ADK Slidin' | December 19th

The Northeast was blessed with perhaps the best Fall snowpack in recent memory.  Starting in mid November the snow came down hard and rarely let up. Having recently moved back to New York from Bozeman, Montana, it was nearly impossible to keep myself from making the five hour drive from Ithaca to the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks.

The inner reaches of the high peaks are one of the best places in the northeast to do some real ski mountaineering without having to worry about your line getting skied before you can get there. There is a cost to skiing these unique lines however. They require a long approach followed by a dense bushwack, which can be just a few hundred feet or a few miles depending on the objective. It requires navigational chops and a familiarity with the area.

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Our objective for the day was a slide formed in 2011 during tropical storm Irene. With a trailhead meet up time of 8:30AM, it meant I was up and out the door before 4AM. After a long drive and a beautiful sunrise I found myself with my ski partners Rob and Kellen at the Adirondack Loj. Temperatures were in the low teens but the sun was out, the wind was minimal and it was turning into a beautiful day.

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The trail was well broken in by a mix of ski tracks, snowshoes, and hikers in recent days. We glided on skins with ease to Marcy dam, then to Avalanche Pass. We were making great time and by noon we found ourselves looking up our objective. After fully assessing the snow by digging a pit, we observed some windcrust on top in spots but nothing that made us feel unsafe. We also observed that the looker’s left of the couloir was completely blown in with soft snow, which made us excited for the decent. After a quick lunch we threw our skis on our backs, took out the crampons and ice ax and started the ascent.

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It felt amazing to be back in my element. Spending a year in Montana made me truly fall in love with ski mountaineering. Piercing the snow with my ice ax and kicking steps up this steep chute was euphoria to me. On top of that, I was back in the place where my love for this style of skiing developed.

About three quarters of the way up the grunting phase started for me. It wasn’t helping that each step was different. Sometimes I would stay right on top of the wind crust layer and it would be like walking up stairs. Other times, I would sink up to my chest and have crawl my way out.

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We made it up the headwall and turned around to take in the view. Only two days from the winter solstice, the afternoon sun was low in the sky, making for some magical light across the pass on the McIntyre Range. There was still nearly no wind and after transitioning to downhill mode, we assessed our best route downhill as well as safe points to stop.

Finally it was time to ski. Having broke most of the trail on the way up I was given first turns. The headwall was more of that punchy windcrust. While I felt confident it wouldn’t slide on me I was worried about a ski punching through the crust and getting caught on a turn. Thankfully neither happened and I made my way down into the gully where the snow had all blown in. This was where it got good. The chute had a double fall line that made it ski almost like a half pipe in spots. Wind drifts of light dry snow were waist deep at points making for some great turns and a few faceshots. We broke our descent up into four sections, stopping for photos and videos along the way.

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Our stoke was high as we reached the bottom and we exchanged high fives while looking back up at our line. As we made our way out my mind soon wandered off to which Adirondack slide I’d ski next.

Roadtrip | October 2nd - 17th

Some of my favorite shots from my Fall road trip back to New York.

South Sister, Oregon

South Sister, Oregon

South Sister, Oregon

South Sister, Oregon

South Sister, Oregon

South Sister, Oregon

Oregon

Oregon

Oregon

Oregon

Oregon

Oregon

Highway 1, Oregon

Highway 1, Oregon

Highway 1, Oregon

Highway 1, Oregon

Highway 1, Oregon

Highway 1, Oregon

Redwood National Park, North CA

Redwood National Park, North CA

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, UT

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, UT

Moab, UT

Moab, UT

Moab, UT

Moab, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches National Park, UT

Arches

Arches

Arches

Arches

Delicate Arch, Arches

Delicate Arch, Arches

Pagossa Springs, CO

Pagossa Springs, CO

Pagossa Springs area, CO

Pagossa Springs area, CO

Summit County, CO

Summit County, CO

Kremmling, CO

Kremmling, CO

Kremmling, CO

Kremmling, CO

Hyalite Canyon Thru-Hike | September 8th & 9th

In the past two years, I’ve had the opportunity to spend time in some amazing places that I will always appreciate. Although it’s coming to an end, my time in Montana, unsurprisingly, has been no exception. The beauty of this place, along with the abundance of open public space, makes it difficult to part with. These last few weeks I’ve been reflecting on the highlights of my time spent here but also, all of the things I wasn’t able to get to.

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            One of these things was a good ole fashion thru-hike. September is possibly my favorite month for hiking and camping anyway, so I pitched the idea to Dan who was immediately in. After spending so much of our winter and summer in Hyalite Canyon, it only seemed right that we hike around there one last time. We picked out a neat little route that would take us on a roughly 16-18 mile journey over Mount Blackmore, right by Alex Lowe Peak, and finally following Cottonwood Creek all the way to the South Cottonwood Canyon Trailhead. After taking a relaxing morning and dropping off my car at the finish, we arrived at the trailhead of Mount Blackmore around noon. If I could pick one trail I’ve become very familiar with in Montana, it’s the trail up to Mount Blackmore. It’s a welcoming trail surrounded by lichen covered trees and gentle creeks. Having spent so much time on this trail in the snow, it’s always a trip seeing the lines we would ski in the winter without any snow on them. During our planning, Dan and I purposely left it fairly open-ended. We had a route picked out which would bring us close to some potentially serious objectives but we wanted to play it by ear and see what we were up for once we got there.

