Friday, December 28, 2007
Thursday, December 20, 2007
"I need some pain and suffering. Life's just been too [good] lately." - Eric, November 8, 2007
The plan was grand from the start, as all AAS weekend plans are, yet we kept it simple. After approximately 63 emails shortly following a brief discussion at the Taos Mountain Film Festival, it was finally decided that the AAS would kick off the ’07-’08 winter season with an ascent of one or both of the Spanish Peaks, two towering granite stocks soaring over 6,000 feet above the plains in south-central Colorado on the fringe of the Sangre de Cristos. Conditions permitting, we planned to arrive at the Wahatoya trailhead south of La Veta late on Friday, hike/snowshoe/skin to the 10,300ft saddle between the mountains, probably in the dark, and climb 13,625ft West Spanish Peak on Saturday, followed either with some powder turns or an ascent of 12,683ft East Spanish Peak and the hike/snowshoe/downhill glissé back to the cars on Sunday.
That was Plan A.
Plan B was a more traditional ski trip to either Wolf Creek or Crested Butte should winter conditions preclude a safe ascent of the Spanish Peaks. Simple. A win-win weekend, really.
In hindsight, we knew there was really nothing wrong with Plan A. The weather didn’t look that bad for the Spanish Peaks…but there was just so much powder to be had at Wolf Creek. Epic powder. Seven feet of pillowy cold smoke that really belonged in Alaska, especially considering it was the second week of December, and just two weeks prior there had been nary enough to gather a snowball between Wolf Creek and Winter Park. Seven Feet of free Warren Miller Pow jetting in a great white snowgasm from beneath our feet as we carved up to our chests on the Powerline, or perhaps with a nominal fee, beneath Alberta Peak. You see where I’m going with this. Plan B it was.
…Except Plan B wasn’t really good enough. You see, Eric really needed some pain and suffering. Nobody really likes winter camping. Even fewer like winter camping in a 4-person, freestanding 3-season tent in blizzard accumulations measuring around two inches per hour. So, Plan B was enhanced to include a snowshoe/skin in from the traditional Powerline parking area near Wolf Creek Pass and establishing ABC near the top of the Powerline run. After all, powder turns in SEVEN FEET of heaven might be free, but should never come cheap.
We should have known when a) I managed to be almost two hours late meeting Paul and Eric prior to departure due to a funeral service, b) under withering verbal abuse from Paul (albeit in ignorance at the cause of my lateness), I managed to leave my snowboard boots in my back seat and neglect to bring my bivy to cover my non-waterproof down sleeping bag in the transfer of equipment to Paul’s rented seXTerra, c) Dan and Kirk reported that the Powerline parking lot wasn’t just snowy, it was in fact under that same Seven Feet of Creamy Pow-tang. But of course, we pressed on. There was always Plan C.
Plan C was in essence a modified Plan B. After all, no plan survives its first contact with the enemy. There are fog and friction, and these necessitate changes to the plan. So, Dan and Kirk scoured tiny South Fork, Colorado for a hotel room that looked nice, wasn’t the cheapest in town, and had the worst-smelling sulfur-infused tap water they could find. They were successful in their quest, and obtained a room at the Lonesome Dove Inn. Eric, Paul, and I joined them just shy of 10pm after a stop in Alamosa for some delicious Kentucky Previously Fried And Then Microwaved Chicken. There were leftovers.
Saturday dawned a slushy gray muck in South Fork, promising better things for the pass a few miles up the road. I of course needed to acquire some snowboard boots…so it was off to the ski area to see what I could come up with. I was on track for a rental pair when I let slip that we were hiking the Powerline all day as well as camping up there, and the guy behind the counter promptly withdrew the boots behind the counter and pointed me to the ski shop across the sidewalk. After re-engaging the mental train on its tracks, I trudged over to see what they had. $200.44 and fifteen minutes later I had a new pair of Burtons on my feet and was back in Paul’s rental on the way to the parking lot on top of Wolf Creek Pass. A quick Rochambeau earned Kirk the privilege of parking his gently-used FJ Cruiser at the Powerline outlet three miles down 160 from Wolf Creek Pass for the shuttle back. Under snowy skies, Dan, Paul, and I shouldered our packs and broke trail while Eric and Kirk staged the cars. An avalanche blocking 160 to the west was keeping the hordes away, so we were in no hurry.
