The Prison Shower – Mission Creek, Montana

I awoke to my phone ringing at 4:25 am, it was Shawtan, I silenced my phone so I could get 5 more precious minutes of sleep before my alarm would go off at 4:30. 4:28 my phone rings again, this time I groggily answer and tell Shawtan that I’m still down to ski and to pick me up in a half hour. I gear up, eat breakfast and slam some coffee before Shawtan picks me up, we make a brief stop to pick up Chris Shafer and take off for Livingston.

We arrive at the trailhead around 6, and Chris realizes that he can’t hike in Birkenstocks or his alpine boots as the snowline has risen well above the trailhead. He dons Shawtan’s slippers and we head up the trail. About 1/4 mile in we experience our first challenge, swollen creek crossing. Shawtan and I just walk through the water in our AT boots but Chris’s clogs are no match for the rapids. His first log crossing attempt nearly ended the trip 15 minutes into it.

Chris Shafer clings for life after nearly going for a swim.

We continue to hike in and out of snow patches for about a mile and a half before we put our skins on and start skiing towards and through a large burn zone. Concerned about the warm conditions, it didn’t really freeze the night before and it was going to be almost 70 degrees, we opted for an obscure and well protected couloir.

The Prison Shower from afar, maybe a first ski decent?

We skinned up to the base of the couloir where we switched to crampons and ice axes. The snow was “tricky”, a 1-3″ ice crust on top of mashpotatoey snow. Not the best ski conditions to say the least.

Climbing into the Prison Shower

The couloir was pretty short, 500-600 feet long, but it was steep and extremely narrow. At the crux of the couloir we discussed if our skis would even fit through the narrow slot. Snow conditions were too horrible to do any straightlining, so Shawtan with his long skis had to turn around. Before turning around Shawtan measured the slope angle and it measured in over 40 degrees steep. Chris and I continued climbing and the couloir got steeper. I finally topped out of the couloir and took in the stunning views of a Montana morning.

The Crazy Mountains from the South

Mission Creek headwaters, the peak on the left is known as the Elephant Head.

Chis reached the top of the couloir shortly after and put his skis on in the steeps. A precarious place for sure.

Chris Shafer gears up at the top of the Prison Shower Couloir.

I skied into the couloir and found extremely sketchy snow conditions. The thin ice crust was just enough to grab a ski.

Peering into the Prison Shower

I sidestep/sideslipped/survival skied the couloir and was only able to really get about 3 or 4 turns down the whole couloir. On the apron snow conditions did not improve and I slowly skied to Shawtann who had been waiting for us. Chris dropped in shortly after me and essentially skied it the same way as I.

Chris Shafer just above the crux of the ski.

Shafer entering the crux, it was less than a ski length wide, and I had to do a little airwalking on my skis to get through it.

Chris Shafer skis out of the Prison Shower unscathed.

We skied a little bit of corn on the way out before sitting on some rocks to eat lunch and watch wetslides peel off southfacing cliffs.

Chris Shafer enjoys a little corn on the way out.

We hiked out the last mile on dirt and had to cross more streams, we made it back to the car and had celebratory beers. Chris dubbed the run the Prison Shower because it’s so steep it makes you clench your butt while you ski it.

Shawtan jumps over a creek on the way out of Mission Creek Valley.

One other side-note, I’m moving to Gunnison, Colorado at the end of the month. So soon I will be skiing back in my home state!


Eurotrash 2010 – Update 5

Greetings from Kitzbuhel, Austria!

After a great stay in Seedorf Switzerland, Steve and I headed out to meet up with some Bozeman friends in Hasliberg. Leif and Katie had spent the winter as Chalet hosts at an awesome ski in-ski out chalet. It was their last week in Switzerland and the weather was looking pretty bleak. The first day we arrived it was super foggy, the next day we went up for a half day and skied above a crazy inversion.

Crazy inversion at Meiringen-Hasliberg, not ideal for skiing.

The fog was so dense we couldn’t even see 50 feet. The same weather held for another day, so no skiing, but finally it broke on our last day there. A few cms of new snow had also fallen making the skiing pretty good.

The Wetterhorn and Eiger

Steve and Leif getting ready to shred.

Leif Routman shredding his home mountain for the last time before returning to the States.

Leif Routman showing off his Seth Morrison impression.

Leif even let me use his helmet cam for a run, which turned out pretty good.

