Chasing dreams is a great thing to do! But before you go sprinting out the door ya might want to make sure that you’ve properly communicated said dreams with your spouse. This is the story of the unapproved quest to chase turns all year.
Table of Contents
Video Highlights – 12 months packed into 5 minutes of fun.
Prologue– How not to begin your quest.
The Winter Months – The easy part.
Springtime – Trouble on the horizon.
Summer – Yeah, sucking up is tough when you are always behind.
Fall – “All’s Well that Ends Well”, or so the saying goes.
Epilogue – Will the saga continue?
GPS Map – Following the adventure.
The key to being a wise man is to understand the woman that you are with. This sounds like a simple enough principle, right? Kind of like; “Duh, and what made you think of that you genius”. But here’s the deal, most of us men types don’t really understand the woman that we are with. In my case even after 34 years of a great marriage. Now, if we were truly wise, we wouldn’t do so many dumb things all of the time.
So begins the story of my quest to rejoin the TAY club. Now, I did this once before in 2011-12 and I thought Ann was impressed, (at least mildly), with that accomplishment! We had fun doing it and the experience brought a real sense of accomplishment to a guy who spends most of his working hours in a cube working for one of the largest corporations in the world. Given how successful the first venture was, I felt inspired to “one-up” myself this last year and go for what I called, “TAYBC” club, (the Turns All Year in the Back Country club).
There was only one real problem with this grandiose idea. I never REALLY had the approval of Ann. Now, I thought I had the approval. It went something like this:
Me – “I have been thinking, and I want to do the ski all year thing again this year, and do it in the backcountry”.
Ann – “whatever”.
That was the conversation. (Spoiler alert; anyone see where this one is going)? So, here is where I got way off track. I took “whatever” as a nonchalant, unconcerned, “Yes”. Now in reality any woman, but very few men would immediately know that she really meant; “Whatever makes you think this idea will even remotely gain my approval”? Of course, I reinforced my stupidity through the rest of the winter months because I just naturally had ski days in the backcountry that didn’t really require any real sacrifices from anyone. Nothing more was said and so I assumed that meant that approval had been granted.
I won’t dive into any real detail at this point, but let it suffice that the summer and fall skiing adventures were not without controversy. I did some major “sucking up”, but I usually find myself woefully inept in that department. I kind of have this habit of trying to “pay off debts”, rather than “build credit”. Suffice it to say that this approach did not really earn me any brownie points either.
Before any of you reading this think that I’m “picked on”, or can’t understand the big deal, I should clarify a couple of things here. The problem with this sort of a goal is that unlike someone who lives, say in sight of somewhere like the Tetons, where they can just go for a nice day outing anytime to get turns, I live a 6-7 hour drive from the nearest summer snow. It takes a lot of planning, dollars and time to do each one of these ”little” excursions. So, from a practical standpoint it requires teamwork, which means support from Ann and occasionally other family members. It is a pretty big deal and requires sacrifices by Ann and my family for something that they don’t really participate in.
At one point the idea was floated by Ann that as “payment” she should have BAY, (Beaches All Year) if I get TAY. Of course being the fool that I am, I agreed to that even though I have no idea how, or when I will make that one happen. (Did I just mention my penchant for building debt rather than credit)? BTW, we did get to the Oregon coast in November, and I have committed to vastly increasing our “beach” trips this year.
The quest, misadventure or wayward journey did come to a successful conclusion in December, 2014 with some fantastic skiing in the Banner Summit area, Sunset Peak and Dry Creek in the Boise Front range. Along the way, I met some cool people, made new friends, got to know old friends better and had some fun on the journey with Ann, my youngest daughter Rachel and my son Taylor. I explored some new territory and experienced the majesty of multiple mountain ranges across Idaho and Wyoming. What follows is a quick travel log of the adventure.
The Winter Months
My first adventure of the year introduced me to 3 guys with years of experience climbing and skiing all over Idaho, (and beyond). John (Splattski), Ralph and Chris invited me join one of John’s great treks and tag an unnamed peak on the NW edge of the Sawtooth Range that we dubbed Elizabeth Peak because of the lake with that name that sits at its base.
Next up was a trip to the Tetons with a double climb on 25 Short. Guided by Aaron Dahill, (Exum Guides), I did the Turkey Chute and then climbed back up and had some beautiful untracked powder on the SE face. This was a fantastic day and the two climbs came just short of 6K vertical of human powered fun!
The snow pack in the early winter of 2013-14 in Idaho was, as one of my Avy I instructors labeled it, “an angry beast”. Persistent weak layers and other problems took months to get worked out. But by March, we were seeing some good conditions on steep chutes in the mountains around Stanley Idaho. Sawtooth Mountain Guides has this cool little one day deal named “The Sawtooth Chute Club”. March turns were in the Cape Horn area and I was with a group of guys skiing with Chris Lundy of SMG. We had a great day skiing steep chutes in untracked powder. I have vowed to join the “Chute Club” every year.
If you want to get out and get some great skiing on big objectives, Spring is really the best time of the year; low avalanche danger, long days, easy approaches and great corn if you time it right!
April found me with Greg Parker high above the lifts at Soldier Mountain Ski Area on “Peak 2”. This 9,500+ foot mountain has some great terrain with open bowls, chutes and glades. The ski area was closed, after a dismal snow year, but from about 7,000 feet up there was still plenty of the white stuff to be savored. We were skiing in a “powder/corn” mix on top of a solid base that made for great turns, and even a couple of little launches at the top.