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            Eventually, we were approaching the saddle that separated Mount Blackmore and Elephant Mountain. We were making good time and while our path took us over the saddle and into the next valley, we had agreed that Blackmore was too close to not summit. I hadn’t been on top during the summer and it would have been Dan’s first time up there altogether. However, the weather had other plans and almost immediately after we dropped our packs to head for the summit, a clap of thunder echoed from over Elephant. Before we could say anything there was another boom of thunder and we were out of there and into the valley where we would camp for the night.

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            Of course, once we got into the valley, about 2,000 vertical feet below Blackmore, the little bit of rain there was had cleared and there was no more thunder. We were still feeling optimistic though. The extra time we had allowed us to find an ideal campsite. It was almost overwhelming; each spot we came across was better than the last. Finally, we found a small pond with tons of open, level ground at the base of one of the peaks. I went for a dip, set up camp then ate some freeze-dried meals, a personal favorite.

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             In the morning, still unsure with what we wanted to do with our day besides hike out, we took a late morning and weighed our options. Since we didn’t have a chance to summit Blackmore, we were eyeing Alex Lowe Peak across the valley. There’s no official trial to the summit or any route we could spot that wouldn’t include any potentially sketchy scrambling. As we broke camp and started hiking, we stuck to our laissez faire approach and continued to say, “let’s stop there and see what we think” all the way to the base of the mountain.

            Upon reaching the base we dropped our packs and took a look at the ridge leading to the summit and figured that if we could get there then the summit would be cake. The only issue, was actually getting there. As we got closer made it clear there still wasn’t any real easy way up, but it definitely wasn’t impossible so we figured what the hell. We began to walk up the steep slope and before long we were basically crawling. We also made sure to not follow each other at any point since what we were scrambling up was merely loose rocks and dust with some grass in between.

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             I’d be lying if I said the last portion of the climb wasn’t sketchy. Not because of any steep pitch or exposure, but again because everything was loose and sliding or breaking off when we climbed up it. Each step or hold we reached for had to undergo a quick test to see if it could even hold our weight. More often than we’d like, the rock would pop out and tumble down the slope.

            Despite some sketchy rock, we made our way up to the top of the ridge and looking ahead didn’t look any worse than what we just came up so we kept going. To our surprise, we hit the summit in less than five minutes from there. Sitting at the top was a cairn with some wheathered Himalayan prayer flags secured around it, which we assumed was to commemorate the peak’s namesake, Alex Lowe. After being on this mountain in both the winter and the summer, it’s hard to think of many others that have such a fitting name. It only makes sense that such a remote peak with no easy way up it has been named after one of the greatest mountaineers who ever lived.

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             Now that we had bagged a peak, Dan and I were feeling even more satisfied with our trip. Not only did we now have to make our way down the sketchy loose rock we just came up, but we also had to hike about 12 miles back to my car at the other trailhead. The way down proved to be less scary than we had thought and only 45 minutes after summiting we were back at our bags and heading down the canyon.

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             One of my favorite aspects of Montana is the incredible diversity of its geography within such small areas. On our walk back to the trailhead we walked through alpine meadows, lush forests, and dry grasslands, all while occasionally crossing over creek that we watched expand from our campsite as more tributaries emptied into it from the high peaks above us.

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             While I still have some things I never got around to doing out here, this last adventure was the perfect thing to end on. Besides, having adventures left undone means I’ll have to come back for them someday.

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Winter Camping In Hyalite | March 25th & 26th

Back in early December we stumbled upon a small backcountry hut while touring in the Blackmore area. We dropped our packs and crawled through the snowy entrance to see what was inside. We were surprised to find some accommodations such as sleeping pads, a saw, a hatchet, pots, pans, and even a wood burning stove. Why the hell you'd want to drag a stove up a mountain is still a mystery but we were stoked on our discovery. As we sat in this small hut made of fallen branches, drinking some beer, we talked about how awesome it would be to camp out in it and be the first ones out in the morning to get some turns.

Well, fast forward to late March and this idea became a reality. The road into Hyalite Canyon is closed from April 1st to mid May so this was our last chance to make this trip happen. Chris, Charles, and I stuffed our biggest packs with what should have been a sled load's worth of supplies and set off for the hut on a Sunday afternoon. The weather in Bozeman was beautiful and it felt like early Spring. Blue skies, no wind, and temps in the mid 40's.

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As we drove up into the canyon the temps started to drop as expected. By the time we were on the trail, snow was steadily falling. The little sprinkle of snow became heavier and heavier and before we knew it, it was full-on-dumping. As great as some new snow was, we were starting to get exhausted by the weight of our packs and our clothes were becoming saturated. 

Finally we made our way up to the top of the trail and into the meadow below the east face of Blackmore. Our pace had slowed to a crawl and we were following tracks that were running parallel to where the hut was. The slope was steepening and I figured we must be above the hut's elevation. Grudgingly, I started breaking trail, heading in what I believed was the general direction of the hut. After a few more demanding minutes I reach the cliff at the edge of the ridge. I look up, then down. No hut. I wait for Chris and Charles to catch up and Chris and I accept that the hut is below us.

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At this point I look over at Charles and he's not doing so hot. I've gone on a few solid trips with Charles and he sometimes brings more stoke than necessary gear. Everything he was wearing was soaked and his hands were looking more blue than they should. He was starting to feel a little out of it so we knew it was important that we find the hut soon. Chris and I both agreed that it wasn't more than 20 yards from the edge of the cliff somewhere below us so we transitioned and began to descend through the trees.

