January 29, 2011

The "Pinch and Roll" Method

Tired of trying to separate what seem to be inseparable skins during transitions in the backcountry. Especially when yo-yoing your favorite low angled glade during those high avalanche danger days. Being a split-boarder I'm always looking for ways to improve my transition times. Since valuable time is consumed when trying to peel apart the damn skins (especially with the 2010 glue formulation, the ones w/o the tape down the center), why not try to eliminate this step? Thus the "pinch and roll".

Simply hold the tail of climbing skin, glue side facing you. Start rolling it up. No worries the glue does not stick to the mohair and more importantly the glue can't stick to the glue. Result: a small easy to pack and easy to separate climbing skin.

Note: The skin clip / bar....whatever you want to call it.   Its now ready to hang from the tip of the ski for the SKIN ON (see next pic)

Place the skin clip on the nose of your ski and start  unrolling.  A big plus to the "pinch and roll"  is noticed here, by lessening the chance of getting snow on the glue.  As you unroll the skin it interfaces with your ski immediately, super nice in windy conditions too. 

Only use the pinch and roll while touring. Remember it is important to store your skins the traditional glue to glue fold method, to prevent the glue from drying out, it also helps to redistribute and restore the glue.  Additionally if you notice your skin glue loosing its stickiness while touring, simply store it glue glue ( the fold method) on your next transition.

CONSIDERATIONS:   On those warm spring days days there may be a chance of the mohair sticking to the glue its self.  Thus consider the traditional fold method, as it is usually easier to pull the skins apart on warm days anyway.  An additional concern during warm spring conditions is the use of skin wax.  There is also a chance of the wax on the mohair sticking to the glue.

January 22, 2011

The Aftermath

Saturday  marked our return to the BC following the "January Thaw" cycle.  Bryan, Andrew, Derek and I left the willow creek TH at 0900, retracing my ascent from 1/9/11.   We continued slightly past the summit of West Willow Pk to dig a  pit at 6250' on an east facing slope.

What we found:
  • 30cm of heavy snow ontop of a 25cm thick ice layer (knife thick).  No one in the group had a snow saw so properly isolating columns within our snow pit was difficult. However while trying to isolate a column with cord and shovel handle the new snow layer and ice layer failed upon isolation (Q1) We noted similar reactivity with the bottom of the ice layer.  
  • Persistent weak layers below the ice layer appear to of "healed"  including the Dec 13th rain layer.     
With the decent viability we continued towards Stevens Pk summit to eyeball / recon future terrain.

Next we decided it was time to get some turns in among safer / more mellow terrain.  So we headed back to West Willow summit to ski its west side down towards the boulder basin drainage.

After climbing back out of boulder basin we returned to the north facing bowl called Wayne's World by the locals for a 1000' line followed by another 800-1000' line called the "Jammer" by locals.  All in all a good considering the conditions.  After a week of cooler temps and barring anymore warming events, next weeked should be a little more eventful. 

Bryan and Andrew on the climb up from willow creek

Steven's Peak

January 15, 2011

Staying Alive In Avalanche Terrain

Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain, Bruce Tremper, Mountaineer’s Books, 2008.  
Bruce has been the director of the Utah Avalanche Center center since 1986.

A must have / read in any backcountry skiers or snowboarders safety quiver. This avalanche safety how-to is perhaps the best available for backcountry skiers and snowboarders. It looks at the issue from a practical view, assuming you WILL go out in avalanche terrain.   Bruce shares the knowledge gained from his 25yrs of professional avalanche experience. Full of firsthand wisdom, terrific illustrations & photographs this is a very readable text on what often is a very dry subject. If you travel in avalanche terrain you want to read this book, and re-read it every fall:)   

Most avalanche classes are taught by nationally recognized members of the American Avalanche Association (AAA), AIARE, the Canadian Avalanche Association, and a host of mountain rescue specialists which adhere to the AAA's Guidelines for Avalanche Course Curriculum.  The curriculum and Bruce Tremper's book are almost one in the same.  As a matter of a fact many level 1 av classes require reading the book prior to class, some will actually include the book once registered for the class (Silverton Avalanche School)
Deeper's Forrest Shearer & author Bruce Tremper were interviewed on NPR this past week about avalanche danger. Listen here: http://bit.ly/e604ts

January 14, 2011

Chinook Winds + January Thaw - Hits the PNW

This evening, our driveway was void of snow for the first time since November.  The temps in Spokane for the past two days and for the next couple will be near 40 degrees.  Last week it didn't get above 17.

