Kauai by boat

[Sorry about the posting hiatus, but life often gets in the way of blogging. This post resumes from my Hawaii trip, which you can go back and read about here.

Humpback Whale

After we spent a fun filled week snorkeling and exploring volcanoes on the Big Island, Sarah and I hopped on an inter-island flight to spend a more stereotypical vacation week on Kauai. It was neat to go from the youngest island to the oldest island and compare the two. The thing we noticed most? More tourists on Kauai.

After getting settled in our room in at the Kauai Beach Resort, we went to check out the beach out the hotel doors. We were a little disappointed that swimming conditions were not ideal this time of year at the Kauai Beach Resort, so we just relaxed and enjoyed the views.

Sarah excited to be at a nice resort with air conditioning.

The beach right outside our hotel.

The next morning we got up for a free breakfast and informational meeting the resort offers guests who have just arrived. Here, our honeymoon luck continued and we won a 2 for the price of 1 kayak tour on the Wailua River. Due the the high probability of getting wet on a kayak trip I left my camera at the hotel, but I did bring my GoPro, and the video at the end of this post has a little footage of us kayaking as well as Secret Falls, the waterfall we kayaked and took a short hike to see.

The next morning we woke up super early (4:30 a.m. early), to go board a boat and go on a boat tour of the Na Pali coast as well as a snorkel off the coast of Nihau, the forbidden island. Nihau is a short distance from Kauai and used to be a part of the same island as Kauai millions of years ago. Now, the whole island is owned by two brothers who maintain a Calvinist settlement. You can only access the island with permission, and that means you pay several hundred dollars for a helicopter ride to the island, and in turn, you are allowed a whopping 15 minutes to walk around and see whatever there is to see. The other way, and most popular way, to see the island up close is to pay a couple hundred dollars for a boat ride to snorkel just off the coast. That is what we did.

Before we reached Nihau, we were treated to a nice boat tour of the rugged and beautiful Na Pali Coast.

Na Pali Coastline

Waterfall on Kalalau beach

I had hiked the 12 miles to the Kalalau beach several years ago with my brothers, but I had never taken a boat ride along this coast. It was cool because we boated along the portion of the coast that you cannot hike, this made it seem as though I had never been there before.

Coastal Arch on the Na Pali Coast

Waterfall into the ocean

Sea Arch

Waterfall onto a beach only accessible by boat.

Unfortunately, my camera battery died before getting to Nihau, but the video at the end of the post has some footage of snorkeling off the coast of the forbidden island as well as the “keyhole”, a natural arch formed on a small volcanic crater by the crashing waves of the ocean.

The next day, we had scheduled another boat trip. This trip was originally a sunset sail along the Na Pali coast, I know, the day before we went on a Na Pali boat trip, but this trip was less adventure oriented and more romantic (a critical component for any successful honeymoon). Also, we thought it would be cool to see the Na Pali coast during sunset with the dramatic lighting most Hawaii sunsets provide. We originally scheduled this trip for our last night on the island, but the trip was bumped up because a large northern swell was moving in.

As we enjoyed cocktails and rounded the western edge of Kauai, we realized the swell had arrived early. We found ourselves on a tour boat in the largest seas I have ever seen. Waves were cresting 5-10 feet higher than the boat we were on, which was a 60 foot, two story, catamaran, it was spooky and exhilarating at the same time. Obviously, it was too dangerous to continue to the Na Pali coast, so the boat turned around.

But not all was lost. The humpback whales were absolutely going off. I had only seen a whale once, in Northern California, who had swum up the Klamath River. This evening, we saw countless whales, some even jumping only short distance from our boat. I never was lucky enough to time an epic whale jump, but I did manage a few good whale shots.

Whale waving hello

The whales were not far from the boat.

Whale raising its fin with the Na Pali coast behind.

We also had some dolphins join us.

Sunset off the west coast of Kauai.

In the end we had a great few days riding boats on Kauai, and with the Northern swell coming in we spent our last few days on the beach or hiking.

Also, I finally managed to put together a short video of our trip. I didn’t have an underwater camera, so I used my GoPro pretty much for snorkeling, so that is how the video is oriented. I also have a few clips from other adventures so I highly recommend you take a watch.

2012-2013 Ski Season Edit

I know, I know, the ski season is far from over and for me it is really just beginning as the steeps stabilize and access roads melt out. Nonetheless, I figure I should share the footage I collected over the winter in addition to telling the story of how I blew my knee out over a year ago with everyone. So enjoy some helmet cam footage of powder skiing in Southwest Montana.