Just as I was starting to get worried that we passed it somewhere along the way, I spotted the hut. I get out of my skis and go over to the entrance. Wait, was this the same entrance as last time? I try to squeeze in, no shot. I'm able to poke my head inside and there's a decent four foot wind drift about half way into the hut. Just great. While I didn't expect anyone else to be in the hut, I expected at least one other group to be as dumb as us and try to camp there at some point this season. I grab my shovel out of my pack and start digging. Chris and Charles join me shortly and Chris starts helping me with the digging while Charles tries to warm himself up. After what felt like too long, we dig out a decent enough trench to get our gear and Charles inside the hut and out of the snow. Looking at the wood stove, we could see the pipe went out to the side at the bottom of the hut instead of out from the top. Another project to start on. Chris and I grab our shovels again and go around to the side of the hut where the pipe must lead. There's gotta be at least six feet of snow blown up against the hut. At this point we're all pretty cold, tired, hungry, and thirsty, but there weren't too many options so we started digging again. From inside the hut, Charles would bang on the wall above the pipe to help us dig in the right spot. Again, after what felt like forever, we strike some metal. Holy shit, we actually found it. Whoever built it did a solid job and built the chimney with a little roof so there wasn't snow lodged inside of it at all. 

Feeling accomplished, Chris and I head back inside to help start a fire. Now we're really feeling worked. All I wanted was to sit down, cook some food, and feel warm and dry. Except these logs just won't catch. We're trying everything to start this with fire, lint, toilet paper, old business cards. I realize that backseat driving over Chris's shoulder doesn't help us in any way so I go back to shoveling out the entrance in the hopes it'll warm me up a little more. Suddenly I hear a crackling, I turn around and Chris got it. A little bit of inner caveman comes out of us as we let out a few hoots and hollers and exchange high fives. The hut starts warming up and we get our wet clothes off of us and hang them up on the nails and ropes above the stove. 

That fire got us out of the definite low point of the trip. We were, again, overly excited to be out in the woods and resumed our talks of how good the snow was going to be the next day. After some warm food and a little whiskey to wash it down, we stepped out of the hut to see that the snow had cleared and the full moon was lighting up the mountains enough to not need a headlamp. From the edge of the ridge we had a clear view of Elephant Mountain across the valley. The night was truly calm, with no wind howling or snow falling.

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We woke to clear skies and a calm breeze. After some breakfast we emerged from our warm sleeping bags and set out for a day of steep and deep skiing. Charles led the way on our first lap, clearly much more energetic than on yesterday's climb. We ascended up to the ridge to dig a pit and evaluate the snow. Lucky for us, the eastern aspect of Blackmore doesn't get too windy so the snow was stable, with the main concern being sluffing (loose, light snow, usually not enough to bury you but possible to knock you off your feet). 

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The first lap was short but sweet. With the snow being stable we were feeling ambitious and decided to go for the summit. When we made it up to the ridge we saw a solo skier nearing the top. I was shocked to see someone riding this level of terrain alone but I guess he must have felt confident by the other tracks on the slope since he was staying in between them. After admiring his turns it was time for us to head up. The wind had picked up on the ridge and the weather started to feel arctic. I also didn't anticipate boot packing up to the top so I failed to bring a daypack that had a ski carry. Slinging my skis over my shoulder made for some complicated climbing but finally we made it to the top.

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It was pretty rad being on top of Blackmore for the second time this season, once being in early November and the second being in late March. Our goal this time was a chute we'd been looking at every time we came up to Blackmore. We carefully navigated the mellow summit snowfield in order to land ourselves at the top of the chute. It might seem obvious but it's significantly more difficult to navigate while you're on top of the mountain than at the bottom. Looking down at the slope below me I felt halfway confident I was standing at the top of the chute. I knew that it was either that or I was going to ski a hanging snowfield. I dropped in and the snow was unreal. Some of the best turns I've taken all season without a doubt. As I'm nearing the bottom I start realizing that I in fact am on the hanging snowfield. Whoops! I cut across the slope, narrowly missing my own sluff that I set off (rookie mistake) and ski down the opening in the cliffs. I radio up and let Chris and Charles know where the cliff is and where the chute is and shoot some photos of them tearing it up on the way down.

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We exchange more high fives and look back up at one of the best runs any of us had all season. It's finally time to head home. We ascend one more time and ski the woods back down to the hut, load up our heavy packs again, and shred back to the car.

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Maid of the Mist Mountain | January 8th

Hyalite Canyon is becoming what the High Peaks Region in the Adirondacks or Jay
Peak in the Green Mountains has been in past years. We spent the earlier months of the season exploring the go-to destinations in the area but now we're itching to see the routes less traveled. 

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One of the peaks we had been looking at is Maid of the Mist Mountain. A very picturesque mountain it naturally drew us in. From the trail the visible aspect of the peak is the eastern side, a huge rocky face. We made our way along a well trafficked trail until we reached the creek we would follow up to the southern side of the mountain. From there it would be a bushwhack.

The way up was a steep with minimal room to maneuver which led to a few belly flops from each of us. As I started working my way up one small steep section I felt my skins losing traction right before I started to slide backwards. "It's happening!" I yelled as I crashed into Kevin before finally toppling over. 