In May, Brady Adams and I decided to target the Tetons for a 2-day adventure that was supposed to be a descent of the Skillet Glacier on day one and Mount Saint John on day two. Day one was a disaster due to a wrong turn that we, (I) made around 2AM. We went the wrong way around Leigh Lake and basically took a 12 mile tour without any real turns. Defeated and beat, we had to abandon Mt Moran and set our sights on Saint John the next day. This time we got plenty of vertical, (although we stopped short of the summit by a few hundred feet). But the climb was brutal, at times sinking up to our thighs in breakable crust and “mank”. The ski down was also a challenge, but those are the kind of conditions that build your confidence.
Leatherman peak is Idaho’s second tallest peak and it was my target for June. I got together with Deb and Tom for this climb. After a rough start, which included a blown tire and a backpack floating down a creek in spring runoff, the actual climb and ski was a great success. The approach is along the upper reaches of the Pashimeroi valley on the “backside” of the Lost River Range. The scenery is beautiful and the NE face of Leatherman is a great ski objective. I had firm, to soft corn snow conditions for the entire descent. This was our 2nd peak in the Lost River Range that we have ascended and tagged the summit as a team. Both climbs have been rewarding and a great experience.
Once July hits, the quest for TAY starts to get difficult if your location and/or your budget doesn’t allow excursions south of the equator.
After consulting with Sara Lundy of Sawtooth Mountain Guides, I settled on an area above the Finger of Fate for the July adventure. My partner for this trip was Jackson Negri, one of the local “kids” home from MSU for the summer. The chutes that we were aiming for were on a serrated ridge-line known as Sevy Ridge. We found a cool chute with a few hundred vertical of good snow and lapped it twice. One of the highlights of the trip was watching some random kid camping in the area with his family get his mind blown as he saw 2 guys packing ski gear along Hell Roaring Lake in the middle of summer.
Ann, Rachel and I were on a weeklong vacation to Yellowstone/GTNP in late July/early August and we were camped at Jackson Lake. This gave me the opportunity to slip away for a day to get my August turns in. The target was the Teepee Glacier and the Dike Couloir on the Grand Teton. This was a solo climb/ski, which I don’t do very often. After discussing my plan with Aaron, he agreed that I’d be “visible” and reachable, should any trouble ensue. As I transitioned from the glacier to the couloir I ran into a couple of guys also planning to do the Dike Couloir. One of them was Ryan Halverson, who is a ski-mountaineer/film maker based in Jackson Hole. The three of us skied the couloir and then parted ways. This one goes down in the, “there is always someone crazier than me category”. I found out that Ryan was on 130+ months of consecutive TAY and he has managed to keep the steak alive despite having full ACL surgery in May!
September turned out to be the toughest month, not because I couldn’t find snow, but because of the quality of the snow. I knew where I was going to get the turns in – The Cave Couloir on the Middle Teton. I convinced Rachel to come along as my assistant and to be my “eyes on” in case of any mishaps. We had a great time, but the skiing conditions to put it bluntly sucked! The snow was firm, almost icy and deeply runnelled, which made for some ugly skiing. It also made me rethink my ski choice and I went out and upgraded my Manaslu’s to Dynafit’s slightly beefier model, the “Grand Teton”.
The route for October was a repeat of my August trip, but my team increased to Jackson and two of his buddies from MSU, Jay and Christian. We met up in Jackson, crashed at the Flat Creek Inn and got an early start the next morning. The skiing offered breakable crust, corn snow and even a little powder from storms earlier in the month. Other than the scramble down into Delta Lake, we had a blast. It’s not that the down-climb through that boulder field isn’t fun. It’s just that when you have already put in several miles and a few thousand feet of vertical and have a pack with skis hanging off your back, it’s just not quite as high on the “fun meter” as you down climb through boulders as big as a school bus.
Snow in the Boise foothills that is deep enough to ski in is a rare sight, even in mid-winter. When a freak storm in early November dropped about a foot of snow on a Friday, I knew where I was headed on Saturday morning. Along with my friend Greg and my son, Taylor, we set out from the popular mountain biking / hiking trail head, “Corrals”. About 2 ½ miles in we found the target. Some steep side hills above a canyon that are home to cattle all summer. We had a couple of short runs that got us about 1,000 vertical feet of nice powder on top of dirt. My skis only got nicked by a couple of small rocks and we had a blast skiing some “urban backcountry”.
We had a nice start to winter, and so I actually had 3 trips in December that would have qualified for my TAY adventure. Copper Mountain was first up with Taylor, Jackson and Greg. Sunset Peak in the Mores summit area treated Cory, Greg, Ralph, Chris, Jud and I to some nice boot top powder. It was on this trip that Cory proved that big willow branches can fill the need for ski poles. I then finished out the month with a fast charging powder run just outside of the boundaries of Bogus Basin, down into the headwaters of the Dry Creek drainage. (No lifts were used to access the goods)!
I’m just over a month into the New Year, and I’ve now logged 14 straight months of skiing. Will the streak continue? Only time will tell. I do know this – I have not made any commitments to continue the insanity. But when it comes to TAY, I’ll just take it one month at a time. What I have decided is that I am committed to continue to trying to improve my communication skills and just be a little bit smarter each and every month of the year. Oh, and YES – try to hit a few more beaches with Ann!