Thursday, November 06, 2008

Monday, September 29, 2008

Baylor Peak - Mountain of Flurry

It's been a while since the Albuquerque Armchair Schmucks did anything good... so here is some cool stuff like we used to do. Also, this is the short film I put together for the Taos Mountain Film Festival last year. It didn't win, but was considered an "official entry". Got to start somewhere.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Extreme Pool Party in Las CrucAAS

The Zahnle's treked down to Las Cruces for some mild family fun, but the day quickly turned in to an official AAS event. Things started out at a friends swimming pool with BBQ'd chicken and ribs and cream cheese stuffed, bacon wrapped, JalapeƱos. Oh yeah, there was also booze and bravado. Once we got in to pool, things turned extreme quickly!!

Everyone got in on the pool basket ball slam dunk contest. The result was a tie between Paul and Eric - though the photographer deserved all the credit for capturing such fleeting grace.

While there was plenty of danger involved, no major injuries were sustained. Eric scrapped his toe knuckles on the bottom of the pool (there was blood) and one pool chair was destroyed while being used as a diving board.

Next up: Extreme sand sledding!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

AAS Plan - D

Yes Folks........ Plan-D. "What's Plan-D" you say? Well it's a long and complex story starting out with me (Paul) doing the usual spring-time whining to the other members that we HAVE to get cracking and climb/ski a 14er! Well after the first plan of 5 members climbing Mt. Sneffels in Colorado fell through because Brian is getting married soon, Eric is getting married soon, Dan having to travel for 5 weeks in a row, etc, etc.. that plan fell through.

So on to Plan-B, 4 members would still do Mt. Sneffels a few weeks later because the snow was sooooo good. Then more "I don't think I can make it, I have to work" and similar lame excuses, Plan-B was canceled.

A few weeks later after I send even more increasingly annoying emails hounding the remaining contestants, Dan, Kirk and I settle on the closer trip and decide to bag the north Face of Lake Fork Peak in Taos! (I've had my eye on it for 2 years since Eric and I saw it from the Gold Hill climb)

Great! 3 AAS members and were all set......... except the week before (after I had a cold ALL WEEK thanks to my kids) Kirk emails Dan and I to tell us some genus at his company pushed out a bad patch to his systems and he's "Knee deep in a Sh*t Storm" and has to rebuild 20, 64 bit servers! So, now he's out... that's it for Plan-C

Time for yes, Plan-D. Dan is still so swamped at work he and I can't even leave Friday AM like I wanted to so we opt for a late Friday night arrival in Taos and spend it drinking in Dan's condo gearing up for the ascent!

The climb in went great and it was good to be back in the woods on skis again. We both needed it but missed our AAS bretheren... After arriving at AABC (AAS Advanced Base Camp) We took an hour to eat and gear up for the ascent and as the barometer dropped we found ourselves in a nice little storm! (who says ski season is over in May!) I was taking bearings back to camp in case it didn't let up, but in typical AAS style, we pushed onward and upward...

The climbing was difficult with my weakness form my cold and rotten patches of slippery dangerous snow we encountered along the way. We plowed on up and finally made the summit!

I was stumbling like a drunk on the last bit so Danny-Boy took the lead and stormed to the summit! Ahhhhhhh now for the reward...

The ski down was AWSOME! Except for me over-cooking it a bit and crashing in the crud-snow and injuring my shoulders, again... Here it is for your sadistic viewing pleasure.

The snow-gods smiled on us as the AAS completed one last ski mountaineering trip for this season! The angry ski demons in my head are quieted for now and the AAS turns it's attention to Mountain Biking! Anyone up for a little trip ? ;-)


Thursday, February 21, 2008


AAS Members Eric, Dan and Jeffe joined Bone buds Tony, Rich, Blake, Steve and Chris for a Bachelor Party weekend in Beckenridge Colorado. Blake brought the R/C helo entertainment, Rich brought the crazy chick(s) stories entertainment, Chris brought the live entertainment, Tony took care of the car bombs, Steve ensured all were loaded with ones, and the AAS boys brought the extreme downhill skills.

The result was a highly successful weekend with plenty of danger involved -- heavy drinking, extreme skiing, skiing while severely hung over, skiing while hung over is freezing and windy fuckin weather... And then there was Jessica and Lisa. Ah yes - those girls sure do know how to make a waning bachelor rethink his life. No pictures but we all know -- yes, we all know.

Bon Voyage Brian, Bone voyage.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

High Speed Quads? We got those.

Well, after a disappointing early-season effort at Wolf Creek back in December akin to a junior-prom date gone bad, the AAS put together a stellar comeback performance at none other than the steepest patrolled ski area in the lower 48, Silverton Mountain over its first weekend of the season offering guided trips. Together we made up fully ten percent of the total number of guests on the mountain last Saturday.

The weekend started for Paul, Dan, Matt, Eric, Jeff, and Kirk on Friday with a warm-up at Wolf Creek and a few turns down Horseshoe Bowl in practically untouched 10-day old powder. Yours Truly had a day shift at the salt mine, but when the whistle blew it was balls to the wall with my buddy Sean for the six-hour drive to Silverton and the first night at the "rustic" Triangle Motel. Some quick introductions for Sean, and everybody hit the rack in anticipation of the unknown that awaited us the next day. Dreams of sparkling pow, alluring snow nymphs, and miles upon miles of fresh turns danced in our heads, with the occasional oh-my-God-I'm-falling-into-the-abyss nightmare lurking in the shadows.

