Backcountry Touring and 14er Skiing Progression

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madbuck
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Re: Backcountry Touring and 14er Skiing Progression

Post by madbuck » Thu Jan 04, 2018 3:36 pm

AlexeyD wrote:I hope I'm not going too much out on a limb here to say that skiing one of the classic easier 14er descents such as Quandary or Sherman in spring conditions is not an unreasonable objective for a strong in-bounds skier with hike-to experience.
I was going to say something similar, with all the usual caveats and warnings. Those are the only 2 14ers I've done (w/ basic awareness class, books, CAIC forecast etc. but not Avy 1)
You can even stick on/near the ridge of Quandary (vs. the bowl) to mitigate even more risk, or ski the approach to Sherman past the structures but not the ridge itself.
Basically, in places and conditions where hundreds/thousands hike and/or glissade in the Spring -- but using skis instead of snowshoes or postholing.
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Re: Backcountry Touring and 14er Skiing Progression

Post by Conor » Thu Jan 04, 2018 4:50 pm

Of course, we should do the right things for the right reasons. Just because the masses are doing it, doesn't mean it is correct. It may get you by for the more tame peaks, but you quickly run out and/or tire of the "easy" peaks.
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Re: Backcountry Touring and 14er Skiing Progression

Post by Vincopotamus » Thu Jan 04, 2018 7:45 pm

Conor wrote:Of course, we should do the right things for the right reasons. Just because the masses are doing it, doesn't mean it is correct. It may get you by for the more tame peaks, but you quickly run out and/or tire of the "easy" peaks.
Of course
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Re: Backcountry Touring and 14er Skiing Progression

Post by tatem739 » Tue Oct 01, 2019 3:41 pm

Try Quandary or Bross. I'd do Quandary up the normal East Slopes and then ski down the Cristo Couloir. Image Perfect time to do this would probably be late March to April, May might be a little crusty.
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Re: Backcountry Touring and 14er Skiing Progression

Post by jkillgore » Tue Oct 01, 2019 4:28 pm

kwhit24 wrote:
Thu Jan 04, 2018 12:39 pm
How did any of you know or feel confident enough to go for a true winter ski descent (regardless of elevation)? Did it take years of BC experience? Just finding the right partners and training?
Winter descents on high-ish peaks with complex avalanche terrain are probably not for everyone. If you have a really high risk tolerance, you can just throw on the blinders and give it a go. Most likely you'll survive any line if you only use this strategy once (and have some ski ability).

If you want to make a habit out of it, I'd say it's a combination of patience (for abnormally good stability), familiarity with the terrain/snowpack, willingness to walk away, and still a pretty significant risk tolerance. I probably ski something like 50-100 "lines" in a typical season, of which less than 5 (sometimes 0) might be done in calendar winter. This is after a few decades of experience, being decently trained, and having great partners.

Also worth noting that a lot of classic 14er or 13er routes arent in great shape for skiing during calendar winter. Really want the heavier, wetter spring storms to bring things in.
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Re: Backcountry Touring and 14er Skiing Progression

Post by cottonmountaineering » Tue Oct 01, 2019 6:02 pm

Some anecdotal experience below
I used to ski/snowboard when I was a teenager, didn't have enough money to continue
Last year (~15 years without skiing) I picked up a backcountry setup and spent most Saturdays and Sundays from Thanksgiving-late June BC skiing
I went to a resort one time (during the super high avalanche cycle last season), all other times were human powered. Skiing at the resort felt like a cakewalk, good to push yourself here and advance your ski knowledge quickly if you can afford lift tickets, tree skiing is where you can get some inconsistent snow experience
I was able to get a number of peak descents in, feel comfortable in the D5-D6 range currently

Some notes:
The snow above treeline, from the start of the season until about april, is super inconsistent and hard to ski on. You can go from powder to ice to bumpy sastrugi in a period of a hundred yards. If you're looking for good skiing during this period, its probably below treeline or wind loading in an avy prone area you shouldn't be skiing
April-end of season it is still really inconsistent, however there are periods of heaven in here. A lot of times you'll head out and end up descending after some clouds formed or wind picked up, now everything is iced up or crusty. During a 3000' descent you can go from icy, to perfect, to awful mush. Correct timing, reading the weather, knowing the snow are important for having a good time
As everyone else mentioned, if you aren't familiar with avy danger, get the gear, take a course, go with someone who knows

tl;dr

“Dude, suckin’ at something is the first step to being sorta good at something.”

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Re: Backcountry Touring and 14er Skiing Progression

Post by Monte Meals » Tue Oct 01, 2019 7:59 pm

" I'm curious where someone with no touring experience but a lot of resort hike-to experience should start."

Everyone is different - but here is how I started ...
(Yes, I took all of the CMC classes that I could.)

Living in Boulder in the '80s, I fell in love with Arestua Hut and ALL of the
winter routes that I could imagine up to Rollings pass.

I really want to know every inch of those mountains
(and this was back in the days of leather boots and three pin skis!)

Eventually, I got pretty good at back country skiing in all kinds of conditions.

When I started winter ascents of 14ers on skis - it was a piece of cake.

But keep in mind - I never pushed it. Whenever conditions deteriorated,
I turned around. My success ratio is about 1 success for every 3 attempts.

