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

Dec 312016
 
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

Feb 282016
 
Climbing into the alpine above the Pioneer yurt is always inspiring

Climbing into the alpine above the Pioneer yurt is always inspiring

SVT guide, Joe St.Onge and apprentice Chris Cullaz, led a group of local ladies into the Pioneer Yurt this week. Perfect powder conditions, big peaks and the sublime beauty of the Pioneers worked its magic. What a place we call home!

Approaching the Pioneer Yurt on day 1 with beautiful weather

Approaching the Pioneer Yurt on day 1 with beautiful weather

Climbing the Peanut above the yurt with amazing backdrop

Climbing the Peanut above the yurt with amazing backdrop

We call this zone "Little Alaska"

We call this zone “Little Alaska”

Perfect powder above the yurt

Perfect powder above the yurt

Skiers and snowboarders playing happily together

Skiers and snowboarders playing happily together

#puremountainstoke

#puremountainstoke

The final turns back to the yurt with the setting sun

The final turns back to the yurt with the setting sun

good to the last drop

good to the last drop

schussing into cocktails, appetizers and a nice sauna after plentiful powder

schussing into cocktails, appetizers and a nice sauna after plentiful powder

a little light reading after a sauna

a little light reading after a sauna

sometimes things can get a bit...... at the yurt

sometimes things can get a bit…… at the yurt

Hyndman Peak, the tallest of the Pioneers commands the view above the yurt

Hyndman Peak, the tallest of the Pioneers commands the view above the yurt

The gals looking back toward Sun Valley and noticing how small Baldy looks

The gals looking back toward Sun Valley and noticing how small Baldy looks

The final steps toward the col du Hyndman

The final steps toward the col du Hyndman

Carving turns beneath the big peaks

Carving turns beneath the big peaks

Powder, friends and a beautiful setting

Powder, friends and a beautiful setting

It's getting hot...

It’s getting hot…

The final turns end a prefect 2 days in the Pioneers

The final turns end a prefect 2 days in the Pioneers

Feb 122016
 
It's hard not to smile when carving settled powder on the north burns

It’s hard not to smile when carving settled powder on the north burns

SVT Guides, Chris Marshall and Joe St.Onge, are just back from a quick 2 day trip into the Coyote Yurts with a fun group of local skiers.  Sunny skies, warm temps, settled powder and some of the first corn turns of the season were enjoyed by all.  What a place to call home!

What a day to climb a high ridge on the way to Coyote

What a day to climb a high ridge on the way to Coyote

Carving the first corn turns of the season

Carving the first corn turns of the season

Lunch break on the way to the yurts

Lunch break on the way to the yurts

Arriving at the Coyote yurts after a great day of skiing

Arriving at the Coyote yurts after a great day of skiing

Nothing like good friends, good meat and great wine at a yurt high on secluded ridge

Nothing like good friends, good meat and great wine at a yurt high on secluded ridge

Soft evening light at the Coyote yurts

Soft evening light at the Coyote yurts

From hot to cold: the sauna dash

From hot to cold: the sauna dash

From cold to hot, the dash gets faster!

From cold to hot, the dash gets faster!

 

Alpin glow mantra

Alpin glow mantra

IMG_0228

The team!

The team!

Burn beauty

Burn beauty

Dropping into the burn

Dropping into the burn

Climbing above the yurts on the second morning to ski the burn

Climbing above the yurts on the second morning to ski the burn

It can be a world of black and white contrast when skiing the burns

It can be a world of black and white contrast when skiing the burns

and final tow back home...

and final tow back home…

Jan 022016
 
oh yeah!

oh yeah!

The tradition continues! From near and far, a group of hearty skiers gathered for the 5th annual Yurtika. The destination for this year was the Coyote Yurts, and like the past couple years, deep powder was on the menu. Fun times and awesome skiing – doesn’t get much better!

Cold smoke dropping in front of Coyote Yurts

Cold smoke dropping in front of Coyote Yurts

more from the front door of Coyote Yurts

more from the front door of Coyote Yurts

Hil, carving down the south bowls heading home

Hil, carving down the south bowls heading home

ahh, big arcs in the powder

ahh, big arcs in the powder

The man and the legend, Mike

The man and the legend, Mike

Ben, liking the new Coombacks

Ben, liking the new Coombacks

Geoff, arcing the old Sidestash

Geoff, arcing the old Sidestash

Crispy, splitting the aspens

Crispy, splitting the aspens

Cold morning start from the yurts

Cold morning start from the yurts

Skiing off the Burn Unit

Skiing off the Burn Unit

tree ski

tree ski

Good morning from the Coyote Yurts!

Good morning from the Coyote Yurts!

Climbing back to the yurts after a morning lap

Climbing back to the yurts after a morning lap

Climbing back to summit of Little Round Top

Climbing back to summit of Little Round Top

The view from the yurts

The view from the yurts

pre-dawn view of the Coyote Yurts, coffee is ready and powder is waiting.

pre-dawn view of the Coyote Yurts, coffee is ready and powder is waiting.

