Lets Go Get Small

Went out to check on the snow yesterday. Not quite enough base for me yet, so it’s back to the to-do list. In the meantime check out this flick, best ski film I’ve seen yet this fall.

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Going to the Darkside

I used to be one of those guys who shunned the lightweight style of backcountry skiing. I wanted superb downhill performance no matter how much sweat it took to get the gear uphill. I rationalized hauling around heavy gear with thoughts like “There’s no such thing as ‘heavy’, just weak legs and small lungs” and ” Why cut weight when you can just get in better shape?”

This thought process worked for awhile, but over the last couple of years I’ve been slowly peeling the weight back. This year I decided to go all in with tech bindings. I still don’t own a gram scale and you won’t catch me in the skintrack wearing spandex, but as the saying goes “Light is right”.

Tech binding setup in the foreground, Tele setup in the background. Weight savings of 2 and a half pounds per foot.

Tech binding setup in the foreground, Tele setup in the background. Weight savings of 2 and a half pounds per foot.

 

There were many factors involved with going to this system, besides the obvious weight savings. Telemark is going the way of the dinosaur for backcountry use. There, I said it. AT gear keeps getting lighter, stronger and more efficient, while tele gear has been stagnant for a long time. The biggest breakthrough for backcountry tele skiers recently has been the TTS system which is a step in the right direction but I still have my concerns. The biggest limiting factor for tele right now is boots. Give me a tele counterpart to the Dynafit TLT6 and you have my attention. I’m not holding my breath, so tech bindings it is.

We’ll see how it goes. I have had my heel locked down exactly once in 11 years, and Emily swears up and down I’m not going to like it. I’m not giving up on tele and when it comes to powder laps I’ll still be making drop knee turns, unless this AT business is just THAT good.

 

It’s ski movie season

Ski films have been coming out of the woodwork the last couple of weeks. I enjoy watching anything having to do with sliding on snow but I always look forward to what brothers Jonah and Noah Howell of Powderwhores bring to the table. This seasons effort, Elevation, looks to be another classic that will get plenty of screen time in this household during those excruciating fall days awaiting snow accumulation.

Maybe one of the reasons I enjoy their films so much, besides the cinematography, deep snow and big airs, is that they share the same views and mindset on the backcountry as I do. They put it into words much better than I could-

 Before resorts, lift tickets and overpriced pizza, there was adventure in skiing. Before the mountains were harnessed with lifts, bound with ropes and scarred with designated runs, they were wild. Actions with consequences were chosen and the individual was held responsible. No liability forms or waivers. The lifts came and made the mountains small, tame and in time, boring.

We were sold that THIS is skiing. And we obeyed.

With this resurgence into the backcountry we look for real adventure beyond the tightly wound, firmly stretched orange and black ropes that “protect” us from knowing freedom.

The backcountry is the imagination unleashed and you get out what you put in. There are real boundaries and limitations though; avalanches, exposure to the elements, conditions and fatigue all challenge one to grow in knowledge, patience and fitness. The joy comes in discovering these limitations, moving through fear and exploring beyond. Putting in the perspiration and inspiration leads to ELEVATION.

The only other film I’m curious about is Sweetgrass Productions Valhalla. I really enjoyed the visually stunning and soul touching film Solitaire, though after watching the trailer for Valhalla I’m not sure if it’s a ski film or an acid trip. Still has my curiosity piqued and looking forward to it.

Still some summer left but it’s time to be thinking SNOW!

Chief Joseph Loop

I gained the Chief Joseph ridge on the far far left, traversed up and over the summit, dropped into the upper chute which put me at the bottom of the lower chute, booted and skied the lower chute, then traversed the bottom to the left

I gained the Chief Joseph ridge on the far far left, traversed up and over the summit, dropped into the upper chute which put me at the bottom of the lower chute, booted and skied the lower chute, then traversed the bottom to the left. Whew, follow me?

Chief Joseph doesn’t have a shortage of chutes but these two in particular have been on my mind ever since I first visited this area. To make matters worse, Chief Joseph is visible from pretty much anywhere in the Joseph/Enterprise area, we have a good view of it from our house, and during the summer I get to stare at it for a good 20 minutes everyday coming home from work. To say that Joe haunts me is an understatement. The stars aligned today and I had a chance to see what these lines are all about up close.

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Craig Mountain, Gunsight Couloir

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This couloir is easy to see from the north end of Wallowa Lake and periodically on the West Fork. It’s been on my mind for awhile and I did attempt it earlier this winter. Glad I finally had a chance to get up there as it’s a classic couloir; steep, lined with tall rock, and a great ski.

Gunsight Couloir from the West Fork

Gunsight Couloir from the West Fork

Looking through the sights. The upper third was 50 degrees tapering to 40 degrees for the remainder

Looking through the sights. The upper third was 50 degrees tapering to 40 degrees for the remainder

Great day, great snow and a great ski.

 

 

Break from the snow

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We took a break from skiing and spent the weekend climbing rock in Hells Canyon. Nice change of pace and good to work some different muscles. The forecast is looking good for awhile, hopefully conditions line up to finish some ski projects I’ve been working on. Back to work in a couple weeks, need to get it while the gettins good!

Adventure Photography Presentation Tonight

I apologize for the short notice, time got away from me. Emily will be doing a presentation tonight on her career as a photographer. From her humble beginnings with a point and shoot to shooting with a professional DSLR. The presentation is geared towards skiing and will be heavy with awesome photos from Wallowa County and elsewhere. Check it out! 7:00pm at the Josephy Center in Joseph.

 

EshootingRidge

Ruby’s Pearl Couloir

Ruby Peak. Ruby's Pearl is the obvious couloir in the center

Ruby Peak. Ruby’s Pearl is the obvious couloir in the center

I saw this couloir last year while skiing a couple of the other north face chutes. Shortly after that I realized you can’t miss it from highway 82 coming into Enterprise. Finally got around to heading up Ruby again today.

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