Sunday, January 24, 2010

This is not Cardigan

Original plan was to check out Cardigan this weekend but we found out last second (thanks to a friendly poster at timefortuckerman) that the NH chapter of AMC was having their winter weekend there this weekend and there was going to be LOTS of people on trail skinning, snowshoeing, etc.

So luckily we were able to avoid the traffic jam and we had been thinking about a trip in roughly the same area anyway so we did some last minute research and put it together.

Again I had high hopes based on my research that we were gonna find some really good stuff and also based on some inklings of things we could see when we spotted my car. But yet again navigation is much harder once you are actually up in the woods and you can miss lines by 3 feet and never know its there. But this trip def went much better than last time around and I think there is much more potential for this area and now that we know right where certain things are we will be much more efficient.

you know its gonna be good when you are gearing up at a playground

We hit trail around 10am and the skin up was nice and gradual. Weather was absolutely perfect for hiking, sunny and mid 20's. We made quick work of the skin up with only a few tricky spots around and over drainage streams.

On the way up we noticed all kinds of gladed lines that looked very doable that were completely untouched. I will def be back exploring more in the future. We eventually hit the ridge line and topped out for a bit of lunch in the sun.

There was a fairly steep headwall just off the front of this face that could very well have nice stuff in the trees but it was just a bit too steep for us to take a peek without fully committing and our plans were slightly different for this day so we decided to continue on but again something I will need to check out in the future.

We skinned a little bit further to check out the first descent we were thinking about. It looked pretty good, decent snow but the bottom half of the run was much more flat than we had anticipated and the run out looked pretty boring so we decided on checking out the other line on the itinerary.

We were fairly sure based on sat images where we needed to head into the woods to attempt to find it so we fanned out a bit and started bushwhacking. Things looked promising at first but things never completely thinned back out to where we needed them to really link turns nicely. You could definitely tell that there was at one time something where we were but it had grown back in with enough little sapplings that you couldn't go more than 10ft or so without getting whipped in the face or catching a tip.

So after our first run of extremely tight glade skiing we re-skinned and headed back up the other side trying to find something a bit nicer. The second skin up was a bit more aggressive but nice because we topped back out in under 30 mins. On the way up we spotted a nice little line through the trees that hadnt been touched and we were fairly sure we could find it from where we were at the top so we gave it a go...and finally some success!

the goods

Nothing overly amazing, but pretty deep. It served up some fun bouncy powder turns and actually dumped us right down at the car we spotted, perfect!

So again I wouldn't call our expedition 'epic' by any means but another good recon mission and learning experience. I now feel way more coordinated when it comes to de-skinning and re-skinning on trail. I've got the routine down to under 5 mins now. Unfortunately this might be it for skiing for a bit with lots of rain on the forecast for tonight and report might be from the ice bike.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

We got 'em all

Light fluffy boot deep powder in the morning and textbook spring conditions in the afternoon. It was an odd but awesome day at Cannon. After slaving away in the attic all weekend I was pumped to have the extra day off and the weather worked with me this time around and I ended up getting the best day out of the three anyway.

Met up with Bill, Barb and Paul Jr. first thing and we traversed over to the Zoomer chair because they usually load early and we wanted to run laps on the Front 5 while the getting was good. The plan worked and we got all kinds of fresh for several hours. For some reason even though it was a holiday there was no one around. Maybe the roads down south helped us out? Hard to tell.

After lapping around the front 5 we decided to check out some trees before lunch. We decided on 2nd Shift. We had scoped the entrance in the off season so I knew right where it was and its a good thing because there were no tracks leading in, we were the first to hit it in at least a few weeks. We would find out a bit later there was a reason for this, but I don't care about my skis so I had a blast.

completely untouched...just not quite deep enough

With it being virgin territory we wanted to make sure the snow was stable so Paul Jr. volunteered to take a look and make sure we were gonna be all set...

He even took a core sample with this skis, very thorough.

Everything looked great, but the base hasnt quite built up enough and things were a bit 'scratchy' underneath to say the least. This actually worked out well for me because they wanted to let me go first the whole way down so that if there was anything to hit I would hit it but this also meant I got first the whole way.


