Essenshell, examined

Amber dropping a knee last weekend.  I should also note that today, below 5300′ or so, was the very first breakable crust day of the year.  Fairly mellow icey rain crust, which I’m happy to report the Marquettes made absolutely inconsequential.  Rocker is the shit.

My quest for the best shell for ______ continues.  Early this past week a large Patagonia Essenshell pullover came up for sale on BPL, and without hesitation I grabbed it.  The Essenshell is an early-mid 00’s vintage, made of a nice polyester micro ripstop fabric with Encapsil treatment, Patagonia’s branding of the Epic fabric treatment.  Waterproofish (at a very low PSI), quite breathable, and because the DWR is structural, needs no reapplication.  Best of all, the ripstop has a surprisingly soft hand, and based on testing (ski touring) today, the Epic coating is quite breathable (not all Epics are created equal).

Good stuff: the fabric, belly button length zip, nice big pockets, enormous hood which swallows a helmet with ease, cuffs with both elastic and velcro.

Bad stuff: waterproof zips, front pocket backing material.

The pocket size is awesome.  Big, but just above hipbelt level.  Waterproof zips are, I hope, dying out.  Their durability and (lack) of ease of use beats out the hype.  What’s unconscionable, is the use of thick, fuzzy mesh as the pocket material.  It seems destined to suck up tons of moisture.  I may have to replace it.

One handed hood pull: very good.  Tough but not stupid heavy fabric: excellent.  (Pullover is about 11 oz.)

The large size was enormous on me.  Fortunately, a simple side seam ran up the middle edge of each side and out each sleeve.  I turned the pullover inside out, ripped some of the stitching out of the hem, took 2 inches off each side, 1.5 inches out of each sleeve (dimensions based on my Arc’teryx Paclite pullover), cut the excess off, then resewed the hem.  A simple 20 minutes work.  As a bonus, the sleeves and body are extra long, good for sealing out snow during particularly athletic faceplants and tomahawks.

Inside fabric detail.  Feels nice against the skin.

I anticipate this becoming the go-to skiing shell.  What will be more interesting is to see how waterproof and quick drying it is, and how successful the just-get-wet strategy will be come spring.  I’ve got a new tarp on order that might help in that goal.

Marquette Backcountry ski review

Are the Marquette’s real skis?

In many ways this is the central question, because the answer dictates the criteria against which they are judged. If we take them at the face value of the marketing schtick (70% ski, 30% snowshoe, 100% fun) success only calls for an idiosyncratic and fun tool for bushwhacking. The performance demands of a real ski, however, are much more acute and multifaceted.

In many ways, I’d rather that they weren’t real skis.  All too often, real skiers suck.  Backcountry skiing is a kineasethically beautiful, multifaceted, dangerous sport whose long learning curve should be respected.  It’s also fraught with elitism, zenophobia (I can’t show you my secret stash!), and very expensive gear.  Anything that gets more people affordably out beyond the lifts and groomed tracks, and as a bonus twists the tail of established wisdom, is a very good thing.  Unforunately, evidence is accumulating that the Marquette BC ski might be a real ski after all:

My Marquette setup hasn’t changed. I do think that a good two buckle tele boot is the minimum to drive the ski for turning. It’s short, which helps, but 130mm is a lot to get on edge when you aren’t in 8″ of fresh.

The backyard adventure ski

This is the application for which the Marquette’s were originally designed, and is well addressed in the Universal Klister review. The width, short length, rockered nose, and plastic construction (not so big a deal to hit rocks and stratch the bases) make short little slopes and hills with a minimal amount of snow and no base not only skiable, but dead fun. Early this month, before the rain and ice, I had a blast hitting up the area parks before work, getting in a couple thousand vertical before work with a short drive. This niche will get new skiers into the backcountry, and allow established skiers to ski new terrain. No avy danger, minimal gear required, no hassle. As a backyard adventure ski the Marquettes get an A+.

