last minute epic...

Sometimes you have to take a step back.  Take a good look at what is going on around you, and make a call.  Every once in a while a move like that can pay off.  This story starts in Bozeman, Montana.  I was with the Telemark Skier Magazine crew.  The springtime struggle was in full force there, and we were studying the internet reports of the storms in Salt Lake City, Utah.  It was late Sunday night and the forecast for the Wasatch was bluebird with significant new snow.  We talked it over and over.  When the dust settled, Kate Hourihan and I were up the next morning at 4:00am, and gunning for a sunrise flight into SLC International.

^It was an early rise, and a run around to get ourselves and our gear flight ready.  The two of us were in go time mode.  We pulled it all together just in time to catch the 6:25am Delta Airlines flight.  Kate got the last seat on the plane, and we were on our way towards a classic travel epic.  

 ^Our little regional jet touched down in SLC at 7:45am.  Baggage claim, a bus, and then my Subaru Outback in our rally up to the Northern Wasatch for a rendezvous with the day's crush crew.  Tony Gill came up from Park City, and Ogden locals Ben Geiger, Paul Wright, and Wes Knopfel were patiently waiting for us when we rolled into the parking lot at 8:45am.  Haggard and disorganized, Kate and I got to gearing up.  The whole crew was settled into the skin path by 9:30am.

 ^10:30am and this was the aftermath of 6 caffeinated and amped attitudes.   We were picking up real windslab concerns in our early observations.  However, pits and test sloping tactics were holding strong.  Kate and I took firsts in the big chute on looker's left of this photo.  I pushed the slope tests hard with good results, and then set up an on-slope shot in a safe zone to shoot Kate's line.  After that, I swung down and around to this photo perspective for the rest of the crew's lines.  I was running video cameras, and as these shots unfolded I started to realize that it was going to be a special day.

^With morale in the clouds, we ascended to go for more in another north through northeast facing zone.  The ascent goes fast when your that juiced on adrenaline and thin air.  Kate is following Paul into the great beyond in this photo.

^Next zone 11:45am. More homeruns.  The epic continues.

 ^Paul Wright is soaking up the sun after taking part in this crush session.  It was a couple laps later when this photo was snapped off at about 2:30pm.  The session had continued to progress into an out right murder scene.  Everyone was feeling the power of the flow.  The spirit of the group was lingering somewhere around the stratosphere.  The progression of the skiing and the smiles was proof.

 ^This shot of Ben looking at the rest of the ridge is further evidence of our crew's attitude and amplitude.  Two laps on this ridge with this crew, and the proof was in the snow.  Shear escalation.

^On the way out of the final zone at 2:45pm we continually had to stop and look back at what had ensued throughout the day.  Everyone involved was feeding the overall stoke of the group, and the electricity was sparking.  This kind of dynamic does not come around every day.  I am so thankful that all the planets lined up, and we were fortunate enough to have a day like this one come together.

^Tony Gill and Kate Hourihan were guests in my backyard, and they played nicely in the sandbox with everyone.  They kept their eyes, ears, and minds open to veteran local knowledge, and jumped right in.  It is not easy to operate in new terrain, but these two youngsters proved themselves worthy once again.  The whole group embraced the day's vibes, and harnessed the power to step it up to the opportunities the mountain's were offering us.  It was another classic epic.  Yet again.  By 3:30pm I was driving home with rubber legs and a million dollar grin. Yep.  

Almost spring... but not just yet.

The smell of spring always invigorates the warm weather itch in me.  An itch that feels so good to scratch.  My wife, Christine, has the itch so bad that she may break out into a rash soon.  It is a bit different for her though because mountain biking in spring air symbolizes the end of another "All-In" audit season.  For myself, spring is also a huge relief for my body and mind.  My body is beaten and tattered like my jacket by this time, and my mind starts to become more fried then my egg sandwich in the morning.  Constant consequential decision-making in the backcountry and over doses of adrenaline start to wear out the mind.  However, the good news is that one good day of putting down the cameras and two-way radios is all I need to remember why I love this all so much.  A jaded perspective... yes, but I know it and I fight it in order to stay in a appreciative state of mind.  No matter how much I try to stay out of the box, sometimes, I get sucked in.  I have found that all it takes is a day like the one I am about to share with you to get me out of that damn box, and back into a place of humble appreciation and zest for this lifestyle. 