We have two phenomenons to thank:

1) The January Thaw:
  • January thaw, is a climatic phenomenon of unseasonably warm weather that tends to occur at about the same time every year, usually within about 10 days after the middle of January. Generally, the January thaw is gradual and temporary, lasting anywhere from a few hours to a week
  • The causes of the January thaw are known. General atmospheric circulation becomes more westerly, or even southwesterly, and mild Pacific air spreads eastward across Canada. The stronger-than-normal westerlies in mid latitudes tend to confine Arctic air northward and favour the intrusion of warm, humid air from the subtropics into the eastern US and Canada. Although the westerly flow may last several days, it inevitably shifts to northwesterly, again allowing cold outbreaks of Arctic air to stream southward and eastward.
  • Still a mystery, though, is why this phenomenon occurs when it does. Some researchers offer statistical evidence for a relationship between January thaws and sunspot activity.
2) Chinook Winds
  • The reference to a wind or weather system, simply "a Chinook", originally meaning a warming wind from the ocean into the interior regions of the Pacific Northwest.  A strong Chinook can make snow one foot deep almost vanish in one day. The snow partly melts and partly evaporates in the dry wind. Chinook winds have been observed to raise winter temperature, often from below −20°C to as high as 10°C to 20°C.  

There are too many red flags out there right now!  What does this mean for us?  A study/relax weekend :(

Red Flags:
  • 75 mph winds reported in the southern Selkirk's of northern Idaho today = massive wind slabs being formed on a layer a couple of feet thick of upside down snow deposited on surface hoar and facets formed earlier this week, not to mention persistent weak layers deeper in the snow pack.
  • heavy wet snow falling on top of a dry cold snow pack = a non-supportive very reactive interface between the two layers
  • my pit results from 6000' on 1/9/2011 revealed and confirmed two different faceted weak layers,  these weak layers were not very reactive but present.  With the load from the heavy snow on top, these weak layers will surly play a roll and possible encourage a slide to step down into the Dec 13 rain crust that still persists.   
Location:Palmer creek
Date: Jan 12th, 2011
Photographer:Kevin Wright
Description: 01/07/2010 avalanche event. Skier triggered, full burial. No
injuries. Investigation showed the initial weak layer as buried
surface hoar with weak facets, stepping down to facets above and
below the November 22 rain crust. Deeper parts of the crown face
were on top of the rain crust

The GOOD news...The powder will come back.  This cycle should be good for stability in the long term....if not back to CANADA:) 

January 9, 2011

The Elusive Stevens Peak

Today, K had to work so rather then another solo job I met up with a local skier (a shovel partner just in case) and traveled to Willow Creek of the Bitterroot Range.  On Christmas Day I skinned up St Regis Basin and was rewarded with amazing views of Stevens Peak, which happens to be the highest peak in the immediate area, and probably the most interesting terrain within an hour and a half of Spokane.  My goal today was find an easier way to the summit and do some recon on some lines.  Unfortunately it snowed all day and the sun never broke through.  We were within a half mile of the summit along the summit ridge and still no cheese.  However the approach beat the 6.5 miles up St. Regis Basin.

After our turnaround point spotted what appeared to be our best line down to the bottom of West Willow Basin, taking us back to the summit of west willow peak to ski its east shoulder.  During the skin back to its summit we came across another group of skiers, including John Latta, a professional photographer who frequents the area.  He suggested his website as a means to contact him, if looking for a skiing buddy in the future, friendly guy.  Anyway I'm borrowing one of his pics of Stevens Peak, which appears to be taken from just beyond our turnaround point.

John's photo of Stevens Peak and all its attractive chutes, just begging to be skied by K and I in the near future.

John Latta's photo of the north face chutes of Steven's Peak

Today's tracks

January 2, 2011

New Year's Canadian Style

Epic start to the new year!  Kristin and I arrived in Nelson at 11:47pm and run into Mike's Place Pub.  Goal: to get a tasty beverage in hand for the ever important toast as the ball drops.  We get the tops popped from 2 Paddywhacks (Nelson Brewery IPA's) as the 5 second countdown begins! 

Day 1, A recon day of sorts:  Beginning with single digit temps at the car sucks!  The burning sensation in our hands as we struggled to equip our boards with skins was almost enough to call it quits for the day and head to Ainsworth Hot Springs. The day ended up being awesome, near bluebird skies with all world stability within the snowpack.  We figured out the lay of the land, and fine tuned our approaches for the zones to be shredded on Day 2.   Oh ya and we did get in a 1800' and 1000' run on this "recon day"

Day 2, Sick Sick Sick:  After leaning our lesson in the single digit tmeps the morning before, we equipped our boards and got everything completely ready from the comfort  of the Whitehouse. We then spent the next  7 hours touring Five Mile Basin / Half Dome, climbing and riding over 6000 vertical feet over 8 miles.  The best part of the day was climbing out of Five Mile Basin as the sun was setting over the Bonnington Range, and wondering if we were going to get down to the pub before it closes!  Both days we skied the final 1000' line through Ymir Basin eventually ending up "in-bounds" at the Whitewater ski resort, with a final destination Johnny Coal's Pub.

Blue = GPS tracks, yellow = our lines
Our 2000' line off of Half Dome
Our 2nd zone / line of the day