The fast shoe

Snowshoes are slow and inefficient. Their sole virtue, other than packability, is the paucity of skills needed to pilot them.  Alter your stride and pay a little more attention going downhill and you’re all set.  The Marquettes are in many circumstances better at snowshoeing than snowshoes, but a straight substitute they are not.  As grippy as the fishscales are, they are still like all patterned bases limited by snow type (the drier and fluffier the less grip), and require technique to use effectively.  The Marquettes slide slow, but they still slide, and thus require turning and stopping skills to use safely.  They aren’t a substitude, more of a gateway drug to proper snow travel, and thus a pretty good fast shoe.

The real ski

Are the Marquettes a real ski?  Maybe not, but they sure do a good job pretending.  The lack of metal edges is a serious downside; besides the annoying but trivial lack of grip on wood when crossing deadfall, they are not an appropriate tool for ice.  But I’m hard pressed to think of many ski days (outside full on spring conditions) when full on ice was encountered.  For most touring for turns days, thus isn’t a substantive issue.

They do hold well enough on merely firm snow, though because of the width a decent boot and some commited technique is required.  Their real strength is of course in float and maneuverability, the ability to stay on top in powder, crud, and other bad snow, their super short stopping distance and turn radius, and their ability to slarve through deep snow and tight places.  The length sacrifices stability at speed, but much less than you’d think; and if you’re of the school that mach-schnell might not be the wisest choice in the BC anyway, this ceases to be an issue.

What is often an issue, at least when BC skiing in North America, are trees and singletrack exits.  Tough stuff, terrain which reliably turns a mundane, easy tour into something far exceeding a double black run in technicality and consequences.  The Marquettes make this stuff much, much easier.

So yeah, they’re real skis.

The wilderness adventure tool

The idea of a short, fat, light ski is a good one for wilderness travel far away from broken trails.  For my height and flexibility, 150cm is the dividing line between when skis cease to feel like skis.  At 150 and shorter, kick turns are a non-issue in any circumstances, and hearingboning up short pitches easy and efficient.  The tracking and gliding abilities of long skis looses relevance in deep snow, and the Marquettes are superlative trail breakers.  Add in the aggressive fishscales and maneuverability in difficult conditions, and you have a good wilderness tool in the making.

Unfortunately, the Marquettes are heavy.  A bit north of 4.5 lbs a ski, or close to 2 lbs a ski heavier than my 185cm Guides.  Durable, light, cheap: pick two.  A serious, and for serious miles, deal breaking drawback.

Conclusions

A great concept, well executed, with a far great range of applicability than is at first evident.

It could be improved by:making it lighter (without sacrificing durability), making the shovel and tail flex easier than the middle of the ski.

It’s not for everyone, but I’m pretty sure most will find it very fun and highly useful.

[10/18/12 update: I stand by everything I said above, and should note that the skis proved impressively durable over several seasons of rough use.  Recently I passed them on to another user, not because they don’t work well or don’t have a place, but because they are just too heavy, and my interested drifted further and further into the BC.  Still highly recommended if they suit you.]

Mounting tricks

As has been explored previously here, my tastes in ski gear (well, most gear, actually) is rather idiosyncratic.  Driven by an overvaluation of simplicity and aesthetics, and at the moment, a strong need for affordability.  I say all this as a sort of disclaimer: take my advice, and you may consider yourself misled down the road.

This evening I set out to change the binding setup on our 167cm K2 Summit Superlights.  Great little skis.  Bought ’em new right as we were moving up to Montana for 100 bucks.  I say “our” because with three pin bindings M (women’s size 7.5-8) and I (men’s size 11-11.5) can ski the same skis without futzing around and changing anything.

I started out mounting plain Voile Mountaineer bindings on them, then in early 2009 added some 15mm risers.  After using the Marquettes without risers, but with Voile wedges (an ancient piece of gear, pictured above, that the folks at RMO still have in the back room), I began to reconsider the conventional wisdom, namely that risers add leverage for turning, and are necessary to prevent binding drag on the snow while turning.