Thankfully there was a group that had been up before us which made our ascent just a little easier. After a few more stumbles and laughs we finally made it to the Maid and passed along it's southern rocky face. We got some good views of the treacherously steep couliors that would require some dialed technical skills and some rope. Definitely not for today. 

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The backside of the Maid is drastically different from the front. It almost resembles a big slug, but I guess that's a way less appealing name. The slope was gradual and in no time we were at the summit. What made bagging this peak even sweeter was the sun finally peaking through the clouds as we transitioned to downhill mode. 

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After skiing some thoroughly baked sun crust snow, we found ourselves on top of the creek we planned to ski. The drainage was wide and steep and snow the was stable. It was some real adventure skiing and felt very similar to the slides in the Northeast. 

We maneuvered our way through a few more steep pitches and over some mandatory sends and found ourselves back on the main trail. Exploring our little corner of Southwest Montana has been a trip. It's remarkable how much terrain there is in this one area. We got on the trail after 7am, skied 2000 feet of vertical, and got back to the car by 3pm. As we head back I reflect on the adventure we just had and begin thinking of the next one.

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Alex Lowe Peak | December 10th

It's been awhile since I had a start this early. But sure enough at 3:05 the alarm went off and I was out of bed. With our bags packed the night before we were out the door a little after 3:30. We arrived at the Mount Blackmore trailhead and we were heading up by 5. 

We kept a speedy pace as our headlamps lit up our little patch of the forest. We managed to catch first light hit Blackmore and watched the light slowly work its way down the mountain toward the valley. 

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We made our way up the ridge to the saddle between Blackmore and its neighboring peak, Elephant. We finally got some sun on our faces and warmed up a bit as we began to transition for our first descent of the day. 

The snow had been baked by the sun which left us with less than stellar crusty conditions for the decent down the backside of the mountain. Thankfully that was not what we came for this day. After reaching the valley and following a creek for a little it was time to eat an early lunch and get ready to approach our objective.

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After some delicious lasagna with meat sauce curtesy of Mountain House, we were heading towards our objective for the day, the North Couloir. Upon arriving at the base of it, we dug a pit to see if it was safe to ski. 

The snow was damn near unbreakable. We were almost able to take out an entire column, surface to base. Feeling pretty good about the snowpact, we sent it upwards.

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This kind of skiing has a real mix of pros and cons. Being able to travel deep into the Montana backcountry, ski a crazy line, and not see another soul the entire day is a pretty spectacular thing. Doing stuff like this is an incredibly rewarding experience if you can get past those early start times and late finishes. Doesn't come without the cons. And being dead tired after a 20 mile day certainly hovers around the top of that list of said cons. Somehow it's always worth it.

Mount Blackmore | November 11th

Preface

It's been a bit since I did one of these trip write ups. I spent the summer at home spending most of my time working and saving money for the big move out to Bozeman, Montana. With my free time I'd do some weekend adventures with friends upstate and spend time with Hope. On October 18th I packed my Subaru with my gear and belongings and made the journey west. By November 1st it was full on winter and our local backcountry zones were filling in nicely.

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Blackmore

Chris and I woke up to some fresh wet and heavy snow on the ground in Bozeman. Unsure of what the conditions would be at a higher elevation so we set a mellow goal for our day in the backcountry. 

Upon arriving in the parking lot at Hyalite Canyon it was clear the conditions were going to be better than we thought. We started up the trail and passed the sign reading five miles to the summit.

After a couple hours we reached a meadow below the ridge leading up to the summit and dug a pit to evaluate the risk of avalanches. We decided the snow was stable and we had a great shred down the meadow below us.

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After a refreshing beer at the bottom we sent it back up to see how the snow near the summit was. Once we got on the ridge we could see some tracks off the summit and two skiers heading up in that direction. While other skiers' tracks don't always mean you're good, we felt the snow was safe to ski from the pit we dug earlier. 

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Eventually it got to the point where we had to strap our gear to our backs and break out the new ice axe. I'm no climber so even some entry level ski mountaineering will get my heart racing. After a few minutes of kicking my boots into some holds, stabbing my axe through the snow, and lots of heavy breathing we summited.

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The landscape of this place is both magnificent and humbling. The best thing you can do is respect it and hope it respects you back. 

Alaska

Seattle, WA

Seattle, WA

Seattle, WA

Seattle, WA

Seattle, WA

Seattle, WA

Seattle, WA

Seattle, WA

Juneau, AK

Juneau, AK

Juneau, AK

Juneau, AK

Juneau, AK

Juneau, AK

Juneau, AK

Juneau, AK

Juneau, AK

Juneau, AK

Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier

Davidson Glacier

Davidson Glacier

Davidson Glacier

Davidson Glacier

Davidson Glacier

Davidson Glacier

Skagway, AK

Skagway, AK

Skagway, AK

Skagway, AK

Skagway, AK

Skagway, AK

Skagway, AK

Skagway, AK

Skagway, AK

Skagway, AK

Skagway, AK

Skagway, AK

Skagway, AK

Skagway, AK

Skagway, AK

Skagway, AK

Skagway, AK

Skagway, AK

Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay National Park

Ketchikan, AK

Ketchikan, AK

Ketchikan, AK

Ketchikan, AK

Ketchikan, AK

Ketchikan, AK

Victoria, BC

Victoria, BC

Victoria, BC

Victoria, BC

Victoria, BC

Victoria, BC

Victoria, BC

Victoria, BC

Northeast Backcountry Pt. 4 | April 14th

I didn't know if I'd be back in the Adirondack High Peaks for some skiing. After a few days breaking 70 and 80 degrees and some serious rain, I figured time was running out to make some final backcountry turns. With the forecast showing us some clear skies and fairly warm whether, Devon, Kevin and I decided it was time for a Marcy trip. 