Arriving at a good spot near the top of the Powerline access road, the three of us began the tasks of setting up winter camp. Tamping down the snow, setting up tents – one a Rainier-worthy North Face for Kirk and Dan, and one 4-person, freestanding 3-season tent for Eric, Paul and I. About an hour later, Eric and Kirk arrived and shortly we were ready for our first Powerline lap. At the drop-in, as the others stripped skins and locked down heels in preparation, I knelt in the snow, steaming at a misfortunate binding failure…a critical screw came loose on the hike up and was lost forever. Ever the cool one, Paul advised some MacGuyvering and in a few minutes I was back in business.
Executing Plan C was to this point almost as good as we imagined it to be. This was, however, Plan C’s first contact with the enemy. The fluff was indeed criminally-untouched, flawless, grade-A ski dope. Words don’t do it justice. Dan led us to a section we hadn’t hit in previous trips looking for a nice open glade with a steep pitch – just what the doctor ordered. We missed it, but only just – traversing below it, we vowed to hit it on the next lap.
Plan C was working great! We popped out onto Hwy 160, greeted some salt-o-the-earth electric company line engineers looking for the source of an outage on the circuit, glanced up and down the road, and saw no silver FJ Cruiser. Eric assured us it was just around the corner because the road was a little wider up there. Hanging our thumbs out was getting us no love, so Eric approached the electric co guys and bummed a ride. They were happy to oblige after we had informed them of the location of some downed poles we saw on our run, and Eric was off….
...Only to return about 15 minutes later, still in the passenger seat of the work truck and sans FJ. Hm. Maybe he parked it farther down the road? The electric co guy said he’d drive down the road to the next tunnel, and if he didn’t come back in 15 more minutes, assume the car isn’t there. He returned 15 minutes later, but gave us the thumbs down. Now fearing the obvious…Eric bummed another ride back to the pass to retrieve the seXTerra and info on where cars get towed to from all the way up there. It was having problems starting anyway, I guess. Turns out the State Trooper who had it towed was up at the pass directing snow removal efforts and gave Eric the info. We bungeed our gear to the top, piled in, and headed down the road to get a cell phone signal and call the tow company.
Turns out it was towed thirty miles down the road to Monte Vista, and apparently not long after Eric had parked it…the bill turned out to be a whopping $381. Scraping together what we had and emptying an ATM for the rest, we split the bill and commenced discussing courses of action (COAs) for Plan D.
Plan D consisted of two COAs. One, we go back to South Fork, eat a non-freeze-dried meal cooked by a professional, then proceed back up to the pass (conditions permitting), and hike back in to camp. A sub-plan of this was break camp and return to the Lonesome Dove (or perhaps cheaper accommodations with more palatable water). The second COA was to return to South Fork, eat a non-freeze-dried meal cooked by a professional, then obtain comfortable, heated accommodations (preferably with palatable water) and hike in Sunday morning to break camp and do a final lap on the Powerline before heading home. After some discussion, it was decided that the benefits of a humorous, self-deprecating blog entry (except for Dan – he only deprecates on porcelain, or something) outweighed the pain and suffering that would be endured by returning to camp. Plan D was set.
We checked into Mike and Rita’s (now actually known as A-Different-Mike and Somebody-Else’s) and proceeded to dry our gear by an anemic gas wall heater. Kirk produced a six pack of AAS-approved beer, and we sat down to cheer on Different-Mike as he attempted to knock ice off the DirecTV dish with which we needed to watch Ninja Challenge.
