
    • Bugaboos, BC. September 11-16 or so. 
    • Teton Day Tripping, WY. September 12-30.
    • Black Canyon of the Gunnison, CO. First two weeks of October. 
    • Boulder, CO. October.
    • Red Rock, Vegas. October 19-23 and/or November 2-6.
    • Moab Area. Indian Creek, Castleton Tower, Etc. Mid October to early November. 
    • El Potrero Chico, Mexico. November or December
    • Silverton Ice. December.
    • Banff Ice. December
  • Lastly, this is throwing back to earlier in July. I was part of a bunch of Exum groups to summit the Grand Teton all together. In one of the Exum groups a marriage proposal was imminent. Most of us knew it was coming, warned by the soon to be fiance. The fiancee did not know it was coming. Anyway, this is how it unfolded

Monday, August 8, 2016

Mountaineering's Gritty Side

Peak climbing and alpinism are brutal. There is no way around it. It is strenuous, stressful, and dangerous. The occasional "Instagram-ready" moments aren't worth it. For those seeking the glory or "enlightenment" of accessing high and wild places, the stress and hazard will outweigh the rewards. In short, mountaineering fucking sucks. You will vomit. You will be scared. You will cry. You will stumble and bang. You will get hurt, bruised, and sore. You will dedicate immense periods of time to this ridiculous endeavor. You will hate huge parts of the experience. You will waffle and stress and beat yourself up. You may fail. You may die. Your friends may die. People will die.

Who likes this shit? What is wrong with the degenerate crew that seeks stupid, giant, technical, dangerous mountains? What is wrong with you that you think you might be into such a deviant pursuit? What is wrong with me? Whatever it is that draws and holds alpinists to their obsessive pursuit isn't pretty or healthy. But it is damn human. Whether we admit it or not, we are wired to work hard, face risk, and suffer. Some portion of the population is better at managing these darker desires, and those avoid alpine climbing. Others can't quite scratch that itch without getting real in the hills. For those, there's a community and landscape in the world's mountainous regions for you. You are not alone.

Screw the scenery. Most of many days is spent in the dark, inside your own head. Grant Teton. 4/2016.

Or in a tent. With dirty socks. And surly companions. And your own claustrophobic self-loathing. Mount Saint Elias. 6/2016. 

Much is made of the sunnier, brighter side of mountain pursuits. That is not "my bag" today and here. For a variety of reasons, I'm dwelling on the darkness. The ugly side. If there is yin and yang to everything, mountaineering is often represented by only the pretty stuff.  And it isn't pretty. There's the blisters and the failure and the deceased. That all sucks. There's also the ugly truth between one's ears. Boil it down, I dare you. Dig deep into your motivations. You'll have to admit, however reluctantly, that you get off on the hazard and the grit. And then, come up out of that pit you dug. What's left now? Confusion, probably even some shame. Ugliness on top of ugliness. Why the fuck are you ashamed of seeking risk? We're wired that way. Poets, artists, musicians are lauded for their expression of the deep and dark. Alpinists are there, playing and expressing in that dark pit, with front point photos and summit successes to distract themselves and everyone else.

Sometimes you get to get out of said tent. To dig the wind-blown snow off. Chugach. 5/2016. 

Before you even get on the mountain, you have to walk in dreary weather being pressed down by a giant parasite. Wrangells. 6/2016. 
Heck yeah I'm mad. I climb mountains. "Angry climber" is redundant. "Repressed angry climber in denial" is a ubiquitous reality. Alpinism is an angriness positive feedback loop. We go to the hills because we're mad, and they just piss us off more. The dark side of the human condition seeks challenge and grit and danger. The inherent difficulties and hazard of mountains shut us down and spit in our faces. It is an outlet, reservoir, and inlet of pain and suffering.

