Received word from Andrés this morning, all is well. The team had to bail on going to Ham and Eggs on the Mooses’s Tooth. Instead, today they are going to climb Mt. Barrille (7,650′), via the Japanese Couloir.
Best of luck to the team. We will continue to post any updates.
Our first team of climbers arrived in Anchorage yesterday and geared up for an expedition to Ham and Eggs; a 3,000 foot ice route on the Moose’s Tooth in the Central Alaska Range (FA: 1975, T. Davies, J.Krakauer, N. Zinsser). Andrés Marin, senior guide for SJMG is leading this unique trip; he is teamed up with Ted and Chris, strong climbers that climbed Alpamayo with Andrés last summer. The crew is excited to be in AK, heading to this epic route.
This morning the guys drove from Anchorage to Talkeetna, the staging place to fly to the glacier. Currently, planes are not landing at the “Root Canal”due to adverse conditions at the landing zone. The “Root Canal,” a drop-off pioneered by Talkeetna Air Taxi pilot Paul Roderick in the 90s brings climbers a short 100 yards from the base of the climb. Our team flew this afternoon into the Ruth Gorge. This will make for a long, full day hike across the glacier to the Moose’s Tooth and the start of Ham and Eggs.
Hopefully, the weather will come through for them to safely approach the climb. Stay tuned for updates on the expedition as we hear from Andrés via satellite calls. Wishing them a safe, beautiful journey.
Grand is definitely proper description of this mega ski traverse from Crested Butte to Aspen. This year was the 17th annual Elk Mountain Grand Traverse and I was super pumped to be a part of it.
Check out the details of the ski traverse at the Grand Traverse Website: Elk Mountain Grand Traverse
About seven weeks prior to the GT, I was contemplating how cool it would be to do a Randonee Ski Race. The Sneffels Ski Traverse had just taken place and I was in awe of my friends that had participated; I was thinking, next year I’m going to go for it and give one a try. That very same day, I was resolving I would take on the challenge of some ski traverses next winter, my dear friend Ximena asked me out of the blue if I’d be willing to be her partner for the Grand Traverse. Her original team-mate had to bail. Synchronicity at it’s finest. It is true that we are capable of manifesting anything we focus our energy on.
A bit shocked at the size of the objective and the short duration of which I had to prepare; still I was totally psyched to rise to the occasion. All winter I had been ski touring a fair amount, but with this new found goal I would surely need to amp up the cardiovascular training and do lots of long ski tours. Probing around, asking every athlete, trainer, and friend that had done something of this magnitude, I gathered some beta on how to train for the GT. I concluded that the best thing for me to do with the little time I had to get ready was to ski tour as much as possible and pump up the cardio. Training, along with piecing together the very specific gear needed to partake in this sort of ski traverse, experimenting with ski set-ups, pack arrangements, clothing layering systems, doing research on the traverse, and details of how to go about accomplishing it; I had my work cut out for me in terms of prepping. For certain, I had a ton to learn. The entire Ski traverse from evolution of deciding to do it, to actually completing it, was a huge learning experience. I am grateful for the awesome partner that I had for my first Grand Traverse, Ximena expelled her knowledge and helped me out with every detail.
With goals in mind and objectives to work towards, I feel that we try harder and go longer. Every moment counts in the grand scheme of reaching our greatest heights. Goals give us purpose. To train, to stay healthy, to focus our attention, and to maximize our daily time. With positive effort and tenacity, it is possible to achieve anything we decide to do. When we aim high and challenge ourselves, we constantly discover more about ourselves as individuals, and as partners we grow. Self development is a big drive for taking on this type of challenge; believing in your will power to achieve and trusting in yourself and your partner to follow through.
Getting ready for the Grand Traverse was fun! Putting all the elements together and trying different strategies made it a really neat learning experience. There is so much room to grow and always more to know, every detail can be tweaked, until perfection. It will be an ongoing evolution of fine-tuning and learning. Of course, good old Mother Nature always throws her twists in, you can never be over-prepared, because, it is out of our control what the conditions will be the day of the traverse. Proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance!
Ski training was my favorite part of the Grand Traverse, I love ski touring, and with the GT on the horizon I had to get out practically every day to get in shape and become familiar with my race set-up. I focused on doing long tours that had good moderate gradient and long traversing terrain. The objective was to go long, steady and strong. Long durations of conversation pace cardiovascular was my focus. This got me out on some beautiful tours. On days I couldn’t completely devote to touring, I still made it a point to train by going on evening ski tours or by going to the gym for jumping rope, running, and rowing sessions.
