Breaking Trails and Breaking In

When your season starts as horribly as ours, you tend to go a while without getting out and splitboarding.  What also happens, is you end up getting a lot of new gear without getting a chance to try it out as you get it.  That was the case for us as we finally had enough snow here in the Front Range to go get on it and break in some of our gear.

We didn’t have much time and weren’t in the mood for much of a drive so we went to check out one of the closer local spots up past Nederland – Caribou.

As usual, a little windy up there.

"Nice" day for a split tour

“Nice” day for a split tour

Jess getting out on the Voile Mojo RX that we picked up in the off season, and me on my DIY splitty.

The quiver

The quiver

Felt really good just to get out on some snow again.  The frustration of this early season is unreal, and the best way to cure it, I’ve found, is to get out there when the going gets good.  (BTW, pretty obvious that we haven’t been out much since I FORGOT OUR FRICKIN POLES!)

Awww, snow.

Awww, snow.

Jess is sporting a whole new setup including the Voile MojoRX split, Voile Lightrail bindings, new G3 High Traction skins and Black Diamond Covert Avalung pack.  That means: lots of GEAR REVIEWS on the way.

Testing out the new Voile and G3's

Testing out the new Voile and G3’s

So nice to be able to actually dig in the snow.  What did I find?  About 1-2ft of soft slab on top of rotten depth hoar, yup, not too good.

Cocaine... so much cocaine!

Cocaine… so much cocaine!

AND, some new gear of my own to test out including the Ortovox Haute Route pack, some Arcteryx Theta AR bibs and a new Lowe Pro camera bag setup for backcountry photo shoots.

Satisfaction!

Satisfaction!

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Something to talk about

I clicked onto my blog today and I swear I could hear crickets echoing in here.  It all comes down to the fact that this blog is just a way to express passions and interests.

As a snow lover in the winter mindset, if there is no snow, there’s no passion and no posts.

Frustration has been at an all time high here in Colorado as the state is at basically zero snow levels.  Another couple of weeks of this and I’m not sure I would make it to Christmas.

Butthurt on the rise in CO

In comes talk about the proverbial “pattern shift.”  This is some mystical thing that is supposed to bring massive amounts of snow to the state, but me, along with most other Coloradoans, will believe it when we see it.

Pattern Change?

Living vicariously through Mammoth mountain locals only lasts so long before that just gets depressing.  Let’s pray, dance and burn stuff to keep this “pattern change” coming!

Mammoth now... CO soon?

Mammoth now… CO soon?

Shoulder Season: Storms, Snowmaking and Stoke

If your stoke meter is running around the green or blue level, just give it a few days, cuz things are starting to happen.

The stoke meter climeth

First, there is moisture heading our way from a cut off low pressure system that brought a couple inches to mammoth and is heading our way promising to drop a few inches on our local mountains.  It may be warm, wet stuff (snow levels starting around 10-11k then dropping to around 8k) but snow is snow especially when it makes a base.  [Of course, be careful what you wish for since Early Season Snow can be a curse]

Precipitation totals for the next 24 hrs… Green/Blue=Good

On top of that, Further, the snowboard film by TGR featuring Jeremy Jones premiers tonight in boulder at the Boulder Theater.  I have heard great reviews (except from the folks that are waiting for the DVD’s to ship) and going to see it in a premiere atmosphere should definitely help move that stoke meter needle.  If you need a little pick me up yourself, here is the tour schedule.  If you haven’t seen the trailer, you should:

Finally, while Loveland and A-Basin are waiting to announce their dates to open, it’s getting close as you can see here:

A Basin Blowing Snow on High Noon

Loveland Changing Colors

While we are talking snowmaking, and since I was curious about how it works myself, lets dive in and see why snowmaking isn’t quite as simple as just freezing water and blowing it on a slope.

The first thing you’ll notice when you start talking about snowmaking is this thing called the “wet bulb” temperature.  What the heck is a wet bulb and why do we even care?  Well, the wet bulb, in the simplest form, is a way to relate regular temperature and humidity in the air and gives an idea of what effects evaporation will have on temperatures of air or water vapor.

