Winter Storm Watch


The annual vigil of carefully watching the weather and waiting for the flakes to fall has begun. This year’s summer felt too brief with the majority of it spent rehabbing my knee. Nonetheless, I did get out on some hikes and enjoyed the wonderful Paradise Valley just out my back door.

Mount Wallace (10,620′) in the southern Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness.

My lovely wife, Sarah, biking in Paradise Valley on her way to brunch at the Pine Creek Cafe.

Passage Creek in the southern Absaroka-Beartooths.

Passage Falls in the Mill Creek watershed.

Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium)

Fishermen on the Yellowstone River

Yellowstone Lake, look closely and you can the Teton Range in the distance.

Paradise Valley, perhaps the best place on earth?

Broken Knees and Sightseeing


Well I’ve done it again. I blew out my other knee during closing weekend at Bridger Bowl. With a torn MCL, ACL, and meniscus my ski season is effectively over. Sorry about minimal posts but with persistent, deep instability I stuck mostly to skiing inbounds at Bridger. I did sneak out for a nice tour on Elephant Head a week before ending my season.

Touring to the top of Elephant Head Peak

I have however, been able to hobble around Yellowstone National Park and take some photographs.

Porcelain Basin in the Norris Geyser Basin.

Hot Springs outlet channels can be otherworldly.

Another shot of Porcelain Basin

Opposing colors in two hot springs.

Cyanobacteria in a hot springs outlet channel.

Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River.

A wolf on the hunt. This was one of the coolest moments I have ever experienced in Yellowstone.

Trout Lake with Druid Peak looming above.

A coyote hoping to catch some lunch?

Grizzly bears in the distance.

Sandhill Cranes

Summer 2013 Wrap-Up


With the temperatures consistently falling below freezing I feel that autumn has finally arrived and summer has wrapped up. As I look forward to colder days and deep powder it is always nice to reminisce about my adventures over the warmer months.

This summer was notable because we had several very strong thunderstorms, which led to lots of wildfires and a fairly hazy August and September.

Lightning flash within an incoming thunderstorm



The weather was nicer early during the summer Sarah and I spent a fair amount of time in our canoe. We mostly floated the Madison River and Hyalite Reservoir enjoying the warm days and doing some fishing.

Tim and Amber joined us on a float of the Madison River



Steve G floating in his pack-raft along the same stretch.



Sarah and Amber enjoy a calm float on Hyalite Reservoir



Canoe camping on the far side of Hyalite



We also took our annual trip to Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park west of Bozeman. These caves are very cool and unique and they offer a great tour of the beautiful caverns.

Eerie light in the caverns





The main rooms in the caverns use special UV lights which shine at a spectrum that allows the human eye to see what the caves would look if the sun could shine in these tunnels. You can really see the pink iron oxides with these lights.



Hard to grasp the scale on how big these columns are, the main column is probably 75 feet tall.



Sarah and I also made it out to Seattle this summer to see the sights and sounds of this fun city. We were able to see our friends who recently moved to Seattle from Denver as well as check out the amazing Chihuly Glass Gardens near the Space Needle. This gallery is probably one of the coolest and most amazing galleries I have ever visited. I have a ton more pictures if anyone is interested but for the sake of brevity here are just a couple.

The outside portion of the Chihuly Gardens



A tree made of glass under the Seattle Space Needle



Leaving Seattle on a ferry heading to Port Angeles



Finally, I also spent a bunch of time in the mountains and looking at wildlife in Yellowstone.

Close up of a Bison eating some food



Panorama of from above East Hyalite Creek



Emmigrant Peak during sunset



My dog Dudley high above Hyalite Reservoir



Came upon this guy at the top of Beartooth Pass. We were the only people stopped and this goat just kind of chilled about 30 yards from us before ambling up and over a ridge.



The goat seemed more curious than scared of us.



Came upon a large herd of elk while working in the Centennial Valley in far southwest Montana.



