Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Pioneer Yurt Trip, ID

AND WE’RE BACK! What a whirlwind on the road. Thankful for a successful and fun tradeshow season, and very happy to be home with the bulk of our ski season just starting. The PNW picked up over 6 feet of new snow last week, and we sampled a lot of it out on Sunday, sweating out some laps to cleanse the body after Vegas. More on that after getting caught up, but a dispatch for now from Andy Jacobsen and Jay Beyer on a Powderwhore yurt trip in mid-January to the Pioneer Mountains of Idaho.

Never trust the British when it comes to judging distance and difficulty of a hike or climb, went the saying – a joking after-effect of a long ago climbing trip to Peru. Somehow it came back to mind as I skinned alone through the night, my backpack bulging from the -40° sleeping bag, bottled beer, running shoes and other useless nonsense that I was carrying. “Fifteen-minute approach,” was what I was told. I can carry a house for 15 minutes, and I carelessly decided to pack that way. The Brit was the only one of the group who had ever been to the yurt, and it seemed clear that perhaps his perception of time and space had become a little askew.

Halfway up Noah and I switched packs, my overstuffed backpack for the monster-sized duffel bag full of food. Each step forward the low-hanging duffel would bang annoyingly into the back of my thighs, the thin duffel handles digging into my shoulders, and I wondered how Noah got this duffel this far. Eventually I wondered long enough and the yurt came into view. Perhaps 15 minutes for Lance Armstrong, in the summer, on his bike, on a nice paved road! Inside the yurt the thermometer read -10, and the wind was howling outside. It was not summer, and Lance Armstrong was nowhere to be seen.

(Cozy and comfortable, yurt life in Idaho. Photo courtesy of Jay Beyer)

The next morning I awoke feeling warm and refreshed. The toasty bag had been worth the extra pounds, as Kyle’s lips looked slightly blue in spite of wearing his ski bibs inside his sleeping bag. The stove soon raged though, as we prepared for breakfast. For food, we had salted pork, salted pork and salted pork. So we cook up some bacon for appetizers and breakfast burritos containing large amounts of sausage for the main course. With eight guys in the yurt, two pounds of bacon went frighteningly fast, and by the third round of coffee we were ready to tour.

It is always interesting exploring new mountains. You never know what is over the ridge until you go look. The sky was clear with a cool wind, and we wandered around searching for some good snow. The high winds of the previous days had scoured most everything, but we eventually found some widely-spaced trees on a somewhat wind protected slope. We cranked out some laps and enjoyed some variable windbuff. It is impressive how quickly eight skiers making laps can track up a slope. Cold beer back at the yurt began its call, but not before finding the best snow of the day on the return, stalling our return for another lap of fluffy wind-blown goodness!

(Andy gets a wind assist on the uphill. Photo courtesy of Jay Beyer)

Back at the yurt for lunch, the menu was summer sausage and a big block of cheese. Jay continued to blow my mind with the huge slices of sausage he chose to cut off and then eat in one or two bites. Life at the yurt means working for your heat, so we rested for a bit before chopping wood and brewing up some tea for an evening tour.

Evening brought renewed cold and wind on our tour to a nearby peak named the Peanut. On its rounded peak, the wind raged as the eight of us watched the sky scream its final oranges and reds of the day over the Sawtooths to the west. We had to yell to hear each other through our hoods and over the wind, so we shared few words but all quietly enjoyed a fine moment in the mountains.

(A quiet evening in the mountains. Photo courtesy of Jay Beyer)

Skiing in the dark is usually quite difficult, but this night the moon was bright. The snow was soft and forgiving, floating us effortlessly back to the yurt through the dusk to share some tea and beers. A fine ending to a fine day, and the best part was that we would get to walk out our front door and do it all over again the next day.

-Andy Jacobsen

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