Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Broken Thumb (Couloir)

After my mom's maladies this past year, we decided to go out and get a "Broken Thumb". Okay, that's not really fair to my wonderful mother, but I thought it would be a fun play on words. the Broken Thumb we sought out is a couloir (steep, narrow gully) on the north side of a peak call 25-Short in Grand Teton National Park, so named because it is 25-ft short of 10,000 feet in elevation (9975-ft above sea level). I've had my eye on this line since the first time I heard about it: relatively easy access, not extremely committing (I suppose this is relative, but you have to admit that it is in the shadow of the South, Middle, and Grand Tetons...), and not extremely high in elevation. I saw it as a great warm-up to Teton ski mountaineering and since the snow isn't great anywhere and avalanche concerns are low, President's Day weekend was the time to give it a shot.

Alli and I, along with our friend Tom, struck out Monday morning from the Bradley-Taggart trailhead. After a short stint of loosing the skin track at the beginning, we reached the top in a little over 3 hours. It was beautiful outside. The sun was shining, it was warm, we were in high spirits. We geared up and set off for the couloir. I have to stop and admit here that it gives me a feeling of studly-ness when you put on a harness with gear on the top of a snowy mountain, amid many taller peaks, about to put skies on your feet. Go out and try it sometime!

The descent to the "squeeze" of the gully was really wonderful snow. The three of us leap-frogged down through the trees and into the throat of the gully. The section immediately above the "choke" or crux of the route, is a no-fall zone above a cliff, so our skiing slowed as we descended to the rappel anchor. We set up our rope (70 meters) and one by one walked back over into the unknown. Okay, it wasn't that dramatic, but it sure sounds good, eh?

Snow at the bottom of the rappel was steep and stiff, keeping us on our toes for another 500 feet or so until it opened up to an apron of softer snow. Then we rode the icy luge track out of the draw, across Taggart Lake and back to the car. What a fun line to grab under blue skies and sunshine in the middle of February. Happy Valentine's Day and Presidents Day all wrapped into one. Click on any of the pictures to see them larger.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

January/February Check-In

Hello all! Thought we would give you a life update on the past couple of weeks since the Jackson Skimo Races. Life is so good; God is so good! Our jobs are going well and we are excited about some upcoming trips. Cue the foreshadowing music...

Since the beginning of January, we have been skiing a bunch on the weekends, though the snow this season has been dismal since December. I wish those folks in Boston would share some of their wealth. It sure doesn't appear on the news as if they want it. Teton Pass just west of Jackson has afforded plenty of adventure with Kyler and various ski buddies. There still seems as though there are unlimited new places to explore, and lots of quickly-becoming-favorites. It's fun to start to know the area enough to pick where we want to go based on conditions. 
Alli competed in a women's hockey tournament at the end of the month. She practices weekly with a team and then plays on some weekends through the season. Guess what! Their team won their class and Alli scored a goal! She seems to pick up a new technique (or 3) every week and we expect great things out of her in the next tournament in March. 

We both traveled to Bozeman the next weekend and competed in the Skimo race at Bridger Bowl. I competed in the race division among the other lycra wearers and did pretty well. Initially, I had big visions of podium finishes but settled for a battle with another racer for 6th place. There are a lot of things to learn, particularly about race strategy and skin choice, but my fitness can improve as well. It's fun to look ahead to the next season and how I can grow as a racer. The conditions were horrendous: icy, no new snow, slick skin tracks... And Alli completed the Recreation division in top form. Bless her heart, she has done this race twice and pushed through after being sick for both. I can't wait to do this again and see what she can do fully healthy.

And the big highlight recently is finally becoming fully-fledged ski patrollers at Snow King Ski Area. Look it up: the ski area is really cool, rising directly from the edge of town. And the runs are steep and north facing, so if the snow is good, skiing can be great. We volunteer to cover a lot of races for local junior racers and Olympic hopefuls alike. It was a lot of work to gain the medical training and learn the on-hill skills necessary to respond to injured skiers. To be honest, there was a little bit of selfishness in this whole thing: we wanted to gain the skills to help each other if misfortune crosses our trail or if we came upon someone injured. 

I will leave you with these final pictures of skiing in the Teton Pass backcountry. Get out there and get yourself some adventure!