Sunday dawned the day we wished we’d had on Saturday. A cold bluebird morning atop Wolf Creek Pass, and the traffic was already rolling into the parking lot at the area at 7:45am. The powder sparkled, and tiny flakes lifted from the surface by a breath of a breeze hung suspended like in a snow globe. Plan D was shaping up nicely. Another MacGuyver fix to my binding, and we were ready to hike in and break camp. But Plan D was, like Plans B and C, doomed. Eric snapped his binding just as he set off, and it was irreparable. The rest of us headed off, bummed that we’d have to leave one of our own behind at the cars. The camp was something of a surprise when we arrived. Paul’s Family Values tent had buckled under the blizzard and was half-erect under a smooth, foot-deep blanket of snow, which had managed to collect on it despite being hidden under several towering spruces that had provided some protection. Kirk’s North Face was also covered, but taut as when we’d left it. Thirty minutes later, we shouldered our packs again and set off back down the approach to the cars. We passed skiers headed up, clearly eyeing our large packs. “Stay warm?” one guy asked. “Yep! Sure did,” was my reply. Returning to the cars, Paul and I revealed our intent to scrap Powerline Run #2 in favor of Plan E, a tactical retreat in light of the Jurassic-Park-style cascading events of the weekend and in solidarity with Eric. Dan and Kirk intended to attempt to regain some value in the weekend by enjoying a few lift-assisted runs at the ski area, but were ultimately thwarted by two full parking lots (it was after 10am, after all) and dwindling desire. Dan and Kirk implemented Plan E as well, and the weekend drew to a close as we headed back home.
Here's the Vid El Presidente put together!
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Friday, August 03, 2007
On Friday the 27th of July, your AAS decided to head north for a bit of Colorado flavor, settling into AAS-vanced Base Camp (ABC) in the Crestone Group of 14'ers. I had the honor of being the advance team, making an admirable (if I do say so) charge at the South Colony 4X4 road on Friday, making it about half way up before parking my Subie lest it become a permanent fixture of the landscape. 1,700 vertical feet and about 3.5 miles later, I established ABC in a prime spot at the outlet of Lower South Colony Lake at about 11,600 feet, with Crestone Needle and Humboldt Peak towering overhead on either side, and went off for a bit of relaxing fly-casting for what may be Colorado's native Cutthroat Trout. About a half-hour of that went by before Eric, Dan, Paul, and Kirk arrived fresh from some quality truck rodeo on the back of Kirk's spankin'-new stock FJ Cruiser, which apparently had little difficulty in making it to the end of the road, in respectable company with rock-crawlers, lifted jeeps, and other such Earth-stomping beasts. Not being ones to waste any time, we immediately engaged in a half-AAS'd round of Hackey whilst alternately Paul and Eric fiddled with Paul's pipe in a vain attempt to make it smoke. In a fit of frustration, Paul called on his AAS-honed ingenuity to fashion a pipe from some deliciously zucchini bread-encrusted aluminum foil (thanks, Courtney! And Eric, of course, for sharing).
On-and-off drizzle and glowering clouds told us we were probably going to be in for a soaking...and sure enough, just before dinner we were chased into our tents by the rain. Undaunted, we enjoyed premium tobacco products, our dinners sans trout, and a fine red table wine from the makers of Clif Bar (a blend appropriately called "Climber" -- highly recommended, though they need to get the bottle weight down if it's going to become one of our Ten Essentials).
Around sunset the rain let up and our attentions turned next to cooking our hard-won trout, which had been seasoning in fresh mountain stream runoff for several hours. Paul used a secret AAS technique to produce fire from soaked wood, and soon a roaring fire was the envy of all lesser groups camped in the area. The trout was, of course, delish.
Sunday dawned clear, with stunning alpenglow on Crestone Needle followed by a brilliant sunrise. After some discussion, it was decided that Humboldt Peak was indeed worthy of a morning AAS-sault, Bravado in ample supply as we were at least an hour late getting on the trail despite gray clouds quickly building. Dan, displaying superior hubris and clear disdain for the conditions, threw aside early bonking and summited triumphantly with the rest of your AAS -- let it never be said that a piece of AAS is better than the whole. Er, that is to say, an AAS parted is...well, we stuck together, and that's the main point I'm trying to get across here.
