Jul 302016
 
Solid quartzite and an awesome backdrop!

Solid quartzite and an awesome backdrop!

When the forecast called for temps to rise into the 90’s in the valley, SVT guides Joe St.Onge and Patrick Graham decided to go high. For years, we have been looking at the north wall on Cobb Peak(11,644′) above the Pioneer Yurt and wondering if the rock was good. The north face of Cobb is a massive rock wall, rising 1000-1800′ from the alpine basin and comprised of ancient quartzite rock. Quartzite is an interesting and beautiful rock type, created when sandstone is metamorphosed under intense pressure and heat. Extremely dense and compact, the quartzite on Cobb does not give continuous crack features for a climber to follow. Instead, there are varied slabs, blocks, corners and aretes that can be linked together with generally good to very good rock. 5 years ago, Patrick and Joe climbed the direct North Face in alpine conditions, climbing neve, rock and water ice to the summit (the Solstice Line) and found good rock and a spectacular setting, creating an desire to venture on a rock route. This 1100′ climb generally followed slabs and corners into a short chimney (5.8) and then onto the skyline ridge. The “Buccaneers Route” (5.8 III) had a couple 5.8 moves but was generally in the mid 5th class range. Fun stuff!

The Pioneer Yurt makes a perfect base-camp for climbing on the peaks above

The Pioneer Yurt makes a perfect base-camp for climbing on the peaks above (Cobb peak on the right)

What a setting!

What a setting!

Pato on the evening ride into the yurt

Pato on the evening ride into the yurt

Hiking above the yurt as the 1st rays of morning sun hit the high peaks

Hiking above the yurt as the 1st rays of morning sun hit the high peaks

With the baby on the way, Pato stayed "in touch"

With the baby on the way, Pato stayed “in touch”

Approaching the scree field at the base of the north wall on Cobb

Approaching the scree field at the base of the north wall on Cobb

A closer inspection revealed some nice looking rock

A closer inspection revealed some nice looking rock

Pato heading up on the lower pitches

Pato heading up on the lower pitches

Starting to get some air under our feet

Starting to get some air under our feet

Finding beautiful features midway up the wall

Finding beautiful features midway up the wall

Joe climbing into the morning light

Joe climbing into the morning light

The view from a belay ledge 400' up

The view from a belay ledge 400′ up

Lots of options to venture out onto steep jugs

Lots of options to venture out onto steep jugs

The final 400' follows a beautiful and airy ridge

The final 400′ follows a beautiful and airy ridge

Making efficient transitions with over 1000' of climbing

Making efficient transitions with over 1000′ of climbing

The upper ridge allows for some fun blocky climbing

The upper ridge allows for some fun blocky climbing

Great exposure high on the upper ridge

Great exposure high on the upper ridge

The Buccaneers Route basically follows the skyline (1st 5 pitches not visible)

The Buccaneers Route basically follows the skyline (1st 5 pitches not visible)

The descent is a walk off on the west ridge

The descent is a walk off on the west ridge

Getting some fun flow on the ripping downhill ride back to the trailhead

Getting some fun flow on the ripping downhill ride back to the trailhead

Back in the meadows after the climb (on the ridge)

Back in the meadows after the climb (on the ridge)

The climb roughly follows the red line (the first 5 pitches) with the upper 4 pitches and 4th class ridge not visible.

The “Buccaneers Route” roughly follows the red line (the first 5 pitches) with the upper 4 pitches on an exposed 4-5th class ridge not visible.

Apr 112016
 
Getting ready to open it up

Getting ready to open it up

It’s a tradition, a physical ordeal and a right of passage. We call it the “woodcut” but it is much more than just a wood-cut. Every spring, we take advantage of the solid snow pack to fell trees and skid/carry them over the snow to the huts in preparation for the following winter. Like a squirrel, collecting nuts for the winter ahead, we cache the life giving fuel for the Bench and Fishhook Huts, deep in the Sawtooth. While there is a very practical purpose to what we are doing (prepping firewood for ski huts) at heart we are skiers and the woodcut typically occurs when the ski conditions are prime. So we work especially hard felling, bucking, hauling and stacking to finish the job, so we can get to the skiing. This year we accomplished all the objectives, putting up over 6 cord of wood at each hut and skiing many big, steep and authentic lines.