Epoxied-in screws need heat to facilitate removal.  A soldering iron on the head for a few minutes does the trick.

The Marquettes are, at 130mm underfoot, wider than the Mountaineers.  I’m currently of the opinion that a binding closer to the snow surface provides a nicer feel, and that wedges serve too purposes: the first is to alleviate the effects of rocker launch, the second to provide a bit of forward resistance when going downhill.

Done.

You see, I don’t tele (yet).  I do parallel turns in freeheel gear.  Silly, one might say.  Simple and cheap, sez I.  In any case, I’m sure my “technique” has developed in all sorts of aberrant ways as a result.  For my sort of skiing rocker launch is bad (I notice instep fatigue skiing hardpack), and having the toes ramp up to provide something to push against as you go downhill seems like it should be good, too.  Heel rise might be silly in all shoes, and certainly in ski boots, when you’re to a certain extent fighting directly against gravity.

First rule of ski-teching: measure three times, drill once.  Second rule: have a good beer handy.

So I pulled the risers and remounted the Mountaineers on wedges.  We’ll see how that goes.  The method I’ve evolved for drilling skis, back when all I had was a dremel, was to drill first with a 1/8″ bit, then tap that hole with a 5mm tap.  In this case I just had to drill out the epoxy in the old holes.

I like softish boots and short climbing wires (the metal wires are flipped up and back on steep hills to provide a better platform).  Those are Voile’s shortest (48mm).  My latest ski innovation, however, are anti-ice tapes for the heel pads.  Back on Friday the wet snow on Brown Mountain built up underfoot and stuck to the pads, which made skiing harder than it needed to be.  It tapes work for the toe pieces, why not for the heel?  These are bits of old anti-ice tape glued on with Shoe-Goo.  Very effective, and on all my skis now.

Now we just need some snow.

Testing…

My mom, who got me into this whole outdoor adventure thing in the first place, worries about me.  So, my holiday gifts this month consisted of a MEC Reflex down parka and Patagonia Micro Puff pants, the better to stay warm and safe out in the cold, and the better to extend our Western Mountaineering Antelope MF sleeping bag (rated to 5F).

An arctic front has moved into the US over the last 36 hours, and as last night was forecasted to be cold and clear, I headed out to test gear.  I left work, threw a pack together, drove up to Polebridge, and skied into Bowman Lake, mostly in the dark.

Cooked over a fire, admired the stars, and went to bed.

It was cold.  I slept well, though woke up to a few shivers at 530.  Munched a chocolate bar, did 50 situps, and slept warm until I woke up with the sun at 8.

I heard ice cracking and booming throughout the night as the lake worked on freezing up.

I sat in my bag and ate dark chocolate for breakfast, and watched the sun rise.  The ski out was equally pleasant, the car started (with some initial protests), and I made it home safe and sound.

Snotel has Many Glacier (a bit higher but comparable topography) as hitting -26.5F at 5 am.  It was likely warmer than not, but not enormously so.  The new puff gear gets the seal of approval, especially the Reflex, which is super warm, stupid light for that warmth, and has a nice array of well thought out features.  The gates are now open.

The question of laziness

After getting my ass kicked the last 4-5 times out skiing (or at least not feeling like a powder slaying god), moral has been low. One result is that I’m going through a period of nostalgia for summer. Thinking about mountain biking on dry dirt, or catching trout in clear water.

The other result is that I’ve been obsessing about how to not suck at skiing.  At least, how to suck a bit less.  The most important way is to keep skiing a lot, which I will continue to do (see below for complications).  Another, more remote but nonetheless weighty, answer is that I will buy new gear.   Not this winter, but before next, I intend to plunk down the 1500+ or so US dollars a proper BC downhill rig will run.  The question is, what stuff?

