For the last 3 months I have been instructing a semester program for the Colorado Outward Bound School. The course starts with a winter camping section in Colorado, followed by rock climbing in California, canyoneering in Utah, a Wilderness First Responder course and ends with a three week section in Ecuador, where we hike for two weeks and attempt to climb a 18,700’ glaciated volcano. There is no denying this course is badass and I feel lucky to have gotten to be a part of the whole process, from teaching technical skills to facilitating student growth.
What working this course meant for me as an individual is that I had to give up most of my winter and personal time. I got a quick taste of winter when I first got back to Colorado in January and had a short time off in February when I took my AIAIRE level 2 course. Hardly enough.
I landed back in the U.S exactly 10 days ago. Each day I have been more fueled than the next to be exploring the mountains on my splitboard. After spending a few days in Colorado, doing laundry, rock climbing and riding an icy day in the backcountry, it was time to hit the road for my yearly spring road trip to the Tetons and to the Pacific Northwest.
Skinnning up Mt. Rainier last spring; en route to ride the Fuhrer Finger
The Tetons are the mountains I love most. They terrify me and inspire me in a very strange, yet balanced manner. As I drove the familiar miles of highway from Leadville to Jackson, I felt my energy rise and a grin build across my face. I love living in Colorado, but coming to these mountains feels like a return to home.
Katlynne and I adventured into the backcountry as soon as possible. Our first mini-mission was up Wimpy’s Ridge, a small East/N. East facing ridge just within the Grand Teton National Park boundaries. I’ve skied Wimpy’s a few times now and it is a great place to get a feel for what the snowpack is doing without getting yourself into super committing terrain. We skinned our way up the moderately angled ridge in the late morning. Cold winds and clouds favored our late start and kept the snow from turning to mashed potatoes. Once at the ridge we transitioned and enjoyed 2k feet of consolidated powder and spring corn. Oh to be in the mountains!
With a better idea of what was happening in the mountains and a bit of research, we set our eyes on a bigger line than our previous day. We’d aim to go ride the Turkey Chute, a line off of Peak 10, 696 in GTNP.
Alarms buzz, bags are packed and coffee is made. We drive to the park before the sun is up and get ready for our day amongst the other 30 cars in the parking lot.
Katlynne and I make our way through the willows, not quite positive that we are taking the most efficient way up our objective, and eventually start skinning up a shaded ridge. Not before long, the snow is globbing to our skins, the sun is beating down and our legs are tired. The Tetons don’t disappointment though, with the sunshine came the mountains. Inspiring views of Nez Perce, the Grand Teton and Teewinot poke out through the clouds, motivation for movement. We keep rolling.
As we gain the ridge, we see two parties ahead of us. Immediately we start to think that they are going for the same line as us, as Turkey Chute is a popular moderate couloir in the park.
Alas, we were the only crazies going for that line today and after a short scramble down a rock band, we found ourselves looking into the couloir, untouched and filled with soft snow. Booyah!
Fresh Powder in the Turkey Chute
I take the lead down the couloir, making a few soft turns to see how things feel…they felt really good. As we worked our way into the couloir-proper, I feel comfortable really opening up and start making fast pow turns. There I was, nearly welcoming the month of May, on a beautiful sunny day, with a close friend, riding an incredible line in one of my favorite places in the world. I feel incredibly fortunate to be living the life that I am. It has taken hard work and dedication, but it is in moments like these that it feels like things are paying off.
We ride our line in good style and start working our way back to the cars. Coming out of Avalanche Canyon is a heinous experience for splitboarders with an icy, ungulating, luge of a skin track for roughly 4 miles. Whatever, days like this are worth a little suffering.
Booting up Radio Tower with spindrift making visibility low
Since arriving in Jackson 6 days ago, we’ve ridden every day. Everything from spring corn, to couloirs and powder in the trees. A storm is currently sitting over the Tetons and we are planning to keep riding! In a few days I have to leave to go to Washington, where I will guide a few days on Mt. Baker and then hopefully be able to climb and ride some of the volcanoes and bigger peaks in the Cascade region.
Spring is a time to get after bigger objectives, as well as reconnect with friends. Here’s to pursuing a life you love.
Psyched on life!!
A shout out to Weston Snowboards. I’ve been riding the Riva 153 on this trip and am super excited for this Women’s specific splitboard! So far there isn’t any condition that this board doesn’t rip.
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The first time we laid eyes on the vintage Tucker Sno-Cat, grandiose ideas flew around the room. A snowcat is capable of going anywhere you can take a snowmobile so the options for back-country adventures are almost limitless. The Tucker is owned by our friends, also owners of Colorado based Weston Snowboards, and they were just as excited as we were to try something crazy...