You are trying to climb a giant route on a giant mountain. You take a rock to the shin. You want to just "Harden the Fuck Up". But that gash to the bone demands attention. Mount Moran. 7/2016

Does this guy look "stoked"? No. Fuck you. Grand Teton. 7/2016

Even when it's awesome, and you are enjoying the sunset and eating a meal you prepared with your wife the night before and you're leading one of the best guiding teams on the planet, it can suck. Gary here died 14 hours later, falling off the Grand Teton. 7/2016

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Three Things Thursday. Issue #17

I have this set up to "auto-post" today, the 19th of May. If all goes as planned, two guests, Meagan and I flew into the center of the Chugach Mountains of Alaska for a sweet ski base camp. After that I go on a series of up to three more expeditions, wrapping up with my return to the Tetons around July 10. In between I'll have at leas short bouts of "normal" cell and internet, but I'll be largely out of traditional contact. Therefore, this week's version of the TTT will be three different ways to get ahold of me, if you absolutely need to. And, if you wish to book a trip, I consider that a worthy "need"... In fact, it's better to try and contact me than to withhold it because you don't think its important enough.

  • Send a short to medium email to If you go this route, the message must include no attachments. It comes to me via satellite, and it'll get completely blocked if the message is anything larger than a simple text email. I'll check this email once every few days. 
  • Leave a phone message on my regular cell phone. 760 920 1403. I'll check that once a week or so. 
  • For bookings in the Tetons, contact Exum Mountain Guides at 307 733 2297. They have access to my entire availability July 13 through September 3. They may have to dig a little, but everything I'm doing in that time line is booked through Exum. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Come ski with me! Alaska. May 19-30, 2016.

Skiing Alaska has got to be a lifetime highlight for most skiers. It's simply on another level. I have one (possibly more than one...) spot open on a customized fly-in ski mountaineering basecamp (like fricken Jeremy Jones would do) May 19-30 this year. It's relatively last minute, but should be an amazing time. Alaska has been warm down low, but has absolutely fat snowpack up high. (Alyeska reports over 700 inches for the season!). PM me for info on this fairly unique spin on the Alaska ski vacation. And check out the video for a past trip.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Three Things Thursday. Issue #16

I spend a lot of time in the mountains with Chad. Which is great. Also great is his social media presence. He's eloquent, effusive, and selective with what he posts. He has a true adventurer's spirit. Perhaps more than most people I know. A selection of his posts from a recent visit here to the Tetons is equal parts flattering praise and travel-log, in a clear and stoked style. And I took some of these pictures myself.

03.01.16 | The Tetons TBT…to charging couloirs last week… I love this pic, but I’m more proud of the moments that preceded it… These coulies are intimidating. Steep, narrow, dark walls, no viz, a line you’ve never skied that curves out of sight… The moment you first stand atop your line is something else. Legs barking from a 3k to 4k foot skin up…out of breath from the transition from climbing to skiing mode… After the serenity of the skin up, you’re always slightly frazzled when you slide over and eye it up. The routine is familiar…Jed drops first and skis it smoothly…but he skis everything smoothly. A few seconds later, he radios back up that it’s Corey’s turn to drop. You can feel his intensity…and down he drops…and out of sight. And there you are…alone in the clouds, with nothing but your thoughts. Moments later the radio crackles to life, which instantly produces the adrenaline burst…”OK, Chad, you’re clear. And there’s a sweet inside line on skier’s right. Take it.” And just like that, you’re up… The first thoughts always seem to be negative… Fuck, this is steep. Will I eat shit? Are there rocks in there? Could it still slide? What happens if I get hurt? Or lose a ski? Blah blah blah. This is the crux. Forcing yourself to set those negative thoughts aside. Fuck that noise and turn it into… Wow, this looks sick. What would happen if I charged it like I’m in a ski mag? What if it’s the line of my life? That’s when you take a breath, sigh out the adrenaline and grab the radio… “Copy that, Jed. Drrrrrroooopppping.” You make that first tentative turn across the fall line to feel the snow…nothing…it’s quiet and creamy… it’s on. So you just fucking point it…the snow starts spraying across your chest and into your beard…and this happens. It’s a sweet pic, but I like it mostly because it is the embodiment of what the mountains have taught me. This has been a brutal week and I find myself standing atop a line I never anticipated I’d need to descend. But that’s life. I’m just telling myself to trust the lessons I’ve learned in the mountains. Don’t be afraid of change, challenges or the unknown. Look them in the eye. Charge them. And then fucking send them.