We picked up a few beers and ciders, made a quick stop at Stewart's, and were on our way to the Adirondack Loj. As we turned down the Loj Road, we could see the substantial loss of snow from Sunday to Thursday. The southern side of Algonquin looked nearly bare and the slides on Colden looked like they would soon look the same. This didn't come as much of a surprise, as I wasn't expecting phenomenal skiing from this trip, but rather a good time wandering around the woods with some friends.

Upon arriving at the Loj, we readied our packs and cracked open the first cold one of the evening. Our friends Tyler and Tim, who were hiking Phelps for sunrise, showed up soon after. We threw on our heavy packs and set off towards Marcy Dam. The sun soon went down and those of us who didn't feel like taking our packs off to grab a headlamp found themselves stumbling on down the trail, using our poles for guidance. Once we arrived at Marcy Dam we discovered that all of the lean-tos were occupied, which we didn't expect on a chilly Thursday night in April. After weighing our options, we parted ways with Tim and Tyler and started to head up to Avalanche Pass since there were more lean-tos along the way. 

We finally found one that was unoccupied and settled in for the night. The temperature was a bit colder than I had thought it would be and I found myself with all of my layers on huddled up in my sleeping bag. Unfortunately there are no fires allowed in the high peaks wilderness, so boiled water in a nalgene was the best I was getting for some extra warmth in my bag. After a few more beers, it was lights out with a predawn start time.

After hitting snooze a few times, we emerged from our sleeping bags, made some breakfast, and prepared for the day. Expecting very little snow, we did not pack skins, instead bootpacking up the whole way with micro spikes. Unlike last year I brought my hiking boots, which made a huge difference. The morning was chilly but we warmed up quick on the steep trail. We stopped at the base of Indian Falls which was raging from all of the snow melt. Despite all of the warm weather and rain, there was still a ton of snow to be found in the upper elevations. We didn't stop to measure it, but based on the post-holes of other hikers and snowy ledges leading to thawed streams, I would guess it was roughly chest deep around 4,000 feet. 

We emerged above the treeline sometime after 9AM. It was a beautiful, clear morning, with no clouds in sight, minimal wind, and a warm sun. It was obvious that the bowl was not hurting for snow, and was still very well filled in. Mount Haystack loomed behind us, with the extremely steep cliffs leading down to Panther Gorge on either side. As we made our final push to the summit we could feel the snow softening up under the morning sun, reassuring us we'd have some corn skiing instead of bullet-proof ice.

Once we reached the summit the calm breeze and blue skies convinced us to stay awhile, so we enjoyed a lunch with a view. It was regular ole picnic, complete with tunes, beer, and pizza. Marcy, being the tallest peak in the northeast next to the Presidential range, naturally offers some pretty stellar panoramic views of the rest of the high peaks. We ended up staying there for nearly an hour before finally deciding to start head down.

While the snow quality was not as good as it was on Algonquin earlier in the week, it was still a beautiful descent. The sun had warmed up the snow enough to allow for some good corn skiing. 

After the snowfields, we did the usual free fall down the hiking trail, avoiding trees, rocks, hikers, and holes leading to running water. This time we weren't able to ski all the way to the car but we did make it back to Marcy Dam before having to switch back to our hiking gear. The best part of the day? Pie. We made the essential stop at Noonmark Diner for some pie on our way back, just like any expedition to the high peaks should include.

Northeast Backcountry Pt. 3 | April 9th

Spring had sprung and the corn horn was sounding. After a few snowy April days we were getting some true spring skiing, high 50s and blue skies. We grabbed our Hawaiian shirts, our sombreros and set off to the High Peaks. 

The storm from the previous two days left us just enough snow to skin on. However, the streams and rivers were starting to thoroughly thaw out which made for some interesting crossings.

Once we started to gain elevation the snow quickly started to pile up on the trees. The warm sun was starting to melt it but luckily the trail was wide enough to keep the thawing snow from raining on us. We maneuvered our way up some small ice falls and slipped and bellyflopped our way up some steep pitches before making it to the alpine zone. Funny enough, Stairway to Heaven came up on shuffle right as we climbed the last steep pitch before surfacing above the treeline. 

Once we were out of the trees the wind kicked up a few notches and it felt like winter again. We threw on some layers, put our skis on our packs, and had a quick bite to eat before making our final ascent to the summit.

We had beautiful views of Wright, Colden, and Marcy as we made our way up the snow covered rocks. After reaching the summit, we made our way over to the bowl, cracked a few hard ciders open and began to transition for our descent. 

The bowl was short but steep and blessed us with some beautiful corn snow that wasn't too sticky or icy. The relatively short descent allowed us to lap it multiple times. Skiing in the high peaks is always a treat. It is one of the most beautiful and least traveled regions for skiers in the northeast.

