May 132016
 

Skiing in the Boulder White Cloud Mountains of Idaho.

Just last year, President Obama signed into law the creation of a new wilderness area which includes much of the Boulder and White Cloud mountain ranges near my home here in Idaho. The other day, a few friends and I went in to ski an unnamed peak. The weather was more winterlike than Spring and the snow conditions in the couloir were less than ideal, but, being at 11,400′ in our Nation’s newest wilderness area is an experience not to be missed.

Skiing in the Boulder White Cloud Mountains of Idaho.

Skiing in the Boulder White Cloud Mountains of Idaho.

Skiing in the Boulder White Cloud Mountains of Idaho.

Skiing in the Boulder White Cloud Mountains of Idaho.

Skiing in the Boulder White Cloud Mountains of Idaho.

Skiing in the Boulder White Cloud Mountains of Idaho.

Jan 262016
 

Backcountry skiing in Idaho

The foothills to an amazing mountain range end about 300 yards from my back door. I’ve been exploring this range for years and just last weekend was able to spend time in a drainage I had never been in before…on skis. On our ascent up to treeline where we spent the night, a storm was finishing off about 4 inches of new snow which had fallen on top of an already soft powdery base. Waking up the second day, we found the storm breaking up with clouds and snow squalls passing through like long interval waves. The high peaks were showing signs of snow instability: slab slides, sluff slides, depth hoar in the pits; we didn’t push our luck and stayed at treeline skiing among the white bark pines. Here are a few images from the trip…

Backcountry skiing in Idaho

Backcountry skiing in Idaho

Backcountry skiing in Idaho

Backcountry skiing in Idaho

Backcountry skiing in Idaho

Backcountry skiing in Idaho

Backcountry skiing in Idaho

Dec 212015
 

Skiing and Landscape photography in Idaho

This December Idaho has been on the receiving end of Old Man Winter’s kindness. Multiple feet of beautiful snow has fallen making for a winter wonderland. While the white coat looks good on our mountains, a danger has been lurking underneath-an unstable layer of snow keen to trigger avalanches. With that said, if you are willing to be cautious and knowledgeable about the snowpack, there are still areas and slopes to ski. Matt Leidecker and I headed out into the mountains north of Ketchum, Idaho, just last week and enjoyed a few runs of amazing powder! I hope you all are getting your fair share of freshies too!

Skiing and Landscape photography in Idaho

Skiing and Landscape photography in Idaho

Skiing and Landscape photography in Idaho

Skiing and Landscape photography in Idaho

Jul 082015
 

Backpacking, hiking, landscape photographs of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah.

Contrast: a crisp and saturated blue sky above red rock canyon walls which contain the green leaves of vegetation; bleached arid slick rock domes sparsely populated by only the heartiest plants who wait patiently for precipitation while lush perennial streams gurgle within stone’s throw; cattleman and tourists. On my recent visit to the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument of Southwest Utah, I was impressed by both the delicate and tough landscape and society that lies therein.

During the 13 days I spent in between the towns of Boulder and Escalante, Utah, I explored nearly one hundred miles of backcountry washes, hollows, slot canyons, and ridges; witnessed flash floods the locals hadn’t seen in 20 years; and spoke with residents and business owners who revealed a society in the midst of cultural transformation.

My time tramping around the backcountry of GSENM was inspiring in ways I had expected with its amazingly unique natural scenery, flora, fauna, archeology, and the physical abilities which were required of me in order to move through, over, under, and around the geologic and geographic features time and weather have created. This was my longest solo adventure and the changes in perspective and what interested me now versus when I first visited southern Utah nearly 20 years ago were what was unexpected; to the point that, on this vacation, I willingly attended a public hearing at Escalante’s high school about their school’s dwindling student population and the town’s economic state of affairs.

To truly understand the landscape, I am finding that it is necessary to attempt to know the surrounding human society. For instance, seeing Jacob Hamlin arch was a great experience, visually stunning, the weight of its thick stone structure could almost be felt, however, knowing that the protection created by President Clinton’s 1996 use of the Antiquities Act which created Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument set into motion issues regarding access for ranchers and off highway vehicle groups—added a layer of information that opened my eyes and revealed details that I know I wouldn’t have seen had I been there with my family, friends, or as a younger person.

I hope to write more about this experience. Until then, here are more images…

Backpacking, hiking, landscape photographs of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah.

Backpacking, hiking, landscape photographs of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah.

Backpacking, hiking, landscape photographs of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah.

Backpacking, hiking, landscape photographs of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah.

Backpacking, hiking, landscape photographs of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah.

Backpacking, hiking, landscape photographs of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah.

Backpacking, hiking, landscape photographs of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah.

Backpacking, hiking, landscape photographs of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah.

Backpacking, hiking, landscape photographs of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah.

Backpacking, hiking, landscape photographs of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah.

Backpacking, hiking, landscape photographs of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah.

Backpacking, hiking, landscape photographs of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah.

Backpacking, hiking, landscape photographs of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah.