Believe it or not, snowmaking CAN occur at temperatures above freezing and it can sometimes NOT occur even below freezing.  So why don’t resorts just crank the guns up whenever they want… $ and limited resources (water supply).  Especially in this economy and after last years dismal season, efficiency is the name of the game.  Basically, the drier the air (low Relative Humidity) and the colder the temperatures the more efficient.

The Efficiency Chart for Snowmaking. Green=Good Yellow=Marginal Red=Go Biking

This is all based off of how snowmaking equipment functions.  There are varying types of snowmakers but in general, they work on the same principles and need the following:

Cold Ambient Temperatures:
The Colder outside the better, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be below freezing and even if it is below freezing it’s not always ideal.

Evaporation:
Some of the heat is lost through the evaporation of molecules on the surface of the water drops that can help the water reach freezing and solidify.  Think of how cold your skin gets if you rub a little alcohol on it (not that kind of alcohol).  This is where relative humidity and the wet bulb come into play.  The more dry the air is, the easier it is to evaporate and cool the water drops.

Surface Area:
The smaller they can make each water droplet come out of the nozzle the greater surface area is exposed to the cold air and evaporation process, therefore more of the water turns to snow.

Supercooling:
Yeah, snow is pretty supercool but what they mean here is that if you use a compressed gas (like compressed air) and let it rapidly expand, it cools the air around it and helps to cool the water droplets to freezing.

Nucleation:
Not like nuclear bomb radiation or anything.  Even with natural snow from the clouds, water needs stuff to cling onto in order to really make good snow.  They call these nucleation sites and sometimes additives are used to help make this happen.  Ever heard of Cloud Seeding?

So there you have it, now you can sound super smart when you and your buddies are riding the WROD and someone asks why the joint is or isn’t making snow.

Snowmaking at A Basin Last Weekend

Let’s Get Epic

When it comes to snowboarding, I wish I could be the equivalent of Pat in Endless Summer and feel like any small slope was “the best [ride] of my life!” But, no. I got burnt out riding the 500 vertical feet bunny-hills-dubbed-mountains in Pennsylvania last year. I mean, it cost $65 a ticket to ride the same trails over and over and over and over and over again. Turns out it’s possible to go broke on boredom.

Then one day about a year ago, while flipping through some magazine, Ryan came across the Epic Pass. And, I was, like, “Whoa! Another reason to move to Colorado.” So for a year we started collecting coins and saving dollar bills in a pickle jar that still smelled like distilled vinegar.

A year later we moved to Colorado and like a couple of 7 year olds learning the value of a buck, we marched into a bank with that pickle-jar-piggy-bank and a couple of ziplock bags filled with ironed dollar bills. (I was feeling bored and OCD-ish one night so I ironed one dollar bills for a few hours.) And then we got these Local Epic Passes!

It’s an unlimited, no black-out dates, season ski pass to:
Arapahoe Basin
Breckenridge
Keystone

Limited (i.e. not on blackout dates) to:
Heavenly
Northstar

(10) restricted passes to:
Beaver Creek
Vail

So the plan is to brush up on skills this season and to get reacquainted with actually riding down real mountains. And, I need to learn to ride powder proficiently this winter. Then we’re planning on transitioning to backcountry for the ’12-’13 season. (That also happens to be the Mayan’s projected Apocalypse season. How convenient.)

Oh, and of course we got a (souvenir) pass for our Adventure Dog. We couldn’t resist. We took Rogue to Boulder Ski Deals where she posed for her own little Dog Epic Pass. Proceeds went to the Denver Dumb Friends League.

Climbing [how not to] Crash Course

It seems everywhere I look I find out that Boulder, Colorado is the mecca of something or the best of something else.  Recently we’ve been thrust (willingly) into the massive climbing scene that is Boulder. While our friends have been nothing but helpful and totally willing to share their immense knowledge base, we knew we had to increase our climbing IQ and quick!  So in typical Jess and my fashion, it was time for a (how not to) crash course in climbing.  Like everything else we get into, it always starts with some background research.