A photo posted by Chad Buelow (@chadbuelow) on

Saturday, March 12, 2016

15k day.

Years ago now I resolved to one day ski up and down 15,000 vertical feet. I even "pre sprayed" about it. I finally did just that earlier this week. It wasn't easy, nor was it as hard as I thought it would be. I made a minor effort to find a partner, but I also thought it would be cool on my own. When partners didn't come through, it wasn't all that heartbreaking to get out on my own.

Early morning, snow squall. Up Olive Oil. 

Wildlife. The Tetons are smack in a fricken wildlife safari. After skiing the Banana Chute on Prospectors Mountain, with no photos, I climbed the south east side of Prospectors to the back of the Son of Apocalypse couloir. 
Son of Apocalypse. Tracked, but great.

While I am not totally averse to the action selfie, a day paced like this one is not the time or place. This is the best I could do. Mainly powder skiing all day long. 

The last two laps were on a familiar skin track up Whympys, with the final trip to the summit of Albright. Where I had not been before. 

Summit of Albright, 5:16pm. Downhill!

I wish I could say I entertained profound thoughts about wilderness and weather and mountain vistas while gliding across Phelps Lake and down the Moose-Wilson Road. However, it was a brain-dead slog under beautiful light. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Three Things Thursday. Issue #15

Teton Ice Park. February 11, 2016

Videos, and only videos this week.

  • My first ever ski tour in Grand Teton National Park was the Apocalypse Couloir. And Mark Smiley caught it on film. 
  • Avalanches happen. Sometimes, when they're little, loose, and triggered by you, you can manage them.
  • Not all avalanches are made of snow, nor are they manageable. Crazy video of a landslide in Argentina. The mountain is falling down:

Friday, February 12, 2016

No Crap Days in the Tetons!

High temperatures, it hasn't snowed in over a week, and the forecast is windy. Still, we find the goods!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Why a bivy sack?

Technical terrain, light packs, two people. Tent is best. 

I got a question from a former student this week. Scott was in Peru with the Ishinca Valley SIET course I taught in June of 2015. He asked "When you're out winter camping what are your thoughts on bivy's?" That's a great question, and a common one. I have fairly strong opinions on the matter, based on my experiences and preferences, in addition to some logic. Certainly, a solo, pole-less shelter has its place in the mountains. In my experience, however, the circumstances under which a bivouac sack is the best shelter are extremely rare. This is how I answered Scott:

Good question... In short, I don't even own a bivy sack. People use them to make their bag warmer, to keep snow off their bag in a snow shelter, for solo camping, and for camping on small ledges on technical alpine climbs. One by one, I can address those reasons and justify my avoidance of bivy sacks.

  • First, a bag warm enough on its own is way lighter than one with too little insulation plus a bivy. Adding more clothes is more versatile and more economical than adding a bivy sack. 
  • Next, sleeping in a snow shelter is wet, regardless of whether you bivy or not. 
  • For solo camping, a tarp is lighter and more comfortable. 
  • For technical alpine climbing, I'll have a partner. And a Black Diamond Firstlight tent is lighter than two bivys and way more comfortable. The ledge you need for the tent is bigger than spots for two bivys. With snow, I've never failed to find a spot for a First Light. On dry ground, like technical ridge traverses or big wall climbs, I don't go if the weather forecast is poor. I'll get away with an ultralight tarp then, "just in case."

Monday, February 1, 2016

Backcountry Skiing Gear List, 2015-2016 Season.

