I’ve not toured with Shane as much in the past couple winters as we had previously. Apparently all it took to get reacquainted was hearing about my dead fall adventure with Adam. Exploration trumps most things and a kindred spirit for a partner is a valuable thing. After almost 16 km and over 4,000 feet of vertical we left mostly empty handed, but still stoked. The lines will still be there and who knows what else lurks around the next corner? We do, that’s who!
We’ve all seen the noobs out there – bundled up, sweaty and wearing the goggles on the up track. Some of us may even admit to having done it ourselves at one point. It’s rare that you actually need the eye protection on the way up, but we ran into 100 km/h sustained winds today, which built slab quickly and kept us from the step kicking part of the day.
Winter sputtered back to life with a 15 cm dump. Yes, a dump. Droughts tend to lead to exaggerations! The 15 cm’s were pretty good as this photo of the Moose proves. I went to the well and hit the up button 5 times on the knob before making the shuffle back to the parking lot. With winter half!?!? over, it was the first time I’d made laps out at the usual haunt. Absence does make the heart grow fonder – it was nice to be hauling ass down the landing strip – but not many things get me as excited these days as exploration and checking things off the list.
The snowfall warning that promised another 10 to 20 cm’s for the following day didn’t materialize. Our leisurely start was delayed as Adam and I converged from different directions. As I waited for him to arrive bearing cinnamon buns, I counted nearly twenty vehicles headed up the road to the trail head for every single turn we’d ever made in the park. It was holiday Monday and the park was jumping. Relatively anyway.
Adam had first mentioned the town line years ago and we took some photos of it from the airplane a couple years back. It sometimes came up in conversation, but usually got discarded as an option. Too bony, too thin, not enough snow. It’d be a waste of a powder day. We’d already wasted a good chunk of a powder day by the time we geared up beneath the town line. The crowds that we’d sought to avoid had congregated by Cameron Falls and strangers questioned our sanity.
For well over a thousand feet we suffered through a thin snow pack, tight trees and more dead fall than you can shake a stick at. A mild disagreement over route soon led to a very fun game of trail breaking. The more you could make the person behind you suffer, the less your own suffering seemed to matter. A high step over a fallen log. Sure thing. Squeeze between those two trees that are only one ski wide? It’s on. Skin track between these clumps of alders or right through them? Let’s add a kick turn in the middle of the alder! As we climbed the snow depth increased, which added to the suffering. Deep trail breaking with alder lurking below the surface is the norm for early season missions, but not for a powder day in February, right?
Despite repeated looks at the gps and altimeter watch, this mountain refused to yield. After fighting our way close to 2,000 feet up, there was still no view to the top and our goal seemed forever away. Only 1,000 more feet became the refrain. We’d hit pockets of what could be described as awesome terrain, only to run into cliff bands and more tight trees to struggle through. We hit the prominent cliff band and exerted a lot of energy finding a way up and around it. Hint: involved more tight trees, steep switch backs in the trees, and faceted snow through rocks. We couldn’t help but laugh.
Nearing the top, when we knew 1,000 more feet was a lie, we insisted on repeating the lie because it helped deal with skinning on 4 inches of fluff over top of knife hardness wind crust and scree. Had we taken a look at our own photo shot from the air, we’d have seen the upper bowl stripped bare. This recent 15 cm that arrived without wind was a con and we’d fallen for it hook, line and sinker. Gingerly we climbed until the ridge became too steep to gain purchase. We high fived each other and enthusiastically kicked steps the final bit to top out on the false summit of Bertha Peak. 3,400 feet later we were we’d set out to be!
We changed over, took some photos and finally ate our lunches. Stop now? No! We’ll be at the top in… 1,000 more feet. Delusional people, like those who call a small storm a “dump”, and those who make a game out of breaking the worst up possible, were positively stoked on the dust on crust. They were really excited to see they’d navigated to the most likely hole in the cliff band. Elated to find rock and ice where their own sluffs had swept away the powder. Once through the choke, they floated down the line choking on the bottomless powder before staring into the nothingness of what, in another season, might be known as a 30 foot waterfall. Fearlessly, they hung a left, side slipped through alder, over exposed rocks and ice and in one case bare earth. After some creative hops and cautious turns they wound up on the local slide hill where they dodged kids on crazy carpets and rode past bewildered parents.
Neil Provo, accomplished splitboard mountaineer, filmmaker, and Wasatch backcountry regular, proudly joins Voile’s team of backcountry riders.
Together with his brother Ian, the Provo Brothers have made a name for themselves making high quality web videos of core backcountry riding and skiing—ripping epic lines from Mt. Superior to Southern Utah red rock spines. Most recently they released the 18-minute web video called Steelhead and Spines. You can check it out at neilprovo.com.
Neil is the perfect addition to the Voile team, his adventurous spirit and love of local terrain align perfectly with Voile’s continuing commitment to the local development and manufacturing of innovative backcountry splitboard gear.
I’ve just traveled from New Zealand to California for this week’s upcoming North Face Masters event. It will be my first time competing in a big mountain competition back in the USA and I’m excited to be amongst some really high end riders. I will post the results soon! Tagged: North Face Masters, Squaw
Blair, Adam and I were turned away from the 34 a few weeks ago due to snow conditions and dwindling day light. Today we returned but swapped out Jesse for Adam – meaning two things – Adam is still sick and I’ll have to come kick steps in this gem one more time at least to get it off of Adam’s list. He won’t have any trouble convincing me to do so.
This pretty little gem isn’t far from the trail head and offers up a scenic vista at it’s top. We headed here first thing in the morning, taking a debatable short cut up through the jungle rather than following the summer trail. Switchbacks soon turned to staircases and step kicking turned into wallowing. Despite only 15 cms being reported from the storm, there was knee deep or better soft snow. Progress was slow, but we soon hit the top, rounded the slight dog leg and Blair ran into waist deep powder blocking our progress. Thankfully it was only about 15 vertical feet to be gained and then it was time for lunch. Nestled in the col high up on Lineham, we had views of the southern face of Blakiston as well as numerous peaks to the south. We basked in the sunlight, took in the views, and enjoyed the locale.
This was Jesse’s first trip down a couloir and it’s safe to say he might have developed an affinity for them. With conditions like this, it’s easy to understand why. The sun had just slightly moistened the powder on this southerly facing line, but not to the point of degrading the quality of the snow. Slashes were rewarded with contrails of white smoke and bit of sluffing kept things interesting.
We explored another area, shredded some north facing powder and went home happy.