Monday, December 29, 2008

Epic Snow

This year the Christmas hut group ventured to Margy’s hut of the 10th Mt division hut system. A few of the members of the group had nervous anticipation of the trip due to impending poor weather. The weather rolled in the day before the anticipated trek in. The early group, Becky, Russ, Karyn, and I, made a late arrival at the trail-head for departure. The Aspen ski areas reported 10-17 inches of snow, but the trail-head only had a few inches of new snow. We met some nice snowmobilers who offered to pull us up the trail to the divergence of the trails (one for snowmobiles and one for skiers). We started from there ~ 5.8 miles to go at 11:15am.

I’ve read a few articles on mountaineering accidents: if the person survives the accident, they try to interview them, if not, who knows what all issues contributed. One thing I have identified from most incidents is that not just one thing went wrong, typically a few, gps batteries die, someone forgets a map, miss reading a map, equipment failure, etc.

As we were leaving the trail head, we discussed adjusting Karyn’s skins to fit the skis properly, but decided, they would be fine for the hike in, and we could fix them at the hut. The temperature was cold, and after a few minutes Karyn’s water line was frozen. Note: two items we could have remedied, but decided we didn’t need to at that time. After some time, Karyn began having issues with blood sugar, again not uncommon, but we didn’t decide to stop and remedy the situation, we felt with the late start we should push on. At some point I decided to carry her pack in my sled. This brought the weight of the sled excess 80 lbs. Not unreasonable, but not light by any means.

Up the trail a couple miles we reconnected the entire group, discussed the issues, got more food to help the blood sugar issue, synchronized radio frequencies, and continued moving. The further in the trail we went, the more trail breaking we had to do with the sleds. The cut trail just wasn’t wide enough. This caused each person in the group to work harder to move the two sleds up the trail. At this point, we knew we were going to be traveling in the darkness. If we decided to turn back, we were sure we could follow the now wider trail, back down hill to the car.

As the weather finally moved in, the night fell upon us. According to the GPS we were 1.75 miles from the hut at the time one of Karyn’s skins failed. It no longer stuck to the ski. We spent a few minutes in the cold attempting to tape the skin to the ski for the final 1.75 miles, and re-assessed the GPS location of the hut. Not to mention cold hands, the tape was so cold it only shattered when I attempted to peel it back from the roll. We determined that the 1.75 miles was incorrect, and the waypoint for the hut was off by 1 mile or so. We decided to continue moving, without the skin attached. Added some gear for cold, and pushed on…

The temperature was now below 0, and everyone was cold and tired. Another 45 minutes passed, we finally reached the hut. Cold, hungry and tired.

First things first: Setup your shelter, heat, and eat. We started the fire, got some food on the stove, before even un-packing.

We arrived at the hut ~ 7pm. This was one long day! Perhaps we should have turned back when we discussed it early on in the trek.

Some warm food in the bellies, warm water on the stove, we all crashed before 8:45. Overnight Russ had some issues with altitude, this can always cause an early return from a hut as well, despite the weather the health is a dangerous thing to spar with. Russ made it past 2:00 without having large issues, so no immediate evac was necessary.

Waking around 7, the temperature had dropped to -18. This would not have been a good night to stay out in the cold, we were happy we were in the hut. All still pretty tired, we ate breakfast, and went out skiing about 10am. In the sun, the temperature was tolerable. The skiing was Epic. The report from the two hut/skiers we met on their way out was 17” the first day, and 10” the second. The cold weather had kept the snow perfectly. We found some un-tracked snow in front of the cabin, assessed the avalanche conditions and slope angle, and went for a few runs. A long lunch and a few more… Approaching 4pm, another 3 from our late group arrived at the cabin following our wide cut trail. After a huge dinner, Russ and I captured 2 more runs in the dark, the new arrivals were too tired to join.

Waking again around 7, and another huge breakfast (thanks Russ again!), we headed out for a few runs before packing up and hitting the trail home. The return route was expected to be 3.5-4.5 hours. And with the skin problems we had encountered with Karyn’s skins, and mine were acting up a little too, we decided an early departure was probably called for. We hit the trail at 11; I was at the car at 12:45. What a rush, the ski out was very fast!

All in all, the hut provided epic skiing conditions. These conditions usually come with high avalanche danger in Colorado. The hike in was probably more than we bargained for, but I could tell you several contributing factors which almost led to us spending the night out. Would you have brought the right gear for that? Or would you have known when to make the call to build the shelter? Karyn and I had brought our cold weather sleeping bags, stove, and plenty of gear. I think we would have been ok.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Just... nothing. really, nothing, well, not nothing....

So, I printed out a picture to take to work - because I LOVE it.... it's a silly picture that has meaning to very few people in this world. but... I LOVE it.

here it is - a picture from this fall.

nothing, but something that means a lot to me.

brings a smile to my face EVERY time I see it.

**thanks Kalena and Handsome! **

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Hmmm... no skiing?!?!?!?!

So, it's very unlike us not to take advantage of every moment of skiing. BUT, we have to get some work done on the house before the end of the year... so, we worked on the deck and some outside paint yesterday while temps hovered around 55 degrees. and today when our thermometer at the house only reached 10 but sat near 5 most of the day. We stayed inside and addressed Christmas cards....

enjoyed our very small xmas tree....

And... TILED! The downstairs master bathroom should have a fully tiled and grouted bath/shower by the end of the week!

Stay tuned.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Party Tricks

Thursday was "soup night". Our friends Russ and Becky host "soup night" about once a month during the winter months. They make 2 types of soup - one is always vegetarian - for everyone to enjoy. Everyone else comes with bread, cheese, desert, wine, etc. in hand to share! It is a wonderful time and we always look forward to it. This time was especially fun for two reasons - we got to meet the youngest Brown in the group - Leah (thanks for bringing her, Sarah and Levi!). AND, we got to see the ear candle in action. I had never heard of such a thing but am glad I got to witness it's application..... here is more info, if you are curious.... It is a natural way to remove excess ear wax.

Thanks for the demonstration, Russ!
-- nothing was burned but the candle during this demonstration....