Thanks to the stellar SVT crew: Chris Marshall, Andrew Kieffer, Niels Meyer, Chris Cullaz, Jess Simon, Alex Gemme, Everett Coba, and the veteran of many woodcuts: Joe St.Onge

Over 6 cords, felled, carried, bucked and stacked at the Bench Hut. now its time to go ski!

Over 6 cords, felled, carried, bucked and stacked at the Bench Hut. now its time to go ski!

The Sawtooth in all their spring glory

The Sawtooth in all their spring glory

Kiefer psyched for a day of steep couloir skiing above Bench Hut

Kieffer psyched for a day of steep couloir skiing above Bench Hut

heading into the upper basins

heading into the upper basins

Jess, working his way up the lower slopes of the Hunk

Jess, working his way up the lower slopes of the Hunk

Climbing mid way on the Hunk, a classic spring steep corn descent above Bench hut

Climbing mid way on the Hunk, a classic spring steep corn descent above Bench hut

Cranking warm-up turns before the steeps on the Hunk

Cranking warm-up turns before the steeps on the Hunk

Jess, working his way through the surface sluffs on the Hunk

Jess, working his way through the surface sluffs on the Hunk

The lower rolls of the hunk are pure beauty

The lower rolls of the hunk are pure beauty

Loving the final roll on the Hunk

Loving the final roll on the Hunk

Yahoo!

Yahoo!

Heading toward the Heyburner

Heading toward the Heyburner

Lunch break in the 5th lake basin

Lunch break in the 5th lake basin

Chris, cranking turns on the upper north couloir of Heyburn

Chris, cranking turns on the upper north couloir of Heyburn

Snowboard carving out of the Orbit Couloir

Snowboard carving out of the Orbit Couloir

Everett climbing to the darkside on the Bat Cave

Everett climbing to the darkside on the Bat Cave

Jess working his way toward the light in the Bat Cave

Jess working his way toward the light in the Bat Cave

Chris, climbing out of the cave and into the light

Chris, climbing out of the cave and into the light

Climbing out of the Bat Cave

Climbing out of the Bat Cave

Alex, loving the steep exit of the Bat Cave

Alex, loving the steep exit of the Bat Cave

Alex riding toward the light

Alex riding toward the light

Crouching tiger

Crouching tiger

Dawn Patrol out of the Fishhook yurt

Dawn Patrol out of the Fishhook yurt

Our days objective: the Sickle Couloir. One of the many splitter couloirs in the Sawtooth

Our days objective: the Sickle Couloir. One of the many splitter couloirs in the Sawtooth

Everett and Chris loving the steep climb

Everett and Chris loving the steep climb

nearing the top of the Sickle

nearing the top of the Sickle

Chris, opening his wings while making a jump turn on the 50+ degree couloir

Chris, opening his wings while making a jump turn on the 50+ degree couloir

Using an ice axe for security on the firm entrance

Using an ice axe for security on the firm entrance

Everett laying them down mid couloir

Everett laying them down mid couloir

stoked after a stellar couloir

stoked after a stellar couloir

Nov 192015
 
The clouds part to reveal one of the worlds biggest pieces of stone: El Capitan

The clouds part to reveal one of the worlds biggest pieces of stone: El Capitan

With the snow starting to fall in the mountains, the stoke for the upcoming winter is palatable. At times the feeling of time is transcended throughout our life and our daily routine; as I prepare for winter, I feel that both the last ski season just ended, and its been an eternity since I put away for boards for the summer. Reflecting back on the past 8 months, the latter is probably more accurate. I don’t spend the off months in Sun Valley and work takes me to other amazing places in the West, and a lot of mountain stoke has happened. As a professional guide, and one that is one final exam away from full AMGA/IFMGA international Mountain Guide certification, I need to critically balance my time in the outdoors, and make sure that I am giving due process to work (pays the bills), professional development and training (important for the profession), and lastly, having some personal fun.
This past year, I focused heavily on working and professional development. I was successful in passing my AMGA Ski Guide Exam in April, working a full summer guiding season in the Pacific Northwest, passing my Alpine Aspirant Exam in September, and passing my Rock Exam in October. Whew! That was a lot. While I attribute this success to both personal dedication and professional development, the role that mentorship has played cannot be understated. Once my Rock Exam was over, I wanted to take some personal climbing time to revisit the stoke and passion that climbing has always brought to me, which at times can be overshadowed by work. I also wanted to take the opportunity to visit and spend time with friends throughout climbing areas in the West that have played a pivotal role in who I am today and also wanted to create new milestones in my climbing career. Furthermore, I wanted to take the opportunity to give back and offer mentorship and share my experience with others. Apprentice guide, Niels Meyer was game to come along on the wild ride with me. Please enjoy the photo essay of our adventures below, and I hope to ski with you this season! :SVT Guide Chris Marshall