Just being out in the mountains in the winter is a joyful experience.
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Re: Backcountry Touring and 14er Skiing Progression

Post by Broken Knee » Wed Oct 02, 2019 5:40 am

This thread has tons of great advice. I'll just add that you should make a commitment to get out very often, even if conditions suck. Adjust your venue to avoid avalanche danger, etc., but go put in some miles anyway. Learning to deal with all aspects of backcountry skiing when conditions turn bad is just part of the menu. Bad conditions expose weaknesses in your entire system, including gear, navigation skills, etc.
When life gets you down, climb!
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Re: Backcountry Touring and 14er Skiing Progression

Post by TomPierce » Wed Oct 02, 2019 7:09 am

Broken Knee wrote:
Wed Oct 02, 2019 5:40 am
This thread has tons of great advice. I'll just add that you should make a commitment to get out very often, even if conditions suck. Adjust your venue to avoid avalanche danger, etc., but go put in some miles anyway. Learning to deal with all aspects of backcountry skiing when conditions turn bad is just part of the menu. Bad conditions expose weaknesses in your entire system, including gear, navigation skills, etc.
Fully agree. Not suggesting people go out in blizzards or blithely cross avalanche terrain, but IMO too many backcountry travelers limit their trips to those with bluebird forecasts. It's great & fun, of course, but getting some miles under your skis/boots in less than ideal conditions builds your skillset, not to mention mental toughness. Be safe, but be prepared and experienced in all conditions. Just my opinion.

-Tom
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Re: Backcountry Touring and 14er Skiing Progression

Post by SnowAlien » Wed Oct 02, 2019 10:23 pm

jkillgore wrote:
Tue Oct 01, 2019 4:28 pm
kwhit24 wrote:
Thu Jan 04, 2018 12:39 pm
How did any of you know or feel confident enough to go for a true winter ski descent (regardless of elevation)? Did it take years of BC experience? Just finding the right partners and training?
Winter descents on high-ish peaks with complex avalanche terrain are probably not for everyone. If you have a really high risk tolerance, you can just throw on the blinders and give it a go. Most likely you'll survive any line if you only use this strategy once (and have some ski ability).

If you want to make a habit out of it, I'd say it's a combination of patience (for abnormally good stability), familiarity with the terrain/snowpack, willingness to walk away, and still a pretty significant risk tolerance. I probably ski something like 50-100 "lines" in a typical season, of which less than 5 (sometimes 0) might be done in calendar winter. This is after a few decades of experience, being decently trained, and having great partners.

Also worth noting that a lot of classic 14er or 13er routes arent in great shape for skiing during calendar winter. Really want the heavier, wetter spring storms to bring things in.
HEAR HEAR!

I have about 50 14ers ski descents (with a bunch of repeats) and only a couple of them (Missouri, Massive) were in calendar winter (both in early March). A few, like Castle, MHC etc were sort of skiable from about 13k. Winds are really strong above the treeline in Colorado and they tend do a number on snowpack, creating wind sculptures (sastrugi). Glorious powder doesn't seem to stick around (there are some exceptions, but they are rare and you need a lot of luck, no wind, safe avy conditions and the level of JKillgore experience (rare) to time it right).
Sooo, much better deal is to wait till spring - April-May, and it gets much easier with much better snow quality to ski big lines, and you can still hit them in pow if you time it well.
This is pretty typical snow conditions for Colorado high peaks in winter (snow quality was great below the treeline btw)
https://www.14ers.com/php14ers/triprepo ... trip=15834
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Re: Backcountry Touring and 14er Skiing Progression

Post by Broken Knee » Thu Oct 03, 2019 10:03 am

SnowAlien wrote:
Wed Oct 02, 2019 10:23 pm

Glorious powder doesn't seem to stick around (there are some exceptions, but they are rare and you need a lot of luck, no wind, safe avy conditions and the level of JKillgore experience (rare) to time it right).
Truer words are rarely spoken...
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Re: Backcountry Touring and 14er Skiing Progression

Post by AnnaG22 » Thu Oct 03, 2019 10:40 am

bergsteigen wrote:
Wed Jan 03, 2018 5:39 pm
First off, realize that there will be a steep learning curve! New equipment, skins, AT boots and each will have its own quirks. Transitioning will take time to learn. The main run on the western end of Berthoud Pass is a great place to practice.

Being a good resort skier does not mean you will be a good backcountry skier, right away. It takes time to get good in the BC, so be patient!
Cannot emphasize this enough. Otina has volumes on volumes more backcountry experience than I do, so with only three seasons with my own backcountry gear, this rings so true.

I've been skiing inbounds as long as I've been walking, and I love harder terrain in resorts/resort sidecountry. I found skinning and skiing Elbert (my second 14er skied) to be one of the more physically taxing things I've ever done. I also still (and don't foresee this changing) prefer "blue" backcountry terrain (less than 30 degree slopes, etc). Both for safety and because of what Otina points out above.
"The love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth, the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only home we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need – if only we had the eyes to see." -Ed Abbey

"I get scared sometimes—lots of times—but it's not bad. You know? I feel close to myself. When I'm out there at night, I feel close to my own body, I can feel my blood moving, my skin and my fingernails, everything, it's like I'm full of electricity and I'm glowing in the dark—I'm on fire almost—I'm burning away into nothing—but it doesn't matter because I know exactly who I am." from The Things They Carried
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