The most obvious answer and sub-question would be a get a Dynafit ski rig, weighing lightness v. burliness.  Most anything would be a massive improvement over doing p-turns with 3 pins and floppy tele boots.  However, I also don’t have all that much invested in skiing per se, which leads to the other option: splitboarding.

Snowboarding is reputed to be easier to learn, and let us face it, is waay cooler than skiing.  Logistically splitboarding is more complex than skiing, but that sort of thing plays to my strengths and is less of a concern.  It’s certainly less efficient on rolling terrain, but I have light tele gear for that.  So my initial thoughts would be to get some used Scarpa F1s and a Voile splitter.  Perhaps.  (I welcome the thoughts of the at least two accomplished splitboarders that read).

In any case, I need to keep getting out and learning, the glories of which I attempted to venerate in the most recent post.  But it’s hard.  Working hard uphill only to get more beat up on the down is not the easiest thing to psyche up and leave pre-dawn to do.  And that ambivalence bleeds out and over.  Yesterday I rallied to skin Big Mountain after work, but didn’t summit after I got into the fog and didn’t want to flail my way back down with no visability in the rapidly rising darkness.  This morning would have been a stellar powder day, but I reset the alarm and slept for another hour.

I am in short, lazy, and lack discipline.  Always have.  Want to get better at it, but always seem to falter (haven’t done regular core stuff since T-day, for instance).  Frustrating, disheartening, the sort of subtle failure that engendered further failure and inaction.

I’m in good company in claiming to be lazy.  Greg Hill told me he is lazy.  Hard to believe in someone closing in on 2 million feet of vertical gain this year.  Evidence suggest that a mountaineer’s mountaineer feels the same way.  Peter Croft, one of the most impressive rock climbers ever, is a notorious TV fan.  In short, it is clear that everyone suffers from the same potentially debilitating shadow when faced with the choices that, in aggregate, make a good adventurer and/or athlete into a great one.  The question is, what enables some to be so much more consistently good at going from idea to reality, from motion to act, and from desire to spasm?

I don’t know.  Practice, I suspect.  Self-knowledge, to a certain extent.  But at this juncture, my explanations are frustrating, primarily because none of them have helped me get much better at overcoming my own shadow.

But I intend to keep trying.  I did my core routine this morning, and in the process tweaked my shoulder doing pull ups.

Damnit.

2010: in review

Running through all these Christmases is the sense of an emotional cadenza at the end of the year, a braiding of feelings like hope, renewal, nostalgia, love, joy and exhaustion. Yet in the stories about this holiday, it’s surprising how often we’re reminded of a darker life, full of isolation, penury, greed, despair and the fear that traps emotion within us.

-The NY Times editorial page, today

2010 will stand out in my mind for many things; I finished my masters, got a good job, raised my gear making and photography to a new level, met many great people, and achieved a paradigm shift in how I view outdoor adventuring.  But above all, 2010 was the year in which I finally became an adult.

About time, eh?

In my post-MSW world, there is no longer some hypothetical future achievement which can (abstractly) be expected to categorically alter my life.  What I have and am now can reasonably be expected to be, with subtle variations, what I have and am in the future.  Reflecting on this has gone well with the expected, end of year, seasonal introspection of which the Times speaks.  It has been the cause of both satisfaction and angst.  And while there are many thing with which I am not satisfyied and which I hope to change in an enduring fashion, there are also many things of which I am proud.  Examining the first 29.8 years of my life is, from this comfy chair on this quiet morning, majorily a fulfilling experience.

This year I learned, primarily through school, that there are still important things that I’m quite bad at, that there are things in life that I thought I might be that I will not be doing, and that choices I’ve made in the past have already limited choices I can make in the future.  Most importantly, I’ve learned to embrace this more accurate, full, realistic poirtrate of my existence.

This year I learned that cultivating friends and partners, for today and for days in the future, is essential.  Finishing up the second video this morning was an emphatic reminder of this.

This year a long dormant in interest in artistic expression and the sharing it allows was reawakened.  I’m very pleased with the photography, videography, and writing I’ve done in the past 12 months, and the responses it has engendered.  Thanks to all of you for being a part of that.

