The Black Lake Chute took me ten years to ski. All that time it teased me from Anchorage. Above my home it looked like a thin white thread tied to the summit of O’Malley Peak. It hung down the north face and draped off of the lower wall. It became my White Whale. Sometimes, between attempts, I’d try to talk myself out of it. It’s too dangerous. There’s plenty of other stuff to ski. But I wanted it so bad….
Osprey Athlete Payge McMahon is an adventure athlete, ‘rockin’ yogi’ and journalist who travels the world inspiring others to get outdoors, try new things and start checking off that bucket list.
Osprey Packs is a key partner in my KEEN Rippin Chix Mountain Bike Camps, shown here in Fruita at the Fat Tire Festival. Great event. Great riding, great people, great beer…
I could go on all day! While I could spend all my time off (which is almost none) riding, surfing, skiing and playing, I now teach these women’s camps almost year-round, and many times at least 2-4 days per week. It is rewarding beyond belief, and who doesn’t love giving back to the sports that give so much to our lives? I believe I would have almost zero confidence if I had not discovered skiing, biking and surfing. I LOVE them all.
Speaking of skiing, here I am in California testing the new Osprey Kode Ski Packs for 2014. Great pack, great photographer… but really too much snow to ski anything that was sufficiently steep (and also safe). Most of the time it is “one turn wonders” on the same run all day long, which is quite boring until you see the results (hopefully!!!!!).
I know that often folks mention they want this “testing” job, and how can they apply to become a tester. Firstly, I quit my job, flew to Alaska with some new credit cards, competed in the World Championships of Freeskiing, then asked TGR and MSP almost daily if they needed another athlete for filming, slept in depressing hotels eating junk food and whiskey, called my mom and hoped for the best. Perseverance, right?
In another lifetime, I would wish to be witty and funny. After a depressing day of sitting around waiting for the weather to clear, I went back to the hotel for a cat nap. I flopped on the bed, not realizing that there was a queen mattress on top of a twin box-spring, which left me on the floor before I could realize what had happened. Big bonus, under the bed had not been cleaned and I collected a recent issue of Hustler. Luckily, nothing else more personal!!!
OK – back to this blog and something more PG rated. Gareth at Osprey recently asked me to photograph what was in my pack:
Osprey Raven 6 w/Reservoir (100L)
Patagonia Traverse Jacket
Crank Brothers mini-pump w/gauge, Crank Brothers multi-tool 17
Solar flashlight w/hand crank backup, Juice multi-tool
Osprey tire levers, First aid tape and electrical tape, zip ties, Clif Shot Blocks, Elemental Herbs sunscreen, all-good goop and all-good lips
Missing: Map and guide book, compass.
So, those who know me from my youth, I’m the chubby-dorky-math-geek. I’m going to skip the photo, as I’m still sensitive. One of my biggest fears was biking down stairs, so this is a skill that I now teach as much as possible. This video below is from the Red Rocks Rendezvous with Osprey this spring:
Ok, I know many of you are out there with me wanting MORE SPRING WEATHER. If there is dust in the snow, I would rather be biking, surfing, rafting, gardening… blah blah blah. Speaking of growing food, I’ve got to go fix the backpack sprayer so we can treat the peach trees with very very very diluted neem oil (aphids and leaf curl). I’m not very good at the pest end of chemical-free growing, but I’m learning! The hay fields got their first cut yesterday, summer here we come!
If a picture is worth a thousands words, then you’re in for a real treat. Check out the following album, with shots taken by the amazing Ken Lucas during his travels in Alaska, which, in his words: “included backcountry skiing and some snow-kiting. We hit both the Chugach Mountains and the Kenai Mountains, including a great ski-plane segment.”
I’ve had two personal ski days this winter. With no snow in the early season, I ice climbed and taught avalanche classes. In the midwinter, I taught back to back avalanche courses and guided skiing. A lot of fun days on skis, but all of them on the clock. When skiing off the clock, I can kick back, let my friends make the difficult decisions and ski steeper, higher consequence terrain.
On my two personal days this winter, I skied the pointiest peak in the Hatcher Pass area and the pointiest peak near Turnagain Pass. Both near Anchorage, Alaska.