Ski season is well under way, and by this time in the season, I've kinda got my systems down.  I wrote up a similar list for winter alpine climbing.  And one for Ski Mountaineering.
Yours truly. Table Mountain. West Tetons. January 2016

Here and now we're talking about your typical day out.  6-8 hours at most, a group of 2-7 people, hunting down good snow and good terrain with minimal "faffing" around.  Don't think too much about it; this is standard skiing.  See the other posts noting what I carry for more "specialized" missions.  

  • Darn Tough ski socks
  • Maybe, just maybe, long underwear
  • Arc Teryx Sawatch pants (or Arc Teryx Hardshell Bibs for super stormy days)
  • CAMP Magic pants (in the pack).
  • Synthetic boxers
  • Synthetic/wool t-shirt
  • Patagonia R1 Hoody
  • Camp Magic Jacket
  • Camp Neutron Jacket
  • Arc Teryx Macai Jacket
  • Camp Geko Warm gloves
  • Camp Hot Mittens
  • Warm stylie wool hat
  • Buff
  • Sun hat
  • Smith Vantage helmet (sometimes…)
  • Sunglasses.  Native Hardtop, Julbo Explorer, or Kaenon Burnet, depending.  Maybe, just maybe, goggles. Of the 60-80 days a year I ski in the backcountry, I probably carry goggles 10 times on average.  And use them for one run before I remember how annoying it is.  
Ski Gear:
  • Dynafit TLT6 boots
  • Dynastar Cham 107 HM Skis
  • G3 Alpinist skins
  • Dynafit Speed Turn bindings
  • Black Diamond Fixed Carbon poles (mounted with a sweet Pole Clinometer)
Safety Gear, etc.  Some of this is individual and needed by each group member. Other gear can be shared by the group.  Divided well, even this comprehensive list of emergency group gear will go barely noticed in the pack:

Some gear failure is repairable.  Some is not.  
  • Backcountry Access Float 32 Pack
  • BCA shovel
  • BCA Carbon Probe
  • Backcountry Access Tracker 3 Transceiver
  • Food.  4 bars and a salad or sandwich.
  • A liter of water or two. 
  • Headlamp
  • TP, sunscreen, lighter, hand sanitizer
  • First Aid/Emergency kit.  
  • Ski repair kit.  (it should be around a pound for groups.  Less is probably inadequate.  More is silly.  Let me know if you want more detail on what I carry)
  • Brooks Range Ultralight Guide Tarp 
  • Brooks Range Eskimo Sled
  • 30m of thin sled dragging rope
  • 2 locking carabiners
  • Navigation kit:  GPS, maps, compass, clinometer, altimeter.  Often the iPhone versions are enough.  Sometimes bringing the dedicated tools is justified.
  • Snow Study:  Saw, crystal card, magnifier, ruler, documentation.  Be equipped and trained to make sound decisions for yourself and large column tests for the avalanche center.
  • Extra clothes:  An extra puffy jacket and pair of over mitts are regularly appreciated.  Especially in a large group.  
  • Iridium Extreme Sat Phone.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Three Things Thursday. Issue #14.

Throwback to April 2015. Meagan on the cliffs of Labyrinth Canyon, Green River, Utah. 
  • The management of Yosemite National Park is taking comments on the management of the designated wilderness there. Participate in democracy, make your comments. 
  • It's been a rough month for avalanches and backcountry travelers. What you do before, during, and after a trip to the mountains matters to your safety and the safety of others. 
  • East Coast snow stoke! 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

2015 Year in Review. Mountains and athletics.


You may find it utterly uninteresting or thoroughly fascinating, or something in between. As always, the stories behind the numbers are the more interesting part, but this clinical look at one turn around the sun provides an interesting glimpse into this one rambler's life. 

  • 954 hours of total action. That could be termed "training volume". This is the sum total of time spent moving. If there's 8760 hours in a year, this is just over 10% of the entire year. On my feet, on the go. 
Of those many hours, the more logical way to look at each activity is in terms of days. But I have hourly info too. Check it out. 

