Dec 102017
 

Steep Powder in the Bench Lakes Basin

We are just returning from a 4 hut tour on the annual Apprentice Orientation. Every year, we spend the first 2 weeks of December skiing from hut to hut with the goal of opening each hut for the winter season and conducting training with the new apprentice guides. Here’s a report for what we are finding out there:

Sawtooth: We began the orientation in the Sawtooth where we skied from the Fishhook Yurt to the Bench Hut. The approach to both Fishhook and Bench are characterized by relatively thin but very supportive snow pack in the lower elevations allowing for fairly easy skinning. At Bench Hut, we were seeing 95cm snow pack that rapidly deepened to 140cm in the Bench Lakes Basin above. While we were there 30cm of snow fell and we found excellent powder skiing and good stability.

Boulder Yurt: The approach track is in and provides easy skiing through the meadows on the way in. It’s still a bit thin in the bowls above the yurt, but careful route-finding can reward skiers with powder turns.

Pioneer Yurt: As of today, you can drive to the summer trailhead and ski all the way to the yurt. The rain crust from a couple weeks ago as made for an extremely supportive snow pack that resembles a thin spring snow pack more than an early December snow pack. Once at Yurt level (8700′) the coverage is actually pretty good for this time of year (60-100cm depending on location). We generally found widespread wind affect on the surface. Once we get a resurfacing with the next snowfall, we hope to find some excellent conditions on a supportive base.

Coyote and Tornak: We are heading up there next and will report back with conditions later in the week.

We hope you are enjoying the early season and getting out with your friends. All the huts are looking great and we are excited for the awesome season ahead!

Snowboards always seem to get more faceshots!

All smiles after the first powder shot in the Sawtooth

ah, that wonderful feeling of laying down arcs in the dry powder!

Skinning above the Bench Hut on a cold December morning

Cranking turns through the fresh on the Triangle

The Apprentice team at Fishhook Yurt

Arriving at Bench Hut to open her up for the season

4th lake above Bench hut

Climbing to Yo Yo Ma

Welcome to the Sawtooth!

Climbing toward Dave Dog Peak with the Monolith Basin in the background

a solid strike at the Boulder Yurt

Fun and games at the Pioneer Yurt

Apres ski in a cozy Pioneer Yurt

Climbing to the moon

Felt like spring-time up in the Pioneers over the past couple of days

Coverage in the Pios

What a place!

Julie, stoked to discover the Pioneers

Skiing the beautiful meadows on the way to the Boulder Yurt

Jan 302016
 
the birthday girl!

the birthday girl!

We had a stellar day this week celebrating a birthday with the Sirens of Snow! For over 10 years now, we have been celebrating the passage of time, the company of good friends and powder skiing with this group of local ladies. What a gift we had had this week with perfect snow conditions, a stunning peak climb and a summit party!

cattails and powder

cattails and powder

heading toward Little Big Mountain

heading toward Little Big Mountain

Climbing Little Big Mountain

Climbing Little Big Mountain

ah, the beauty of the southern mountains!

ah, the beauty of the southern mountains!

the birthday girl

the birthday girl

pocket wind slab triggered from the ridge

pocket wind slab triggered from the ridge

Summit celebration: wine, sushi and cake

Summit celebration: wine, sushi and cake

powder skiing!

powder skiing!

spooning powder

spooning powder

faceted powder makes for perfect ski conditions

faceted powder makes for perfect ski conditions

the last climb

the last climb

the exit ski of Japaho Peak

the exit ski of Japaho Peak

and heading back home

and heading back home

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!

Dec 082014
 

James, floating by an ancient White Bark Pine

We are just returning from the Sawtooth Huts: Bench and Fishhook where we were conducting the annual intern/apprentice training and orientation as well as opening the huts for the season.  We found excellent early season coverage and snow depths in the Sawtooth, ranging form 50+cm in the valley bottom to over 190cm in the alpine.  The snowpack itself is relatively dense providing a great early season base for both skiing and stability.  Both the Sawtooth Huts are in excellent condition heading into the season and the skiing is great (see pics).  Bench is booked pretty solid starting around the Christmas holiday, but there are still  many free nights available in December and the skiing is on.  So if you want to experience the awesome ski terrain and cozy accommodations at Bench, now is the time to sneak in before it is too late!

190cm at 8800-top of Surprise!

190cm at 88OO’-top of Surprise!

Winter beauty on the way to Fishhook Yurt

Winter beauty on the way to Fishhook Yurt

Fishhook Huts look great and are ready for your enjoyment

Fishhook Huts look great and are ready for your enjoyment

Heyburn looms above the approach to Bench Hut

Heyburn looms above the approach to Bench Hut

Dumping above Bench Hut

Dumping above Bench Hut

Love it when it snows!

Love it when it snows!

The crew above the Gun Barrel

The crew above the Gun Barrel

mmmm.....

mmmm…..

New intern, James, testing the powder above 3rd lake

New intern, James, testing the powder above 3rd lake

Returning apprentice, Alisa, stoked to be back in the Sawtooth

Returning apprentice, Alisa, stoked to be back in the Sawtooth

Coverage into the alpine is good, on the way to Yo Yo Ma

Coverage into the alpine is good, on the way to Yo Yo Ma

A goat in his home

A goat in his home

Returning apprentice, Niels, stoked to be high in the Sawtooth

Returning apprentice, Niels, stoked to be high in the Sawtooth

New intern James, discovering the beauty of his new office.

New intern James, discovering the beauty of his new office.

Alisa squeezing the waning light out of the day.

