Aug 23 2014

Big Agnes Shovelhead Hooded Down Jacket

Published by under Gear,Reviews

From mid-March onward I used this jacket a ton. I took it to Iceland and I lived in it while getting lines done for my next book. I love this jacket and want to share with you the reasons why.

First off, I’ll start with what a jacket like this is all about, warmth. There are lots of ways to stay warm when you’re out there in the hills. When you’re pushing yourself and sweating hard on those long days you can really get a chill once you stop moving. I carry extra socks and gloves in case they get wet for just this reason. When your core is soaked, it’s great to have something warm to put on. This jacket covers that call. Managing the sweat is one of the main issues you need to deal with in the hills. This is a comfort, performance and safety issue. The 700 fill water resistant down that this jacket uses dose its job. On the really cold days I even skin in it and just vent so I don’t get too wet. Other days when it’s less cold I wear my soft shell and use the down during change overs or while waiting for a ride at the pass.

In Iceland, just 2 degrees of latitude south of the Arctic Circle, I wore this almost exclusively. It was cold and humid there most days. It was a lot like mid-winter in New England only colder. We camped many nights while over there and the jacket helped me stay comfortable. I am so stoked to have had it with me on the trip.

Through the course of the spring we had some big days and I was really hard on my gear as always. This jacket survived with zero holes. It stood up to rappels and hail. Sleeping in the back of a tent was no problem. 7000 vertical in a day with pack on and off over and over again was no problem for this tough piece of gear. I thank the rip stop nylon shell for this toughness. I also thank it for its ability to keep the wind out.

There are ample pockets that are large enough for lots of snacks or and maps. Pocket placement is good even when you’re wearing a pack and a harness. The hood is nice and warm and really helps keep you warm by insulating the part that most of your body heat, your head.

I recommend this product to everyone that gets out in the hills and pushes their gear and themselves. You can check it out here.


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Aug 13 2014

2014-15 Backcountry Access Stash 40 Pack

Published by under Gear,Reviews

2014-15 Backcountry Access Stash 40 Pack

This spring I spent most of my time in the hills with the BCA Stash 40. I carry around a lot of gear when I ski lines for writing. This spring was all about just that. I use a Nikon D-7000 for shooting lines and usually have a selection of lenses with me along with all the other gear that I bring out with me. The first aid kit is large and I always have a bivy sack after a very cold unplanned night on Blanca a few years ago. I’m not one of those travel light kind of guys. Summer, especially this season after so much vert, is all about recuperating.

I really like the way this pack carries skis in the a-frame position. When you have Dynafits mounted on your skis the strap position is acts like it is lower on the pack and you can run into calf bang while walking or touring. The straps are high enough on the pack to deal with this issue.

This pack has the space to get the job done. I like how there are two large compartments for gear. The front zone is for the rescue and snow gear. I also put my skins in this pocket. There are multiple pockets for storage of your probe and shovel along with a pocket for the BC Link radio system.

The main compartment is where I store all the stuff I need. I’ve carried cameras with extra lenses, ropes and gear, warm clothes, food and a jetboil, extra glasses and hats, a bivy and first aid kit and other essentials, all on the same trip. There’s that much room in this pack. If you get out there and want to be prepared for anything this is a great pack to take with you. It’s even big enough for light overnights. I never did that with it but I could see getting a compressed sleeping bag, sleeping pad and a super light mountaineering tent in it.

Another area of the pack that I like is the axe carry system. This is a great feature that is super easy to use. The clip system isn’t intuitive at first but after you think about it for a second it makes sense as the most efficient way to strap on an ice axe. It also is great in that it shields the pick. There are few things that hurt like stabbing yourself with your ice axe.

In the beginning of the winter I was skiing the 13-14 version of this pack. There were some things I didn’t like about it. The layout of the top pockets for one and the closure on the helmet carry I thought could be improved. The sternum straps also seemed to have some issues. I never mentioned this to them but they knew  and fixed these zones. The top pockets are now better organized. The closure for the helmet cover has been strengthened. The sternum straps on the 14-15 are far superior to the old model.

One thing I would like to see added to the pack are some waist belt carabiner loops. When you have on your harness and are wearing a pack it’s far easier to clip loops on the waist belt than on your harness. The harness tends to get moved around when you load the rope. Having loops on the waist belt would make a lot of sense.

Overall I’m super happy with this pack and look forward to many more days with it out in the hills.