Even after hiking the 46 high peaks and going multiple ski expeditions in the Adirondacks, they never fail to be breathtaking every time. The vista you get as you ski down is something you can't find in too many places on the east coast.

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Although I didn't shoot any photos for the last part of our journey, believe me when I say it was a hoot. We made our way back over to the hiking trail began our ski back to the car. The trail is definitely not designed with skiing in mind and becomes more of a bobsled track as you quickly turn and duck branches with a bit more speed than you might want. 

When we made it to the lower part of the trail the snow began to lessen and we found ourselves dodging rocks, jumping streams, and skiing across grass patches, too stubborn to put our gear on our backs and walk to the car. Somehow we managed to make it back to the parking lot with our skis and boards still attached to our feet, without any damage to our bases.

I'm not sure if this will be my last ski tour in the Adirondacks for this season but if it was I can't think of a better way to end it.

Stella | March 15th & 16th

It seems that since October this ski season has been a series of storm cycles followed by extremely warm thaws. Our last storm cycle ended in the middle of February and we were treated to temps in the mid 60s and practically no snow for weeks. 

Fast forward to mid March and suddenly what started as a promising Nor'Easter became one of the biggest storms in east coast history. Conveniently enough, I found myself with my college ski club in a cottage located at the base of Jay Peak, Vermont for the duration of the storm. When we saw that this storm actually had a name, we knew we had to get up there before everyone else did. 

On the morning of March 15th our group of seven was heading uphill well before sunrise. The snow was dumping, the wind was howling and we could see that the Jay Peak staff was hard at work digging the resort out before opening bell. 

I'm not sure if it was pure excitement but something was driving all of us up that mountain faster than a normal uphill pace. It almost felt like a race to the top. I'm sure taking a month off from any uphill activity didn't help but I was huffing and puffing. We talked about how great our run was about to be as we waved to the grooming cats passing by us which resembled a smoking white mass.

We reached our destination, the top of the Bonaventure quad, at about 7:30am. Since our group was fairly big we split up and I went with the group that skied a trail called Deliverance. It's a notoriously steep trail that starts as a chute and finishes as a tight glade with some cliffs along the way. With snow up to our waists and chests it was great way to welcome back winter. After some face shots and a few hucked cliffs we were back at the base in front of the chairlift waiting third in line for it to open.

The next two days were not too different from that first run. We skied until closing and found fresh snow nearly every turn. The next day a few of us went over to Big Jay in the afternoon. Somehow no matter how deep the resort is, Big Jay is always deeper. The skin track was more of a trench on our approach. Our descent was unlike anything else over the past two days. Any terrain under thirty degrees was almost not skiable. The snow was so deep it was hard to move in anything fresh. However, on the steeps it blew up to your shoulders and over your head the whole way down. 

Being at Jay Peak for Stella was one of most incredible experiences of my life. It's never felt so good having nearly the entire east coast skiing community (including myself) proven wrong as soon as we were ready to hang up our winter hats. Skiing snow so deep you have to keep your buff above your mouth so you don't start choking does not happen often out here. Before I went to bed I found myself scrolling through pictures and videos trying to comprehend what had just happened.

Photo by Kevin McAvey

Northeast Backcountry Pt. 2 | February 6th, 2017

The snowfall in the northeast, especially the northern regions of New York and Vermont have been superb recently. Light snow had been falling for the past two weeks creating some phenomenal powder skiing in the region. Combine that with seeing rain in the forecast within the next two days and we were quickly on our way to ski some steep terrain before the weather ruined our beautiful snowpack.

Our adventure started in the Adirondack Loj and we off for Marcy Dam. Before I go any further, I'm going to follow Adirondack backcountry etiquette and not make this a detailed trip report of where we skied with a route to get there and GPS coordinates and whatever else. If you can figure out which slide this is, you probably already know the route.

The sun was shining through the trees and reflecting on the fresh snow in the early hours of the day as we approached Marcy Dam (or is it now Marcy Meadows now). We got into the open and were welcomed by blue skies and light breeze. The temperature was well below freezing but warm enough to be bearable whenever we stopped. We were able to see our destination off in the distance and it was looking promising. 

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We found the gully and followed it in the woods up to the base of the slide. Now that we were up close and personal with the slide we felt excitement as well as our nerves kicking in. Along the way I jumped on a few test slopes to see what would happen. Nothing slid but we knew better than to rely on that. We skinned up a little farther and dug a pit. The results from the pit left us feeling a little more confident but still nervous. Then I'm not sure anything would entirely calm our nerves. While we were digging another group of three skiers came up and observed the results with us. We determined it was safe to ski, but to ski it with caution.

Everything past the pit we dug was a steep skin track with tons of switchbacks. Our fellow skiers were kind enough to break trail for us as a thanks for digging the pit. We began gaining elevation very quickly as we made our up along the side of the slide.

We didn't stop to measure the gradient of the slide but if I was to spitball the steepness I'd say somewhere around 38 to 40 degrees. Soon, after a some photos and delegation on the route, we found ourselves at the top of the slide.

Finally it was time to descend. We decided to ski the right side to avoid any potential wind loaded snow that would slide easier. I was the guinea pig and said I would ski first (sorry mom). After picking a good spot to stop I skied down a fair distance and parked myself in the woods to shoot some photos of everyone descending. The snow was light, perfect blower pow, and most importantly stable.

