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…

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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.

The Return to the Source


I have had an exceptionally busy last two weeks. I have pulled up my Bozeman roots and transplanted them in the quaint town of Gunnison, Colorado. This small, ranching town is home to Western State College, and is surrounded in 270 degrees by the Elk Mountains to the north, the Sawatch Range to the east, and the San Juan Mountains to the south. West of here lies Moab and the rest of the Southwestern Desert. The reason for the move? I have a job as a hydrologic technician with the Grand Mesa-Uncompahgre-Gunnison (GMUG) National Forest. I have the “burden” of surveying remote mountain wetlands, called fens, in the mountains surrounding me. While a job first attracted me, I was drawn by the easily accessed mountain biking and rock climbing only a 15 min bike ride away, as well as nearby Crested Butte and Monarch Ski Areas.

Thanks to all my friends, teachers, co-workers, acquaintances, complete strangers, and the general community of Bozeman, Montana. I have spent some of my best years there and it is a wonderful town surrounded by endless outdoor possibilities. I will frequently return to the area to visit friends and keep knocking some lines off my “hit-list”. It certainly is sad to leave.

Gallatin Valley from the Bridger Ridge

Bozeman and the Gallatin Valley from the top of the Bridger Range. Thanks Bozeman it was a good run.

I finally got a break from the onslaught of a new job and moving to get a short ski in on Independence Pass outside of Aspen. While the weather was less than cooperative and the snow was far from good, it was nice to take my mind off of the real world and get a lap of skiing in.

Sawatch Sunrise

It rained a good portion of the night, but cleared at dawn

It's nice to be back in 'rado

Fellow ex-Bozemanite, Ashley Bembenek, skins up Independence Peak outside of Aspen

Jon contemplating... something. Independence Pass

Ashley arcing a few nice turns in June

My little bro Jon Jay, skiing in June

The Ragged Range, a sub-range in the West Elks, plastered in June snow.

Adventures on Hwy 212 – Beartooth Pass


The last few years it has become a bit of a tradition to head to Red Lodge and ski Beartooth Pass when it opens. Had great weather this year as well as some really good skiing.

Airing the top of Gardiner Headwall - Photo: Pat Owen

Airing the top of Gardiner Headwall - Photo: Pat Owen

A little pig ripping... Bearcreek Saloon Pig Races

A little pig ripping... Bearcreek Saloon Pig Races

IMG_3872

mmm... bacon

mmm... bacon

Davis skiing the crux

Davis skiing the crux

Pat Owen skiing in Gardiner Headwall

Pat Owen skiing in Gardiner Headwall

Steve Gilson and Zack on the top of Gardiner Headwall

Steve Gilson and Zack on the top of Gardiner Headwall

Pat Owen dropping in

Pat Owen dropping in

Enjoying the scene on the Hwy 212

Enjoying the scene on the Hwy 212

Camping up Rock Creek

Camping up Rock Creek

August Skiing


Skied the Lazer in the Gallatin mountains this August. Skiing was something left to be desired but it was a nice day out and I got to hang out with Evan, who I hadn’t seen in sometime.

The Lazer - Still snow in August

The Lazer - Still snow in August

Gearing up for an August ski expedition

Gearing up for an August ski expedition

Evan hiking through wildflowers, we got a lot of strange looks on the way up.

Evan hiking through wildflowers, we got a lot of strange looks on the way up.

Getting close the the bottom of the Lazer

Getting close the the bottom of the Lazer

Booting up the Lazer

Booting up the Lazer

Climbing was steep and pretty firm.  It was a good thing we had cramons and ice axes.

Climbing was steep and pretty firm. It was a good thing we had cramons and ice axes.

About to drop in

About to drop in

Skiing was hard, the snow was very firm and the suncups were almost unbearable.

Skiing was hard, the snow was very firm and the suncups were almost unbearable.

View of Bozeman and the Bridger Mountains

View of Bozeman and the Bridger Mountains

Wildflower stripes on the way out.

Wildflower stripes on the way out.