Fun Prison


Recently I spent 2 days sled skiing in the paradise that is Cooke City. I got home late Sunday, repacked, slept a few hours, then headed to the other side of Yellowstone National Park to the Centennial Mountains to stay at the Hellroaring Powder Guides for 3 nights and 4 days.

The camp is in a wilderness study area so everything has to be packed in and out every winter without the help of motorized equipment. This makes for a unique spot which is well supplied but still primitive and provides a great wilderness experience (as long as you don’t cross into the snowmobile area a couple miles away).

My buddy Austin came up from Silverton with some snowmobiles and we headed to Cooke City for a couple days of sled assisted powder skiing.

Pilot and Index peaks from just below Daisy Pass. We had great weather and snow conditions in Cooke.

Took Dudley out for a ski to watch the sunrise over Cooke City on Sunday.

Then I met up with some friends in Bozeman and headed to the Montana/Idaho border to meet up with more friends from Jackson Hole. We snowmobiled about 10 miles then had another 3 mile hike to the camp. Once there we unpacked and headed into the hills to explore.

Leif scoping his line across the valley from camp.

We skied both the east and west sides of the creek the first two days trying the find pockets of soft snow (we did!). The third day we all headed out to make a summit push for nearby Mount Jefferson (10,208′).

Olly stoked on Mount Jefferson.

Bee stoked after a successful summit mission on the peak behind him. We still had 2000′ vert of good snow back to camp too.

On the last day, we decided that instead of taking the same trail back to the trailhead we would attempt to climb and ski Nemesis Mountain(9,449′). After a fun but circuitous ski tour, we topped out on a large avalanche path. With our heavy packs we opted to stop there and ski the avalanche path back to the valley. The summit would have to wait.

Pat Owen enjoying the last run of the trip, 2000′ vert of perfect corn.

A few photos from December (and technically New Years day)


Here are few photos from a couple of tours in the Bozeman/Big Sky area over the last month. Snow has been pretty good though a recent dry spell starting to show its wear on the snowpack.

I have been exploring a little bit up Hyalite, where the snow is good on certain aspects but pretty rotten everywhere else.

East Face, Mount Blackmore

East Face, Mount Blackmore

Evan Johnson skiing some low angle pow

Evan Johnson skiing some low angle pow

I also had an early New Years morning mission with Patrick up Middle Basin above Big Sky. Best snow of the season for sure and the terrain is looking nicely filled in.

Sunrise in Middle Basin above Big Sky

Sunrise in Middle Basin above Big Sky

Patrick Lawrence airing a cornice in Middle Basin

Patrick Lawrence airing a cornice in Middle Basin

Touring on the Beehive Ridge

Touring on the Beehive Ridge

Autumn Rock Climbing Season


In the past few weeks I have stumbled across a wide range of really good climbing in the area. I may have missed these spots over the summer because it was 118 degrees out and too hot to even think about rock climbing. But with temps in the 70s and 80s in the fall I have been climbing almost every weekend.

Endless climbing to explore at Castle Crags State Park

I had the chance to go to nearby Castle Crags State Park and check out some really awesome and uncrowded granite climbing. The approach takes about an hour and climbs pretty steeply, but has some great views of Mt. Shasta.

Yet another Shasta photo... I think it is now the most photographed mountain on my site.

One of my new climbing partners, Jason, led our crew of mostly beginners to Super Crack Spire. This spire had a nice variety of climbs from a great 5.9 crack to a really exposed 5.6.

Nick on the 5.9 "Super Crack"

Nick checking out the views while on belay.

Apparently there are a lot of first ascents possible in area. I wouldn't doubt it, there was hardly anyone here and climbing as far as the eye could see.

Unfortunately, Castle Crags is on the chopping block to be one of the 70 California State Parks that is being closed due to budgetary constraints. I try to avoid politics in general, but I find it very frustrating that I lose access to public land that my taxes are supposed to pay for, but due to mismanagement and poor legislation I am forced to be crowded into less open space. Hopefully these politicians will come to their senses and realize how valuable recreation and wild lands really are… then again this is California and the politicians would have to get out of their cars to realize this.

While on this rant… I also have been up climbing in Lassen National Park, which has a whole different set of access issues.

The day started out with a brisk hike to help Nick get his turns in for October. He has been on a mission to ski one day every month this year and was cutting it close at the end of October. I helped him out and went and skied a few icey turns with him.

Nick enjoying the view before changing into ski boots.

A nice Halloween Eve

Does this look like October 30th to you? Maybe if you were on the East Coast...

After an icey but fun run. We made the quick hike to the “Rock Band” a fun crag at the base of Lassen Peak.