Sorry if a few of these images seem overly edited, I am experimenting with some new software and still trying to get it dialed. Next post will hopefully involve some snow as the mountains are turning more and more white.

The Southwest with my Wife


Yep, you heard that right. I am now married to my longtime girlfriend Sarah. We were married at Chico Hot Springs in Paradise Valley, her and I’s favorite place, and had a great time. I may post some more wedding pictures later, but considering this is an adventure blog I figure I would focus on our honeymoon. We spent several days traveling to Moab with some awesome stops in between.

A couple of days after the wedding we drove to Teton Village going through Yellowstone and Teton National Parks on the way. We made a day out of it and visited a couple geyser basins.

(Warning this post is very picture heavy)

The Southern Gallatins

Cool formations on Steamboat Geyser in the Norris Geyser Basin

The sapphire waters of a spring in the Norris Geyser Basin

Norris Geyser Basin

Eerie blue waters

Good Ol’ Faithful

Mount Moran in Grand Teton National Park

Sunset on the Tetons

Nice looking Bull Elk

After staying the night at the swank Four Seasons Resort (yeah off season discount!) in Teton Village. The next morning we got up and rallied south to Vernal, Utah and Dinosaur National Monument. I had visited this Monument when I was about 8 years old so this was essentially my first time there. We arrived in the late afternoon and drove a little ways. We then went and inquired about camping where we were told that most of the campgrounds were closed. I prodded a little more and she directed me to a small campground that is first come first serve and about an hour away. We decided to go for it, which was committing as we were out in the middle of nowhere, and we were nervous all three of the campsites would be taken.

We arrived to find absolutely no one there.

Camping in Dinosaur National Monument

Views from the campsite

The campsite was located right on the Green River. I am going to withhold the campsites name for now, but anyone clever with a map should be able to find it.

Petroglyphs at McKee Springs

Split Mountain

The Quarry at Dinosaur National Monument is an amazing exhibit of fossils still in the ground.

There are tons of large dinosaur fossils, and it is unique from a regular museum because you get to see fossils similar to how they are found.

My wife, Sarah, enjoys the geology of this little known and visited National Monument

East Split Mountain from outside The Quarry

After checking out Dinosaur National Monument, and swearing we would return in the future, we kept heading south to Moab. Again, we lucked out with a campsite and scored the spot with the best view.

Our camp south of Moab near Kane Creek

The view of the Colardo River from our tent

Our campground friend

Sunset at camp

The next day we headed into Arches National Park.

Sunrise in Arches National Park

We ventured into the Fiery Furnace

Cool rock formations in the Fiery Furnace. We were lucky and got the last two tickets for the the tour.

I believe this is Double O Arch (someone correct me if I am wrong though).

Deep, narrow canyons in the Furnace

Sarah in the sunlight, deep in the Fiery Furnace

Arches National Park

After a fun tour through the Fiery Furnace, Sarah and I set off to Canyonlands to check out the views for the afternoon.

Window Arch in Canyonlands National Park

Colorado River side of Canyonlands

Canyon Country

Pillars

The White Rim

Exposure

I also was able to capture these three panoramics (save the best for last).

Norris Hot Springs

Sunrise on my wedding morning in Paradise Valley

The Green River in Dinosaur National Monument

Summertime…


Gallatin Valley from the South

It has been a nice, hot, and smokey summer up here in Bozeman. But a new puppy and canoe have been keeping me plenty busy. Here are a few select shots from the summer so for.

Wild Iris

Charlie Noone fishing Upper Hyalite Creek

Rainbow over Gallatin Canyon.

Fishing under Elephant Mountain.

Nice looking Cutty caught by Eric Bee.

There have been several fires this summer with the heat and dryness. Watched this chopper refill to put out a nearby fire.

A new canoe has added a new element to the summer. Sarah and I testing it out on Hyalite Reservoir.

Sarah enjoying the evening.

Canoing on the Yellowstone.

Sarah and Dudley enjoying the float before we flipped and I swamped my camera.

Any Day Now…


No snow means no skiing 😦

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!

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.