Friday, January 25, 2013

Glacier Country

Since I don't have a job right now and have been getting out skiing in the mountains in Montanas Flathead and Glacier Park areas, I figure why not start doing some blogging to kill some time and show off the new terrain we have been exploring. 

Its been a week since the remaining skier boyz and snowboarder girl went back to the Wasatch. That left Gae and I feeling pretty lonesome in a new town where the only people we know are each other and our roommate, Lisa.  On Gaelens first day off, we went touring with each other. It didn't take long for us to realize that we have just made a great move and are incredibly lucky to be living in such a beautiful area. The mountains surrounding us in Glacier National Park are breath taking and the options where to go are endless.

I had been out on a handful of tours, seeing jaw dropping lines on gigantic mountains, but a summit had been eluding me. I had skinned thousands of vertical feet feeling satisfied with our efforts and decisions, but I wanted to stand on top. This finally happened last week! I went out with my new buddy and solid skier Dan Koestler and we went for Sheep Mt (8569 ft) in the southern part of Glacier Park.

Dan enjoying the sunrise and the mellow skinning 
Leaving our car at 7 a.m., we skinned along the train tracks for about half a mile, having the frightening experience of how close those suckers get, then scooted up the trailhead for three miles. Half of which we could rip skins and ski down the trail.
Soldier Mt. in the Background
From the Ole Creek we crossed easily and began the long climb, 4500 feet to the summit of Sheep mt. The weather was perfect, calm and clear and the sun was beginning to brighten the horizon. The skinning was straight forward and easy, we actually followed a track someone broke sometime last week.
High winds on summit ridge
When we got above the trees, around 7500 feet, the winds we trying to rip right through our gore tex, but the summit was in sight. We added some layers, put on our helmets and goggles and pushed forward. I had to stop before reaching the summit because the wind was piercing through my gapper gap and I got a alpine ice cream headache.

Kid is psyched to get on top a summit

It was all worth the cold effort to stand on top of this summit in Glacier Park. The 360 degrees views from the summit highlighted some potential for mega ski descents. All I can say is you Boyz better be visiting. We decided that we would drop down the west ridge because it looked like more exciting ski options. We didn't know and that was cool. We knew that it was going to bring us into the same drainage we began climbing and that was enough assurance.

Dan descending the west ridge with St. Nick and Stimson in the background
It felt like skiing off the summit of Mt Hood
The conditions off the summit were firm and smooth, good for big mountain descents. We did a little walking over a scoured section and onto a saddle where some softer snow was found.

Looking back up at our ascent (right ridge) and descent route (west ridge)

Dan Skiing through the lower cliff section
good exposure here

We found a way through the lower section of cliffs
The adventure of skiing into the unknown
The best part of skiing new terrain is the unknown you got below you. Our mellow descent route began to steepen and it was obvious we were skiing above some big cliffs. WIth confidence Dan continued down and found his way through a cool amphitheater of cliffs. This took us to an open bowl, 2,00o feet of low angle cream in the trees and we landed on a trail. I couldn't believe we nailed the loop so perfectly.

I guess I will get used to seeing this sight when touring in the Park

Gaelens first time ice climbing
Lake Koocanusa
= Jakems

Monday, January 21, 2013

New Beginings

I think of last year beginning with the end of a friends life. I was shocked and didn't want to believe it when it was told to me over the phone.  "Adam died in an avalanche in B.C.", Todd's cellular voice echoed. I had never dealt with this kind of news before. It was hard to comprehend that my friends had found tragedy where we usually find rewards.  Up until this accident Adam Lawton floated through life, capitalizing on every opportunity to share a moment and laugh with friends in the mountains, knowing it was going to be a great story to tell to his friends who missed it. In hindsight, Adam lived like he was going to die when he was 30. Except for his fate, it is a proud way to live.

Adam Lawton waits for perfect corn harvesting conditions early in the a.m on Mt Adams (2008)

A whiteout ski tour on Lone Peak S face (2010)
Wasatch Mountains
Since Adam's death in an avalanche outside Kicking Horse Resort in Golden B.C. my life in 2012 had a kick start: I wanted to live a Proud life. I wanted to do the things that make me who I am, as much as I possibly could. The day after I heard Adam was no longer going to instigate jokes or set the booter to the summit, I wasn't searching for answers to why it happened, I went surfing. 
Winter surf in Glouchester, MA

The kick start I experienced last January gave me a charge that made me want to get after it for my friend who no longer can. This charge radiated me to quit my job where I worked with Adam and our close friends for three years, three times! This charge got me to complete a college degree that began in 2000. This charge got me to take advantage of a healthy mind and body. Since last January I have been an elusive being, some would say. Checking in with my parents at best once a week, they frequently asked "what state are you in?" or even, "what country?". They weren't worried about me, they just wanted to hear what climb I had just accomplished or how good the skiing was in Utah? Wyoming? Montana? N.H.? Oh yeah- I forgot to mention I moved back east to MA twice last year. 