Mount Diller and Brokeoff Mountain, looks like good skiing.

The forbidden Lassen Peak

Nick and I set up a top rope on a nice 5.9 crack. It was a unique experience skiing and rock climbing without even stopping at the car.

Nick at the crux.

Nick on the way out

Skiing during the offseason?


A frosty Mount Shasta in October

A major bonus of living so close to the Cascade Volcanoes is the fact that they hold snow late into the summer and get new snow fairly early in the autumn as well. This lets me ski year round and I tried to take advantage of this over the past few months.

Jason and Nick hiking around Emerald Lake

My “offseason” started in June with a solo mission up the East face of Lassen Peak. I climbed to about 8500′ where I turned around to ski before the morning sun turned the snowpack into mush.

East face of Lassen Peak in June

In late July and early August I made it back up to Lassen National Park to ski a couple more times. In the summer Lassen National Park offers amazing pass skiing, but unfortunately the always “adept” National Park Service decided to close Lassen Peak to skiing and climbing for the next 5 years or so. There are still plenty of good, albeit short, lines off some of the craggy subpeaks, which offers some summer fun.

Brokeoff Mountain

Lassen Peak

Pilot Peak and Brokeoff Mountain

After a September spent traveling to Colorado, New Hampshire, and Montana, I returned to Mount Shasta in October to get some turns in after the first snow of the year. It has become a bit of a ritual for me to get out skiing after the first snowfall of the year, and this year was no exception. Instead of heading to the Hotlum-Wintun Ridge like we did in August, we headed up the closer and more popular Avalanche Gulch.

Lenticular clouds forming over the summit.

This was my first trip up Avalanche Gulch proper. I had dabbled on its lower flanks in February and March, but this time we made it to Lake Helen and had a great 1500′ ski.

The Casaval Ridge, this looks like it would be a fun but difficult climbing route

Jason gaining elevation

Jason topping out for the day

As always Mount Shasta’s scale was deceiving. I had expected to ski a a somewhat narrow gulley of rotten snow, but it turned out to be a football field wide, creamy, ramp. We had about 1000 feet of really good skiing, then we had to dodge rocks at the lower, less, snow covered elevations.

Mighty fine skiing in October

The new ski season is drawing more and more close and I cannot wait for the next storm!

Hotlum-Wintun Ridge – Mt. Shasta


It’s looking like an early start to the ski season for me out here in California. With temperatures in the valley consistently in 90-100s but abundant snow on the nearby volcanoes, skiing is perfect for cooling off. In a chance encounter I met a couple of Redding skiers on a solo mission to Mt. Lassen, who dragged me up Mt. Shasta last weekend.

We planned to ski Mt. Lassen but at the last minute we changed plans to head up to the Brewer Creek trailhead on the East side of 14,179′ Mount Shasta. Our crew consisted of Jason, Nick, Nick’s two sons Andrew, 15, and Gabe, 13, and myself. Andrew and Gabe were on their first big mountaineering mission and kicked ass, reaching 11,000′.

I was armed with an awful hangover and a 40 lbs pack, and we began the approach around 11 am on Saturday morning. The Brewer Creek trail dragged on as it needlessly switchbacks up the gently sloping base of Mt. Shasta.,

14,179 Mt. Shasta from the Brewer Creek Trail

Our goal was to ski the tantalizing couloir that drops from the summit onto the Wintun Glacier. At the right time of year this is the longest continuous ski decent in the lower 48. But after leaving the trail at treeline and beginning the climb up the Hotlum-Wintum ridge, the shear immensity of The Mountain in combination with a lack of fitness would make a serious summit bid improbable.

After an all day death march up the lower mountain, we pitched camp on a moraine at about 10,000′ elevation.

After a full day of climbing the summit still seems far away. It was sort of discouraging climbing for hours feeling like you were going nowhere.

Nick Akimoff at camp during sunset.

It turned out to be a beautiful night, with a great sunset and a full moon. There were very strong winds during the night, but they did not bother me as I was bivouacked under some rocks. However, it was a long, noisy night for everyone else sleeping in tents.

Full moonrise as night falls.

The full moon would have made for some fun climbing, but strong winds kept us hunkered down for the night.

Everyone was awake around 7 a.m., and after we ate breakfast and broke camp, we started climbing around 8:30 am. Both the boys had mild altitude sickness but made an impressive push to 11,000′. It was fun to climb with Gabe and Andrew and they did way better than I would have at their age. Nick stayed with his sons and Jason and I pushed higher, hoping to reach the top of the Hotlum-Wintum ridge where we would still get a 5,000′ mid-August ski descent.

Gabe Akimoff starts the climb up Mt. Shasta

Jason leading the way.

