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The Story of a Backcountry Underdog: Ski Blades

March 6th, 2015

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Here in Colorado the snow has been hit or miss, with heavy storms in December and basically non-existent snowfall in January for much of the west. As a result of the poor to mediocre skiing a dialogue began between myself and a couple co-workers. We began discussing couloir skiing and how reasonable it is for the time of year and how we might make it even better. Naturally ski blades were introduced into the conversation. If you’re not familiar with ski blades, simply imagine a pair of skis that instead of making it to your nose, barely make it to your hip.

A few days later the ski blades were on order and plans were made to pull touring bindings off of an old pair of skis to mount on the blades upon their arrival. All the while, heated discussions were had regarding the pros and cons of ski blades. Sure they’ll be more maneuverable in tight couloirs where jump turns will be made easy, but how will they do in powder, mixed snow conditions, how well balanced will they be for touring, will the bindings rip out? After chatting with another co-worker that happens to shoot professionally we decided it would be only reasonable to made a sweet short film about the future of backcountry touring and mountaineering.

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After the ski blades arrival we quickly got to work on grinding down screws so they wouldn’t go through the base when mounting new bindings, figuring out where on the ski to place the bindings (ended up mounting them 1cm back from center) as well as adjusting some kicker skins to fit the new setup. After a couple hours of work I was ready to set off on a three-day hut trip outside of Aspen, CO.

 

Three days later after dozens of miles of touring and skiing slopes up to 50 degrees psyche was higher than ever. Slapping the blades on my Kode ABS Compatible pack and boot packing up ridges was a breeze. Sure I fell many more times than I usually do, it took a bit more work to figure out the powder turns…but once I did I got twice as many as my friends. And don’t even get me started on the tours to and from the hut, those puppies weigh next to nothing and are not afraid to go fast.

 

In short the trip was a raging success, I anticipate spending many more days on the blades and I expect to start seeing more and more ski blades appear in the backcountry because they are the future.  DSC_9332

 

My name is Sam Feuerborn, and I have spent the last three years living in various vans in order to pursue my passions on my own schedule. Having grown up traveling and spending much of my formative years with my family outside hiking, camping and skiing it has been DSC_9344-Edita natural transition to embrace the dirtbag lifestyle.With many of my adventures fueled my coffee and stoke, I like to keep the van well stocked. With this addictive I have spent months at a time climbing in the desert, hitchhiking through Africa, mountain biking through the San Juans, backcountry skiing in the Elks, climbing in Yosemite as well as countless games of Settlers of Catan around the world. I have been lucky enough to embrace this lifestyle and make it work thanks to the support of countless friends and strangers alike, encouraging me to think outside the box and play as often as possible.

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Climbing with Eric

October 2nd, 2013

Mountaineering in the Alps, Frace.

Eric Larson lives in Telluride, Colorado. But not very much. During the few winter months he works snow safety for Telluride Ski Resort. Then he ski guides in the Alps, guides expeditions on Denali and then guides mountaineering in the Alps. We see each other somewhere every year.

This year Eric and I overlapped in Chamonix. For a month, we guided trip after trip together. We had a blast working together. The best thing about Eric is that he’s always ready to go. We climbed every free day, then drank a few Stella Artois.

Eric leading the first pitch of the Contamine Route on Pointe Lachenal.

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Eric following the money pitch on the Contamine Route, a 160-foot 5,10b.

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Eric rapping the Contamine Route to the Vallee Blanche Glacier. This is classic Chamonix; we climb a beautiful six-pitch crack on orange granite at 12,000 feet. Then we get swished back to the city. It may sound soft, but if you like to climb…

Mountaineering in the Alps, Frace.

The next day we climbed a 400-meter mixed route on the Triangle du Tacul. The route is called the Via Gabarrou-Marquis. Since every inch of the Triangle du Tacul has a route, we should probably call it the Larson-Stock-Artois route.

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Eric leading money pitch on the Via Gabarrou-Marquis. Payback after I got the money pitch on the Contamine the day before.