After skiing, we said our goodbyes to Leif and Katie and hopped on the train to Innsbruck. We arrived late in Innsbruck, and had to hustle to catch the last bus to the hostel. We made it, then went for a little evening stroll. We took a rest day and explored the historic and beautiful town of Innsbruck and met up with a high school friend, Elena Sprick. She is teaching English in Prague and took us to a really cool restaurant that had great food at a decent price. Thanks Elena, this trip has been amazing by meeting up with friends, new and old. The next day we planned to go ski the Stubai Glacier, but our lack of German speaking and understanding skills we ended up on the wrong bus and ended up at Axam-Lizum. The ski area was pretty cool and had a wild train that went to the top. We lapped a ridge with a short hike to get to for most of the day.

Lizum Austria, near Innsbruck

Austrian Alps.

Steve Gilson finding the goods at Axam-Lizum, Austria.

The next day Steve and I hopped on the train to Kitzbuhel.

We spent two days skiing in Kitzbuhel and we timed it perfectly. We arrived to light snow, and met up with our friend Max Hoener, who was just returning from Gulmarg, India working with a non profit organization skis4kashmir. We woke up to the biggest storm Kitzbuhel has had this winter, it was probably around 30-45 cms of nice powder. We skied pillow lines in the trees all day and it was great.

Max Hoener getting the goods at Kitzbuhel.

Max learning that there is other stuff to do than chase gates at Kitzbuhel, like drop pillows.

All stomps for Max.

The next day, it got really warm and the snow turned to mank, we explored the mountain and drank some beer. We then went to the start gate of the famous Hammenkhan downhill. We took some pictures then practiced our racing starts out of the start gate.

Steve and Max, asian touristing the Hammankhan Start Gate.

Eurotrash Update 4 – And a couple huge thanks!!!

Sorry about not posting in so long, have had limited internet access which has made it difficult post.

Before I go any further I need to send a huge thank you the Steffy and Matthias Albert-Arnold in Seedorf, Switzerland. They showed us some great hospitality, fed us well, and let us sleep at their house for a week. So thank you Steffy and Matthias!!

The very gracious Arnold family, from left, Steve Gilson, Cory Arnold, Claudia Arnold, Steffy Albert-Arnold, Me, Matthias Albert-Arnold. Thank you guys so much!!

Also thanks to our friends Leif and Katie, they let us crash at the chalet they were watching all winter and showed us around Meiringen-Hasliberg. Leif even let me use his helmet cam for a run!! (I will post the video up when I make my Meiringen-Hasliberg post)

After a final day at Andermatt, we hopped on the train to go back to Disentis and stay at a cool Swedish hostel. We had an excellent day at Disentis before clouds moved in and the light got super flight. One drawback about skiing Europe is that so much of it is alpine that if the sun isn’t shining you can’t see anything.

Looking down and Andermatt line

Steve G drops into a chute in Disentis, Switzerland

After the second day of skiing we returned to the hostel to be told there had been a misunderstanding and we didn’t have a room. Not sure what to do, we called Steffy and Matthias who graciously let us stay last minute at their place. The next day it was raining in Seedorf, so Steve and I took a rest day and checked out Seedorf. The next day, Steffy’s dad Cory arranged for Steve and I to go on a gravel barge across Lake Luzern, it was an early morning, we were up at 4 am but a great crew and plenty of coffee, led Steve and I on a awesome personal tour of beautiful Lake Luzern. The next day Steffy and Matthias took us to Lugano, in southern Switzerland to do some Via Ferrata (it was still stormy in the Alps so no skiing to be had).

Via Ferrata in Lugano Switzerland... a fun down day activity.

The next day the storm broke and there was 40 cms of blower pow to be skied. Steffy and her parents took Steve and I up our first Swiss peak, The Rossstock, and then we lapped deep snow the rest of the day.

Matthias Albert-Arnold shreds some Swiss pow at Chappelsiberg

Cory Arnold getting deep

Steffy Albert-Arnold showing us Americans how to ski pow

Steffy and Matthias working it

Steve and I lingered on more day to ski more powder at Chappelsiberg, which is a funky tiny 4 person tram that Steffy’s uncle built in 1964, but for 7 swiss francs takes you to a touring paradise. Steve and I explored a new drainage which led to some really fun faces to ski, and all of them untracked.

Steve skinning in Chappelsiberg

Steve slashing above an alpine hut in Chappelsiberg

Mountainman Steve

Untouched Pow, Steve Shredding

It was tough to leave Chappelsiberg after so many runs like this

After two days in Chappelsiberg we headed to see Leif and Katie in Hasliberg, which I will post about soon.

