Lured by a full moon and a forecast of clear skies, this last weekend I went backpacking for two nights in the West Needle Mountains in the San Juans near Silverton, Colorado. This area is incredibly photogenic; from my campsite on a 12,200 ft ridgeline, I enjoyed broad vistas of the Needle Mountains, the West Needles, and all the peaks of the Molas Pass area.
Continue reading “Winter Camping in the West Needles”
Here’s a couple photos from snowboarding this afternoon in the rugged peaks about five minutes drive from Ouray. March is here, and spring seems right around the corner, even though everything is still smothered in fresh snow. The sun is really getting higher in the sky these days, and the foot of fresh snow that fell last night had melted to a crusty 5 or 6 inches by the time we got out there for an afternoon run. Oh well… next powder day I’ll head out in the morning if I can.
Here’s Parker splitboarding up in front of a rugged San Juan backdrop.
Continue reading “A Few Afternoon Shots”
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Today we rode what was perhaps the best snowboarding terrain I’ve ever ridden in my life. This was a long, steep, narrow gully that we had previously scoped out from a neighboring mountain. What I couldn’t see from a distance is that the sides of this gully were loaded with a plethora of fluffy pillows! Many backcountry riders might agree that the only thing better than a nice steep halfpipe gully is a long series of marshmallowy pillow drops. Well, this run was the ultimate 2-in-1 combo!
Continue reading “Pillow Heaven”
Here’s the classic video of some huge San Juan avalanches near the small town of Ophir.
This weekend my friends Momo and Pavel drove up from New Mexico to go winter camping with me. Our plan was to try out this new Igloo making tool that I recently bought. The tool is specially made for constructing igloos – it is basically a curved box attached to a pole which is staked in the center. You rotate the box around the center radius and keep packing snow into it to form perfect blocks, spiraling up layer upon layer and adjusting the pole to preset lengths as you go, eventually forming a perfectly egg-shaped igloo. Simple enough in theory.
We hiked up about 1600 feet above Ouray and at 2:30pm started building the igloo on a flat ledge with a nice vista to the west. The manufacturers claim a 3 hours build time, so just to be safe I was planning on 4 hours (after all we had three people). Well, long story short, it took us 8 hours to build this damn thing! It was pretty nerve-wracking when we realized how long it was taking, since we were depending on the igloo shelter for our warmth in the bitter cold night. Plus we were never quite sure whether it would really work or not. We could have always just packed up and followed our tracks back down to the truck, but we were pretty exhausted from the hike up, and were determined to make this thing work. Well, with headlamps and a large dose of stubborn determination, we finally completed the entire igloo at 10:30 at night.
Though the igloo took a surprisingly huge amount of effort to build, it really was pretty awesome when it was done. Outside was blowing snow, with temps in the single digits, but inside the igloo was calm, peaceful, and relatively warm. Too bad we didn’t have much time to enjoy it, as we all pretty much immediately got into our sleeping bags and crashed for the night.
Continue reading “The Igloo Experiment”
On Friday morning a group of us headed out to enjoy the foot of fresh snow that had fallen the previous day and night. Our goal was the “Town Couloir”, a steep and narrow couloir that cuts through tall cliffs all the way to the bottom of the Ouray valley. This lower altitude line is rarely in good shape, but heavy snowfalls this season have filled it in nicely.
The bluebird skies and fresh snow had me excited to ride, but as we neared the steeper slopes at the top, we became concerned about the avalanche potential. The foot of fresh snow was sitting on top of an older layer of crusty sunbaked snow. Though the top layer seemed pretty cohesive, the terrain above the entrance to the couloir is like a huge funnel into the narrow choke, so any slide would have disastrous results. After a brief discussion, we decided to do the responsible thing and turn back. We skiied/rode down the flat traversing route that we hiked up… all in all a supremely crappy run.
Even though I always hate turning back, it’s reassuring to know that my partners and I have the ability to do so.