We grabbed some calories and then headed up to the top to get a few runs on Vista and to check some other tree shots. Things were still pretty good in the afternoon. It was starting to get tracked a bit but the trees were still pretty good. The base is starting to get to where it needs to be in some of the ole standby tree lines. Lost Boys is riding good and we got into Go Green for the first time this year and it was great.

feel the rhythm, feel the rime

*insert radio ron noise*

Shortly after lunch the clouds started to burn off, the sun came out, temps started to rise and before we knew it we were skiing textbook spring corn and mashed potato bumps in nearly blue bird conditions. We figured the best snow to be had was out on Tuckerbrook so we hatched a plan, secured two cars and nice people to drive them to pick us up and shot over for our last run of the day. The interesting at times Notch weather created a cool 'low ceiling' effect and it felt like we were in a plane above the cloud level.

Tuckerbrook was still in great shape and I even got a chance to ride Locals Only, a little tree line on a really steep face towards the end of Tucker. The last little pitch was easily around 40 degrees. 40 degrees in the trees is pretty awesome. FYI.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

We have to explore...

Only one person will really get that post title but it applies quite well.

We hatched a plan to try and find some good stuff in our 'backyard'. We didn't really find anything worth keeping secret but to stick with the internet norm for backcountry reports I will be very vague as to where we were exactly. If you can tell from the pics you have been there before, so no harm no foul.

I was really excited about this trip, a bunch of new gear was getting its trial by fire and my hopes were very high based on some satellite images that we were gonna get lucky and find a hidden gem. We were unable to find the rich stuff hidden in the woods but the day wasn't a total loss. The terrain was perfect for figuring out how to actually use skins and the scenery was great. It was border line death march towards the end though. 6hrs of skinning and 45mins of skiing = really sore calves today.

I guess I'll start with the gear. Lots of it was on test. I was extremely over prepared for this trip...but that's how I usually roll. New gear on test was my winter hydration/pack, G3 skins, G3 Baron's with Naxo bindings and my Black Diamond Raven ice axe. Never needed the axe but its super light and my pack has a sweet sheath specifically designed to carry it which worked awesome.

The Spread

Packed down to this

The insulated hose for my camelbak bladder worked fairly well. I ran into some freezing issues a few hours in but it was only in the mouthpiece and stashing it inside my jacket for a few minutes could thaw that out. Making sure to blow the water back out of the hose into the bladder was key.

Skinning is a lot more natural than I had anticipated. I was expecting the first few minutes to go very slow and for me to feel very awkward while on the move. Mounting the skins was a snap. Had a few issues getting the tail clips on with the correct tightness but this was due more to numb fingers at the time than anything else.

4 doods, 4 pairs of skis, and gear no problem...CAVERNOUS

The action on the Naxo's was great, this might be due to the double-pivot tech on the toe piece that allows for a longer more natural stride but I don't have anything else to compare it to so its hard to tell. I took right to it and we kept a great pace and made it to our destination about 30mins faster than I thought we would. The plan was to follow a well established hiking trail and then explore beyond the terminus of the maintained trail, follow a ravine and using my Garmin Edge navigate to something that looked promising from the sat images.

The plan was going great until we hit the terminus of the trail and realized that getting past that point was going to be basically impossible without more gear / expertise or bushwhacking up and over a steep heavily wooded/bouldered ravine wall.

snagged lunch at a shelter at the end of the trail

This is when its starts getting awesome

Then this happened

You can just begin to see the wall (literally) we hit trying to navigate further into the ravine. We were basically hiking in and around a streambed that terminates at some falls. We did not know that these falls were as big as they were. We were hoping that we could just kind of 'go around' the falls on either side but as it turns out these falls are about 30ft tall with huge sketchy boulder walls on either side that in winter are a no go. It almost looked like there might have been a way right up the gut, but attempting it would have been ill advised.

Yeah right up the middle go first.

So instead of trying some deep ice water soloing we decided to turn back and explore another offshoot from the original trail we were on that was way back towards the beginning of the trail head. This second trail actually brought us to another trail that we were very familiar with and had already ridden several times so we decided to cut our losses and hike to something we were already familiar with, ski that and loop back for the car and call it a day.

We had to get some serious vert behind us before heading down so after already skinning around for a few hours we set about knocking out 1500 or so vertical feet. There were a few steeper pitches in the mix and I was impressed with the grip on the skins, never really had an issue and going into a few sections I was doubtful they would hold, but luckily I was wrong. One thing I have to mention was how magical the heel lifters are on the Naxo's. Most AT bindings have at least one 'climbing' setting that lifts your heel a few degrees to soften the slope a bit. The Naxo's have a 6 degree and a 12 and man does it make a difference. HUGE.