This year I learned that day trips are, to be blunt, bullshit.  18 months ago I was still quite uneasy with overnight trips.  This year I sought out that uncertainty and looked at it right up close.  And while I’m still afraid of solitude, I’m longer afraid of that fear.  If I were to seriously ruminate upon and draw up a futile list of the 10 most significant outdoor adventures of my life, I think that half of them would have taken place this year.  And while some of the packraft trips may have been more sublime, there is no question that the Thorofare trip in May was the greatest outdoor adventure of my life to date.  It is just not possible to drink as deeply of the wilderness if you don’t spend the night.  When I plan trips now, the ones which capture my interest the most are days long.  When I write this essay a decade from now, I’m certain that adventures will be categorized as pre or post Thorofare.

This year I learned that making gear and sewing can be deeply satisfying, and that while I may come up short on detail work, I both enjoy and excell at big picture design work.  I think about gear design and fabric science in categorically different ways today.

And this year I learned that packrafting rules.  I’m not doing a list of best gear items, because there is the packraft, and then everything else.  Get a raft, but at your peril: you will never look at outdoor adventures the same.

I expect great things from myself in the year to come.  My job suits me perfectly, and I have no reason to suspect anything but better things as I continue to learn.  But it is the vast wilderness complex to the east that really inflames my imagination.  Winter is still something I’m working on and learning about, but come spring and summer, my confidence is large and my plans grandiose.  After almost 30 years of walking in the woods my summer skillset is nearing completion, and I am very much looking forward to exercising it to the fullest extent.  I suppose that, having found maturity at last, I am enjoying its benefits.  2011 should be a good year.

Marquette Backcountry ski: out o’ the box

Enter the clown shoes.

Those are 185 Guides.

Inserts make mounting dead easy.  I did need a longer screw for the front, to use the Voile wedge.  Fine threaded, takes a 3mm allen.

Big fishscales.

They have a bit of camber.  They’re also very stiff, by any standard.  Not plastic noodles.

Lots of tip rise.

Off to get ’em dirty.

Karhu Guide ski review

ExecSum: This neo-classic ski, currently living after the demise of Karhu as the Madshus Annum, is the proverbial jack-of-all-trades, master of none.  If you want one ski that will work for 40 degree powder fields, 20 miles of rolling trail breaking, and everything in between, this is the ski.

The facts: My Guides are 185 cm.  I’ve owned them since February of 2009.  I’ve skied them a lot: long rolling tours on untracked terrain, multi-day trips, double black terrain both in resorts and in the backcountry.  I mounted Voile Mountaineers (heavy-duty 3 pin bindings) on 15mm G3 risers, on the factory recommended pin line, and haven’t played around with that original job.  Initially I used Alpina BC 2075 plastic/leather boots, but the vast majority of skiing on them has been with a pair of older, softer blue T2 plastic boots which I’ve modified to make lighter and softer (cut off the lean lock, cut down the cuff, made the tongue softer).

Madshus’ claimed weight for the Annum is right in line with my skis, 5.7 lbs for the pair in 185.  Very light for a 109-78-95 ski.

Assessment: I call the Guide a neo-classic because I think it will eventually be seen as the originator of a new category of skis, all-around BC touring skis.  The Guide took the attributes of Karhu’s long-standing XCD (cross country downhill) series of skis and stretched them to the point that a new category is in order.  The Guide’s width is only skinny by contemporary powder-ski standards, and when combined with the Guide’s substantial single camber (seen above, uncompressed), creates a ski that can turn down truly difficult terrain, break trail, and make miles.

The width, robust single camber, fishscale base, and light weight have been the focus of attention for most of the Guide’s life, because they were such a unique combination.  Now in the Rossignol BC125 the Guide has been surpassed in dimension, and hopefully more attention can be paid to the Guide’s design, which is very well thought out.