Saturday dawned early as SherPaul bounced from his evening's rest and set to work cooking madly, a veritable one-man beehive of activity. The other members awoke with varying degrees of sluggishness, bum-scratching, and flatulence, milling about collecting gear, eating hastily-assembled breakfast burritos, and dressing for the day. Our pace picked up as departure time neared...we had guaranteed reservations, but the rest of the Triangle Motel apparently was on a mission to get to the mountain and on the waitlist for any remaining at-large slots. There was shouting, boot stomping, doors opening and closing, and engines lugubriously cranking in the negative-20 degree air.

Soon enough we were on our way, one car at a time. A few minutes out of town up a county road brought us to the only chair, an antique obtained from Mammoth Mountain in California. Next to it was a large canvas tent...the combination check-in counter, rental counter, swag shop, and apres-ski bar. A few customary waivers that no one read, and an announcement was made to assemble in groups of eight at the entrance to the lift line.

We drew Jeremy, a wiry, bewhiskered young fellow as our guide. He quickly assessed our competence, made us prove our mandatory avalanche beacons worked, and gave us a quick run-down of all the ways we could die at Silverton Mountain. Undeterred, we paired up and waited our turn in the longest lift line this mountain would see that day. A few short minutes later and we were hoisted above the deep valley shadows into the sun at the top of a saddle overlooking the quintessential San Juan winter view...another deep, sharp valley hemmed by a sheer-walled cirque to our right and twisting out of view to our left beneath jagged peaks softened by well over seven feet of smooth powder, interrupted only by small blast craters and the occasional avalanche track. Thunder rippled off the peaks and couloirs across the valley as more controlled detonations from ski patrol worked to break up dangerous snow conditions out of sight.

All together, we headed off on a short hike up a rise on the left shoulder of the saddle to a nice bowl above a long, wide chute, over 2,100 feet of vertical drop at a fairly constant 38 degree slope. Some more instructions from Jeremy, and we were off one at a time.
A few wind-blown tracks on top, but otherwise soft turns through week-old consolidated powder...not "champagne" powder, but good nonetheless -- anything fluffier would have probably required SCUBA gear and a personal airbag to live through. About twenty more turns through a chute at the bottom and we were down. A quick hike to a catwalk a coast down to the road, and we boarded the "Powder Coyote" -- a hoopty bread van -- for the ride back to the Promised Land to work for more turns.

The second run took us just to skier's left of the saddle into the same backside valley, this time with the hopes of poaching a little powder stash next to a slide slope just before the runout. Seven of the eight made it there...Sean decided to imitate the Silverton logo and slide headfirst past the point of no return, earning him a long wait at the bottom of a chowdery chute as the seven AAS members made turns in knee-deep powder on a 40-degree slope for the remaining 400 feet of the 1,700-foot run. Back to the Powder Coyote. Matt, unfortunately, was utterly blown from working hard for his turns and decided to sit out a run at the bottom.

Nearing lunch time, we decided to hike to the top of our next run, then break for lunch. This hike took us from the top of the lift line on our high-speed quadriceps up about 500 feet to a small flat spot where we enjoyed a calm, comfortable lunch perched high above the valley at about 12,600 feet.

We suited back up and made one small push around a pinnacle, and there it was...the most amazing 10-foot thick cornice hanging over a mandatory 20-foot drop into a chute of the most dizzying steepness...above the most tantalizing expanse of untouched snow. Good thing there was a cut into the cornice a little farther down. The drawback? Jeremy informed us, "under no circumstances should you go straight in. You need to make two quick turns, and it's all gravy. Totally reasonable."

Yes, totally reasonable. Paul, practically bouncing up and down in anticipation, was straining to be the first one in. I was resigned to give it a shot...the first turn would have been heel-side for me, sort of blind, but I figured I could whip it around and plow a bit in the hard snow at the top if I needed to before turn number two beneath the behemoth looming over the edge above, then I would be home-free.

Just a moment's hesitation from Dan...then a squeak from Kirk, and it was all over. Jeremy herded us back down to the lunch spot for a more sensible entry. The disappointment was practically dripping from Paul, slightly less so from me, but we were good sports about it and ended up with a quite splended set of turns in the best snow that day. Unfortunately, an injury in another party nearby requiring Jeremy's assistance meant we weren't getting another shot at the chute...but we would get one more run.

The final run of the day, and Jeremy turned us loose on the front side at the top of another beautiful chute. The snow was a little harder once we dropped in, but it was fun anyway, carving up and down the steep sides of the pipe. The fatigue was evident in everyone but our guide, of course...even for Matt who had been checking his watch for the better part of two hours since we left him at the bottom of the lift. A quick ride in the Coyote and we were back at our cars, dumped our gear, and clomped up the steps cut into the snow for some brewskis and camraderie in the tent. A couple beers turned into several, the party moved to the snowy, wild-west streets of Silverton, and a few blurry hours later the AAS was snoring away drunkenly in our well-appointed accomodations at the Bent Elbow Inn, with local beta on some backcountry routes on top of Red Mountain Pass churning away in our brains.

After a leisurely, slightly hung-over but delicious breakfast accompanied by disgusting coffee and flat, watery OJ, Dan, Paul, Kirk, Sean, and I were the only remaining hard-chargers determined to get a couple powder turns in before the AAS parted for the weekend. Twisting our way to the top of the pass, we gawked at miles and miles of neck-straining terrain shooting skyward from the flat valley floors. At the top of the pass we were greeted by sparkling, pillowy lines rising at safe angles to our left, and a few minutes later we were skinning our way up. One fun, fresh run deserved another, especially after a comical biff from Paul trying to launch a small rock drop onto a steep slope. Unfortunately, the group split trying to find a better run, and neither ended up with anything worth discussing, so we called it a day., and brought to an end a superb 2008 AAS Wolf, Silverton Summit.

We'll be back...oh, yes...we'll be back.

Let it be so recorded, this twenty-ninth day of January, in the two thousand and eighth year of the Common Era.