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.