Prepping for Europe

I leave in a week for a long European excursion to do some skiing and traveling in the Alps. So I have been spending the majority of my time working, training and planning. In the process I found a really cool zone that, by Montana standards, is pretty easy access. So over the course of a few days I made 3 trips into the zone and summitted all 3 of the major peaks in the drainage, which resulted in nearly 30 miles and 20k of vert climbed and skied in 3 of 4 days. Not a bad way to start shaping up for the 20k vert a day in the Alps.

For skiing I’ve been trying to ski Bridger Bowl when I can, but without a pass it’s sometimes hard to get up there.

Ryan Walters sending it in Mundy's bowl at Bridger Bowl

Myself, airing out of Alabaster Chute in the Diagonals zone at Bridger Bowl

This tin was in my pocket during a pretty violent fall in Mundy's. Saved me from ending my season early, that's for sure.

As for touring and climbing, I’ve spent a lot of time on the easy approach and low angle of Mt Ellis, but I also found a drainage that I am going to keep secret for a little while. Skied off of 3 different summits over 4 days in this area.

Panorama of the Northern Absaroka mountains

The first of the three mountains climbed and skied during a summit binge in this drainage.

The fun thing about the 3 mountains in this zone is that they get progressively more difficult. The first day was on the easiest peak to get a feel for the snow and see what the terrain looked like.

Steve Geiger coming out of the inversion on the approach

Only one of many aesthetic and fun looking lines only a little more than 2 hours from the trailhead

Over the next two days I bagged both of these mountains

Shawtann Whitson climbs towards the summit of the first mountain climbed.

Rob Wudlick and Steve Geiger hike to our line

Shawtan Whitson enjoys the bottom half of 1200' of powder.

Steve Geiger on the approach for summit number 2

Steve Geiger nears the summit of peak number 2 after getting caught in an afternoon storm

Patrick Lawrence gears up at the trailhead in the wee hours of the morning for an attempt on the third peak.

Looking down my line from the top of the gnarliest peak in the zone

The last peak we climbed was the most difficult to climb and ski. I was up there with my good friend Patrick, who I ski and climb with frequently. After winning a round of ro-sham-bo for first tracks down what appeared to be one of the best runs of my life, Patrick staked out a cover worthy photo angle and waited for me to drop. I clicked into my skis on the pointy summit and looked down my line, one turn on a spine then straightline a little chute, lay a big slasher for the photo then race my slough out. I yelled to Patrick that I was dropping. I lightly skied onto the spine and made my first turn, this is when the mountain reached up and took one of my skis. I fell headfirst down a little chute, over some rocks then went through the washing machine as my slough pushed me down the hill. I fought my way out of the moving snow above another rock band, and with only one ski traversed to a “safe” spot. I yelled to Patrick I was ok, but I was missing a ski. Worried my ski was buried deep in slough at the bottom, I looked around and sure enough, my ski was poking straight-up still on the top of the mountain. Patrick recovered it and brought it to me. I gave him first tracks for the rest of the run because of my stupid fall.

Looking back up through the carnage after falling on my first turn. If you look at the very top of the mountain you can see my ski poking up.

Patrick Lawrence slashes after rescuing my ski.

Sweet epicness brah! Silverton ’10

In an attempt to start a new family tradition, my dad, two brothers and I, all met up after Christmas to ski Silverton Mountain Resort in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. Silverton is special to my family as my parents, Zack, and I all lived there in the mid-80’s (I don’t remember much because I was only 2 at the time), so it is cool to go back and hear my dad’s old stories.

We picked my older brother up at the Grand Junkyard airport around 10 pm Christmas night, his flight from Bozeman was only a little delayed because of the underwear bomber, and booked it south to spend the night in Ridgeway. Arriving after midnight, we all drank a celebratory beer and passed out to wake up early for the hour drive to the first place I ever lived, Silverton, Colorado.

Main Street Silverton. A road to paradise.

We arrived early for some coffee and eggs then drove to the shady and cold base area of Silverton. After doing the mandatory check in and buying our tickets we busted up the double chair to go ski some glades on Dolores.

Looking through the trees at the Prospects backcountry zone

My dad makes it look a lot better than it was.

The snow on Dolores was not the best and we got worried after a marginal first run. We skied down for another lap and went and skied Colorado, a run with a slightly different aspect and found great snow. We explored the rest of the day and watched the Heli, drop skiers off on peaks all around the ski area.

