Skiing Abrams Mountain

Abrams Mountain is the big pyramid-shaped peak that you see towering at the head of the Ouray valley as you drive in from the north. Today we skied/snowboarded a fun 3,000-foot line down this mountain. There’s so much snow up in the high country still; we’ll be skiing into July probably. Here’s some pictures.

Hiking Abrams Mountain
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Canyonlands Needles District

5.13.08: UPDATED WITH 4X5 PHOTOS

This last weekend I went backpacking in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park in Utah. After shelling out 25 bucks for entrance and permit fees, I set off into the “wild”. Is it just me or do national parks feel like nature amusement parks? All the regulations and designated trails and campspots definitely spoil the notion of being out in the wilderness. But these areas are national parks for a reason – they are undeniably spectacular!

Here are some DP1 digital photos from the trip, as well as a few 4×5 film ones.

Canyonlands Needles District

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Books for Backpacking

On backpacking trips longer than about three days, especially on solo trips, I like to bring a book along. I hardly ever get bored just relaxing and soaking in the views, but still it’s nice to have some extra brain food.

Because of the demands of backpacking, any good backcountry book needs to meet certain physical criteria. It must be compact and lightweight – so it must be a paperback, ideally with small condensed print. I had a brilliant idea once of publishing little “backpacker” editions of books, on thin Bible paper with really small print and perhaps a little companion dry bag. But for now, regular thin paperbacks will do.

Subject matter is also important to consider. Novels can be a poor choice because of the danger of ripping through the story too fast. You don’t want to haul around a book for five days if you’ll only get to enjoy it for one or two. Some novels can also seem like a petty distraction compared to the magnificence of nature around you. If I wanted petty distractions, I’d stay at home and browse YouTube.

I also try to avoid bringing books that have a singular disturbing topic; Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer is good example of this. Interesting book for sure, but the last thing I want to do for five days in the mountains is immerse myself in the world of fundamentalist Mormonism.

In my opinion, the best backpacking books are non-fiction, in particular philosophy or spirituality related books. The subject matter can be every bit as profound as your surroundings, perhaps even leading to a deeper connection with the surrounding landscapes. Philosophical books demand closer concentration and slower, more deliberate reading than novels. One chapter can often provide enough food-for-thought to digest all day long, and being out in the wilderness provides the time and focus to do so. These books can also withstand multiple reads; sometimes you can even get more out of it the second time through.

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Arts Beat in Ouray

Ouray Arts Beat

I am pleased to have been invited as one of the featured artists for this year’s Arts Beat in Ouray, on May 30th. A number of new large format prints will be on display in the Skol Gallery, which is also where I had a show last year.

I also was asked to design the poster for this year’s event, so naturally I chose a San Juan mountain photo theme!

Ski Sickness

If you can’t tell from all my recent posts, I’m in the midst of a bad case of spring skiing fever, or more accurately, spring snowboarding fever. This time of year more than ever I have the acute feeling of “so much to do, so little time.” I can’t stop thinking of all those high couloirs and snowfields being naturally groomed by the warm sunny days and cold high-altitude nights – waiting for me to get up there and carve them before they melt away.

Ski Sickness

So, I was elated tonight to discover a treasure trove of awesome backcountry ski reports from Sky Sjue at SkiSickness.com. Sky and his friends have skied many incredible big mountain lines in the Cascades, and Sky has amassed an inspiring collection of photos and trip reports that help stoke the fever.

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Skiing the Raggeds

On Sunday we skied/rode a great line in the Ragged Mountains of Colorado. This line provided a healthy 4,000+ vertical feet of skiing/snowboarding, from the summit to the road.
Many of these photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Springtime snow hiking
Hiking to the summit, which a big Elk Range backdrop.

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Davenport’s Ski the 14ers book

Ski the 14ers

In 2006 – 2007, within the span of one year, Aspen skiier Chris Davenport skied down ALL of Colorado’s 54 fourteeners (mountains over 14,000 feet). You can read all about this epic project on Chris’s website: SkiThe14ers.com.

Chris had a bunch of filmers and photographers join him for many of the climbs and descents, and they made a 42 minute movie about the quest. Unfortunately the US Forest Service won’t let him release the movie because of some technicalities about filming permits.

So, I was super excited last week to hear that Chris published a coffee table book about the project, and I bought it soon thereafter. I knew this book would not only get me pumped on the spring riding season which is pretty much upon us; but it would also provide me with some inspiration for ski photography. Indeed, the book is full of amazing ski photography by Christian Pondella and Ted Mahon, among others. It’s also got a good amount of text to read about Chris’s experiences on each mountain.

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Skiing the La Sals

Moonrise over the La Sals

This weekend I met up with Ann Driggers and Seth Anderson, some new ski buddies I met through SummitPost.org, to ski some lines in the La Sal Mountains in Utah. The La Sals rise 8,700 vertical feet above the city of Moab and all the surrounding canyonlands. I was excited not only to check out a new mountain range, but to snowboard down some of these lofty desert peaks that I’ve gazed up at so many times from the canyonlands far below.

The La Sals were also a good choice for this time of year because the snow there has already settled into a solid springtime snowpack, unlike the snowpack here in the San Juans, which is still transitioning from winter.

 

DAY ONE: TUKLEAR REACTION

Our first objective was Mount Tukuhnikivatz, or “Tuk” for short. This pyramid-shaped peak is one of the most notable mountains in the La Sals, easily visible for hundreds of miles from the south side of the range.

High above Moab

With crampons on our feet and skis/board strapped on our backs, we hiked on the solidly frozen snow pretty much straight up one of the ridgelines for 3200 vertical feet or so to the summit. It felt so strange to peer down at vast red rock canyonlands while we were hiking on snow. The mountain is so much higher than the surrounding deserts that you almost feel like you’re looking out from an airplane.

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Ouray’s Snowiest Winter: 253″

According to the The Ouray Plaindealer we’ve had the snowiest winter in 60 years of records, with a whopping 253″ in town… over 21 feet!

Snow in Ouray
Storm clouds clear out of Ouray after a 3-foot dump in April

21 feet of snow is almost twice the average for Ouray. I don’t know the winter snow totals for higher up in the mountains… maybe twice that amount? It’s been an epic winter for sure.