Our first stop was Red Rock Canyon. The climbing here is super varied, with everything between overhanging sport routes, excellent splitter crack, technical face climbs, and long multi-pitch adventure routes.

Looking down the 4th pitch of Risky Buisness (5.10c R). This climb has a reputation for being run out and spicy. I wanted to see for myself and found five-star technical face climbing on bulletproof rock (and some run outs).

Looking down the 4th pitch of Risky Buisness (5.10c R). This climb has a reputation for being run out and spicy. I wanted to see for myself and found five-star technical face climbing on bulletproof rock (and some run outs).

Levy best: Levitation 29 (5.11c) has been called the best multi-pitch route in Red Rock. Last year it was too hot, and then I lost motivation. Feeling strong and with cool-enough temperatures, Nick Malik and I had the route to ourselves. We found sustained technical face climbing in an outstanding setting on a huge wall. A milestone for sure.

Levy best: Levitation 29 (5.11c) has been called the best multi-pitch route in Red Rock. Last year it was too hot, and then I lost motivation. Feeling strong and with cool-enough temperatures, Nick Malik and I had the route to ourselves. We found sustained technical face climbing in an outstanding setting on a huge wall. A milestone for sure.

Niels gets the redpoint on a classic 5.10 in the Black Corridor.

Niels gets the redpoint on a classic 5.10 in the Black Corridor.

Eventually it was time to leave the desert, Yosemite Valley was calling. The Valley was another monumental place as I developed as a climber, and not having climbed there much in the last few years, the bucket list was starting to grow.

The North Face of the Rostrum feels like an entrance exam into hard Yosemite climbing. At 5.11c with seven of the eight pitches 5.10 or harder, this route requires excellent technique from overhanging fingers to squeeze chimney, to burly overhanging wide hands, to offwidth. I had the pleasure of climbing this with Valley guide Greg Coit. Standing exhausted on top of a climb I had aspired to do for six years was surreal. Another milestone and inspiration for the future.

The North Face of the Rostrum feels like an entrance exam into hard Yosemite climbing. At 5.11c with seven of the eight pitches 5.10 or harder, this route requires excellent technique from overhanging fingers to squeeze chimney, to burly overhanging wide hands, to offwidth. I had the pleasure of climbing this with Valley guide Greg Coit. Standing exhausted on top of a climb I had aspired to do for six years was surreal. Another milestone and inspiration for the future.

Chris jamming up the Rostrum

Chris jamming up the Rostrum

Coming from the desert, a day remembering how to jam splitter granite was in order. Niels follows Salathe Pitch 1 (5.10c) at the base of El Capitan. Climbing under the Big Stone was an inspiration for the days to come.

Coming from the desert, a day remembering how to jam splitter granite was in order. Niels follows Salathe Pitch 1 (5.10c) at the base of El Capitan. Climbing under the Big Stone was an inspiration for the days to come.

Cool temps and the first winter storm had chased away many folks from the Valley and off of El Capitan. As a team of three, Niels, Greg, and I had been planning on climbing the Muir Wall, but with the possibility of another winter storm on the horizon, we set our sights on the classic and steep Zodiac (5.8 A3/C3). We took a few days prepping, teaching Niels the ins and outs of aid climbing, and packing for 4-5 days on the wall. We had hoped to spend 3 nights, but with the cold, the storm, and the short days, we topped out after 5 long and amazing days living and breathing in the vertical. We believe that we were one of two parties on El Cap for the storm, which brought snow down to the valley floor and temperatures in the 20s.

Greg stoked as I lead p2.

