Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Flagstaff Backcountry

I've finally landed back in the American Southwest! Recently I have been in Flagstaff, Arizona visiting some of my very good friends, Russ and Jana. It's been great hanging out and catching up! (Shameless plug for Russ's guided expeditions.)

Highlights of the week include deliriously rocking out to The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band Saturday night in Flagstaff. If you ever get the chance to see them, do it!

The best part has been making it into the backcountry in the Coconino forest outside of Flagstaff. Today Russ and I warded off the evil demons of whiskey and lack of sleep, got up early, and hiked up the slopes of Snowbowl, the ski area outside of town.

We started hiking around 7:30 in the morning and made the top of the highest chair around 9, this was the first leg of our nearly 3000 vertical ft. mission. From there we headed through the backcountry gate and proceeded to bootpack farther up the mountain.

We weren't exactly prepared for the conditions below the summit, ice axes and crampons were called for, instead we kicked steps as long as we could. But we got to one particularly steep, windblown, hard, and frozen section and decided we had been sketchy enough.

We strapped in and traversed over to a glade across the gulley. The snow was a bit slabby, and we were being overly cautious, so first one of us would go, get to a safe spot, wait, and then the other person would follow. 12,000 ft. up on the side of a potentially avalanche prone mountain is no place to be stupid.

After our traverse we cut down the fall line and laid some tracks. The snow wasn't as good as yesterday when we were in the same area. Yesterday it was spring like conditions with wet and heavy powder that was super fun to carve through. Today it was earlier and the snow hadn't softened up yet. Still, it was awesome to find those few fresh spots of powder in the shade of trees and to be surrounded by nothing but wilderness.

Except for the parking lot, we only pulled the camera out about halfway down, and shots definitely weren't stellar but here are some of the best.

10 after 7, lack of sleep and coffee equals whatever I'm doing here. Note my house in my truck.

Russ taking a break.

Full avy gear, apparently I don't throw caution to the wind anymore.

Russ ripping it.

Good example of the hardness of the snow. It's completely untracked and this is about as far as I can get my edge into it.

Super fun stuff! Wait, no, it was terrible, in fact, all backcountry is terrible. Everyone should probably stick to the lift served areas everywhere.

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