Setting moon and sunrise

Setting moon and sunrise

The team, preparing to drop one last line down to the yurts before sunset

The team, preparing to drop one last line down to the yurts before sunset

Arriving at the yurts right before dark after 5000' of pure powder

Arriving at the yurts right before dark after 5000′ of pure powder

A warm yurt, good friends, yummy food and plenty of powder skiing make for a perfect evening in the backcountry

A warm yurt, good friends, yummy food and plenty of powder skiing make for a perfect evening in the backcountry

Hil, setting moon and silky powder skiing out the door from the yurts

Hil, setting moon and silky powder skiing out the door from the yurts

Nov 082015
 
ULLR!!!

ULLR!!!

At the start of every winter season we celebrate the coming of winter with a BIG fire.  We honor the change of the season and the coming days of arcing down mountains on skis.  We honor the Norse God Ullr, known as a great skier who would leave trails of stars behind his skis and drink to his health with hopes he will smile upon us.  This year we had the annual Ullr fire up at the Boulder Yurts, where we had a giant pile of slash from recent woodcuts.   Friends, family and guides came to celebrate the new snow and the joy of the coming ski season.

And an early season it has become.  On November 1st, we were riding bikes in the spitting snow and by the 4th, we were floating down fields of powder on skis.  The recent storm dropped snow to the valley bottoms but favored the upper elevations in the Smoky and Boulder Mountains with over 20″.  This storm snow has settled significantly this week, hopefully creating a good base for our next storm predicted to drop 5-10″ in the next 48hrs.

Hopefully this portends the start of an epic ski season where we can all celebrate with Ullr!

Friends, families, sleds, fire and FUN

Friends, families, sleds, fire and FUN

November 1st and the start of the storm, perhaps the last mountain ride of the year...

November 1st and the start of the storm, perhaps the last mountain ride of the year…

Not bad for November 4th

3 days later on November 4th

Ahh, back on skis

Ahh, back on skis.  Francie breaks trail with a smile.

Fun in the snow with sleds and snow-skates

Fun in the snow with sleds and snow-skates at the Boulder Yurts

The Ullr Fire burning bright

The Ullr Fire burning bright

Francie, dropping in to a powder field

Francie, dropping in to a powder field, November 4th, 2015

Joe, enjoying some early season powder

Joe, enjoying some early season powder

We LOVE snow!

We LOVE snow!

Joe, stoked to be back on skis

Joe, stoked to be back on skis

Oct 232015
 
Autumn beauty riding out from Coyote Yurts

Autumn beauty riding out from Coyote Yurts

Autumn is transition time. It’s a time of long shadows, cold nights and anticipation of the winter to come. It is the time when we at SVT are prepping the 6 backcountry ski huts and prepping our legs and lungs for the ski season ahead. While we cut wood at three huts using trucks, much of the work we are doing at the huts requires access via human power. For us, that typically means riding our bikes. We are blessed with an awesome network of trails in our local mountains that allow us to spin our bikes, often with awkward loads, from hut to hut. The bikes have an added benefit of prepping our bodies for the ski touring season while providing the feeling of “flow” that is so vital to our souls.

SVT owner and guide, Joe St.Onge and partners, are just back from a big day (26 miles and over 7,000′ of riding) yesterday while checking in at Coyote, Tornak and Boulder Yurts. The trails were frozen solid and covered in frost in the morning and melted to “corn dirt” by mid-day. What follows are a collection of pictures from yesterday as well as from the past month of hut projects in the mountains.

Here’s to sucking the marrow from a beautiful autumn in anticipation of an awesome ski season!

Dave, riding up to Coyote Yurts

Dave, riding up to Coyote Yurts

Endless mountains and trails in the Smokey Mountains near the Coyote and Tornak Huts

Endless mountains and trails in the Smokey Mountains near the Coyote and Tornak Huts

What an office we have!

What an office we have!

Brian, dirt carving on the scenic way out of Coyote Yurts

Brian, dirt carving on the scenic way out of Coyote Yurts

IMG_7262

The newly relocated Boulder outhouse: with a view of Boulder Peak

The newly relocated Boulder outhouse: with a view of Boulder Peak

IMG_0564

Boulder yurts looking ready for the first skiers

Boulder yurts looking ready for the first skiers

The Pioneers above the Pio Yurt in all their glory

The Pioneers above the Pio Yurt in all their glory

Friends help insulate the Pioneer yurt for the coming season

Friends help insulate the Pioneer yurt for the coming season

Coyote Yurts, ready for the snow to fly

Coyote Yurts, ready for the snow to fly

SVT guides, Joe and Toby, buck up the sauna wood at Boulder Yurts

SVT guides, Joe and Toby, buck up the sauna wood at Boulder Yurts

SVT guide, Niels, braves a awkward load in style on the way to Fishhook Yurts

SVT guide, Niels, braves a awkward load in style on the way to Fishhook Yurts

Retired SVT guide/intern, Brian, finds some air coming into the Coyote Yurts

Retired SVT guide/intern, Brian, finds some air coming into the Coyote Yurts

The crew, biking through Tornak Huts on the way to Coyote Yurts to button up the huts for the snow to fly

The crew, biking through Tornak Huts on the way to Coyote Yurts to button up the huts for the snow to fly

SVT guides, JP and Toby, proud of the tight stack at Boulder Yurts

SVT guides, JP and Toby, proud of the tight stack at Boulder Yurts

SVT guide/owner, Joe St.Onge, bucking up a big tree at Boulder Yurts

SVT guide/owner, Joe St.Onge, bucking up a big tree at Boulder Yurts

Apr 152015
 

 

Oh Yeah!