Andrew Akimoff reaching 11,000'. He was feeling well but felt it was better to hang back with Gabe, who was really having trouble with the altitude.

Jason Foust reaching the top of the climb. We skied from around 12,800' and skied to around 8,000' for 4,800' vertical on August 14th.

Thick clouds were rolling in and out by the time we reached the top of our climb. We spent some time resting and waiting for a sucker hole to ski down in. We finally had our chance and we rode about 2,000′ of perfect corn. Just below 11,000′ the snow went from good to Volkswagen size suncups. My brain rattled around in my head as I skied over the suncups to our gear cache. Here, we loaded our packs and skied the remaining 2,000′ of sun affected snow to the trail. Then we slogged back to the trailhead and reached the car around 3 p.m.

Jason snowboarding below the summit buttress of Mt. Shasta

Jason riding into the building clouds.

For the full descent check out the video below.

Welcome to Weekend Warriordom


Mt. Shasta (14,179 feet), the second tallest Cascade Volcano... now in my backyard!

February was one wild month… I don’t think I have ever had anything so intense and difficult to plan. I was unemployed from right before Thanksgiving thru January and throughout that time I sent out nearly 100 job applications. For most of December and the first part of January I was living the ski bum’s dream. No job, a free ski pass, and a steady stream of Ramen noodles let me ski to my hearts content… until rent was due. Then I couldn’t afford gas to get to the ski area, I needed a job… and fast. I started looking in the Denver area and quickly got a job at The Wilderness Exchange and not two hours after accepting that position I got a call from California. A real job, performing work I spent seven years at school for, I couldn’t pass it up. I called The Wilderness Exchange, had a week to move out and drive three days in a moving truck to Northern California.

My new place of residency is Redding, CA, tucked in at the very northern end of the Central Valley. This town is much bigger than anywhere I have ever lived and I’m adjusting. Luckily there are plenty of recreational opportunities here, fly fishing, hiking, and mountain biking are all within 20 minutes of town. There are also some epic backcountry ski zones within 2 hrs including two Cascade Volcanos.

This weekend I finally got out and skied the epic backcountry skiing on nearby Mount Shasta (14, 179).

The Trinity Alps, my new hometown is nestled at the foothills of these mountains.

Mount Shasta in the mist

On Saturday and Sunday (My new job is a good ol’ 9 to 5’er) I skinned up what is locally known as Green Butte, to get oriented and check the options out. On Saturday the weather was beautiful just until I hit treeline. Then Mt. Shasta’s quickly changing weather put me into a thick fog and I had to ski blindly down to treeline where I spent the rest of the day playing on a natural log jib I found.

Some of the potential skiing terrain on the flanks of Mt. Shasta.

The Trinity Alps in the distance

Sunday’s weather was bluebird and nice out, it was a little breezy and wind loading kept me below treeline. The nice weather however, let me check out the mountaineering potential of the mountain. There are certainly some stout lines to ski that are European in scale. I’m definitely stoked to ski on the upper mountain.

Looking up Avalanche Gulch, it is difficult to grasp the scale of this mountain but I am 5000' feet below the summit.

Touring around the base of Mt. Shasta

Mt. Shasta from the Bunny Flat parking lot.

A day on Handies Peak (14,048′)


After a summer of hiking for a living, I finally got out for a nice pleasure hike up the mellow 14er, Handies Peak, located south of Lake City and right off of Cinnamon Pass. The hike starts around the 12,000 foot mark and climbs out of American Basin mellowly. After passing a beautiful alpine lake, you begin the climb switchbacks several times before gaining the summit ridge. There is a nice trail all the way to the summit making this a nice easy mountain to climb, but it was fun to hike without all my work equipment. My younger brother Jon and his girlfriend, Sarah, rallied from Denver to take on this enjoyable fall hike.

Sloan Lake, at the base of American Peak (13,806).

Sarah Brown hiking with Handies Peak behind her.

Sarah Brown begins the climb up Handies Peak, with the ominous face of American Peak looming behind her.

Quickly gaining elevation.

Jon Jay and Sarah Brown, approach the summit ridge of Handies Peak.

Jon nears the top with Jones Mountain (13,860') behind.

The Wetterhorn (14,015') and Uncompahgre (14,363') Peaks from the summit of Handies Peak.

Stoked on the summit.

Also, a couple weeks ago Jon came down for another visit where we did some climbing and rode the Monarch Divide Trail. The trail is pretty awesome as you ride nearly 10 miles above treeline. It is certainly a unique experience.

Jon enjoys the view of Mount Aetna (13,746') from the Monarch Divide Trail.

Jon riding on the Monarch Crest.