About as close to heli skiing my older brother and dad have ever been.

My dad catches a little air coming off a headwall

My little brother, Jon, shreds some powder with my dad watching.

Jon milks some powder at the end of our first day of skiing.

After finding where the best snow was on Saturday, we stuck around Sunday to lap the best snow I’ve skied all season. We headed straight up to Rope-Dee and dropped a tight and steep slot to ski some hero snow.

My little brother slashes over some exposure above Rope-Dee

My older brother, Zack sends a cornice at Silverton Mountain Resort.

Jon gets nice and deep on the Rope-Dee run

Zack teaches the powder a lesson in slayage 101

Zack ripping up some soft snow

Zack jumps over some trees off a windlip

One last hike for the day. Another awesome trip and as always had too much fun skiing.

Finally huge thanks to my Grandma Kay for sponsoring us on this trip. Thank you grandma!

My dad called it a day early while the brothers and I took a couple more laps. I borrowed my little brother’s POV cam that we poorly mounted onto my helmet for the last run of the trip. Below is an edit of the run, it’s pretty silly.

Colorado Bound!

Well not really, as I am in a haunted hotel room in the “hungry, unkept, white trash, kickass! Mountain Town!” of Silverton, Colorado (thanks Southpark), prepping for day two of some ultimate powder slayage at Silverton Mountain Resort. But more about that later. I booked it out of the avalanche prone snowpack of Montucky and headed for Jackson, WY for a day on Teton Pass with two good friends and skiers.

The top of Jackson Hole Ski Area peeks out of a sucker hole

Hiking up the bootpack to Glory Bowl, on Teton Pass.

Zack McHugh telemarking down Teton Pass

Pat Owen dodging rocks on a very shallow Teton Pass

After skiing Teton Pass I busted down to Salt Lake City to do some skiing with my friend Max at Alta.

The only picture I got at Alta

After skiing lots of laps on Alta, I headed back to my hometown of Glenwood Springs, Colorado to ski the Elk Mountains.

The Western Elk Mountains

My little bro, Jon, catching a little air on Williams Peak

The Alley's, very sick skiing if you can find them...

Interesting snowpack up on Marble Mountain. A very thick consolidated wind slab that was extremely difficult get to break, but it was on some nasty deep facets, so when it did pop it had a lot of energy. We decided to be pretty careful.

However, we did have the required beverage for extended column tests.

Reilly Anderson scoping the Elk Range in Colorado

Reilly Anderson demonstrating the proper way to rip powder.

Powder day at Ajax, Nick Devore spins near Walsh's

Panaroma from the top of Ajax, not a shabby place by any means.

Grand Teton ’07

It is a beautiful autumn day here in Bozeman and unfortunately I am stuck in my office working diligently to finish my Master’s thesis with hopes I can graduate this semester. Sitting and waiting for my computer to process data leads me to day dreaming about this upcoming winter and I realized that I have not posted the trip report from my first ski mountaineering trip I went on in January 2007.

It all started with a phone call from my good friend and climbing partner Patrick Lawrence. It was Thursday morning and I had just returned to Bozeman from my annual trip to Colorado.

“What are you plans for this weekend?” asked Patrick.
I had my typical response, “Probably skiing.”
“Want to ski the Grand Teton?”
“I guess… but I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.”
“That’s cool, I’ll help you.”
“Well if the snow is in and you think I can do it, I’m down.” I answered.

We met that afternoon and geared up. I was borrowing ice tools and a pack and was excited to try out my new crampons. After getting our gear together and making a plan of attack (Patrick mostly planned I just went with whatever he said) we made arrangements to stay in Driggs, Idaho Friday night. We left Bozeman Friday afternoon and stayed at my friend Evan’s parent’s house and caught a couple hours of sleep. We left Driggs around 11:30 P.M. (that’s not a typo it was actually 11:30 at night) and drove the hour to Grand Teton National Park.

We skinned through the night and approached Garnet Canyon. We got to the base of the Tetons and began climbing towards the canyon. After a few hours of constant climbing something didn’t seem right. We should have been in a canyon with relatively mellow climbing, yet we were climbing a very large face. It turns out we missed the cutoff to Garnet Canyon and instead we were climbing too far North and towards Amphitheater Lakes. We quickly traversed to the south and dropped into Garnet Canyon losing the majority of the elevation we had gained climbing all night. On the flats of the canyon we made good time and saw a couple other groups also heading to The Grand.