Music by David Bowie (duh!)

We interrupt this broadcast…

I figured that this is a ski website and all I have done is post tropical pictures. Well, I have been skiing and here is proof.

Last weekend up on Hollywood Wall in Frasier Basin.

Game Over

What a tough season it has been in the backcountry. In Jackson Hole last week a search and rescue helicopter crashed killing long time Jackson local and SAR volunteer Ray Shriver. Then just this last Sunday, the freeskiing community lost another pioneer to an avalanche on Stevens Pass, WA. Head Freeskiing World Tour judge Jim Jack along with two locals were swept away and killed in what sounds to be a massive slide. This happening shortly after a snowboarder was killed in an avalanche on Snoqualmie Pass.

Now, why did I bring up all this depressing news? Well, I wasn’t terribly lucky in the backcountry this last week either. I headed up north to Whitefish, MT to visit and support a friend who was having surgery on Friday. After seeing my friend and wishing her good luck on her operation, I headed up to ski Whitefish Mountain Resort for the day. I headed up to the mountain with my good friend Simon Peterson and his friend/my acquaintance Josie. We planned to ski the great slackcountry Whitefish has to offer and headed straight out of bounds as soon as we got to the top of the mountain.

After one great lap of soft, fun snow in the Canyon Creek drainage. We quickly went back for more. Simon works for Backcountry Magazine and had worked out a deal with the ski area to exchange photos for lift tickets, this meant I had to “earn” my lift ticket by ski modeling for Simon. After a fairly successful shoot on our first lap, we set up a second shot on a small jump between some saplings. Josie, who is a snowboarder, hit the jump first and looked pretty good. Simon gave me the go ahead to drop in and I hit the jump. I went way too big off the small jump and caught my landing very low in the transition. As a result I landed off balance and going really fast into a fairly tight stand of trees. I successfully negotiated getting around one tree, but I hesitated a split second about which way to go around the next tree. This split second of hesitation resulted in me hitting the tree directly with my left knee. Upon impacting the tree, there was a huge explosion of branches and skis and I cartwheeled once.

For a split second I thought I was going to be okay, until I tried to move my left leg. My left leg was bent as though I was sitting “Indian style” and I couldn’t, with all my strength straighten my leg. Josie was quick to hike up to my assistance and make sure I was alright. Simon, was also soon by my side and we had a very brief discussion about what to do. I pulled up my left pant leg to see the damage and immediately noticed my kneecap appeared to be dislocated. Everyone now knew that I wasn’t going to get out of there without some help. I pulled out my cell phone which (luckily) had a signal and called 911. I explained to the operator what had happened then handed the phone to Josie, who is a local and could better describe our location. 911 was unable to obtain our coordinates from my phone, so they transferred us to the Whitefish Ski Patrol. However, because we were skiing out of bounds their policy was that this was a matter for Flathead County Search and Rescue and the Flathead Nordic Ski Patrol. After a handful of other phone calls, and sending Simon to meet with the rescuers to bring us back to my location, Josie and I patiently waited for help. Flathead Nordic Patrol happened to have a handful of patrollers skiing at Whitefish Mountain Resort, and within an hour and a half of the initial 911 call they were staged and ready to search for me. In about the same time Flathead County SAR, who happened to already be at Canyon Creek for training, had a group of snowmobiles staged and waiting for me on the road below.

The very kind and wonderful folks with the Nordic Patrol stabilized me, then packaged me up into a backcountry rescue toboggan. After a strong and excellent effort to extricate me from steep and complicated terrain, Nordic Patrol handed me over to SAR, who then loaded me onto a trailer behind a snowmobile. After a long bumpy ride out, I was greeted at the Canyon Creek trailhead by a gaggle of bystanders and, more importantly, an ambulance. I was quickly loaded into the ambulance and taken to the Whitefish hospital. The whole time I had my fingers crossed that I had simply dislocated my kneecap, and that a doctor would be able to quickly put it back in place and I would walk out of the hospital. Unfortunately, my hopes were crushed upon getting the x-ray.

X-ray showing the extent of my injuries. You can see a large chunk of my kneecap sitting on top of my femur. The lower chunk was mostly crushed bone. The surgeon was able to save about 3/4 of my kneecap.