Alisa squeezing the waning light out of the day.

hard to beat...

hard to beat…

Full moon rising above the Bench Hut

Full moon rising above the Bench Hut

Apr 302014
 
Celebratory toast

Celebratory toast

For over 12 years, Sun Valley Trekking has run an internship program during the winter season. The goal of the program is to provide training and mentorship to aspiring ski guides. The “job description” is to : Ski from hut to hut throughout the winter, maintain hut supplies, gather snow and stability information, develop personal backcountry ski technique and experience, assist on guided trips as porters and tail guides and seek mentorship and skill development with the SVT Guide Team. Over the years, many interns have returned for a second year to continue this progression and many graduates of the program are working as professional ski and mountain guides today. We often finish the season with an “Intern Final Exam” designed to test the skill and experience developed over the season. There are two styles of exam open to the interns: to guide the guides or to be guided by the guides. Both styles can help push the learning envelope and provide a rewarding experience. This years team: Trudy, Toby, Niels and Alisa chose to guide SVT guides: Joe St.Onge and Chris Marshall on a particularly snowy late April tour in the alpine Smokey Mountains. Powder, white-out navigation, steep skiing and a Chinese Downhill tested the interns’ skill and grit and was followed by the end of the season Guide Games back in town. Good stuff!

April white-out

April white-out

Stoked Toby, taking the lead.

Stoked Toby, taking the lead.

Heading toward Peak

Heading toward Peak

Chris giving feedback on route finding and group management

Chris giving feedback on route finding and group management

The higher you get...

The higher you get…

Into the Alpine

Into the Alpine

Trudy, taking over the lead for the third descent of the day

Trudy, taking over the lead for the third descent of the day

April Pow!

April Pow!

Yehaw!

Yehaw!

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Alisa guiding a particularly challenging (and sweet) ski line

Alisa guiding a particularly challenging (and sweet) ski line

the Team

the Team

IMG_0133

wow!

wow!

Francie opening the "Guide Games"

Francie opening the “Guide Games”

Making the Toast!

Making the Toast!

Fun for all ages!

Fun for all ages!

Brian, showing grit.

Brian, showing grit.

Chris and Pato were an unbeatable pair!

Chris and Pato were an unbeatable pair!

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!

IMG_8925

Kyle loving the tow

Kyle loving the tow

IMG_8931

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

IMG_9063

having crazy fun

having crazy fun

fat flakes falling

fat flakes falling

IMG_9102 IMG_9106 IMG_9109 IMG_9130 IMG_9152 IMG_9172 IMG_9201 IMG_9234

Happy Birthday Niels!

Happy Birthday Niels!D

Dec 122013
 
Francie, Chris, Marc, Pato and JP: an awesome collection of ski guides!

Francie, Chris, Marc, Pato and JP: an awesome collection of ski guides!

Every winter the guides of SVT gather to run training seminars and workshops. Typically we focus on particular goals at each training, dusting off skills, sharing lessons and tricks and evaluating how to do things better and more efficiently. This years early season training was focused on winter rescue. We discussed and practiced avalanche rescue, emergency shelters and stoves, 1st aid and then ran 3 separate sled evacuations off Titus Ridge to the trailhead. Check out the photos below to get ideas for different possibilities and approaches to addressing a forced bivy or having to evacuate a partner with a broken leg.

The familiar and always beautiful ski up Titus Ridge in the morning cold

The familiar and always beautiful ski up Titus Ridge in the morning cold

Niels hauling the SKED rescue sled

Niels hauling the SKED rescue sled

Brooks Range tarp emergency shelter as a pyramid

Brooks Range tarp emergency shelter as a pyramid

Francie using a Mega-Light, a deluxe emergency shelter.  Note the hot brews made with a sterno and ski poles.

Francie using a Mega-Light, a deluxe emergency shelter. Note the hot brews made with a sterno and ski poles.

Ed nailing a spacious and comfy emergency shelter with an 8x10 tarp and some trees.

Ed nailing a spacious and comfy emergency shelter with an 8×10 tarp and some trees.

Chris checking out Pato's shelter, beta-mid style.

Chris checking out Pato’s shelter, beta-mid style.

Pato's emergency stove. Simple: a sterno, tin can and metal water bottle will get the job done.

Pato’s emergency stove. Simple: a sterno, tin can and metal water bottle will get the job done.

JP using the brooks range tarp in another configuration

JP using the brooks range tarp in another configuration

Looking almost like a planned camp.

Looking almost like a planned camp.

Chris showing how a Alpine Threadworks tarp/sled can work for a simple shelter.

Chris showing how a Alpine Threadworks tarp/sled can work for a simple shelter.

Brooks Range all-in-one tarp/sled in a simple trough structure.

Brooks Range all-in-one tarp/sled in a simple trough structure.

Joe, demoing this simple emergency shelter and stove.

Joe, demoing this simple emergency shelter and stove.

Kyle with the 8x12 trap as a mid.

Kyle with the 8×12 trap as a mid.

Niels, improvising with no extra gear or tarp.

Niels, improvising with no extra gear or tarp.

Chris and Marc packaging Francie in an Alpine Threadworks sled.  Simple, quick and a guide favorite on the tests.

Chris and Marc packaging Francie in an Alpine Threadworks sled. Simple, quick and a guide favorite on the tests.

Ed and Niels constructing the standard Brooks Range sled.

Ed and Niels constructing the standard Brooks Range sled.

Packaged and descending in a SKED litter/sled.

Packaged and descending in a SKED litter/sled.

Fairly tight and comfy in the SKED.

Fairly tight and comfy in the SKED.

The SKED slides the best.

The SKED slides the best.

The SKED requires good braking on steep slopes.

The SKED requires good braking on steep slopes.