We climbed towards Tepee Glacier just as the sun was rising and suffered through what seemed like a never ending bootpack.

Sunrise while climbing out of Garnet Canyon.  Photo: Patrick Lawrence

Sunrise while climbing out of Garnet Canyon. Photo: Patrick Lawrence

In case anyone doesn’t know this, the Grand Teton is a BIG mountain. The steep climb out of the canyon only put us at the base of the peak and we still had several thousand more vert to climb. I was feeling the burn already (I was still new to this whole earn your turns, mountaineering style skiing) and looked up the steep face above Tepee Glacier and wondered if it was such a good idea coming on this trip.

Just a few more steps.... Photo: Patrick Lawrence

Just a few more steps.... Photo: Patrick Lawrence

After climbing for what seemed like forever we arrived at the bottom of the Stettner Couloir. The Stettner Couloir is really just a thin band of snow and ice that clings to the side of the mountain. This section provided the most technical climbing and most breathtaking exposure. Having never ice climbed before I was quite nervous looking up at several 10-15′ tall ice bulges. We roped up and Patrick led. We made it up the first pitch without incident. There was a bottleneck at the bottom of the next pitch and we had to wait for some other climbers.

Climbing the Stettner Couloir.  Photo: Patrick Lawrence

Climbing the Stettner Couloir. Photo: Patrick Lawrence

Past Teepee Glacier things are pretty exposed and steep for the rest of the climb and ski.

Past Teepee Glacier things are pretty exposed and steep for the rest of the climb and ski.

A climber negotiates an ice bulge in the Stettner Couloir.

A climber negotiates an ice bulge in the Stettner Couloir.

We finally had our turn to climb and just as we were setting belay, a random solo climber came up behind us. Considering the exposure we offered him a belay which he greatly appreciated. Everything went well until the very last ice bulge. The difficulty came topping out which involved very thin unsupportive snow, as well as plenty of unsupportive rotten ice. Finding good spots for the ice tool was difficult and as inexperienced as I was I struggle quite a bit. Finally I just went for it and sure enough my ice tool came loose and I fell. Patrick quickly caught me and I made it over on my second attempt only a little shaken.

Climbing the Stettner Couloir after a scary fall.  Photo: Patrick Lawrence

Climbing the Stettner Couloir after a scary fall. Photo: Patrick Lawrence

The Middle Teton

The Middle Teton

After the technical section came more bootpacking, this time only with more exposure. We climbed, and climbed, and climbed the the Ford Couloir and finally topped out to the summit ridge. We had set a 2 P.M. turn around time and it was around that time now. We decided to try and push another 30 minutes but I was bonking pretty hard. Finally 500′ from the summit Patrick decided to turn around, it was 2:30 and we still had to repel the 6 pitches we had climbed. I stopped and ate lunch and geared up for the down.

Patrick Lawrence gets ready to ride the Ford Couloir with the summit in the background.

Patrick Lawrence gets ready to ride the Ford Couloir with the summit in the background.

Don't fall Patrick

Don't fall Patrick

Patrick snowboarded down to the repel point and I followed behind the solo climber we helped belay. The snow was chalky and edgy, and every turn I had to think “don’t fall, don’t fall”.

Don't fall, don't fall, don't fall.... skiing the Ford Couloir. Photo: Patrick Lawrence

Don't fall, don't fall, don't fall.... skiing the Ford Couloir. Photo: Patrick Lawrence

We repelled out, which was miserable as wind was blasting up the couloir and we had to wait for other groups to finish rapelling before we could go. We finished the repels as the sun was getting low in the sky. Skiing one more exposed section before skiing down to Tepee Glacier provided one last bit of excitement as well as good snow. It was dusk by the time we dropped off of the glacier and into Garnet Canyon. The snow was rock hard and ultra icy. We skied out to the flats where I discovered my skins were frozen and I would have to sidestep the remaining 4-5 miles. On the way out we lost the trail and had to bushwhack for several hours. Exhausted and in agony from being in my alpine boots (this was pre-AT boots for me) for 18 hours I was ready to bivy for the night in the woods. Goaded by Patrick I continued towards the trail head and arrived back at the car around 11p.m. for a total of nearly 23 hours on the mountain. I was perhaps more exhausted than I had ever been in my life, but I was suddenly addicted. I still hope to make it back out to the Grand and ski from the summit some day.