Backpacking, hiking, landscape photographs of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah.

Backpacking, hiking, landscape photographs of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah.

Backpacking, hiking, landscape photographs of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah.

Backpacking, hiking, landscape photographs of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah.

Backpacking, hiking, landscape photographs of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah.

Backpacking, hiking, landscape photographs of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah.

Backpacking, hiking, landscape photographs of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah.

Backpacking, hiking, landscape photographs of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah.

Backpacking, hiking, landscape photographs of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah.

Backpacking, hiking, landscape photographs of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah.

Backpacking, hiking, landscape photographs of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah.

Backpacking, hiking, landscape photographs of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah.

Backpacking, hiking, landscape photographs of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah.

Backpacking, hiking, landscape photographs of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah.

Apr 182015
 

Spring Skiing in Idaho

The juxtaposition between the comfort of the office environment from which I type this post vs that of the alpine couloir I was in just 30 hours ago is, in simple terms, strange. Yesterday, my body and mind traveled from a precipitous 50 degree ski run to the comfort of my home in a few hours. It makes me think that perhaps the alpinists of old had it better than me and my contemporaries in that both the ascent and descent from civilization took longer, and thus, an easier time for their brains to adjust; they enjoyed more time spent in the mountains. Now, these quick trips into the backcountry feel like the extreme version of a ying-yang circle of existence, polar opposites that somehow placate one-another. Obviously, I’d take more time spent in wilderness, but I won’t complain about time I’ve enjoyed therein.

This past week I had the great fortune to find time to ski with good friends in the mountains of Idaho on two different outings. On both occasions, we were able to enjoy nights spent on the ground and days in the open (to paraphrase Doug Robinson). The weather contradicted itself wonderfully in that we traveled through snow squalls, enjoyed blue bird skies so calm lakes became mirrors, heard Sand Hill Cranes echo their mating calls from marshes into a myriad of canyons, and found silence unlike any other. The snow was good, if not great, and the camaraderie unparallelled.

Here a few images from these adventures….

Spring Skiing in Idaho

Spring Skiing in Idaho

Spring Skiing in Idaho

Spring Skiing in Idaho

Spring Skiing in Idaho

Spring Skiing in Idaho

Spring Skiing in Idaho

Spring Skiing in Idaho

Spring Skiing in Idaho

Spring Skiing in Idaho

Spring Skiing in Idaho

Spring Skiing in Idaho

Spring Skiing in Idaho

Spring Skiing in Idaho

Spring Skiing in Idaho

Jan 262015
 

Ski Tour in Idaho.

Curiosity and intimacy are two words that help explain my love of mountains. I remember back in the mid-90′s when I climbed Hyalite Peak, Montana, and at the summit just loving the quenching feeling for the curiosity I had for the knowledge that told me what was on the other side. As exhausted as I may get on some of these climbs, learning the way the peaks and their canyons, rivers, and ridges all interconnect makes for a deep level of intimacy that I have not yet tired of.

Backcountry skiing is truly a vehicle that stokes this passion. Yesterday, Chris, Russel, and I enjoyed a tour that linked up a long section of ridge and got me back into a section of the Smoky (no e here in Idaho) mountains with views I had not seen before. As always, having seen this new terrain-I’m curious to learn what lays even further back!

Ski Tour in Idaho.

Ski Tour in Idaho.

Ski Tour in Idaho.

Ski Tour in Idaho.

Ski Tour in Idaho.

Ski Tour in Idaho.

Ski Tour in Idaho.

Ski Tour in Idaho.

Ski Tour in Idaho.

Dec 182014
 

Backpacking in Craters of the Moon National Park

My article describing the trek I took across Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve was just published online! Be sure and follow this link (here) so you can give it a read.

Better yet, support National Parks Conservation Fund by giving them a donation…and subscribe to their magazine!

You can watch a featured segment from our trek that was included in Outdoor Idaho’s special, 50 Years of Wilderness, via this link (here).

Aug 252014
 

Colin Rodgers and Nate Scales turn the corner from the pass between Alice and Toxaway lakes while running this classic  loop in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho.

“Running is what people do in the Olympics” was how Nate compared what we were doing to the real thing. He continued, “Or, what a thief does when pursued by the cops.” We were not running the Alice-Toxaway loop in the Sawtooth mountains of Idaho. That said, with only three breaks (granola-bar,summit, and a swim) we were able to finish the 18 mile loop in 4:20.

The trails were busy with overnight hikers. We passed at least a half dozen groups of four or more. What was a bit interesting was that more than half of these groups were people over the age of 50 and only 2 were families with younger children. It seemed to me that the sample we got yesterday was a good reflection on today’s backcountry users–aging hippies staying fit on the trail whose x-generation’s offspring grandchildren are absorbed in computers, games, and social media!

Colin Rodgers and Nate Scales turn the corner from the pass between Alice and Toxaway lakes while running this classic  loop in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho.

Aug 182014
 

Mountain biking in the White Cloud Mountains of Idaho.