Anticipation grew as the GT came closer. Quadruple checking that we had all the mandatory gear and that we had enough personal food, water and layers, but not too much was a balance. We had to be prepared for the elements and the possibility of being out in the back country with an injury or problem. What makes this Rondonee Ski Race unique is that 90% of it is in back country terrain. It something goes awry with your equipment or personal safety, you have to be able to survive many hours without assistance. Partnership crucial to accomplishment. Clear communication with your partner and a great understanding that what happens to one of us happens to both of us is key for a successful finish. For me, doing this with Ximena made it all so much more fun and rewarding. Not only do we gain personal growth through-out the training and race, but we benefit from interpersonal growth by collaborating with a teammate. So, the spectrum of learning is that much more intricate.
You just never know what your gonna get until the time comes. Two days before this year’s GT, it started snowing and blowing super hard from Crested Butte to Aspen. In 48 hours there was 24 inches of new snow on Star Pass, the main avalanche hazard area of the course. It would have been impossible to mitigate the risk of avalanches through-out the course terrain. The wind blew really strong and created humongous cornices above the slopes the racers were to skin up. This traverse has had great fortune in being safe and that is because they make educated decisions. With all the snow safety people and volunteers out on the course the week leading up to the GT, there was ongoing assessment of the conditions for the big event. On the day of the GT racers attend a final meeting where the course id discussed. The GT committee decided that conditions were unsafe to go over Star Pass. Therefore, the Grand Traverse turned into the Grand Reverse. A bit of a bummer, but better to be safe than sorry. Participant safety is priority. The course was altered to turn around just above the Friend’s Hut and then continue onto local trails (snowy) surrounding CB. The entire new route was still 40 miles long and actually had more vertical gain than the GT course. It started and ended at the base of Mount Crested Butte. It was a good course, very challenging towards the last eight miles or so. Lots of ups and downs.
We had a few skin issues and water freezing issues, but other than that, nothing serious. It was critical to keep hydrated and fed. We were burning a lot of calories, constantly moving for 14.5 hours! The race started at midnight and went through the night into the next day. During the course of the race you go through many extremes; cold, hot, hungry, thirsty, tired, excited… For me, I could really tell when I needed to put food in my body. I’d squeeze a GU into my mouth and within minutes I’d be fired up charging again. A major thing I came to understand is that you have to take care of problems as they come up, don’t let things get worse; like skins that don’t glide or cold fingers. Mitigate the issues before they become real problems.
As we approached the Friends Hut is was breezy and cold. I changed into mittens and my water froze. It is really nice to have all the items you think you will need, i.e. mittens, water, food, spare headlight, accessible. I used a marsupial pouch on my belly and waist belt pouches for easy to access items; this is so we wouldn’t have to stop for these things. Another great benefit of having a partner, we can reach into each others packs if needed. As we peeled our skins for the big downhill from the Friends Hut we were psyched. It was great pow skiing from the top and then it turned into a really cool forested track. Ximena had glide issues with her skis and that was an eye-opener for us. In the future we will be certain that the base of our skis have sweet glide. It was a super long fun downhill. This basically backtracked a bunch of the course, but then it cut off onto a local trail system that went into the Brush Creek Area.
It was gorgeous when the sun began to rise, the sky lit up pink and purple. It was a relief and rejuvenating to have light, and our water could have a chance to unfreeze when the warmth came. The course went on and on, the scenery was gorgeous and the day was perfect. There were quite a few transitions in the second half of the course, lots of ups and downs. Then there was a big long flat stretch that seemed to go forever. This is when our blisters got bad. It’s worse to be on flats than gradient for the feet. Finally, we came to the base of the backside of the ski area. There were three more uphills to go on MCB. The heat of the day was hot and we were dragging a fair bit. Pushing on through with water and GUs, we kept our attitudes positive. Each step/glide was one closer to the beer! It got brutal with the transitions on MCB, but we persevered, which is the key to finishing. At the final downhill we were super amped! The snow was soft and slushy and we skied down together, cruising through the finish line with huge smiles. We were definitely happy that we finished feeling good!
Chris Parker- Online Editor for Rock & Ice, visits his old stomping grounds of Durango, Colorado.
Although things have changed, somethings have stayed the same.
Here is his story on the ever-growing rock climbing scene of our home and how it has developed in recent years.