A few hours later found us back at camp and packing up wet gear for the short 1.5 mile hike back to the AAS-mobile, followed by some brief truck rodeo on the way down and a customary apres-hike grease-bomb-n-beer AAS luncheon in Westcliffe prior to adjournment.
Here's the video Paul put together:
Monday, July 30, 2007
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Hey Folks !
We did it, last weekend Dan, Paul & Eric headed up to Taos for a little ski mountaineering! We hit the trailhead around lunch Friday. After a nice 3 hour schlog we reached the northwest end of Wheeler Basin and made camp. The snow was plentifull and rock hard. Avalanche danger was pretty much non-existant but we spent the afternoon doing beacon practice and self-arrest drills just to get in the proper frame of mind ;-)
Saturday morning dawned clear and cold. We hit the bottom slopes. After about an hour we started the real climbing with skiis on packs and kick-stepping up the couliors. It stayed cold and semi-cloudy so the Avy danger remained nill. After dropping our skiis on the shoulder we made the summit proper, 12,881 feet! Sweeeeet. We all skiied the steeps through the no-fall zones and had a blast. After a nice lunch we hit more slopes nearer to base camp.
The snow moved in and we retired to the tent. We underestimated our fuel consumption so Paul stepped up, made a fire and cooked dinner for all in the snow under a big overhang. Eric set a new record for staying in the tent with an impressive 18 hour stretch! We woke the next morning to 4 to 6 inches of fresh power for the ski out to the Taos Diner!
Here's a little clip Eric the viking put together:
Monday, April 16, 2007
I made the 700 ft. climb in about 45 minutes. I wasn't sure where I wanted to ski down, even after checking in with the ski patrol about where it would be safe without a partner. I was called back from a ridge by the snow-cat driver who was worried I was going off on my own over a cliff ;-) Silly snow-cat dude, he didn't know that AAS members never ski dangerous stuff without a partner and proper equipment! Here's my summit clip:
I skiied a perfect bowl down into the woods on some of the best snow of the year according to the ski patrol dudes I spoke to. Here's a final shot of me in the woods, It was soooooo awsome I really wished I had company ;-)
All in all I am VERY impressed with Keystone resort. Great loooong family ski runs and awsome extreme skiing for Papa......... WE'LL BE BACK !
Monday, April 09, 2007
Friday, April 06, 2007
Last weekend Eric and Paul hit Taos for a little BC action and winter camping. We were destined for Wheeler Basin at the foot of the states highest mountain, Wheeler Peak. However as we geared up at Dan's house the on-off switch on Dan's beacon BROKE! Rendering Eric beacon-less... Soooooooo, being the responsible mountain explorers we are (another AAS requirement) we changed plans and decided to head up to Bull of the Woods meadow and climb Gold Hill.
We hit the trail in Taos at about 10:30 PM in a snowstorm ;-) We climbed for about an hour and a half and made camp in a smaller meadow just short of Bull of the Woods. Here's home sweeeeet home.
Paul was a bit sick for the big day, so after lots of high-octane tea and asprin we made breakfeast of now mandatory AAS pre-cooked bacon and other treats, we hit the climb. Here's Eric trying to figure out how to eat bacon with mittens on.
During the climb up past Bull O' the Woods, Paul met a woman snow shoe'er and said she and her 40+ year old girlfriends were in a yert just up the trail and to stop by later for tea, we gladly accepted.
Here's Eric on the climb:
As we approached the summit we came across a fantastic cornice. Here's Paul on the way down it:
We bagged the peak in the company of some Rockey Mt. Sheep and high winds:
On the way down we had hard and variable snow that wasn't the best stuff to ski in, so we hiked through the steepest parts of the woods and made it back to the yert for tea after a 6 or 7 hour schlog! After about 10 hours recovering in the tent, we were ready to pack-out for home.
All in all a great little weekend adveture. Next up........ an AAS assult of Lake Fork Peak ! Here' the AAS reconnaissance photo with a possible route selection in red:
Another AAS Production...... NEXT !
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Monday, February 12, 2007
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Wolf Creek 2007 !