It’s been a tradition for over 30 years now, where every April, a few hearty souls embark on an adventure deep in the Sawtooth. Huge loads are packed up to huts that include great food, cold beer, chainsaws and gas.  Over 8 cords of wood are cut (4+ at each Bench and Fishhook huts).  One by one, we drop the abundant beetle killed pine trees and haul in the logs on shoulders and in sleds while on skis.  The piles of logs can be intimidating, but every year we get it all in, bucked up and stacked in preparation for the following season.  When the cut is done, the focus turns to skiing.  We build the huts, cut the wood and haul the loads because we are skiers, inspired by the magic of the mountains that we live and work in.  The Sawtooth smiled upon us this year with perfect conditions for both the cut and the skiing.  Some cool new lines were explored, like the “skilunking” adventure in the “Bat Cave”,  as well as some true classics in perfect conditions.  Enjoy the pics!

Alisa schralping the powder ribs toward the 4th Lake

Alisa schralping the powder ribs toward the 4th Lake

crossing the 4th Bench Lake

crossing the 4th Bench Lake

Heading toward the Bat Cave on Mt Heyburn

Heading toward the Bat Cave on Mt Heyburn

JP, psyched

JP, psyched

Getting ready for some skilunking

Getting ready for some skilunking

JP climbing toward the light to see whats above

JP climbing toward the light to see whats above

Niels finds the passage

Niels finds the passage

JP on the upper couloir, leading toward the Bat Cave

JP on the upper couloir, leading toward the Bat Cave

Steep traverse above the cave

Steep traverse above the cave

Dropping into the cave with a little added security

Dropping into the cave with a little added security

JP exiting the cave onto the 1000' powder slope below

JP exiting the cave onto the 1000′ powder slope below

Toby, ripping through the cave

Toby, ripping through the cave

take a deep breath and let 'em rip!

take a deep breath and let ’em rip!

Alisa inspired to spread her bat wings

Alisa inspired to spread her bat wings

Burning slash after cutting and hauling 5 cords of wood, on skis.

Burning slash after cutting and hauling 5 cords of wood, on skis.

Dinner time at the Fishhook Hut, rustic comfort deep in the Sawtooth

Dinner time at the Fishhook Hut, rustic comfort deep in the Sawtooth

 

Bluebird.  Fresh snow and splitter weather

Bluebird. Fresh snow and splitter weather

Approaching the top of Silver Saddle

Approaching the top of Silver Saddle

Toby with the final turns into the Monolith

Toby with the final turns into the Monolith

Toby, stoked after skiing perfect powder on Silver saddle bowl

Toby, stoked after skiing perfect powder on Silver saddle bowl

James, entering the Monolith Valley

James, entering the Monolith Valley

Sawtooth Beauty: The Monolith stands proud above this hanging valley, where aesthetic ski lines abound

Sawtooth Beauty: The Monolith stands proud above this hanging valley, where aesthetic ski lines abound

making the ascent toward Braxon Peak

making the ascent toward Braxon Peak

The Wily Coyote Col

The Wily Coyote Col

The final steps toward Braxon Peak

The final steps toward Braxon Peak

James

James

The heart of the Sawtooth

The heart of the Sawtooth

Making our way from Braxon Peak toward the Birdcage

Making our way from Braxon Peak toward the Birdcage

Aysha, dropping the sneak route into the Birdcage

Aysha, dropping the sneak route into the Birdcage

Bridcage looking pretty sweet.

Bridcage looking pretty sweet.

Joe drops in

Joe drops in

Neils, stoked

Neils, stoked

Toby, stoked

Toby, stoked

Skiing the final slopes below the Monolith

Skiing the final slopes below the Monolith

Alisa mid powder carve

Alisa mid powder carve

Oh Yeah!

The team working back toward the Silver saddle and the Bench Hut

The team working back toward the Silver saddle and the Bench Hut

and more powder brings us back to the 5th Bench  Lake and closer to the Bench Hut

and more powder brings us back to the 5th Bench Lake and closer to the Bench Hut

ahhh...

ahhh…

quite nice

quite nice

JP, having fun

JP, having fun

Sweet, and its not over!

Sweet, and its not over!

Chris, slashing some more powder on the way back to the hut

Chris, slashing some more powder on the way back to the hut

Niels and the afternoon back light

Niels and the afternoon back light

Why is Toby smiling so much?

Why is Toby smiling so much?

What we were really doing up at the Sawtooth Huts

What we were really doing up at the Sawtooth Huts