Weekly Round-Up #11

I love a good, relevant climbing article, and the guys over at TensionClimbing, nailed it. With a keyboard and blank screen, they set out to write “The Rules” of climbing with the intention of making us all better climbers. My favorite, by far, is #6, mostly because I need to constantly be reminded of it (even if it really is a high-gravity day…)

RULE #6: Stop complaining. You’re too short. You’re too tall. Your hands aren’t big enough for that pinch. Your fingers are too big for that crimp. Stop it. Take a look around. We all have our own unique proportions that come with different advantages and disadvantages. We can all see that you can’t span the move that the 6ft tall guy doesn’t even have to think about. We can all see that you can only fit 3 fingers on the hold that the 10 year old girl can shake out on. We get it. Now figure it out…or quit. Quitting is always an option, but it is the process of “figuring it out” that is valuable, whether you send or not.

Why climb the Grand Teton once when you can climb it twice? In one day? And then, why climb it twice, when you can climb it three times? IN ONE DAY! Ryan Burke thinks “it’s an insult to the people who came before me to not take it a little farther.” Which is why he’s also going to pursue a South-to-North speed traverse of the Wind River Mountains. Personally, I’m thankful people like him are pushing the sport so people like me don’t have to.

In my short lifetime we’ve gone from breastfeeding being taboo, to women taking pictures breastfeeding atop Mount Yotei in Hokkaido, Japan. What a time to be alive. In this incisive and perspective-widening article, Leah Story speaks about being a new mom and breastfeeding in the backcountry. “Being a breastfeeding mom in the mountains isn’t a superhuman feat,” she explains, and being in the backcountry is about preparation. Breastfeeding is merely an extension of that.

Tinder, Bumble, and now Strava? The app meant for tracking vert, mileage, and activity is quickly turning into an arena for matchmaking, competition, and friendship. With Strava, you can post where you ran, how it felt, and pictures for accompaniment. You can also see what others post, like their posts, and so on. Zoë Rom at Trail Runner Magazine set out to define Strava etiquette for this new virtual world we live in.

 

 

Gear Review: Patagonia Super Alpine Bib

Patagonia’s Super Alpine Women’s Bib is the bib to end all bibs. Made specifically for big (or small) mountain adventures in the worst conditions, the alpine bib delivers with thoughtful specifications, like the two-way full-length side-zips and drop seat configuration.

I bought the alpine bib’s with my first touring set-up. I was working at a gear shop at the time and wanted to outfit myself with the best gear. For me, Patagonia almost always falls into that category. Besides their ethical code of conduct for every part of production, they strive to take care of the planet, and create killer products that last as close as you can get to a lifetime.

Back to the bibs: 100% nylon Gore-Tex that doesn’t suffocate the user, and easy-to-access zippers make it hard to overheat. I’ve used these bibs as low as zero and as high as 50 and haven’t had issue at either end. I love the snap closure at the top zip which allows for a large air vent, or the ability to pee without shedding every layer. The shoulder straps are easily adjustable by shifting the cross strap at the back or through the hook-and-loop Velcro at the front.

There are two pockets on the front of the pants that are great for holding snacks or a cell-phone, although if I put my cell-phone in the right leg pocket while the pants are vented, it creates an uncomfortable pull across the thigh.

Although I’m not yet into serious winter ascents where I need crampons, the bottom of the pants are heavily reinforced to prevent tears from crampons or skis.

I’ve had these pants for three seasons and haven’t found a single issue with them. The bib is low enough to be comfortable, but high enough to keep powder out on waist-deep days.

Five stars, would recommend.

Review: Wasatch Backcountry Skiing App

I am a die-hard lover of the paper version. I’ll take a book over a kindle, a newspaper over an online edition, and a map over an app. Generally. However, the Wasatch Backcountry Skiing App is a game changer.