Unsatisfied with lift accessable areas, the AAS ventured upward to get fresh POW on the Massive Alberta Peak. Here Dan shreads the peak from 11,900 feet! Luckily his film crew and sound mixers were in tow, as always ;-)
On day 2, the AAS ventured out into the PREMO Pow-Pow in the back country. Here's the team shreading a steep in the woods...
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Let's let Eric explain it...
Need more proof? Check out the video of the spiritually enlightened duo.
Friday, January 05, 2007
Our latest ASS pledge Brian Bone, is still in the UAE hoping to get back in time for Wolf Creek 2007 and just sent this email that is so funny I had to save it here for all time ;-) God Speed Brian!
Esteemed friends and acquaintances,
Greetings from (the vicinity of) Doha. As of right now I'm due back around the 20th but come Monday I can submit paperwork to get out of here earlier, hopefully putting me back in the states around the 15th. Pencil me in and I'll keep the committee appraised.
You'll be happy to know my roommate and I passed our most recent monthly dorm room inspection, though we did get marked down for dust (on top of our 8-foot tall steel lockers. In the f*cking desert, oh and I'm a f*cking CAPTAIN), a very slightly dirty A/C filter (in the f*cking desert), and the presence of trash in our trash can. I am not making this up.
Some of the other little nuggets of joy:
- The entire PERSCO team (the people who move you in and out during rotations) assigned themselves to the first plane out of theater this month, without assigning anyone else except for those to fill that airplane. So, a new team, plus augmentees is being brought in to finish the job. Why did they do this? Because they could.
- You know those big plastic garbage cans with the flip-top lids? They placed those next to all the smoke pits, then made a rule that states that they're not for trash, and anyone caught throwing their room trash in them will be placed on weed & butt detail (not as good as it sounds...that's picking up weeds, trash, and cigarette butts).
- Our dorm rooms are 8x8 with two people in them. A month ago, someone decided they could put 4 people in them during rotations, so we all received another set of bunk beds (which my roommate and I immediately disassembled) and two more mattresses (which doubled our current sleeping surface thickness from four to eight inches). Then they discovered they didn't have enough sheets for all the new beds, so they scrapped the whole idea, but didn't take back the bunk beds or mattresses. Which is a good thing, because I can't find the screws any more.
- Over the summer, a particularly good-looking girl kept wearing a set of pink short-shorts with the word "juicy" on her ass, and a tank top, whenever she was off-duty. Well, naturally, someone was offended, so instead of simply making her wear "appropriate" clothes, ALL personnel must now wear either their duty uniform or their PT gear at all times. Even if only to go from your room to the nearest bathroom at 2am to take a piss. For those not familiar with Air Force PT gear, allow me to digress into a short discussion on the style and sizing of said clothing. I'm pretty much joe average when it comes to clothing sizes. I'm 5'10, 185 lbs, wear 34 waist jeans, and I have a 42 chest. PT gear consists of shorts, a T-shirt, and for cool weather, nylon sweat pants and a zip-up nylon jacket, all with built-in reflective properties. Designing these items must have cost billions, because first they needed to design, build, and test a time machine to travel back to 1984 to find the proper material and kidnap a fashion executive from Esprit. So, for me to wear any combination of the above ensemble with any degree of comfortable fit, I have to purchase the following sizes:
- medium shirt
- XL shorts
- Medium sweat pants
- large jacket.
Now, were I to buy all "large" items, I wouldn't be able to go to the gym or in fact sit down in my shorts without my cocknballs taking the path of least resistance to freedom, but that's okay because even when tucked in my t-shirt would come down to the middle of my thighs. Which is okay, because if I had to I could tuck it into my swetapants, or "Hammer pants," with room to spare. The only thing that would fit normally is the highly reflective, non-waterproof, non-insulated, non-windproof Members Only jacket.
Here is Wonder Woman congratulating me on being selected to Major. No, wait...that's my squadron commander wearing her reflective belt, which is required at night when wearing camoflage. So everyone can see you.
War is hell.
Take care, and hopefully I'll see you guys in Pagosa.