Always feel free to check out our upcoming rock climbing courses and destinations: http://mtnguide.net/rock-climbing/
Searching for reason in this life. Seeking adventure and challenge. Why do we fuel the fire of the unknown? With estimated risk and passion for exploration we go, and we find ourselves…ice climbing. This life is for living. When do we feel most alive? When we are on the edge, in the moment, breathing and focusing on the now. Ice Climbing lends us to challenge ourselves in perpetual growth and learning. About our strengths and weaknesses, our temperament, about our fears and overcoming those fears. Of course, learning the unlimited technical side of climbing, with each new climb we are exposed to more. It turns out, we are capable of anything we set our hearts to. Although I am not an extreme ice climber on the sharp end of super steep ice, I feel I reach my threshold and welcome the risk. Thoughts stir in my mind about how freaked I am, and I have to reel in the mind and let courage take hold, along with enthusiasm for the climb. Breathing and living fully; believing in possibilities to achieve, visualizing the movement. Grateful for opportunities to explore myself in the natural world, all a while totally inspired by this gift. The gift of water ice, an awesome wonder that is forever changing and changing me. Great thanks goes to my mentor and partner for helping me realize the potential of touching ice and digging deep into the vault of my ability. These experiences of ice climbing that I have been so lucky to have, would have not been possible with out SJMG Andres Marin. It is with the confidence and composure of an elite guide and compassionate partner such as Andres, that these dreams of ice climbing evolve into reality. Everyone that gets the privilege of climbing or going on an expedition with a guide like him will be completely stoked; because you know your in good hands, and that you will have an unforgettable adventure. Maximizing learning in all aspects of climbing, safely and efficiently; meanwhile, enjoying the companionship and sharing the moment with a professional, inspiring guide. SJMG invites you dream big, and would be honored to facilitate the evolution of turning your desires into reality.
If you are anything like me: mid-20s, student loans, car insurance, rent- the whole 9 yards, then you’ve encountered the same monstrosity- the price for an adult season pass. You don’t get the “student discount” anymore and its not going to get any cheaper-unless you are skiing as a senior, which is novelty for anyone at that point.
You’ve admire people who get after it in the backcountry but after researching the initial cost of the backcountry set-up: Beacon, Probe, and Shovel, you may just buy a 6 day pass to your local resort. After all, it’s SO much easier to buy a pass, do laps without sweating or exhaustion, drink $12 Bloody Mary’s at the bar, and hit man made features all day.
As much as I appreciate what our resorts have done for me in pruning my skills as a decent snowboarder, I realized that powder days at the resort were the best of days and I knew that I was ready to ditch the crowded lift lines and limited powder stashes for the adventures that awaited in the wild out-of-bounds regions of the San Juan Mountains. So I slowly bought the gear (remember-tax season is just around the corner) and signed up for the class, knowing that this would be the last “Season Pass” I would buy for years to come.
Let me list off 5 reasons why you should buy your Avy I course instead of a Season Pass & what makes San Juan Mountain Guides the “Local Experts”.
1. Less Crowds, More Powder, Steeper Terrain- Take it back to the basics; we love to shred because of just that, shredding. Ditch the stylish clothes and high tech gear, ditch the groomed catwalks, and remember the organic adrenaline rush that comes from within, while you shred some of that hidden powder terrain stashed back in the abyss of the resort… Now that is the reason why we do it. You’re ready for more of that, less of the holiday crowds and honestly, you are curious on pushing the boundaries. San Juan Mountain Guides understands that, they embrace it, and they openly share their experience and knowledge with you. You can trust their judgment and within a minute of casual conversation, you’ll know that you are learning from some of the best.
2. Gathering & Evaluating Information-So I know a big dump when I see one (no pun intended). We all know that fresh snow is the difference between a good day and a great day at the resort. My Avy course with San Juan Mtn. Guides taught me: to gather information, what resources to trust, and how to interpret that information for Avalanche condition.
“There is no dumb questions, I’m here to teach you what I know.” Aaron Ball (SJMG instructor)
It’s intimidating to learn about something so complex and often you feel as if you need impress others when it comes to shredding terrain. SJMGs not only allowed us to ask questions in a comfortable setting but they challenged us to think by asking us questions on cases studies in the classroom and scenarios in the field.