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Eric crossing the bergschrund on the Tois Sommets route on the Tacul. The Tacul is a low summit of Mont Blanc and is the first peak of the Trois Sommets route. This is the second most popular route on Mont Blanc, despite the major serac-fall hazard.

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Then we drank Stella.

Osprey Athletes, Travel , , ,

High in Bolivia

August 16th, 2013

In 1999 I guided in Bolivia’s Cordillera Real mountains for two months. I’ve wanted to go back ever since. This year I was lucky to return with Glenn, Paul and James. We’ve  been on many trips together including Denali, Marcus Baker, Bona, Mount Logan, Ecuador, Iliamna VolcanoArctic Refuge and the Central Talkeenta Mountains. Our motivation for Bolivia was to get Glenn above 20,000 feet. See more photos here: www.stockalpine.com/posts/bolivia.html.

We based our trip out of La Paz, the world’s highest capital city. La Paz sits in a valley ranging from 10,500 feet to 13,500 feet. The wealthy live at warmer, lower elevations. The poorer live in El Alto, which sprawls across the altiplano above La Paz.

Paul on our three-day acclimatizing trek. Some valleys had hundreds of llamas milling about.

Descending from our first summit, the dramatic Pequeno Alpamayo (17,600′).

Huayna Potosi is 6,088 meters. The problem is that it equates to 26 feet short of Glenn’s coveted 20,000 feet. We still had fun climbing the knife-edge summit ridge of Huayna Potosi (19,974′).

Glenn feeling the hard turf of a yareta plant while hiking into Nevado Sajama. Many yareta are over 3,000 years old.

A VERY stoked Glenn gasping around the crater rim to the summit of Parinacota. Eight hundred and twenty seven feet over 20,000! Tick! Congrats Glenn!

Joe, Glenn, James and Paul on the 20,827-foot summit of Parinacota. Thanks for a great trip guys! I can’t wait until our next adventure!

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Next Time Bring Your Goggles

September 28th, 2012

Danny Uhlmann and I thought a couple pitches of ice climbing would be fun during our day off. The weather forecast seemed fine: no precip forecasted and low winds. We took the 9,000-foot Midi lift up from Chamonix to the alpine and trudged over to our route: the Chere Couloir on Mont Blanc du Tacul, a sub-peak of Mont Blanc. As we neared the route we realized the wind was funneling through the pass where the climb was located… Here’s what ensued.

The Chere follows a gully in the rock up the right side of the Triangle du Tacul.

Danny geared up, minus goggles. We led with our faces down, blind, climbing by feel. Our frozen sunglasses protected our eyes with a layer of ice.

At the top of the six-pitch route we exited the wind venturi — and the raging sandstorm subsided enough for a cup of mud.

Then we rappelled back into the blizzard.

And experienced a nice exfoliating facial for the boys.

Final rap down over the bergschrund. Let’s get out of here!

We ran back to the Midi station and zoomed down to the warm valley below. Next time we’ll bring goggles!

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Guiding in Chamonix

September 5th, 2012

With Chris and Gavin from the UK on the summit of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps at 15,782 feet, a couple weeks ago.

Guiding in the Alps surrounding Chamonix is the norm for American IFMGA guides. Over half of America’s 80-something fully certified guides are here this summer. Why? Not because the pay is great. The plane ticket here is expensive and the dollar is lame against the euro. It’s also not because the US doesn’t have great rock for guiding. The western US has some of the best rock in the world. It’s not because Chamonix is the birthplace of mountain guiding, either. We’re here because the guiding is AWESOME! With our customers we can zip to the alpine on a tram and climb impeccable rock all day, then whisk back to a comfortable town where guides are socializing and living their normal life. Small, non-knee crushing backpacks are another bonus.

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Taking It To Another Level: Skiing The Himalaya to Trail Running in the Rockies

August 14th, 2012

These tracks are the first ever skied on Nepal's 21,607' Chulu West, a route that has 5.4 alpine climbing to reach this broad basin that is the lower portion of a 3,000-foot ski descent in one of the best and most visible basins in all of Nepal.