  • 23 days of alpine climbing (179 hours)
  • 77 days of backcountry skiing (367.5 hours)
  • 25 days of hiking (88 hours). Many days of climbing and skiing involve some hiking. These 25 days I just hiked. No climbing or skiing. 
  • 8 days of ice climbing. (38 hours)
  • 62 days of rock climbing (224 hours. I really try and count just actual climbing movement time. Not belaying. But sometimes I count the approach hike as part of the climbing day, which gets rolled into the hour count)
  • 6 days at the ski area (17 hours)
  • 9 days of trail running (14.5 hours)
  • 1 day of mountain biking. (1.5 hours)
  • 211 days in the mountains.

  • 15 days I lifted weights as my primary exercise. (15 hours) No mountain time on these particular days. I lifted weights on some of the other days, but these 15 days I did no mountain time. 
  • On two days my exercise was canoe paddling, and on one I noted in my log that I spent 1.5 hours "kid chasing". Thanks nephew Sammy for that one. 

  • 9 days I was sick
  • 38 days of travel. Sick days nor travel days count as athletic recovery. If anything, traveling or being sick is as taxing on the metabolic system as a day of training. Without the benefits. 
  • The remainder then, 92 days, were rest days. Some of those rest days were more effective than others. The average rhythm, one could deduce, is three days on, one day off. But that is far from the truth. Work, conditions, motivation, and other life realities conspire to make for a far more flashy training and recovery schedule. It is often a couple days off between bigger binges of action. 
Other life and travel stats.
  • Three countries (USA, Peru, Canada)
  • 14 US States (NY, PA, OH, IN, IL, IA, NE, CO, UT, WY, ID, NV, CA, MT)
  • At least 25000 miles of highway. 
  • One dead Subaru.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Three Things Thursday. Issue 13.

Teton Pass ski touring. 1/17/2016 Mark Smiley photo. 

  • Alarming footage from an avalanche over one of the country's most popular ice climbs. "Stairway to Heaven", January 11, 2016. No one was hurt. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

2015 Year in Review, Professionally.

High on Chopicalqui, Peru. July 2015

I do this each January, summarizing some data from the past guiding year. For the most part, by the normal data I collect and report, 2015 was pretty unremarkable. However, the coolest part is in information I don't formally collect. Of the 47 trips I did in 2015, the vast majority were new to me. Even in the Sierra, most of the guiding I did was brand new to me. Great exploration and expansion!

Here's what my guiding life looked like, by the numbers:
  • I worked 47 guiding trips 
  • Of those, 26 were single-day outings. 
  • 3 were two day commitments. 
  • 6 were for 3 days 
  • 1 trip went for four days 
  • 1 trip was 5 days and one trip was 6 days 
  • I did a 21 day course with the School for International Expedition Training in Peru. 
  • Of all those trips, I slept in the backcountry for work on 40 nights. 
  • That adds up to 86 guiding days. 
  • Of course, for every 3-4 guiding days, there is about one day of administrative work that includes packing, unpacking, food prep, etc. 
  • Of those 46 trips, fourteen of them were for alpine climbing. 
  • Only two were ice climbing 
  • 17 were rock climbing 
  • 14 were for skiing 
  • 14 were with returning clients. 
  • I instructed this year more than ever before. 23 of the trips, just under half, were primarily for educational purposes. 
  • On the remainder, the other half, objectives varied. Sometimes it is mileage or exercise, but usually it is a specific route or peak. In 2015 16 trips were initiated with a specific peak or route in mind. Of those 16, on 11 we made the summit or all the summits we set out to do. We accomplished all we set out to do 69% of the time. That is roughly average, as compared to the data I've collected since 2012. 
  • 2012 71% 
  • 2013 61% 
  • 2014 20% (An outlier. A rough year in the mountains... on the clock or off, I failed to "send" a number of big itineraries in 2014)