Summer

The first sign of summer is the first trip where I’m dripping sweat, sucking water like crazy, and generally crawling from the heat. Tthis seems to happen in early June. Today, in fact.

The plan; drive to GNP, bike from Avalanche to The Loop, hike to the snowline, skin up to Swiftcurrent Pass, summit the peak if the snow wasn’t too cooked, reverse, head home, eat.

This is one fairly good way to carry ski gear on a bike.  The boots weren’t the most secure with only one strap, but stayed put.

M on the other hand is on a quest to photograph as many of GNPs 1100+ vascular plants as she can this year, so she got the camera, and all still photos here come from her.

It was a stunning day.  I forgot sunscreen, remembered my sun shirt, and got burnt between shorts and socks.

Swiftcurrent Mountain was gentler than I had recalled it being, and even with a modest amount of sun recently the snowpack was set up much better than I thought it would be.  I zipped up to the summit, enjoyed great corn skiing on the way down, and stopped to admire Granite Park chalet.  The 1+ story bunk houses behind the main building are almost totally buried.

[vimeo  24703654]

Fun stuff, and under these conditions a very mellow and extraordinarily scenic ski tour.

We ran into each other on the way back, and then almost ran into this Griz lumbaring down the road.  He wasn’t threatening, but seemed quite emphatic about wanting to continue down the road in our direction.  After a minute we moved to the other side and eased backwards, making certain to stay together and big looking.  Turns out he just needed reasonable access down to McDonald Creek, which we later saw him swim in fine style.  A very healthy looking bear, and a testament to bear encounters demanding both calm action and a global assessment of the situation.

A good weekend.

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15 thoughts on “Summer

  1. So, on this trip you are carrying ski boots, but on previous trips you used trail runners (with the universal binding). Is that correct? Do you switch bindings back and forth, or do you have a couple pairs of skis. If you switch back and forth, how easy is it to do so?

    1. The Hoks have inserts so swapping is dead easy.

      There was steeper and more treed skiing on that route than I would want to do with universal bindings, though my Crispis are overkill for the short skis. And while it was a good experiment, I’d take conventional skis with separate skins for such routes in the future. The skins drag on lower angled terrain, and can catch in a jerky way when you transition snow types.

      Interestingly, I didn’t ever want skis that were much longer.

    1. Most of the pole cam footage was nauseating to watch and unusable, but that bit was ok. The music fit preternaturally well.

  2. I wounder, It seams that grizzly bears has a max speed of 30mph? Could your just have ridden past it? Pardon my ignorance, I have no personal experience with bears.

    Btw lovely report. And what is the bike? – it looks good.

    1. Yep, its a 2006 Karate Monkey. And even if my bike weren’t geared to 32×18, and even if I had Chipollini’s legs, I still wouldn’t fancy my chances against a bear. By going at/past it at speed you’d be likely to provoke it.

  3. The Hoks have a much wider range of possible uses, due almost exclusively to the metal edges and light weight. The Hoks climb much better and have more drag descending. Marquettes float better, bust crust and chop better on the descent, and (I assume, haven’t had the Hoks in powder, obviously) ski pow better.

    As I see it, when paired with a light plastic or heavy leather boot and three pins Hoks are the closest we’ve gotten to a truly all-terrain rugged backcountry tool. The ski equivalent of a good XC mountain bike.

    The Marquettes niche is kicking around the woods hunting pow shots, especially super tight and/or steep stuff. They make valid destinations out of areas heretofore essentially unskiable.

    The two look similar, but in use will be very different.

  4. Thanks, Dave! I don’t know if I can afford either for the next winter (or need either) but I have some ideas in mind and they looked very similar. But it’s good to know about the differences. It’s a pity that Hoks aren’t available without the integrated skins. I think I’d prefer separate skins and maybe fish scale base…

  5. I’ve been emailing the guys that make the Hoks for a while. We mainly discussed the bindings (the trickiest part of the equation, in my estimation) but I also mentioned the same thing about the permanent skins. They said that they might someday make a different version that had the fish scale base. They also said the same thing Dave said, which is that you’ll be surprised at how well they glide.

    One thing worth mentioning is that a removable skin that uses glue can be a real pain in Spring conditions. If it gets hot and slushy, the whole thing wants to come off. There are ways of reducing the problem, but it still sounds like a pain. My guess is that if and when they come out with a version that has a fish scale base, that it will have a system designed for a particular skin. In other words, you buy the skin from them, and it has some sort of attachment (like loops) that integrate specifically to the ski (like hooks). To develop that system takes a while. In the meantime, you have a pretty good ski that does a pretty good job, with very little hassle.

    In my mind, these will be geared mainly towards replacing snowshoes on trips, although they can be modified to work with other boots as well (as Dave has demonstrated). I can see this replacing snowshoes for many of my own trips, as well as some of the trips my friends take. The Altai folks said they are developing a ski crampon, which is the final piece, in my mind. If the terrain gets to hairy for skiing, then just attach the crampon and use the skis as snowshoes. In many instances (like traversing), a Hok with a crampon will provide more control than a soft snowshoe (like a Northern Lite) I know a lot of guys that used to ski the lifts, but now just snowshoe in the winter. They haven’t been willing to invest the bucks for heavy equipment, nor do they have the tolerance to learn to ski with flimsy stuff. They also like to get to mountains that would be difficult to navigate with skis. These are just the ticket.

    One really nice thing is that they can fit in most car trunks (like snowshoes) so there is little need for a gear rack. Another nice thing is that it is relatively easy to sell these (like snowshoes). With universal bindings, they are basically like snowshoes. Since you can easily swap bindings, they are even better. Essentially, they are one size fits all. This is quite a bit different than skis, where you have to match the size of the boot, with the binding type (which can vary even within a class, such as NNN versus SNS) along with the size of the ski (which has to be based on the users weight). This last point (the one size fits all nature of the ski) is really nice, as I plan on buying a pair next year. If they end up making a fish scale model, I can always buy that one and give the other version to a friend (or sell it). Or, I might just keep both pairs and use the perm skin when I know I’ll be going up and down, as opposed to on the flats.

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