The Guide doesn’t have much sidecut, by alpine standards.  It has a big shovel, and the tip is quite soft (flex-wise).  The result it excellent float and soft-snow performance, be in downhill, uphill, or on the flats.  In truly soft snow conditions the Guide may be one of the more efficient trail breakers around, being wide enough to float well, and still quite light.  The back end of the ski has even less sidecut, a feature which serves two distinct and important ends.  First, the relative lack of sidecut lets the Guide track very well for a ski of its girth.  Second, the pin tail (and the rounded tail tip) lets the tail be dragged quickly around for smear turns, a crucial feature in tight trees or when descending narrow roads and trails when speed must be scrubbed ASAP.  The more I ski the Guides in varied terrain, the more I appreciate the utility of the sidecut and flex pattern.

The Guide does have shortcomings.  Such a large, light ski will inevitably, in the absence of expensive space age materials, lack both edge hold and dampness.  The Guide gets kicked around by hard debris, and while it can hold on edge on frozen snowmobile tracks, requires some consequential body english to do so.

The light bindings and boots which match best this skis versatile nature compound those problems, but not in ways which I find unsafe, or overly problematic.  Folks have skied the Guides with everything from NTN to Dynafit, but I like the simple, bomber and cheap Mountaineer binding.  The low risers prevent binding drag on hard snow, and the anti-ice tape (plastic sticker on the binding) keeps snow from being compressed into ice.  I went until last spring without anti-ice tapes, which was pure folly.  They’re impressively effective, a must have accessory.

On the whole, I think the Guide is a great design and a fantastic value.  Keep its limitations in mind (skiing steep stuff and bad snow is much like riding a rigid bike on technical terrain) and you’ll not be disappointed.

10/2012 update:  The Guides endure, and never fail to get used a ton no matter what each winter brings.  I stripped off the risers for ’10/’11 and didn’t miss them at all.  As of this writing they are in the garage, mounted with Plum 145 tech bindings, waiting for snow.  Check the trackbacks for thoughts on use with Dynafits.

What I wore this past Saturday

As has been acknowledged here and most everywhere else, dressing for ski touring is a challenge.  Strenuous, slow ups, fast and cold downs, and rapidly changing exposure to sun and shade and calm and wind make maintaining a safe level of warmth without sweating quite the puzzle.  I had a pretty good setup going this weekend, as follows from the bottom up:

-Scarpa T2 plastic double boots, Darn Tough socks

For a multiday trip I’d wear vapor barriers to keep the liners dry.  My boots have plenty of toe room, and are super warm  No issues with the feet all day.

-Midweight stretch polyester pants, Powerstretch boxer-briefs

There was little wind in the forecast, but the possibility of daytime lows in the high single digits up high.  The boxers kept the crucial areas warm, while the pants blocked wind and snow while breathing very well.  I also have shock cord instep straps sewn into the pants, which keeps them locked down and snow out of my boots.  These pants are closest to the current Patagonia Simple Guide pants.

-Capilene 1 sleeveless, Capilene 2 LS crewneck, Patagonia Traverse pullover, OR Omni gloves

For reasons discussed a week or so ago, the Traverse is a foundation of my winter layering.  It balances wind and snow protection with breathability in an exemplary fashion.  The cap 1 sleeveless might seem redundant, but the tight fitting, fast wicking fabric adds a noticable edge to both moisture transport and warmth.  All these layers get damp throughout the day, and I rely on their fast drying capacity to keep me comfy.

-Patagonia Houdini

I put this on for the down hills.  It adds just enough wind and snow resistance without causing the overheating that a bigger jacket would.  It also continues the venting and drying process, even as I ski down.  Had it been windier I would’ve wanted a burlier layer that better resists pumping out heat by fabric flapping.