Lucky for me, the perfect light we had on the way up went away right as we started our ski and it began to snow. While this made me happy as a skier, it was a little disappointing as a photographer. Regardless, the skiing was absolutely amazing and I'm definitely hooked on slides. Now we can only hope that the snow stays powdery and safe for us.

Northeast Backcountry Pt. 1 | January 28th & February 3rd

After a long January thaw winter returned to the northeast. Despite a rainy start to the storm, over two feet of snow fell within two days in Vermont. Casey and I headed out for Jay Peak, Vermont. We started our morning skiing some sidecountry off of the Flyer lift which had been closed the day before, offering us tons of fresh before the crowds got to it. 

After our favorite lines got skied out we went to a backcountry zone near the resort to chase the remaining fresh snow. After skiing the deepest east coast snow I've seen in awhile and getting tons of faceshots on the way down we decided we had enough time in the day to do some more exploring. We found ourselves on a steep and tight skin track followed by an even steeper bootpack up to a chute.

Photo by Casey Corrigan

The snow continued to fall throughout the week. Kevin and I got up early Friday morning before tending to our responsibilities. We went to a local zone near us in the Adirondacks. There was a gentle snowfall that had clearly been falling all night based on the mostly filled in skin track we were following. 

The further up we went the harder the snow fell. By the time we decided to ski the down I had to put my camera away because of how heavy the snowfall was. I'm not entirely sure how much snow there was but it was deep and it was light. This was the kind of snow you don't normally see out east.

Bell Lake | January 13th-15th, 2017

In the last post I said how we had not originally planned to go to Jackson Hole. Our original plan that our trip was based around was an Avalanche course with Bell Lake Yurt. Our entire trip revolved around this expedition and Kevin and I were teeming with excitement on the way to the Tobacco Roots Mountain, about an hour west of Bozeman, MT. 

We arrived shortly before 8AM and met the rest of our group and our guides. After a drive down snowy road it was time for the five mile snowmobile ride to our uphill starting point. With temps hovering around 0F, having no skin exposed for this ride was crucial. My rookie mistake occurred when I put sunglasses on instead of goggles and let my cheeks and forehead freeze right up. 

After our sled ride ended we start our trek uphill. With fresh snow on the ground, the guide was breaking trail the whole two miles up to the yurt. The land was open, the area was beautiful, and with temps warming up once we left the valley it was turning into a great day.

Once we arrived at the Yurt we were in for the day for some lecture about snow science. After dinner a few of us went outside to see the stars. The previous day was a full moon and the moonlight hitting the mountains created some incredible shadows that I had never seen before at night.

The next two days were spent skinning in the Bell Lake area, digging pits, doing mock rescues, and studying the causes and effects of avalanches. I cannot say enough of how beautiful the landscapes around us were. What a pleasure it was to combine the classroom with the snowy Tobacco Roots Mountains. I frankly felt spoiled by the end of the trip, not only due to my surroundings but the difference of a guided trip in a yurt to good ole roughing it. 

Although it was painful looking at perfect couloirs, chutes, and bowls, and not being able to ski them due to the avy risk, I appreciated the reality of backcountry skiing. Sometimes you get to ski and get face shots and have a great day. Sometimes you get there and see it's unsafe and go home alive.

I also want to thank the guides, Drew Pogge and Tucker Cunningham. It was great to have a brain to pick about not only avalanches but general backcountry knowledge. Thanks for making us some great food and giving us the power of knowledge.

Megastorm at Jackson Hole | January 9-11th, 2017

Jackson was not our initial destination when Kevin and I planned this trip out. However with forecasters calling for up to 5 feet of snow we felt that we had no choice but to get down there as quick as possible. We made it to Jackson before they closed the roads and were greeted by snow being measured in feet. 

Despite major lift delays due to some serious avalanche danger, we skied some of the deepest snow I've encountered. On our second and third day there, we met up with some friends from Plattsburgh who also were making a trip out there.

After getting ample face shots it was time to return back to Bozeman for our avalanche course. On our drive back we were accompanied by beautiful blue skies and a great view of the backside of the Grand Teton from Idaho.

Photo by Kevin McAvey

Photo by Kevin McAvey

Photo by Kevin McAvey

Hyalite Canyon | January 6th & 7th 2017

After arriving in Bozeman, MT and getting an exceptionally chilly day in at Bridger Bowl (-20F to be exact) we decided to save some cash and head into a nearby backcountry zone called Hyalite Canyon. Lucky for us, the temps stayed above 0F for the day and the avalanche danger was fairly low. Our trek started in a mostly empty parking lot along a cross country track which then headed into the woods up to some open and steep meadows.

Photo by Kevin McAvey

While the low avy risk was comforting, it came with the price of tracks. While seeing tracks on a slope does not guarantee your safety, this is a very popular area and it looked like a there hundreds of tracks on the slope. This was mostly due to the lack of new snow. Regardless, we were still able to a find a few powdery patches on our way down.

Photo by Kevin McAvey

On our second day in Hyalite Canyon we were greeted with more sun and warmer temps. We skinned into a zone called Lick Creek. A mostly flat skin followed by a fairly low angle meadow which was mostly tracked out. Upon returning to Bozeman, we looked at the weather for the region and spotted the potential for roughly 4-5 feet of snow in Jackson Wyoming. So off we went.

Return of the Jay Cloud | December, 2016

There's an old expression in skiing "no friends on a powder day." It means that if the snow is deep you shred it, no if, ands, or buts about it. Friends too slow? Leave em behind, you gotta get the freshies. I've recently come to disagree with that. Having friends on a powder day is the bomb.