^A lot of good days start out just like this, and this day was no exception.  Ben Geiger is pictured here on the first few steps of our first skin ascent of the day.  We thought that the south face that he is looking at was going to get hot early.  We were very wrong, and later that day that slope would prove to be oh so right. 

^As a result of our early ideas about the heating we opted to start out a bit more mellow, and on more of a northeast pitch catching some spring half light.  Good call.  No cameras, no radios, no hassles.  Pure environment and moment.  The perfect prescription for the jaded lenses.  

^ The first lap went so well that we looped around to another Northeasterly slope and tacked on another 500 vertical feet as well.  Once again, we reaped the benefits.  A good friend and some good lines can put me into the right place.  Ben took the "Y Chute" on the looker's right.  I mobbeb "Keith Brown" to the looker's left of him.  The line goes through the rocks and the super skinny little chute that dumps out just above the trees where I hung it looker's left into the next pitch over.  Aaahhhh Yeeesssss!!! 

^Our attitudes were ripe with reward, and we decided to keep it rolling for one more lap.  We threw on our skins and got after another bowl.  We left ourselves with options to ski a zone that would go southeast or northeast depending on how we felt about the heating of the day.    

^We approached the southeast face first, and it was just not heating up.  We gave it everything we had to try to get the wet dragons to show themselves.  They would not come out.  Therefore, we got after it.  As you can see, it held up.  Ben and I had ourselves one hell of a finale.  We toyed around with the idea of going for one more, but we decided that our day had been truly blessed with stellar turns in three huge bowls.  I was in need of some relief, and mother nature had provided.  We left the day at fabulous and skied out.

^ I was feeling so reenergized and grateful that I felt it necessary to share it with Murphy.  I took her out for a lap in the cross-country trails and got her a good run in the spring time sun.  Bluebird skies and puppy smiles topped off the afternoon that put the heart and soul back in my season.  I am back where I am supposed to be, where I belong.  Life is good, don't forget it.    

Desktop favorite, ridges...

Blue skies, sunshine, clean snow, and a good friend.  It is hard to screw this kind of day up.  Wes Knopfel and I were blessed with a set-up like this a while back, and it is still resonating with me.  I like to let adventures sit on my desktop for a while so that the richest stories and photos rise to the top.  I can't even remember when this day was, but the adventure was a classic, and the imagery was scenic.

^Wes is starting up a skin path to the ridge.  We could not have asked for better weather that day.  The wind was ever so slight out of the northwest.  This approach on a northeast aspect was sheltered, but delightfully sunny.  

^The ridge line yielded the long views that serve as the reward for the labor to gain it.  This never gets old.  I really don't know how else to say it, but I spend half my life in these kinds of environments and I never tire of it.  How could you?

^The ridges are very special places that are always a whole mix of emotions.  The ridges have a lot of questions that require honest answers.  Is this a cornice? A wind load? Will it pullout way back? Or wait till I am deep? Does this go? Do I want to ski this? I could go all day long with the questions.  The hard part is the honest answers that you have to give yourself.  This is our constant struggle living lives in these situations.  Many questions, tough answers, and real consequences.

^A view like these can be a real distraction to the decision making, which is going on at all times up here.  However, if your not stopping to smell these scenic roses, then your missing the point.  Maybe it is the elevation, but the air tasted so good from that perspective.

^Wes made his decisions, and committed to the validity of them.  Anything can happen at the point he is in this shot.  Fortunately for him, his calls held up.  Another ridge, another risk, another commitment... another reward.   

^Stop... nice... very nice.

 ^My turn.  Wes shot this on his I-phone from the bottom.  I love letting it all out in big laid back freeheelers on lines like this.

^Clearly I am satisfied with the answers I came up with to the ridge line questions of the day.  Touring is  questioning all day long from trailhead to trailhead, and you can never get them all right.  I know that I make mistakes out there all the time.  Some more severe then others, and I have also paid many light and heavy consequences for them.  At the end of the day I still decide that it is a life worth pursuing in places and situations that rise to the top, just like this one.