-Capilene magic hat, Montrail headband

My hat system is where I’ve made the most refinements this year, with great success.  The magic hat is a skull cap made of variable weights of capilene, a double layer of capilene 1 wrapping from the front across the ears almost to the back, and a single layer of capilene 2 at the back of the head, and across the top of the hat.  The double cap 1 is warmer and moves moisture fast, while the single layer cap 2 vents super quick and provides less warmth where you don’t need it.  This hat looks ugly, but is absolutely ass kickingly effective.  I can wear it going uphill and it acts as a sweatband to keep my glasses unfogged, and it will dry fast enough to not suck out heat when I top out.  Worlds better than wool in this application.

The Montrail headband is a wool/acrylic blend hat I got in my prize package at the Grizzly Man race back in the spring but never wore because it was too shallow and didn’t cover my ears.  A few weeks ago, in a flash of inspiration, I cut the top 4 inches off and made a big, turbo headband or topless hat.  I throw this on for extra warmth on the down, which is very effective.  You don’t need warmth on top of your head, at least if you have as much hair as I do.  The knit it very stretchy and stays put even while cartwheeling and faceplanting in deep snow.

-Patagonia DAS parka, OR Endeavor mitts

A synthetic belay parka is absolutely essential for winter endeavors.  The Primaloft One insulation and high density 100% poly shell and liner don’t mind moisture, and dry super fast.  They keep the heat generated on the up locked in for the down.  When  I top out I immediately put on the Houdini, then the DAS, perhaps keeping them unzipped for a bit to vent some moisture.  I adore this coat, as it is simply perfect for this application.

The Endeavor mitts are the second layer of hand defense.  I only used them for the snowmobile tow, given how calm the day was.

-Fleece vest and mittens

Emergency clothes carried deep in the pack, along with firestarters and emergency bivvy.  Rarely used.

 

In the winter dance of warm and cold, this system delivers.  Some parts, specifically the light soft shells, synthetic hat layers, and belay parka are both key to comfort and very dialed.  Hope this might help some of you still seeking answers.

A note for those looking to MYOG with respect to hats: the Patagonia Outlets and the online web specials often have XXL capilene shirts for super-cheap.  I buy them specifically to rip apart and make gear.

Perhaps this weekend?

Trip planning is an equisite art. The mechanical side has, and continues to be, revolutionized by technology. Six years ago M and I lived in Moab, and quickly stockpiled USGS quads because they were the only source for detailed topographic information about most of Utahs backcountry canyons.

That is no longer the case.

Travis from BPL turned me on to Wikimapia less than an hour ago, more than enough time for to appreciate the finely presented satellite images and the clean, intuitive features.  The level of detail on Google Terrain will still have the prudent reaching for paper (or another resource) in some situations, though many of those situations (I’m thinking SoUt slots) also push up against the boundaries of what paper can hope to articulate, 20 ft counter intervals or not.

And that is in the end why maps and trip planning are both such fun, because eventually you’ll stumble across an idea which, once opened up on a map, promises to show so much more once you’re actually out in its folds.  I’ve been looking at the big paper map of Glacier on our wall for weeks, trying to sort out an idea as good as the last one (that being the Two Medicine-Lake McDonald trip).  I finally found one.

Here.

In summer this would be an interesting route with major flaws, chiefly the amount of road walking and the near mile long packraft crossing of a lake full of powerboats.  But now, with the Hungry Horse reservoir roads gated, Jewel Basin’s trails covered in snow, and ice lapping at the shores, things change quite a bit.  I am concerned about avalanche terrain on this route, especially going over the first pass.  I may well put this project off for at least a weekend, to get out a bit more and gain more data points about the snowpack.  On the other hand, temps are moderate this weekend, and wind looks to be low.  And adventure calls.

 

More interesting off-season trips:

A ski-canyoneering adventure in Cedar Breaks.  How many raps in Ashdown, Phillip?

Perhaps the ultimate shuttle trip: the complete Deep Creek and the Narrows trip.  In winter, of course.  Skis, drysuit, crampons, 3 days.  No rope work on this one, but best bring a bit anyway.  Winter does odd things to canyons.  How could you go wrong?