Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Wyoming 1

Action Man 51

Jackson Hole is the place of legends, the late Doug Combs and the Jackson Hole bad ass skiers who called themselves the “Airforce”. The inbounds skiing is a legendary as the skiers who shred it, but to me the real white gold is in the Back Country. Back Coutry is what the new worlders call ski mountaineering and in the Tetons there are literally mountains of the stuff. We expected to breeze into the Tetons buy a guide book talk to a few guides and good skiers and head off into the wilderness “tout seul” , but not. The guidebook that did exist is a 30-page picture book, no directions, no elevations, no face aspect, and no timings and danger information. The most helpful information we gleaned form a local on a lift was , “just head up the pass and follow the boot track” err sorry which pass, which mountain and where do the foot prints go?

Hence our now fortuitous and entirely necessary hook up with Mike Poborsky partner in the world famous Exum Guides company. Mike an unassuming quiet spoken mountain guide. “How fit are you guys” is Mikes first question, “I wish I was fitter, but we are up for a hike if we can find some fresh snow”. With the eye of experience he scans our gear and how we handle it, Are they familiar with it?, how do the carry their kit?, is it part of them or it an uncomfortable showy fit ?. A few expert loaded questions later Mike has made up his mind. Ok were going to do 25 Short if you’re up for some work. What’s that I ask ( not the work bit, but maybe that is a good question to), “oh its 25 feet short of 10,000 and it’s a 3 and a half hour hike to the drop in point off the summit”.

After a longish flat section to the base of the mountain the climb starts almost with out a warm up. The skinning up ( climbing with skis using artificial seal skins to stop you sliding back) is steep 25-30 degrees and in the trees. My experience of skinning on steep ground is ok but in the Alps I have never climbing anything at this angle for big distances. After the first 1000 feet I am feeling it and call of the customary 5 min break. It odd having to translate feet into meters to gauge our pace, but 1000 per hour is not bad going but Mike is obviously coasting. The Teton National Park is not a spit away from Yellowstone Park and Grand Teton its gem mountain, it looms above us to the right. During our refuel stop Mike points our some outrageous off-piste, couloirs and gullies that have been skied. It an amazing and beautiful place, with endless ski-touring possibilities. Even though the mountains seem more benign than the European Alps, the snow-pack is always a concern, but today the avalanche forecast is low danger and it’s a great opportunity to get high with relative impunity. After three and a half hours of uphill we are sitting on the summit drinking sweet chi tea and munching on a semi frozen bagel with alfalfa sprouts, mayo and a multitude of other “only in the USA” ingredients. Mike produces a bag of self hunted elk jerky and nuts, this cultural combo indicates how close the people in Wyoming are to the country, they hunt, fish, ski and play on the land with seemingly seamless integration. It’s a wonderful blend of cowboy and adventure sport, which in Europe seems hard to find. Before we chill of too much our attention turns to the descent, I clip my split snowboard together, converting it from climbing skis to 173cm powder gun and point it towards 3500 feet powder snow nirvana. God bless America

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