Backcountry – serious fun

As you can see by the frequency of my posts, I don’t get inspired to write new blog posts very often.  Not sure why I decided to this time…guess I just wanted to do something different than short facebook updates.

I was planning to head up to Crystal Mountain last weekend with Jen, Kona, and the trailer.  But Jen decided she’d had enough of snow, trailers and a wet muddy Alaskan Malamute.  So being the great wife she is, she got me a hotel room up at Crystal with twin beds and she talked her cousin into letting her husband Scott join me for a guys weekend.

Joined by Chris (another friend and fellow skier), we started the day hitting some groomers and then headed to Northback to see if we could find remnants of the 5″ that arrived the day before.  As expected, some of our secret stashes still had the goods and we got some great runs in.  Chris had to leave early, plus his hip was really bothering him so he bailed around 1pm.

This is when the serious part of this blog starts.  We decided to head down the parking lot and pick up our skins so we could climb up to the Silver King peak.  For those that don’t know, skins are basically like a sticky carpet that you put on the bottom of your skis and it allows you to ski uphill without sliding backwards…even on fairly steep slopes.  Normally Silver King would take a 20-30 minute traverse and a 20 min bootpack, but the lift that lets you get there was destroyed by an avalanche several weeks ago.

So instead we had a several mile ascent ahead of us and 2000+ ft of elevation gain.

Here’s a picture of Scott putting on his Alpine Treckers (they allow you to convert normal downhill ski bindings into a touring setup with a free heel).

Neither Scott or I have much experience with skinning.  We’ve both done it around 4-5 times.  We have a ton of backcountry experience, but skinning is a whole new skill set.  We headed up the hill and the first mile or so was pretty easy going.  We found a previous track from a day before and followed it up.  If you know Crystal Mt – we followed the east ridge route up Silver King.

Unfortunately, once we got to the steepest part of the climb the tracks we were following disappeared so we had to do our own route decisions.  I made a poor choice that resulted in us having to turn around and re-trace our steps after losing about 45 minutes.  We finally got up the steep section though and things were looking good on the ridge proper.

Here’s a picture of Scott showing off his skins on the summit.

On the way up we did see several minor avalanches and a lot of loose snow.  So coming down we decided to be careful, go 1 and a time and watch each other.  I also ski with an air bag backpack (pull a cord to have it inflate and help keep you afloat in an avalanche), but I hope to never need it.

Scott went first and you can see the video of him here.  As you can see – the powder was good but the upper 5″ were definitely very loose.

It’s hard to tell in the video because the snow is so bright, but there was a pretty good sized slide following Scott.  It took a while to get started and he moved out of the way long before it go to him.

Next was my turn.  After watching Scott I decided it would also be a good idea to ski fast and make a big turn at the bottom to move out of the way.  This time my go-pro did a great job showing the slide and how big it got.

My serious lesson for the day – even if you know a mountain inside and out its always smart to keep watching the conditions and evaluate as you go.  Had we not gone one at a time, or chosen slopes without good exits we could have a different story to tell today.

We then headed around the east side of the King and got one more good section in before the snow got slow and heavy at the bottom.

After that we were both super tired so we headed back towards the hotel.  On our way we ran into Jim Alfin (sp?) and learned about a founders club gathering that night.  Scott’s dad is a founders club member so we talked our way in and got some free pizza and beer!  Thanks Jimmy!

Conditions didn’t look good on Sunday – snow level rose overnight and it was super foggy.  We got lucky though and found a sunbreak or two for a short video.  The conditions weren’t great, but we still had some fun.

One other note – I’m really happy with my new Nokia Lumia Icon windows phone.  The videos above were either taken with a go-pro or with the Nokia.  The 20MP camera takes great video and the phone is very fast with a long battery life.

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One Response to Backcountry – serious fun

  1. Videos were very nice! Great job for your phone for working very well. Missing climbing on the snow, wish I could go back and splash again. Finding good time in this busy working days. 😐

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