The entire 15-16 Stash Line. Stash 40 on the right.Comfortable ski carryGreat feeling on the backCinchable to stay put while skiingThe helmet holder is great

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Jun 19 2014

Mt Neva 12,814′ Northeast Slopes – Mt Jasper 12,923′ Snow Lion – A Sweet Corn Solo 6/17/2014

Headed up from Edgewater after the alarm went off at 4am. Made it to the 4th of July Trailhead by about 6 and geared up. The headphones went on and it was super fun zoning out while heading up the trail. Made it to Lake Dorothy and soaked in all the views. After snapping some pics of some future project ideas I headed over to the base of Neva’s Northeast Bowl. I threw on the crampons and pulled out the axe and headed up. The snow had frozen nicely that night. At the top I soaked it all in. The last time I was up here I had to run off the mountain due to an incoming thunderstorm. That wasn’t gonna happen today. I switched over to ski mode and dropped into my line. It was sweet making steep turns thru the rocks. The corn was money. I kept following the gravity flow and worked my way around to the basin under Jasper.

From there I switched back over to walking mode and headed for the summit of Jasper. I stayed on talus and rock almost the whole way to the summit. It was fun on the ridge proper as there were a ton of sweet bouldering like moves. Always fun with skis on the back. At the east summit I saw my line. I snapped a pic and made my way over to the higher west summit. I quickly switched over and headed for the descent. The corn was still prime and I skied all the way to middle diamond lake. I walked a short way and lost maybe 100 vertical then put them back on and skied all the way to Boulder Creek. 2500′ of vertical isn’t too shabby for mid June.

The next day we tried to do Navaho but got shut down by the weather moving in. We got back to the bikes just as the hail was beginning to pound and had a frigid ride back to the truck. I’ve included the pics from the aborted day because I think some of them came out cool. Enjoy

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Jun 16 2014

Castle Peak 14,265′ North Face 6/14/2014 – Smooth Snow

So we headed up to the Stevens trailhead looking to get in some lines on Edwards but upon arriving at the trailhead we found less than full lines. So we decided to just head for Aspen and our goal for the next day. We got up at 5am and geared up. After a quick creek crossing in the truck we got the gear ready and made our way up into the alpenglow filled peaks. We made our way up the Montezuma Road and took some snowy short cuts where we could. We were making pretty good time but with all the booting in shoes Allison had some cold feet issues, then some nausea issues. We decided that I’d head up for the summit and she’d wait at the pond and if she started feeling worse she’d head down. Well she started feeling better so up she went.

I summited and took some pics then dropped in. I was stoked to see her coming up the face so after about 700′ of vert I threw the skis back on the pack and headed back up to the summit. So proud of you for not giving up and getting it done. I know how satisfying it is for you to do that.

Then we skied the remainder of the snow and headed to the Snowmass Mammoth Music Fest. Such a nice weekend and stoked on the YetiBeti ticket win by Allison. Gonna keep skiing till the snow stops being so good.

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Jun 16 2014

Square Top Mountain 13,794′ North Slopes and Argentine Peak 13,738′ Southeast Slopes – Cool Clouds

Some days you wake up and it just doesn’t seem like it’s gonna happen. Today was one of these days. I opened my eyes and looked up at Otter Mtn. It was shrouded in clouds. Surprisingly I had service at my camp site though not the greatest, but I could text. So I fired off some texts. Ooops I sent them to Allison, not Gary. “Sorry Honey, didn’t mean to wake you” Hmm let’s try and figure out if this is an inversion or not. Never know till you go. Gary showed up with reports of clear skies in Summit. We could see up high so it was time to go. Need some coffee first though.

We geared up and headed up the trail. At tree line we headed for the ridge among swirling clouds. It seemed like we were along the dividing line which was the Continental Divide. The clouds to the east of the Divide were coming from the southeast. The winds were coming out of the northwest and we were right along that break. Let’s just go and see what happens. At the summit of Square Top we had a snack and got ready. The line I wanted had melted out but there are some choices up there. We got a sweet corn filled gully for about 1500′ of vert.

With the weather holding we headed up the South Ridge of Argentine. It was a little late to get the North Face but there was a ton of vert on the Southeast slopes that hadn’t been cooking for quite as long. After snapping some pics we headed down the ridge and found a cool cornice feature. After snapping some pics we enjoyed the vert and pieced together as much skiing as we could for the way out.