There's something truly euphoric about ripping that first powdery run with your buddies, hootin' and hollerin' the whole way down. It channels an inner happiness you can't get from many things in life, similar to the way you may hear a surfer describe riding their first barrel or a skateboarder landing that one trick they've been trying to get for months. Having your friends their for that moment only makes it that much better.

After the travesty that was the 2015-16 ski season, getting a weekend at Jay Peak like this one tasted even sweeter than it normally would. We spent Saturday charging all around the mountain and returning to our favorite trails and glades we didn't get to ski last year. On Sunday we decided to explore the sections of the mountain that were not open yet and see what we could find.

Skiing deeper and better snow than we got all of last season resonated an intense level of stoke in all of us. At the end of the day, with ear to ear grins, we talked eagerly about the days on the slopes ahead. 

Snovember | November 20th-22nd, 2016

More early season snow storms calls for more play-on-words. With the foliage well past peak, early sunsets, and cold temperatures that stayed above freezing, it's been that time of the year where there's little to do. This all changed when we saw a huge November storm coming in. Just like every storm I saw predictions ranging from a few inches to two feet of snow in the mountains. 

For day one of the storm Dave and I went to Whiteface Mountain to see if we could find some fresh snow they were boasting about on their social media. Aside from a few heavily wind drifted spots, we found that they were fluffing a bit. After a freezing and windy ascent filled with snow guns blasting us head on, we maneuvered our way down around the rocks and managed to get some a few powdery turns in.

For day two of the storm, we didn't have as much time thanks to classes but we still got out there and went to a small ski hill in Saranac Lake called Mt. Pisgah. Despite limited vertical drop or a steep slope, there was tons of snow so after a few deep turns we built a booter and had a quick session on it before the sun went down.

Photo by Matt Daley

Photo by Matt Daley

For the final day of the storm Dale and I made it over to Jay Peak, Vermont where I seemed like the storm hit the hardest. We were not disappointed. We pulled into the parking lot to find a few other skiers and boarders skinning or bootpacking up the mountain as well. The snow was still coming down on our way up. It looked like the areas where the wind was pushing the snow to would ski very well. This was definitely the deepest and steepest skiing I was able to get in during this storm. It's exciting that this season is off to such a great start. With six days under my belt already, I'm looking forward to getting some lift serviced days in.

Octobruary | October 23rd & 28th, 2016

I'm not sure if anything compares to the excitement I feel from the first snowfall. People often compare exciting events to Christmas day as a kid but I'm not even sure if that stacks up to it. The routine is the same every year leading up to the first day. You hear it from somebody somewhere then immediately scan every single weather report you can find and see if it's really true. Seeing that this was was the real deal I called up Devon and Kevin with a plan to send it up the toll road on Whiteface Mountain. We met up with our friend Josh in the morning and drove into winter.

Driving through the snow line is such an exciting part of first snowfall in the mountains. The valley in the Whiteface area and the town of Wilmington got a light dusting but as we drove up the road leading up to the toll road it change from fall to winter within a few feet. We realized there was enough snow at the bottom to skin all the way up which we were skeptical of initially.

The toll road was long, flat, and windy but having snow all around us made it okay. I expertly managed to wear very thick socks thinking that it will keep my feet warm only to remember that thick socks lead to blisters in my ski boots. After switching to thinner socks we carried on to a point in the road where it was too wind blown to ski over and prepared to go downhill.

The first couple of minutes was a struggle as we fought the wind the whole way down. Once we made it around a turn the wind worked in our favor and we flew down the road past all of the late risers working their way up the road. We hooted, hollered, (forgot to take the camera out) and slashed what little powder we found on the side of the five mile road. 

At the bottom of the road we exchanged some high fives and took our gear off. Realizing that days like this one are a rarity, Kevin and I wanted to take full advantage of how photogenic it would be. With the clouds breaking and the sun coming out, it was clear we were going to get a few good shots.

We drove down to the base of Whiteface resort and were greeted by some beautiful post-peak foliage colliding with a wintery snow line. You could see exactly where the snow started falling as it made its way up the mountain. Afterwards we drove to Lake Placid for lunch, stopping by some scenic locations along the way. To wrap up the day, Devon got on his mountain bike and we shot a few photos before the light slipped past the mountain.

We got word that more snow would be falling in the higher elevations on night of the 27th into the next morning. Naturally I made a few calls to see who would be interested in playing hooky and heading into the mountains. Seeing that last week Stowe got roughly 11 inches up top and had been blasting their snow guns all week I decided that would be the ideal destination. As always, Kevin was down for an early morning to head over there before it warmed up.

The drive over to Vermont made us very unsure of what we would find. We encountered rain the entire drive up to the mountain. Suddenly in the last mile to the resort we drove right into winter just as we did the week before. There was still some freezing rain at the base but that quickly turned to snow as we started to ascend.

By about halfway up the mountain it was dumping. Fat flakes were falling so heavily I didn't want to take my camera out in fear of water damage. We reached the top of the resort with a big grin on our faces and looked around in awe at how wintery this October was. The snow near the top was fluffy and deep and made for great turns especially for this time of the year. The fluff turned to mush as we reached the bottom but hey, it was still skiing.

Photo by Kevin McAvey