Greg stoked as I lead p2.

The upside of snow on top of El Capitan was that Horsetail Falls was pumping. The Zodiac is so steep that water runoff from the top was 10-20’ out from the cliff.

The upside of snow on top of El Capitan was that Horsetail Falls was pumping. The Zodiac is so steep that water runoff from the top was 10-20’ out from the cliff.

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Niels jugging in the evening golden hour. Plenty of space jugging on this steep route!

Greg making good vertical progress after the storm.

Greg making good vertical progress after the storm.

Looking down to our portaledge camp as I lead the Mark of Zoro pitch. By the time I had lead this pitch, the clouds had swirled around and it was snowing. We ended up spending two nights at this protected bivy woken by ice fall throughout the night.

Looking down to our portaledge camp as I lead the Mark of Zoro pitch. By the time I had lead this pitch, the clouds had swirled around and it was snowing. We ended up spending two nights at this protected bivy woken by ice fall throughout the night.

Portaledge life: even though we were three feet apart, we often didn’t see each other!

Portaledge life: even though we were three feet apart, we often didn’t see each other!

: As the storm clouds clear, Niels space jugs wearing four jackets with El Capitan’s icon Nose in the background. Jugging is hard work; it was cold!

As the storm clouds clear, Niels space jugs wearing four jackets with El Capitan’s icon Nose in the background. Jugging is hard work; it was cold!

A stoked summit team. While human nature was to sit in and revel in the view and accomplishment, the reality of descending down the snow, verglass, and water covered East Ledges descent set in quickly. This ended up being fairly serious, and it wasn’t until we were past this part, the six ensuing rappels, and walking down the trail toward valley bottom under the beam of our headlamps that a sense of fulfillment of a lifelong dream set in.

A stoked summit team. While human nature was to sit in and revel in the view and accomplishment, the reality of descending down the snow, verglass, and water covered East Ledges descent set in quickly. This ended up being fairly serious, and it wasn’t until we were past this part, the six ensuing rappels, and walking down the trail toward valley bottom under the beam of our headlamps that a sense of fulfillment of a lifelong dream set in.

Niels and I are in Indian Creek sampling some of the best desert splitters on earth in a lower stress environment.  We’ll head over to the San Juan Mountains for some early season ice before this adventure ends, back in Sun Valley, where we’ll have time to reflect on this journey, dream of the next adventure, and get stoked for the ski season ahead!

Jul 202015
 
The Newly Weds!

The Newly Weds!

Ah, what a celebration! SVT guide, Jonathan Preuss (JP) married his lovely bride, Michelle, on the Coyote Yurts point at 8700’deep in the Smokey Mountains of Central Idaho. Good friends gathered to embrace the passing hail storms and drink in the beauty and power of the mountains and of LOVE!

if you made it this far...

if you made it this far…

the team

the team

wildflower yurts

wildflower yurts

flower girls

flower girls

building the bower

building the bower

and the ceremony begins...

and the ceremony begins…

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yahoo!

yahoo!

Mr. and Mrs Preuss

Mr. and Mrs Preuss

and the sun came out!!

and the sun came out!!

practice run

practice run

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The Lei, giving her blessing

The Lei, giving her blessing

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what a feast!

what a feast!

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whats a camp fire without a marshmellow

whats a camp fire without a marshmellow

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and the Pios lit up....

and the Pios lit up….

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magnificent light on the point

magnificent light on the point

whats a camp fire without a marshmellow

whats a camp fire without a marshmellow

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morning coffee

morning coffee

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and the ride back to the village...past Fox Peak

and the ride back to the village…past Fox Peak

retired SVT Intern, Mark, carving down Fox Peak

retired SVT Intern, Mark, carving down Fox Peak

cruising

cruising

and through the woods

and through the woods

over the edge

over the edge

around the bend

around the bend

and through the flowers

and through the flowers

across from the Boulders

across from the Boulders

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Toby, flying

Toby, flying

and back to the valley

and back to the valley

May 242015
 
What a beautiful place to hike!

What a beautiful place to hike!