On the Ice Coast I traded my skis for skates
Chochura Lake, NH

Just kidding! I got back to my backcountry routes and toured on x country ski trails in the Whites
This pic is at the bottom of Tuckermans in January
2012 was a memorable year for me! For good and for bad. I didn't work much and I played a lot because that is what I wanted to do. During the 360 days of 2012, I have guessed that I backcountry skied over 75 days, Rock climbed over 100 days and went surfing 30 days! It was an active year, to say the least.

Gaelen, who worked just a little more than me last year, cruising up the Mega classic- Orbit on the Snowcreek Wall in Leavanworth, WA
Its hard to comprehend that Adam has been dead for over a year now. We talk about him enough to think that he was standing over our shoulders listening and laughing with us. The end of 2012 brought about an opportunity for me to go back to where Adams spirit floated away and have some closure with the Skier Boyz, in good style.  

The bowl in the center is where the avalanche that killed Adam was triggered
Matt Slody miraculously stayed on top 
As a memorial we screwed a framed picture of Adam into a tree next to the skinner that takes you to the top of the Dogtooth Ridge. Laughs and tears were shared when we joked that we need to bring some girls up here to hang their bras and panties on it. Adam is gonna love it!
After a day in Golden, B.C. we headed up towards Rogers Pass to fly out to the Fairy Meadow Lodge, deep in the Selkirk Mts. This is the trip that was cancelled a year ago after the tragedy at Kicking Horse. Adam was supposed to go. The Skier Boyz promised a year ago that they would return and ski those mountains for Adam, the way he would have loved to. Everyone who was in from last year was able to get reimbursed for this years trip and a few other Boyz decided to get involved in the celebration. Me, having not worked much in the past year did not have the funds to take such a exclusive trip and was not planning on going.  Then it was offered to me that I could take the place of Adam, on his dime. I was honored to ski for Adam. Thanks Skier Boyz for sucking that one up. You made a small time ski bum's dream come true!
The Beatties and Crossman with the Chalet in the background, getting ready for a cold day in the Selkirks
Doubletop Mt in the background
10 Skier Boyz took over the Fairy Meadow Lodge for 7 days. It only took two Heli rides to get all of our gear into the backcountry. There wasn't much for visibility the day we flew in and it only got worse for the next 5 days. By worse I mean real good, we received over three feet of about 3 percent powder lending to remarkably deep runs. We sussed out the close by ridges for pillow lines that we have only dreamt of skiing until this trip. It wasn't until the final two days of our trip that we saw the tops of the surrounding peaks.

Jay Welz bouncing on some soft pillows down the Nose
Steep Pillow lines in Mario Land
Tom Murphy finds a warp tunnel
Crossman doing his best impersonation of a snow ghost
He's definitely not dropping his hip
"Where am I?
Its too deep!
It doesn't matter."
-Stefan Beattie
"shut up and bite this pillow, skis"
-Uncle Keith
the Prez
After pounding the terrain in the low lands we desperately wanted to step on the glaciers above and maybe ski off a summit. We had one day of grey bird where we skied by brail from the friendship col followed by a brilliant blue bird day where the views were open for miles. On this day we climbed to the Friendship col by sunrise and began sumitting all of the peaks reachable from the Echo Glacier. Mt Phileas, Mt Damon, Sentinel Peak and Pioneer Peak all were climbed. We carved in some huge archs and we made some wiggles, too.
Murphy and Crossman moving past the Magog and up Friendship col thankful for a sun blessing, Finally!
"That was a good skinner up here, eh? We should buy those guys a Kokanee"
Skier Boy Ridge on Sentinel Peak

Gramps dropping in and making one of a couple hundred turns down the ridge of Sentinel Peak.

Todd Glew at the bottom of those couple hundred turns.
5 Skier Boyz actually skied the gnarly SE face behind. It was cool to watch and scary.
Skinning as a rope team across the Echo Glacier.
Looks like some good rock climbing up here.

Steve summiting Matt Damon for the third time in two days.
I guess the skiing was good up there?

A quote that is now a sticker in Adams memory, "this is what we do" has become one of the many mantras I use while in the mountains, it reminds me to enjoy each glide on the skin track. Going to places like Fairy Meadow is not what we usually do, but we did this year and it was a successful and memorable trip of a lifetime.  
After entering back into the states, it hit me that I was not going back to the Wasatch to shred some lines with my Boyz. I am staying in Montana, my new home for the meantime with Gaelen. We don't know the mountains here, I don't have partners in my back pocket here and at this point in my life, that feels good! I am ready for some new adventures that are going to take a little more effort to remind me that I am alive.

The Skier Boyz love Canada, eh!

-Kid Bufo hucks with Whippet Jakems