Thursday, March 24, 2011

Smokie Mountains of Idaho UVM

"More than just ashes when your dreams come true..."
I am just returning from an amazing week of back country skiing in the Smokey mountains of South central Idaho.  This is the 10th season I have had the pleasure of skiing with a group of UVM students for their March break in Sun Valley.  Jon Abbott and I run this trip from the most comfortable back country wall tents and yurts owned and operated by my good friends Joe and Francie St. Onge of Sun Valley Trekking.  They operate 6 mountain huts in 3 major mountain ranges of Idaho.  It is from here we explore the mountain snow pack with a level 1 Avalanche  certification course and enjoy the delicate balance of earth and sky as we float down fall lines of burned timber and open bowls.  In many ways this is a very exciting week for me especially in seeing the revelation of many life time resort  skiers embracing the back country.  It is like owning a car that only goes in one direction and then realizing it can go many.  Watching this discovery is the very joy of the work i do in the mountains. Many thanks to the UVMers for all their cheer, tours and turns!
Yeah UVeey groovey new school style!

Skiing in the Burn from the huge fire three summers ago was a highlight of the trip.  Surreal tree lines and beautiful fluffy snow made a great day of touring for these Vermonters.  After 4000 feet of over hill and dale touring we were ready for to celebrate the last night in the Coyote yurt.  

My dear friend Joe St. Onge and myself still living the dream after two decades of skiing, climbing and working together.  Many thanks to Joe and Francie and the whole Sun Valley Trekking family for all there amazingly hard work to keep the backcounty huts running so smoothly!

Snow machine shuttle for the long skate out equals high client reward, yeah gotta love it!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Winter Expedition Course JSC

Alas the annual Winter Expedition course I co-instruct for Johnson State College has come and gone yet again leaving many great memories of blue bird days, bitter cold and snowy smiles.  The motto of  this field based course is best said by Dolores LaChapelle "When you dance with the mountain, the Mountain always leads", particularly in the White Mountains in the middle of February!  This is perhaps one of the greatest lessons the mountains have to share with us and our students.  Every mountain has a time in which it can climbed and skied,  the skill lies in knowing when it's "time".   While the process of this course teaches students this valuable lesson we impart the knowledge of using the right techniques at the right time as we journey on. 

We began the course with three days of snow and ice climbing techniques in Smugglers Notch and Crawford Notch.  The first day in Smuggs proved to be a great lesson in understanding how to take care of one's self when it's negative 30 with the winds, burr "we love New England, especially the Commonwealth!"  The next day we cruised up the Willy's slide in Crawford in order for students to learn to use the points on the bottom of their crampons which has become almost a novelty these days.  The next day was learning to become more effiecient with front pointing on some multi-pitch routes in the ampethetere at Frankenstein.  This was a stunning New England blue bird day with negative temps and cold blue ice!   Once again the winds and snows of Washington prevailed and we bailed on a Presi traverse.  We sought refuge in our local Worcester mountains concluding with a stunning snow shoe traverse through the hard woods and whispers that can only be heard in the subtle and sublime silhouettes of New England's knobs and crags.

Enjoying Willy's

Crawford Alpine experience

Brad Having a Blast

So Many routes

Josh and Ryan on the Smear

Wow that's Steep! Washington looming in the back

Ben and Sam hanging out for winter break
Yeah Commonwealth Brother Nate!
Wow haven't seen this site in awhile!
Dude "where tha fug are we"
Mt Elmore proud to the North
Ah Mansfield and Madonna

Twilight comes quietly

I'm not cold are you?
Ah the solace of the sunrise while winta camping
Devine always Stoked!
Into the sun are rarity in Lamoille county!
Shadows and Light
Strangest of places.....

The fairy and nymph world of the Worcesters
Overactive Moose in the Worcesters
The Mansfield and trails of Stowe
View out to the Whites

.....And the layers of adventure begin for another group of aspiring leaders as the winter storms deposit on this hemlock in complex and yet unrealized patterns as they begin their journey of using judgment to navigate the freedoms the wilderness.  Many thanks to the JSCer's for a well rounded week.