Step 1.  Learn the basics of Anchor systems and the foundation of climbing outside starting with Toproping

Toproping by Peter Lewis is a great intro to toproping and climbing outside with a nice layout and emphasis on safety.  After reading this one it became obvious that knowledge of setting anchors is vital, so we picked up Rock Climbing Anchors: A Comprehensive Guide by Craig Luebben to get a good comprehensive look at that aspect.  While some of it is a little advanced for our current needs, it is definitely a great book that we can grow into once we start leading 5.12 trad routes 😉Finally, we had to get an idea of where to go practice these skills so we came across the Front Range Topropes book by Fred Knapp.  Great resource for toproping hot spots in Boulder and the rest of the Front Range.  I really like how it describes the type of anchors and what kind of gear is required to set them up.

Now, based on these books we’ve got a gear list we need for toproping and skills we need to practice while sitting in front of the TV at night.

  • Rope, Carabiners, Slings, Webbing, Cordalettes…
  • Pre-equalized 2 and 3 point anchors
  • Self-equalizing 2 and 3 point anchors
  • Self-equalizing 2-3 point anchors with limiting knots

Now back to the books… we’ve still got to learn uphaul systems and mechanical advantage problems for this weeks RMRG meeting/practice.

Caribou Peak

I’m still pinching myself… some days (today, for example) it still seems like we’re vacationing in Colorado. It hasn’t completely sunk in that we LIVE HERE now.

The plan was to double-summit two 14ers (a peak that is 14,000′ or higher in elevation.) But, I’m that person that doesn’t care much for gambling and a 50% chance of thunderstorms by noon was too much of a gamble for me. Rule #1: You do NOT want to be on a mountain, above tree line, during a thunderstorm!!! This is why “alpine starts” are so important. You start your hike at sunrise so you can be OFF the mountain before the afternoon storms roll in. So, instead, we decided to summit a 12,300′ peak called “Caribou Peak.” It may not have been a 14er but it was undisappointingly (woohoo! made up word!) gorgeous.

We drove up to the trailhead to find that the trails were closed for reconstruction. There went our alpine start. After an alternate route that involved some 4WD, we drove the Kia as far as we were willing to take it – just short of running it into a river.

The detour tacked on an extra mile onto our already 6.5 mile hike but we didn’t mind. We crossed a river – thank goodness for hiking poles and gortex boots…

… and encountered a moose. A MOOSE!!! It stared at us for awhile, we stared at it…. while it continued to chew on grass. And then it just walked off. It must’ve weighed 800 pounds easy. That was the highlight of our hike. I mean, we saw a MOOSE! In the wild!

We hiked for a mile on a rocky road. Yes, this is a road that certain capable cars drive on!

Then we happened upon a nice, wide, meadow that led to the peak. It’s amazing how little these geological features can make you feel. We made sure to keep Rogue close because, you know, mountain lions and stuff.

After the meadow it was more or less a trek uphill, past another high altitude meadow with snow fields, rocks (so many rocks) and wild flowers:

There was really no trail leading up to the summit and this afforded me the opportunity to practice orienteering. After a while of just walking and walking and walking, it was, “Ooooh! SUMMIT!!:

We reached the top around 10:00 am, right on schedule. And within 30 minutes, we started seeing some clouds roll in:

Knowing thunderstorms were in the forecast, we decided it was time to jet. After quick get-oriented session and we were on our way downhill and back over a couple of streams.

Rogue was very afraid of crossing the river, but she made it out alright:

I seriously love this place. Seriously. Love.

Read Maps Not Blogs

I started learning Orienteering last weekend! Ryan worked with me on how to, well, get oriented with a topo map and compass – old skool style, no GPS. It’s about time I buckle down and learn how to read the land because orienteering is a crucial aspect to Adventure Racing and that’s the kind of racing we eventually want to go all in on. Adventure Racing has been on the Dream Board for a couple of years now. There are just a couple more skills I’d like to have under our belts but we’re coming for you in 2012, adventure races! Just a heads up. I’m doing my part.