We made it to our destination in about an hour or so and skied down. Legs were pretty fried by that point so I didn't get a very good aproximation as to how the skis really ride. I was more just trying to stay out of the back seat and not hit anything under the snow. They are definitely a bit softer than what I normally ride but within a workable range. I think they will work out just fine. Bindings felt solid on the down as well so all in all I am very pleased with the setup and I think I am going to have lots of great days in the backcountry ahead of me.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Wylee gets DEEP

I decided to take a break from getting my own pow slashes and took a little hike with Gina and the Pooch at Hamlin-Eames. This also gave me an opportunity to try out and test some of my new toys and get some active recovery from yesterday...can't beat that!

Lots of new snow in the area so we strapped on our new MSR Denali's (thanks Mom & Dad!) and hit the trail. Took a few tries to really get the straps dialed in but once we figured them out they were pretty solid. I really like the weight and traction, float wasn't awesome but worked just fine for the conditions. Thats to be expected though, they have a modular design on purpose so you can add tails if you want better floatation but you don't have to pay the weight penalty if you don't need them. All in all I am very pleased and looking forward to getting in more miles with them, both farting around in the woods and possibly getting some vert as well when the terrain is a little too gnarly for skins.

quick family portraits are way harder in the winter

Wylee LOVES the snow and we had a hard time keeping up with her. Its fun to watch her tear around in the powder.

I also got a chance to try out my new winter hydration setup that I am planning on rocking on shorter AT days as well as some bigger days at Cannon now that I know it works decent. Gina got me an insulated hose for my Camelbak bladder and I am using my Burton AK pack that I have had forever for this purpose but have never actually really used until now. The pack has a slit cut in the top specifically for hydration and the insulated hose is the perfect length. Didn't have any freezing issues today, temps weren't really all that cold but I think it should work as long as I blow the water out of the tube after each drink and maybe use warmer water on really cold days.

Probably missed a pretty big pow day in the Notch today but I can't complain. Wylee got deep enough for both of us.

New Year, New Season (finally)

The ski season is finally really up and running with what appears like a base that will stick. As long as it doesn't all of a sudden shoot back up to 60 and rain for a full day. To kick off the new year New England was treated to a weird slow moving 'storm' that putzed around for a few days dropping random amounts of snow starting with a few inches Thurs and seemingly finishing off with a dump in most places of a foot or more Sat night.

Shaun, Adam, Ben and myself were able to get up to Cannon Saturday. They had gotten maybe 4-6 inches the night before on top of what they got Thurs so things were pretty sweet. They still needed one more big dump to really be squared away though (which they got Saturday night, 16-18in) I'd call conditions variable but mostly awesome as long as you knew where to look/turn.

We got several good runs in the morning on Paulie's as well as Vista and Lost Boys. We finally met up with Bill and crew midday and planned on an excursion over to Mittersill to see what we were working with. First trip over we just stuck to Baron's. Coverage was iffy, I forced the issue a bit and took some ill advised lines because I don't care about my bases on my current skis anymore. Hit some trail garbage under the surface and lost my uphill ski and took a pretty sweet digger at high speed. Clean fall though and no issues. I think just about all of us had some sort of sweet explosion due to hitting stumps/branches etc.

Since officially opening up the area Cannon has widened the tube out that runs down to the top of Mittersill, not by much though. Part of me kinda thinks it sucks, but I think it almost rides a bit nicer now because there isnt as many huge swells. At the very least it will be much less of a workout and be a bit easier to get more laps in over there. Unfortunately this is also true for all the yahoo's. There is also now a huge sign at the entrance of Tuckerbrook saying the terrain is not patrolled etc. There is already a sweet addition to the sign with a piece of tape that makes it read: "This area is not patrolled (by men)".

Second run over we decided to see what things looked like out at Troll. This was a great call and it was probably the best run of the day. Decent base and even a few decent stashes of powder left to be had. Unfortunately (or maybe not unfortunate due to the hilarism) we missed the high traverse and ended up riding down a frozen stream bed that was fairly intense. All in all an excellent excursion and really got me pumped for the rest of the season.

Ben got some footage with some of his new toys from the holiday season which I will post once he gets things all edited and good to go.

and here is said footage:

It's all first person from Ben's perspective but I make my main appearance at about 7:13 until about 7:20