In May somewhere along the Annapurna Circuit’s long, winding, dusty road, I began to believe that after a safe and successful slaying of snow on two peaks that I had finally achieved my goals as a Himalayan mountaineer. This shouldn’t be that shocking since I have spent ten years pioneering first ascents and descents in the world’s highest range with narrow-minded focus and more than a handful of narrowly missed catastrophes blending the good times with the bad and no regrets for how we did it. This insight was forced upon me in January, when my friend Jack died in my climbing partner Jon’s arms and then I decided to take a day off from filming heli-skiing in Haines, Alaska and my friend Rob died on a routine run guiding clients. The number of passionate people I have seen meet their demise in the mountains now takes up two handfuls of digits and that is likely too close for comfort, and forces me to ponder my own fate.

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Great Deeds… Great Risk? Knowing When To Turn Around in the Mountains

May 22nd, 2012

Great deeds are usually wrought at great risk. — Herodutus

This has been a tough season and the losses are overwhelming. Because so many friends died in the backcountry this year, it is in the spirit of discussion and education that I thought I would share more about some latest adventures.

There have been many moments of confusion and sadness. It has been a difficult process of personal internal recovery to get back out there.. but, the mountains are what move me.

In 2007, I skied the Grand Teton in WY. It was a long and exciting day, but fairly easy going. Everything fell into place and the mountain welcomed us at each pause. My ski partner Karen and I had planned the trip and took a long weekend off from work. We drove 10 hours from Telluride, arrived at 8pm, and our team left for the park at 12am. We climbed 7,000 ft, covering some miles with heavy packs. Conditions were great for climbing and for skiing so we pulled it off. It was my first time skiing in the Grand Teton National Park, and 16 hours after we started we were back in the parking lot, elated with the accomplishment of a great ski descent.

Skiing the Grand Teton along with climbing Lobuche and Ama Dablam in Nepal in 2005, were notable turning points for me because both endeavors went so smoothly. With these two successful experiences I was deeply enchanted with the big mountains and with bigger possibilities in ski mountaineering.

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Video: Ski Tibet with Kim Havell

April 26th, 2012

Osprey athlete Kim Havell sent this video to us this morning and it’s a perfect mental health break to kickstart your day. This beautiful short from Fisher Creative captures the beauty and the reality of ski attempts in the high Himalaya — in this case on the 14th highest peak in the world — without the use of any oxygen and with no one else on the mountain with them at the end.

Kim, and the rest of the team, was attempting to complete a first descent on the mountain, but not the first descent. The peak has been skied before… they were just hoping to ski a new route from the top. The crew turned around just shy of the final summit push because of a sick teammate and other factors. Take a few minutes, grab your cup and enjoy.

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Climbing Chimborazo in Ecuador with Friends and Getting Closer to the Sun

February 8th, 2012

Five paces from the best sunrise of my 30s, a nearly 60-year-old Ecuadorian man with wrought fists and more than 300 summits of Cotopaxi, the mountain we stood on, Marcello Puruncajas let out a roar against the spirit of the peak we had spent 6 hours climbing. Cotopaxi’s 19,346-foot summit and my entire trip was somehow only really worth one photo, it was of this moment, a moment where our enthusiasm far exceeded our efforts. At that moment, above the equator and on the summit with this local guide who still visibly cherished his passage to the top, I cherished it too. Summits are as elusive as clear days and we nailed both.

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Ski The Himalayas Season 3: Episode 1

October 7th, 2011

This week was pretty awesome. Snow is falling and the trees still bear the last colors of summer. Jon Miller and I found ourselves atop a crag in the desert and it was nothing short of Alpine conditions. It’s a big reason to live in Telluride, Colorado, being able to leave town on a questionable day and reach sunny desert sandstone.  Sometimes, the weather is a little more widespread than we think and we jammed our hands into splitter cracks while rain pelted down and wind made it impossible to hear… all this on a 40 foot, 5.10a route before the rain really set in. Oh boy, it’s no wonder the Himalayan slopes have never felt like much of a jump from here, it’s a wild country and no matter what you want to do, something is always “in”.

Please enjoy Ski The Himalayas Season 3 premiere episode and follow along with us this winter as we prepare for a spicy Himalyan ski traverse in spring.

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