The Wasatch Backcountry Skiing App takes it’s parent paper version and turns it into an interactive technological map that can be zoomed in/out, turned, and oriented either in the direction of travel or north.

One of the best features of the app is it’s GPS component. As long as your cell phone has battery life, you can track your progress through a blue dot on the app. With the GPS, you can also find your elevation, longitude/latitude, and compass degree. This has helped me figure out where the skin track is supposed to be, and has allowed me to get a better idea of where I am in the backcountry.

Because of the improved GPS accuracy, you can search for a location in the Cottonwoods and choose it as a destination. The compass then incorporates a blue arrow that points you in the direction you wish to go.

The App also features an “Email Current Location” option so you can track your own progress, or alert friends/family members of your most recent location.

Some other great features are the shading of slopes steeper than 30 degrees, and route finding capabilities.

The only downfall to the app is the inability to get your bearings once you’ve zoomed out. However, the app is best used as a companion to the Wasatch Backcountry Skiing Map.

I highly recommend this app for its ease of use, slope shading, and GPS features.

You can purchase for either iPhone or Android through the App store for $12.99.

For further information, check out the developer’s webpage here.

A Beginner’s Guide to Backcountry Touring

Breaking into backcountry touring is exciting, sometimes scary, and full of unknowns. You may have spent twenty years on the slopes, but gracefully making your way up a skintrack is not necessarily a natural skill. With the uptick of users on social media and the repetitive pow shots put up by pro-skiers and pro-recreationalists alike, it’s hard to not load up the van (or in my case the badass go-anywhere Prius), and do whatever it takes (including post-holing in high avy-danger territory) to get those “sick pow shots, brah.”

But please, show some restraint, and just don’t.

First things first: Get the Right Gear

There’s a lot that goes into backcountry travel, including the massive investment in the right gear. While you can use snowshoes for the ascent and your skinny skis from the 90s for the descent, the whole fat skis, tech bindings, alpine boots, and skins can run you a pretty penny. At full retail, the whole outfit can easily surpass the $2,000 mark. Add to that the beacon, probe, and shovel and you’re looking at the price of a smaller used car with relatively low mileage. Best advice on gear? Set yourself up with pro-deals or learn to religiously scour your local thrift stores, Craigslist, or Ebay.

Then Get Educated:

IMG_6811Once you’ve got your set-up I highly recommend attending a Know Before You Go class. I’m fortunate enough to live in Salt Lake where we have one of the best avalanche forecasting centers in the nation. The Utah Avalanche Center puts on classes and regularly partners with REI to provide brief, information packed sessions to educate backcountry users on the dangers of avalanche terrain. If you’re in a more remote location there are tons of resources online. BCA has an entire series on YouTube about backcountry terrain, companion rescue, and how to read and dig a snowpit.

If you’ve done all of the above, have toured some low-consequence areas and want to expand your knowledge, you can sign-up for an AIARE 1 course which is an introduction to safe snow travel, how to dig a pit and asses on a basic level, and how to identify terrain traps.

Do Your Research:

15275664_1726509364343445_188834417626578944_nThankfully we live in a time where information is a click away. Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming, Washington/Oregon, Canada, and Idaho all have avalanche forecasting centers that provide daily, and sometimes twice daily, avalanche condition updates. If you don’t live in one of these states, it’s important to keep track of storms and snowpack conditions. This might mean digging more snowpits than someone in the Wasatch, but if you treat it like a workout you’ll keep a better attitude and possibly save your life.

Find Good Company:

In Utah there are a handful of tours you can take on your own due to the low angle of the area’s slopes. But let’s be real. Touring is way more fun when you have someone to enjoy it with. Through social media and groups on Facebook I’ve found a solid group of people to tour with. So get out there, charge, and then get home safely.

What’s In My Pack: Backcountry Touring Edition

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Whenever I introduce a friend to backcountry touring their first question usually is, what do I bring? Packing a bag for a half or full day tour can be easy once you know what to anticipate.