3. Trust your own judgment; make your own calls- So we all have good friends who like to ski. Some we have skied with for years and some we have just recently bSome we have known for a short time, others we’ve known for years. Now when it comes to back country skiing & being new to it all, having your friends guide you and show you the ropes tends to be a great way to start…or so it seems that way. Now this isn’t any bash session on your pals, homies, or BFFs; but it is important that you know how to take care of yourself and make your own decisions. As a newbie in the Back Country, it never occurred to me that I had never really evaluated or even thought about what type of experience my ski partner may have. Our guides brought this up and made me realize the important subtle concerns like group dynamics and skill sets. Sometimes these small concerns don’t even need to be addressed, as long as you have a great day of some freshies and avalanches don’t occur. However, the moment that something does go wrong, you want to make sure that your partner has got your back and that YOU have their back. So, essentially, I am saying to ski with your friends but also be
aware of each others abilities, personal comfort zones, and thought process when you’re out there.
4. Knowing when to just say “no”- Our instructors taught me something that I will never be able to forget nor ignore; the power of human emotion.
“Human emotions can be the main factor in human triggered avalanches” – Aaron Ball (SJMG instructor from my course)
Sometimes we are overcome with an urge to do something we’re passionate about, even if doesn’t exactly feel right. You know why? Because we are temporarily blinded by our own ambitions, our goal, or even the reward; because shredding that big line is going to be “SO EPIC” and if we don’t do it now, then we skinned all the way out here for nothing. Being aware of this and how this may play a role in a group dynamic is essential to making the best decisions in unpredictable terrain and conditions. Don’t be attached to a plan & have a back-up in case you don’t feel comfortable with your first decision. When it is all said and done, you really have to trust where and who you are learning from when it comes to back country skiing, and decision making is the most important element when traveling into the unknown.
5. Learning in the San Juans- If you are from around here, have moved here, or heard anything about the San Juan Mountain range; I’m sure that you know that the combination of our peculiar snow pack and hellish steep terrain makes our region a rarity among ranges of North America. Our Avy group joked about the intense learning curve that’s unavoidable in the San Juans as you really can’t pick a more avalanche prone region. For that reason alone, I would trust no other than San Juan Mountain Guides and the expertise they are known for in the Mighty San Juans.
I truly appreciate San Juan Mountain Guides ability to convey this information in a friendly, educational, and professional matter. I think I can speak for my entire Avy class as we had nothing but the best of times with the experts of the San Juans.
Digging a Test Pit
We received over a foot of new snow over the range with some higher winds the last few days. Winds and new snow added to an already weak snowpack = High Avalanche Danger. New wind slabs were undoubtedly formed during the wind event and were subsequently buried .
Now can be a good time to look for those by digging a little bit . Be extremely careful to maintain your personal safety when digging to look at windslabs though! Stay out of start zones on lower angled or no-consequence slopes.
Successful Summit of Cotopaxi!
I am happy to report that on Thursday night/Friday morning, 7 out of our 9 team members reached the summit of Cotopaxi. After a few days of acclimatization and training on Ruminahui and then the glacier on Cotopaxi, our group made the successful summit push in good style, reaching the summit in just over 8 hours from the parking lot.
Due to the Jose Ribas hut being closed for construction, our group elected to camp and make a single push from the parking lot – making for an over 4000′ summit day. Coupled with the high winds on that day, it made for a challenging yet rewarding climb of Cotopaxi (19,348′). Way to go everyone!
More stories and a full post-trip report coming soon. In the meantime, enjoy the pictures!!
Talked to Nate on the Sat Phone this morning. Crew is camping near the hut and working on glacier travel skills. The weather is reported to be excellent and the health of all the climbers is excellent. Heading for the summit soon!
First Acclimatization Peak Complete
Earlier today our team successfully completed a climb of Pasochoa – an extinct Volcano on the outskirts of Quito with an altitude of approximately 13,700 feet. Pasochoa represents an excellent first trek for the trip, as it offers about a 4 – 5 hour round trip on relatively mellow terrain, yet with just the right amount of altitude gain to qualify as an excellent endeavor. Beautiful views of the surrounding valley abound from the modest summit.
A little bit of rain/graupel towards the very end of the hike reminded everyone that mountain weather is fickle and can change rapidly. Chance favors the prepared mountaineer!
Tomorrow our team will be heading to Cotopaxi National Park where we will be climbing Ruminahui (15,400′) – an excellent second objective as we continue on our acclimatization schedule. After which we will descend to about 12,400′ and our wonderful accommodations in Cotopaxi NP for the evening. The following day we will be heading up to the snow line on Cotopaxi to complete our snow school and glacier training.
All of our team members are doing fantastic, feeling well, and looking forward to the rest of the week’s climbs and adventures. We will do our best to share more pics and stories from the trip as much as internet access allows!