I had reconstructive surgery the next day and was discharged that night. I am facing fairly substantial and permanent damage and I may be off skis for a full year (that would be a nightmare!). I am going to try and heal and rehab as fast as I can so that I will be able to hopefully salvage next ski season as I am out for the rest of this year.

Despite how bad this situation was it could have been much, much worse. I think more than anything I should use this injury as a learning experience and look at what I did correctly and what I did incorrectly.

1. Having capable, smart, backcountry partners made all the difference. My group was able to keep calm and had extra layers and an emergency bivy to keep me warm.
2. Having a cell phone (with reception) was a huge benefit as well. Not just to call for help but also to receive updates from SAR and Simon. It was a mental challenge to stay patient and wait for help. I think if I didn’t receive constant updates on the status of SAR and know people were coming for help I would have freaked out a bit more.
3. Finally, having a mindset where you understand that this sort of thing can happen makes a big difference. I never try and assume that a day in the backcountry will go smoothly. Every time I ski in the backcountry or send big cliffs at a resort I have a little voice in my mind reminding me that I could be seriously injured. So I was not shocked or angry that I was injured.
4. With that said, I should have been more aware and conscious of what I was skiing. I seriously misjudged how big to go off the jump as well as I failed to notice how short the runout was.

Below is the GoPro footage of the crash so you can relive it, only without the pain.

Finally, a huge thank you to Simon and Josie for helping me out so much after the crash. Also, I want to give a huge thanks to the folks at Flathead Nordic Ski Patrol and Flathead County Search and Rescue as they pretty much saved me from having to spend a night out in the woods. Also, thanks to Dr. Bailey and the North Valley Hospital for putting me back together.

A Great Big Circle

After a bit of a hiatus from the blogging world due to another (yes, another) interstate move, I find myself back to where it all sort of started…Bozeman. What I thought was going to be my next big life journey turned out to be nothing more than a two year extended working-vacation. I quit my job in California and packed up and moved to Montana with a great job offer at the Yellowstone Ecological Research Center as a remote sensing/GIS analyst.

This is great news for this site though. Being back in Bozeman means I have my old ski partners back which means more epic adventures! I have already braved the low snow pack and had a couple fun days since moving back.

Simon Peterson on the approach

Nearing the top of "The Sleeping Giant". Photo: Simon Peterson

Patrick Lawrence and Luke climbing a wind scoured couloir

My brother Zack climbing a Couloir up Hyalite Canyon outside of Bozeman, MT

Zack sending it up Hyalite Canyon

And of course I have a GoPro edit of all this fun stuff. Check it out!

Music by CCR and shot in California and Montana.

The Off Season in Northern California

So summer is supposedly supposed to be winding down, but temperatures here in Redding are the highest they have been so far this year. I made the following edit in the enjoyment of air conditioning. So sit back for a few minutes and enjoy some of my summer activities…

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.

Some Friendly Promotions

Since I have been working so much and not able to ski too often, I thought I would send props to some of my friends who are getting after it in my old stomping ground of Montana.

Check out my buddy and ski partner Patrick’s blog. This kid rips on a splitboard and I have gone on some of my best adventures with him. He definitely gets after it.

Also, here’s a promo for my other friend’s up and coming ski company, Seneca Skis, and they have some sweet looking skis. Entrepreneur, Eric Newman, is a shredder and makes a bomber ski. Check out the video, and if you look carefully you will see me attempting to ski…

Don’t worry I have been doing some backpacking and camping and will post some of my own stuff soon!

California Springtime

Checking in from Northern California and besides being mega-busy with work I have been trying to get out. I have done some skiing on the nearby volcanoes of Lassen Peak and Mt. Shasta. Since I live at a low elevation here in California I am also able get out mountain biking fairly often. Check out this video to get a taste of what my life is like in California (when I’m not at work…).

Thanks Colorado, it was short

As I alluded to in my previous post I recently moved from sparsely populated western Colorado, to a “small” Northern California city named Redding. I moved here because of a job opportunity but there are plenty of fun recreational options, including fly fishing within a 5 minute bike ride, mountain biking from town, 2 cascade volcanoes within an 1 1/2 hour drive, and Squallywood a weekend trip away.

Gunnison was fun, but it was a little too small, and a lack of employment options left my fiance and I a little stranded. I had a great couple of months living the ski bum’s life collecting unemployment as documented in previous videos. So, without further adieu, here is my perspective of January 2011, my last month in Colorado.

Music: Lightsonic, by Groove Armada