It’s late May in the mountains, ski season is over and the hint of summer is in the air.  This is the time of year when we check in at all the ski huts to store them for the summer season.  It’s a beautiful and quiet time in the mountains, with life springing forth.  It’s a great time for SVT owners/guides, Joe and Francie St.Onge, to get out with their young children for fun adventures while taking care of this unique system of backcountry huts.  Sometimes those “chores” require firing up the wood fired hot tub to check it’s function…

The girls starting out on the 2 mile hike into the Fishhook Yurt

The girls starting out on the 2 mile hike into the Fishhook Yurt

Neve, cruising

Neve, cruising

Neve, boulder break

Neve, boulder break

Riding in style

Riding in style

Creek-side trail break

Creek-side trail break

Trail break

Meadow trail break (strategic and fun stops are key while hiking with young kids!)

Boulder break #2

Boulder break #2

Crossing the Fishhook Creek can be interesting

Crossing the Fishhook Creek can be interesting

The girls, stoked after finding a Sandhill Crane in the meadow

The girls, stoked after finding a Sandhill Crane in the meadow

Neve, testing the waters...

Neve, testing the waters…

mmm.

mmm.

Ahhh, the Fishhook Hot Tub sure is sweet!

Ahhh, the Fishhook Hot Tub sure is sweet!

Nothing like a hot tub on coll and rainy evening!

Nothing like a hot tub on cold and rainy evening!

Dinner time!

Dinner time!

Smores!!

Smores!!

Silly time!

Silly time!

All packed up and ready to head back to the village

The Team

Francie, stepping carefully...

Francie, stepping carefully…

Sep 172014
 

A beautiful ridge walk toward Old Hyndman

We have just returned from a couple of days in the Pioneers. The goal of the trip was to get the yurt ready for the oncoming winter season and to climb a new route on Old Hyndman. For years, SVT guide Joe St.Onge, has been dreaming on climbing a route along the skyline of Old Hyndman Peak. Old Hyndman rises like the Matterhorn with steep rock walls guarding the summit. There are a couple standard routes to the summit, but we were unaware of anyone having climbed the steep NW ridge. Having spied this part of the mountain on many ski tours over the years, the time seemed right when local ER doc, Terry, called Joe with the goal of climbing Old Hyndman. A great adventure climb was had and success in exploring a new line to the summit of this iconic peak. Terry suggested calling the route “Old Goat” or “OG” to honor the bearded old goat we wandered by on the approach. Enjoy the pics and the mountains!

approaching the Pioneer Yurt

approaching the Pioneer Yurt

Cobb Peak and the upper Hyndman Basin

Cobb Peak and the upper Hyndman Basin

The line on Old Hyndman roughly follows the left skyline

The line on Old Hyndman roughly follows the left skyline

ah, alpine views!

ah, alpine views!

Peering down the big drop toward Wildhorse

Peering down the big drop toward Wildhorse

Beginning the rock section with some 4th class climbing

Beginning the rock section with some 4th class climbing

Approaching the business

Approaching the business

transitioning to 5th class climbing and belays

transitioning to 5th class climbing and belays

snack break mid route on spacious ledges

snack break mid route on spacious ledges

Mid-route looking toward the summit

Mid-route looking toward the summit

solid climbing on somewhat solid rock

solid climbing on somewhat solid rock

Terri and Joe, stoked.

Terri and Joe, stoked.

Wow, the view from the summit of Old Hyndman!

Wow, the view from the summit of Old Hyndman!

Joe on the summit

Joe on the summit

Beginning the descent, the Triple Crown connects the ridgeline with Cobb in the distance

Beginning the descent, the Triple Crown connects the ridgeline with Cobb in the distance

After extensive down climbing, we made 3 rappels to get back to the basin

After extensive down climbing, we made 3 rappels to get back to the basin

Enjoying the view back up toward a beautiful mountain skyline

Enjoying the view back up toward a beautiful mountain skyline

The Pioneer Yurt ready to opened for the approaching winter

The Pioneer Yurt ready to opened for the approaching winter

Rambling back toward the village in autumn beauty

Rambling back toward the village in autumn beauty

May 212014
 

good corn

We are just back from skiing another beautiful Idaho mountain, Kent Peak. Viewed frequently from the Valley of the Big Wood, Kent Peak requires a bit of an approach to reach the classic ski lines. As the snow lines march up the mountains with the rising temperatures, the dirt roads are opening up and allowing access deeper into the hills. Even with the open roads, Kent requires a bit of dirt walking to reach snow. But once on snow, a classic 3,000′ ski descent off the 2nd highest peak in the Boulder Mountains awaits. Good corn conditions were found. Enjoy!