Dana Drummond booting 50-degree powder near the summit of The Pinnacle at Hatcher Pass.
Dana on the summit of The Pinnacle after leading the exposed summit pitch.
Dana on the summit of the Pinnacle. The Western Chugach are in the far distance.
Dana breaking trail below seracs on Carpathian Peak in the Kenai Mountains.
Andy Newton and Tobey Carman heading to a break in the sunshine below our ski route on Carpathian.
Last winter it snowed in Southcentral Alaska from October through April. This winter it hasn’t snowed since mid-September. But that’s great! The ice is fat and juicy and the temps warm. Ice climbing season is here!
On the last belayed pitch. We topped out at 5:30 p.m. in total darkness. Over two hours we thrashed down 2,000 feet of thick alder back to the road. Oh, we long for the sun and easy approaches of Colorado!
Joe Stock is a mountain guide and photographer based in Anchorage, Alaska.
Dreams of Brown Moose is a classic early-season ice climb in the Portage Valley near Anchorage. This 500-foot, Water Ice IV route has the ingredients of a proper Alaska adventure with a bushwacking approach, dodgy thin ice, overflowing water and deathly avalanche terrain. I went with Sam Johnson, a life-long Alaska climber, artist and Ph.D candidate to give it a shot.
Andrew McLean packed the Bear Tooth Theater for the annual Friends of the Chugach Avalanche Center fundraiser. This is the biggest event for the Friends, who provide weather stations, salary and gear for Southcentral Alaska avalanche forecasts. To over 400 fired up Alaskan skiers, Andrew told stories from ski adventures in the Wrangell St. Elias Mountains in Alaska. These are the most vast mountains in the U.S., and Andrew’s current ski obsession. Between slide shows-he gave another show for the Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center–we played in the hills above Anchorage.
At a Chugach trailhead with the fat tire bikes loaded onto the Rice Rocket. Or is the Honda Rice Rocket loaded onto the fat tire bikes? Andrew had never ridden a fat bike, so I gave him the Alaska experience.
Some hazards on the ride into the Chugach. We counted 16 moose along 4 miles of trail.
We biked around Gray Lake below Ptarmigan Peak.
Along the way we noticed this iceflow up in the rocks on Ptarmigan Peak.
We came back the next day and climbed this beautiful route. It was 300 feet of rolling water ice 4.
Following Andrew’s lead up the steepest section. Thanks for coming up Andrew and supporting the Friends. And thanks for the mountain time!
Sometimes you just need to take a road trip… Snowboarder Sean Busby and his friends converted and gutted a 1977 Dodge Travel Queen motor home into a fully functional alternatively-fueled vehicle that utilizes vegetable fuel and solar power and hit the road. Driving 6,000+ miles from Utah to Alaska, the crew explored new territory—backcountry skiing, snowboarding, climbing and documenting the entire journey. The following trailer is a grip of the stories from their trip. Enjoy!
Sean Busby is a professional snowboarder, living with type 1 diabetes. Learn more about Sean and his work educating kids about diabetes and winter sports on his website.
SKIING GRAND TETON
On Saturday, June 16, three of our Backcountry.com team members—Andrew McLean, Chris Davenport, and myself—climbed up the Stettner/Chevy/Ford route of the Grand Teton and skied the East face for a film project with Brainfarm Cinema and The One Eyed Bird.
We each had skied the Grand before, so for this particular adventure the route was familiar ground and we could focus on the film project objectives. The weather was perfect and the conditions were excellent. With a helicopter circling above, we headed up the ice-filled couloir link-up with camera equipment and ropes dangling around us. With the additions of Camp4Collective film pros, Renan Ozturk and Jimmy Chin, and JHMG support from Brian Warren and Chris Figenshau, our team of seven moved up the climb smoothly and carefully.
Reaching the summit before midday, our crew had some time to enjoy the spectacular views and relax in the comradery that comes with sharing time in the mountains. Then, one by one, Andrew, Chris and I each dropped in from the summit block for some June corn snow down the steep, convex ramp of the 13,776ft peak. That afternoon, with the entire team safely down in the Lupine Meadows parking lot, we toasted Coronas, radiating content from a good day in the Tetons. Read more…