Like the Nor Cal surfer, Jeff Clark, and his famous solo pursuit of surfing Mavericks for decades, Idaho locals have been riding their mountain bikes on the single track trails in the White Cloud Mountains without much notice. Stories about riding out in this distant range have stayed on the peripheral, like fables. Matt Leidecker, Scott Corkery, and I gathered this past Saturday for our first ride on the east side after having heard about a magnificent 25-mile loop that took riders high into the alpine.

Mountain biking in the White Cloud Mountains of Idaho.

I’d heard about this ride from a friend who works at Club Ride who said it was a classic, but, Matt had met a couple of guys who called the ride, “The Unicorn,” because it was so otherworldly and fantastic that it couldn’t be real! Needless to say, it didn’t take much convincing to get us motivated for the adventure.

Mountain biking in the White Cloud Mountains of Idaho.

Matt is currently writing a guide book for the White Clouds and while doing research a few weeks ago had left his “White Box” (his term for RV’s) at a trailhead near our intended ride. He needed a shuttle to get out to his rig and after a few emails, a little map work and scheduling, he had the three of us a plan in which we’d climb up a western drainage on the southern end of the range, cross over the divide, and descend into the adjacent eastern drainage which would ultimately have us finish at Matt’s rig where we’d stay the night. Then, the next morning, we’d get after the Unicorn.

Mountain biking in the White Cloud Mountains of Idaho.

What with each of us having two kids and wives, we were not able to get to the trailhead until late in the afternoon. But, to be honest, it was great for me photographically. A short but steep three mile ascent put us on the divide with a 2000′ descent taking us down to the RV and one of Idaho’s best hot spring, The Bowery. Unfortunately, Matt had a mechanical on the descent that destroyed his rear derailleur. We made to the hot spring with the last light and had to use our lamps to ride to Matt’s RV.

Mountain biking in the White Cloud Mountains of Idaho.

While cooking a hodgepodge of instant meals leftover in the RV, we thought it might be possible to convert Matt’s bike over to a single speed which would allow him to ride the Unicorn with us the next morning. We rose from our tequila induced slumber at 6:30am, had breakfast, coffee and got Matt’s derailleur off, his chain shortened, and were off riding by 7:30. Unfortunately, at the first steep climb Matt’s chain snapped and ended his bike ride; he coasted back down to go research a different drainage for his book.

Mountain biking in the White Cloud Mountains of Idaho.

Scott and I carried on. Both of us had a preconceived idea that this loop was going to be brutal. We expected to have to hike-a-bike a ton on the ascent and that the downhill was going to either break us or our bikes-or both. After an hour in the saddle and having found the climb to be a mix of perfectly inclined and buff single track mixed with short bouldery technical sections, we started pinching ourselves to see if this trail was real. 5 minutes wouldn’t go by before either of us would bust out laughing at how good certain sections of the climb were. We were in disbelief and began challenging ourselves on the reality of the situation.

Mountain biking in the White Cloud Mountains of Idaho.

A few hundred yards from the top of the climb, I lost it and began shouting hysterically. I’d just finished spinning up a few perfect switchbacks and then caught a glimpse through the forest of the alpine zone-a magnificent peak with a sheer white granite wall a few hundred feet tall. In all my years of mountain biking, never have I enjoyed a climb so much and been rewarded by such a fantastic view from the top.

Mountain biking in the White Cloud Mountains of Idaho.

Aside from the hoots, hollers, and whoops of joy that came forth from our grinning mouths, the words we used on the descent to define our experience riding the Unicorn were thus: holy shit, what the fuck, dear god, jesus christ, insane, fucking crazy, hell yeah, nuts, nutty, spicy, sick, etc. The descent seemed to never end and its quality never subsided.

Mountain biking in the White Cloud Mountains of Idaho.

The Unicorn took us through almost every mountain niche and trail condition. It was an intermediate climb followed by an expert descent. I had to throw my bike three times and hit the ground twice. I blew my rear tire once and was impressed that no other mechanicals happened. It was rad.

Mountain biking in the White Cloud Mountains of Idaho.

Those guys that told Matt about the Unicorn mentioned that they’d ridden a different trail in the White Clouds and found it to be better, so, they called it the Pegasus. Maybe we’ll disappear into another world when we ride this one!

Mountain biking in the White Cloud Mountains of Idaho.

Mountain biking in the White Cloud Mountains of Idaho.

Mountain biking in the White Cloud Mountains of Idaho.

Mountain biking in the White Cloud Mountains of Idaho.

Mountain biking in the White Cloud Mountains of Idaho.

Mountain biking in the White Cloud Mountains of Idaho.

Mountain biking in the White Cloud Mountains of Idaho.

Mountain biking in the White Cloud Mountains of Idaho.

Mountain biking in the White Cloud Mountains of Idaho.

Mountain biking in the White Cloud Mountains of Idaho.

Mountain biking in the White Cloud Mountains of Idaho.

Mountain biking in the White Cloud Mountains of Idaho.