It is taking some effort to reach the snow these days

It is taking some effort to reach the snow these days

Summer is beginning to show

Summer is beginning to show

A smile will go a long way when bushwacking with skis!

A smile will go a long way when bushwacking with skis!

Where the snow turns to water...

Where the snow turns to water…

Where skiers become skiers

Where skiers become skiers

ahhh, back in the alpine!

ahhh, back in the alpine!

The summit ridge of Ryan is rather sharp...

The summit ridge of Kent is rather sharp…

Looking north into the Boulder Mountains

Looking north into the Boulder Mountains

Looking south into the Pioneers

Looking south into the Pioneers

The 1st jump turn onto the face of Ryan

The 1st jump turn onto the face of Kent

perfect edging

perfect edging

fun ski

fun ski

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making our way home

making our way home

May 092014
 
 SVT Guide, Joe St.Onge, remembers a May ski day on his child’s 2nd birthday:

 

Patrick Graham approaches the summit of Ryan Peak

Patrick Graham approaches the summit of Ryan Peak

It was May, locals had hung up their skis and our busy ski guiding season was coming to a close.  It was time to ski for ourselves.
 
My wife was pregnant with our second child and do to deliver within the week.  We had a check-up with our doctor and she said that it did not look imminent.  I took that diagnoses as: I could go ski the next day.  My wife is a skier and guide and she gets it.   She encouraged me to get one last ski in before the snow melted and another baby entered our lives.
 
It was a last minute tour plan.  I wanted to ski something “new”.  Ryan Peak is the tallest in the Boulder Mountains of Central Idaho.  It’s been skied, but not regularly as the approach is big.  I had a concept that it could be approached from the “other side” and had found out that the dirt road that crosses a high pass had just been plowed, allowing access to the “other side”.  A quick call to two of our guides and the plan was hatched for the next morning, early.  Conditions were perfect spring corn: firm for the climb and silky for the decent.  The approach was fast and fluid.  We followed wolf tracks up the remote canyon and later heard the howls from a den echo while on the peak.    We spied amazing future lines, one of which we skied later in the week when the doctor said it may be a couple more days before the baby came.  It was awesome.
Apr 022014
 
SVT guides/interns and friends taking a "day off"

SVT guides/interns and friends taking a “day off”

Was it April Fools, Niels’ Birthday, or the fact that it was snowing? Regardless, at our morning guide meeting yesterday, we decided to call a “powder day” and go skiing as a team. Nothing short of BIG FUN and pure stoke!

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Kyle loving the tow

Kyle loving the tow

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beautiful snow day

beautiful snow day

sharing jokes

sharing jokes

a stoked birthday boy, Niels turns 24!

a stoked birthday boy, Niels turns 24!

Birthday boys get 1st tracks!

Birthday boys get 1st tracks!

Toby

Toby

Pato

Pato

Alisa

Alisa

Kyle

Kyle

Trudy

Trudy

Brian going deep

Brian going deep

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having crazy fun

having crazy fun

fat flakes falling

fat flakes falling

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Happy Birthday Niels!

Happy Birthday Niels!D

Jan 052014
 

SVT guides Joe St.Onge and Chris Marshall went for a recon tour above the Boulder Yurts today to check conditions for future tours. Good ski conditions were found above 9000′ and some stability issues including: new wind slabs (30cm deep) which were producing easy failures and planar shears in isolated areas as well as triggering a fairly large loose snow/sluff avalanche in the deep facets in steep terrain. Have fun and heads up out there!

Yes!

Yes!

Boulder Mountains

Boulder Mountains

Skinning Light

Skinning Light

Alpine Smokies

Alpine Smokies

Skis pretty good!

Skis pretty good!

Fall-line facets

Fall-line facets

Skiing among the ancient White Barks

Skiing among the ancient White Barks

D2 avalanche triggered in the full depth facets, ran fast.

D2 avalanche triggered in the full depth facets, ran fast.

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Chasing shadows

Chasing shadows