Get out and Ride

After living in Montana for most of my grown life, I have found myself always serching for new zones to snowboard and bike. Over the past few years alot of my adventrues were inspired by looking at mountain ranges on google earth, then getting online to reasearch access to them. I have found that the majority of my inspiration as of late, has come from blogs that I have stumbled apon. These blogs have not only inspired me, they consistently teach me of all the great areas of Montana I have not seen. On top of the inspiration, these blogs have kept me curiously searching for more. They have also helped me plan trips and access areas without a throw-away scouting trip. I hope that this blog can do the same for a couple more people in Montana. I hope that this inspires other to get out and REALLY see Montana. This blog is for all those who participate in the endless search for more....More mountain escapes, whiteroom apointments, after work bike rides, or persuit of personal progression, Most of us are in the constant serach for Gnarnia. Lets get out and Ride. What do you ride for? I made this blog to display my seach in hopes of inspiration, less solo missions, and more adventures with like minded individuals.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Weather windows

A weather window. Something I find myself praying for every Tuesday morning.  That forecast on the news that says its going to be clear and not to hot.  Add a little fresh snow, just enough to improve riding conditions, but not to much to create instabilities.  When you see a forecast like this you hesitantly start to get giddy, staring at google earth and looking at the list of objectives you want to ride hoping this weekend is the one, for that "tour of the season".  I usually find myself restraining from too much premature excitement, especially when the forecasts seem to change day by day.  This season we have had to capitalize on the very small weather windows.  Few and far between I have become too dependent on expecting the worst.   A sad place to be feeling like a pessimist.  But the let down can be hard at times, finding wetslides, windslabs or other any other unknows after putting in the effort to get there.  It would be easy to not roll the dice and ride the guarentees, but I cant help myself.  Ive been spoiled the last few years.  Extended high pressure and lack of snow in past seasons have made for much more predictable conditions.  I guess this is what makes some of the runs that line up so special.  I have learned the hard way this year that you have to cherish those days that line up.  This is a sport you only have so much control of, the rest is up to the mountains.  You can train and be ready, you can forecast the conditions, you can head out on the days you think the odds are looking good for the planets alignment,  but the mountains make the call.  Its hard, it makes you flexible, if you like it or not.  It teaches you patience and the disappointment that comes with it. You have to learn to look past the disappointment and find what your looking for elsewhere.  You have to remember why your out their.  Remember that your in the most beautiful places, on beautiful days and you have your health and the ability to be in these areas.  You see things most of the population will never see outside of photos.  You learn so much from this sport, more than any I have experienced in any other sport.

On this weather window a 4:00 a.m. Start from Missoula, something that sounds crazy the minuet it leaves your mouth on the phone making plans, You don't want to, but you know it will all be worth it if you put in effort.  Arriving at the trailhead, ready to go, on time, full of excitement It was obvious others had the same idea.  No surprise considering the lack of opportunities this season. Discussing plans for the day with other parties a thing I am not used too, worrying about people dropping into lines were climbing something we are so spoiled with here in Montana. It had me counting my blessings for all the days I spent in the hills this year without another soul in sight.

Busting up the ridge racing the sunrise was worth it on its own.  The earliest I have ever been there. Dropping in with high hopes to find only massive wet slides broke my spirits. Making the most of the day the new goal.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Return to the Swan Range

Its hard not to return to this range, for so many reasons.  The snow is slowly creeping up the massive slide paths of the range. Being in these paths makes me feel small, seeing the power and destruction this substance we enjoy so much has when the conditions align. Looking down 3000+ foot avalanche paths that look more like ancient river beds cascading back and forth through the terrain, at times uphill with their force. I try and imagine the slides cascading down the mountain, off of the numerous cliff bands, but it is hard to process. This pure destruction making way for perfect ski runs down an otherwise densely forested terrain. Its an odd dynamic riding perfect runs you know were created by the thing you fear most.  I think it keeps you at all times giving the mountains the respect they demand.  Access for the most part is coming to a close as the dirt starts to expose the roads below, a bitter sweet time of the year. Access will soon become challenging until the roads thaw out, by that time most the lower elevation snow gone.  These are big mountains, and I find myself enjoying them more with every outing.  It is hard to capture and depict there size in a photo.  
For this day we had a tiny weather window, something we seem to be in short supply of this year.  The plan was to hike up the west path, ride the south face while it was in was in good corn condition, then hike to the summit again and out the 3700 foot west slide path as it warmed up later in day back to the sleds.  Temps were low, and cloud cover higher than anticipated leaving us scratching out heads, would the snow soften? By the time we summited our hopes were pretty low. 

I was nervous about this day, being three days in from a nasty cold that hit earlier in the week.  My body felt fatigued and at about 50%  strength.  Nearing the top, shivering, I lost all motivation.  I could tell I gambled and lost.  It was such a weird feeling being so helpless on the top of a peak, especially when you train for that exact thing not to happen. Regardless of how strong your feeling from the training, a cold can change all that in a quick second.  It made me reflect on how important my health is to enjoy the these types of things. For the first time this season, I was strongly questioning if I should push on.  I also felt horrible in the back of my mind to put my dedicated partner in this situation with me.  I strive not to hold people back or cut their day short in any way, and here I was doing that exact thing.  I could tell my partner was somewhat disappointed but he never let it get to him.  The true test of a good partner. Throughout the season it seems that one or the other of us is feeling stronger on any given day, and this fact alone helps us pull each other through the days that we are struggling, taking the days from mediocre to above average every time.

I sat at the top concidering letting Curt drop on his own down the 2000 foot south face but it was too cold up there.  So without any pressure from him, I decided that I would drop the run. I think the great partners never pressure just enough to create a challenge but not enough to push you out of your comfort level, its a team effort and when you loose sight of this it no longer is. I knew that at a minimum I could get back to the top, I just didn't know how fast.  I was expecting ice the whole way down the run which did not help the decision making.

I must thank Curt for always pushing for that extra run, because the top 900 feet was 4 inches of fun powder that magically changed to perfect cream corn the rest of the run.  It was definitely the highlight of the day, one that would not have happened with a less motivated partner.  We made the skin up and out and found ourselves back on the summit praying that the west face had softened.

Curt dropping into the big south face

South face, photos do it no justice

Up and out

Unfortunately with the temps and increasing cloud cover it never softened, but we got into good snow after the top 900 or so feet.  Regardless, skiing down the gut of the face in stable conditions, ice or not, is an experience unlike any other with such big terrain.  We soon made it to soft snow and enjoyed fun soft turns down the rest of the avalanche path. Such a great day playing in the Swans and riding two massive runs. It was a good winter in the Swans, which I hope is not over, but after this last trip I think access will be spotty for about a month.

Curt on the summit, 2nd time

Over 3000 feet of fun

Curt on the right hand side descending the west face