I always suggest checking the forecast in the morning. Will it get warmer throughout the day? Is a storm expected? This will give you some insight to what layers to wear, what layers to pack, and what layers to leave at home.

If the weather is supposed to be 40 and above in the Wasatch I leave my puffy at home. Generally, it’s good advice to always have a puffy with you, but the majority of tours I take in the Wasatch are low angle and close to emergency services. I know the chances of being out overnight are slim. But please, always do what feels comfortable for you and your situation. You know your environment better than I do.

In terms of food, I prefer to snack throughout the day (unless I have some leftover pizza!) I pack dried fruit, cliff bars, nuts, and lots of water. I always fill up my 3L CamelBak regardless of tour length.

Always, always, always take your beacon, shovel, and probe. Even if you aren’t traveling through avalanche terrain, there are groups in the backcountry who are, and it may be up to you to rescue them. Always be prepared for anything that can happen.

In my pack:

  • Headlamp
  • Batteries (for headlamp and beacon)
  • Snacks
  • Water
  • Extra gloves (lighter or heavier depending on the weather)
  • Extra hat
  • Wilderness First Aid Field Book
  • First Aid Kit
  • Multi-tool
  • Ski Strap
  • Bag for my Skins
  • Beacon
  • Probe
  • Shovel
  • Emergency blanket
  • Extra Layers
  • Wasatch Backcountry Map
  • Cell Phone
  • Sunblock
  • Chapstick
  • Compass
  • Fire Starter
  • Tape

If you’re just starting out it’s safer to overpack. With more tours you’ll get a better feel for what’s important to bring into the backcountry, and with the exception of beacon, shovel, and probe, it’s different for everyone. A good general rule is to pack for the worst and hope for the best. The last thing you want in the backcountry is to be wishing you’d brought something you’d opted out on because of the extra weight.

Anything I missed? Let me know what’s in your pack in the comments!

 

Best Low Consequence Tours in the Wasatch

If you’ve read any of the avalanche advisories you may be weary to break out the skins on a high avy danger day, and for good reason. When avy danger is high it is so important to stay well away from avalanche terrain. Having a way to measure slope angle, read a map, and determine terrain traps are some of the best tools you can take into the backcountry. And always follow the seven P’s!

In the Wasatch, there are a number of tours you can take even if the avalanche danger is high. These are some of my favorite tours regardless of avalanche danger.

Big Cottonwood Canyon

USA Bowl:

Located in Big Cottonwood Canyon across from Solitude resort, USA Bowl offers a wide-open low-angle bowl where you can make figure eight turns to your hearts content. The tour is mellow up until the last push to the ridge. Start out on the summer road across the street from Solitude’s upper parking lot and head west on the skin track. At about 8500’ you’ll come upon a large cabin to the east where the skin track heads north. The track meanders through aspen glades until it meets the bowl. If you decide to put in a switchback, don’t cut too heavily into the untracked powder. In USA Bowl, rumor has it that east of the Mississippi slides, so to play it safe, stay west, and enjoy!

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Mill D:

Mill D offers a wide variety of tour options. With the exception of the east face of Reynold’s peak and the north face of West Desolation Ridge, the terrain in Mill D is low-angle and low avalanche danger. From the Spruces trailhead, skin north on the summer road to the community of cabins, once past the gate you can access:

Short Swing: Known as the Dawn Patrol route, Short Swing is best if you have time constraints. The track is the first one that heads east, a little more than half mile up the trail, and ends at point 9,269. Be cautious of the cornice that forms to the north of 9,269’s ridge. Aspen glades and good powder can be found west on the descent.

Powder Park 3: About a mile up the skin track, head east along the northern side of a gully. The track eventually leads to a meadow—this means you’re close! Across the meadow and to the south is the skin track leading to the cone at about 9200’. You can choose to descend from the top of the cone, or keep skinning to the south side of West Desolation Ridge, which offers extensive tree skiing. (This can also be accessed if you head north at the meadow, and gain the ridge).