Lucky to live in Colorado :) Thanks Gary


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Jun 16 2014

Gray Wolf Mountain 13,602′ East Couloir – Mount Spalding Windy City 13,842′ 6/11/2014 Pushing The Weather

It’s getting really close to being done for what I need to accomplish this spring. With a beautiful sunrise me and Jerome headed up to Summit Lake. We meet up with Kevin and geared up. The plan is to ascend the East Ridge of Spalding then cross over to Gray Wolf. Ski the East Couloir and reascend to the top of the Black Cliffs to get some pics of the Chicago Lakes trail. Then we’d head to the top of Windy City and have some more corn. From there it was a hike up to Chicago Lake trail and an easy return to the overlook. Pretty much everything went as planned except the weather came in while we were nearing the bottom of Windy City. From what I heard there was electricity in the cell that came over Mt Evans but we didn’t experience any. It did make us hike faster on the up.

Thanks for a great day guys always a pleasure getting out in the hills with you.

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Jun 06 2014

“Epaulie” 13,530′ Beartrack Couloir – 6/6/2014 – A Sweet Solo

With the snowpack rapidly changing into a summer pack I decided to maximize the time I have left before it’s all gone. I saw this line from Rosalie a while back and wanted to tag it before it was gone. With my kids having a half day for their last day of school I figured I had a window to get it done in the morning. I camped up on Mt Evans Rd and got an early start of 6:40. I mad good time over Epaulet and on to “Epaulie”. I walked down a little ways to the snow and strapped them on. It was no problem finding the line. I got to the edge and was a little surprised at how steep the entry was. The clouds that kept me up had dumped about 3-4″ of grauple onto the line. I cut the slope and got the new to run. The snow below the new was really nice. I skied through the steep stuff and it got pretty heavy.

After a quick switch I booted back up the couloir and back to the truck. I made it to the school at 11:45. Enough time to post a pic on Facebook and chat with some of the parents.

My head needed a solo. Enjoy the pics


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Jun 06 2014

Grizzly Peak 13,427′ North Face – “Cupid” 13,117 Dave’s Wave – 6/5/2014 A Freeze, Finally :)

So the alarm goes off at 4am again. Time to make the doughnuts. I hope it’s not deep heavy today. I hope it freezes. I hope I hope I hope. Well up the highway I went to the top A-Basin lot. Time to meet Frank, Jake and Gary for some more fun in the hills. It’s getting closer to being done. At the trailhead we were stunned to be cold. It was actually below freezing. We geared up and headed up CDOT gully. We made good time to the saddle below the North Ridge and had fun bouldering up the ridge. At the summit we snacked and changed over, e also walked over to the Hourglass and tried to figure out if it was still in. One drawback of not coming from below. We knew though that the summit line would have had the best chance to thaw. The freeze was pretty good the night before.

Frank hit it first and yelped that it was money. We yo yo’d for pics and had a blast on sweet corn that was just the right depth for arcing turns. At the apron we headed down some more and were stoked to see how nicely the snow had compacted. We switched to skins and headed up the back side of “Cupid”. This face had been seeing more sun but was still well compacted so skinning almost all the way to the summit was pretty reasonable. We booted the top steep section though.

From the summit we walked a short ways down to Dave’s Wave. I haven’t skied this line since like 1995. So fun to be back. We set up for some shots and milked the corn.

From there we went to White Cliff. Haven’t done much climbing since my accident up in The Park back in 1998. It was fun but a blister that developed a few days ago was giving me some serious pain in the climbing shoes. Then it was time to head off to camp for the next day. What a fun day it was. Thanks Gary, Frank and Jake for a ton of fun. Enjoy the pics.

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May 30 2014

Mount Evans 14,265′ Summit Bowl – Steep Chute Ascent – Corn Descent – 5/29/2014

With the end of the clear weather approaching, me and Gary headed up the Mt Evans Road to squeeze in another line or two. Driving up the road at sunrise was sweet and we geared up for the climb up Evans at the Summit Lake lot. We skinned up to the basin below the North Face and choose to ascend the steep couloir that leads almost directly to the summit. We were thinking about skiing this but the conditions just didn’t merit it. 2″ ice crust on about 8″ of grauple. Very minimal transition on this aspect kept us away. So we opted for the corn run down the bowl proper. The snow was great and I think we made the right decision.

Afterward we started to head over towards Spalding to go for Windy City but with the temps rising fast we decided not to go for it. It was a good few days. The body is tired and I’m looking forward to getting in some time with my kids. Thanks for a sweet tour Gary. Enjoy the pics.

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