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Tom’s Hill: Tom’s hill can be accessed by taking the Mill D trailhead and heading west up the skin track, or by following Spruces trailhead until it splits at the furthest part of the drainage and heads west. The two most popular descents are to the north, Tom’s Hill, or to the west, Weathering Heights.

Beartrap Fork:

Park about 13 miles up the canyon alongside the road. To the north you can see a sign on a tree that reads “Beartrap Fork.” Follow the skin track north through the aspen glades. The trail is about 2 miles to the top of the drainage where you can access the Beartrap Glades and connect to peak 9,990 in Canyons Resort.

Beartrap is one of the best places to go for beginning backcountry skiing. The aspen glades to the east about half mile up the trail offer excellent, well-spaced, low-angle tree skiing. From the meadow, about a ¾ mile up the trail, you can also head west to The Cone (connecting you to Powder Park 3 in Mill D), or point 9,269, and ski the east facing aspects. The east side of The Cone offers open skiing, while the east face of point 9,269 has a mixture of open skiing and well-spaced aspen.

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Skinning through the Beartrap Aspens

Little Cottonwood Canyon:

Grizzly Gulch:

Grizzly Gulch is the beginner’s tour in LCC. The summer road is groomed by Alta to support their Cat Skiing operation, which makes it one of the easiest skins in either of the Cottonwoods. I can’t speak much to the beginner terrain in the area, but have included a link to some information through the Utah Avalanche Center.

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The well groomed skin track up Grizzly Gulch

This is just a brief overview of some of the best/easiest tours in the Wasatch. Some other awesome resources are Backcountry Skiing Utah by Tyson Bradley, the selected routes option on the UAC (detailed info>maps>selected routes), and the Wasatch Backcountry Skiing App (review coming soon!)

If you don’t tour in the Wasatch I’ve love to hear about some low-angle tours in your neck of the woods!

Motivational Monday: Make Goals not Resolutions

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‘Tis the season to reflect on the past year and look forward to the year ahead. Although the fresh start only physically comes by tacking a new calendar to the wall, I still get excited about the prospects of a new year. It is what you make it, right?

I’ve asked a few of my friends about their new years resolutions and most looked at me and laughed. This is the problem with resolutions—they urge us to join gyms, wake up at 5am, or start reading Infinite Jest or Gone With the Wind or Atlas Shrugged. And then slowly, without fail, we find ourselves back to sleeping in, choosing Netflix over the gym, and making it to the third paragraph of page 117 by the end of January.

Only 10% of people who make resolutions keep them, and here’s why: we expect them to fail. I say enough! Let’s go into 2017 with goals we intend to keep.

I recently read Grit by Angela Duckworth. She makes her case about setting an “end goal.” Yeah, she says, you need to have top-level goals, the crème-de-la-crème of all goals—your purpose, your mission, your passion. And then you need to work down from there. What would need to happen right before you achieved your end-all goal? And then what would happen before all those things need to happen? And so on until you retreat to where you currently are (for me that’s sitting in a coffee shop) 😉

I made some top-shelf goals for 2017. I want to send a 5.12d and project a 5.13. I want to finally run a half-marathon. I intend to publish and get paid for it. I want to learn basic navigational skills and complete my AIARE 1, WFR, and SPI. And my list of places to ski and climb is long, varied, and expansive. But before all those goals are smaller ones, like spending three hours a week writing. Researching and nailing down a training plan for climbing (and posting it to my blog). Making reservations for those different courses and hut trips and climbing excursions.

We can’t expect writing our goals down and talking about them to be enough. It’s a good start, but our lives won’t change because of it. Trust me, I continually learn that the hard way. Instead we need to realize what it is we want, and the teeny-tiny-baby-steps it’s going to take to get there.

Cheers to 2017, my friends! I hope it’s the most productive, actualizing year of your life!