Wednesday, June 25, 2008

WWA Action Alert: Tumalo Backcountry Recreation

Over the wire from Karhu backcountry partner Winter Wildlands Alliance:

Help Create the Tumalo Backcountry Recreation Zone in the Deschutes National Forest

The Deschutes National Forest is currently reviewing winter recreation opportunities in the Century Drive Corridor west of Bend, Oregon. An expansion of groomed cross-country and skate ski trails has recently been approved, and a new Snopark to accommodate additional snowmobile recreation is in the final planning stage. Additionally, the development of dog-friendly ski trails is being evaluated.

In conjunction with these projects, a recent proposal to establish the Tumalo Backcountry Recreation Zone is also being considered. The proposal asks the Deschutes National Forest to recognize, and provide for, accessible opportunities for those that seek the naturalness, solitude, challenge and inspiration that is an integral part of the unaltered and non-motorized landscape. This could be the first Backcountry Recreation Zone to be established by the United States Forest Service. Your support for it will help to bring it to fruition.

Winter Wildlands’ grassroots member group Central Oregon Backcountry Skiers asks you to encourage others to visit this site and sign-on, as public support for the Tumalo BRZ is critically important.

To learn more and join the effort to protect this quality human-powered winter recreation area
click here.

Full Tumalo Backcountry Recreation Zone Proposal:
Map of the proposed Tumalo Backcountry Recreation Zone:
Tumalo Petition:
WWA Action Alerts:

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

More from Pakistan

Another quick update this morning from Dave Watson on his way to Broad Peak and K2…

The team is now in Skardu, a remote city of 200,000 people. It took about 30 hours of driving along the Karakoram Highway to get here from Islamabad. We were lucky to get here when we did as the road washed out behind us. We noticed some very light rain, but it must have been pouring up high because there were landslides that blocked the road in a few places. We have just finished sorting out the gear, creating 50lb loads for the porters to carry in. We estimate that we'll need about 70 porters to handle all of the gear and food.

Another issue we are sorting out is the laptop/sat phone connection. Ideally we should have sorted this in the States but we bought another computer the day before we left and the phones were 1000 miles away with one of the other team members. We have got things pretty well dialed, but are making small tweaks to improve data transfer rates and reliability.

Tomorrow we leave for Askole (8-hr drive). From there we start on foot, trekking along the Baltoro Glacier until we reach Broad Peak basecamp. We'll start our acclimatization on Broad Peak as we believe it is slightly safer and easier than K2. However the guys are all super stoked for K2, so it will be interesting to see how patient we can be.

Having fun in lovely Pakistan,

Click on the K2 Tall Mountain label to see all the dispatches from Dave's trip:

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

On the Road to Islamabad

Dave Watson is on the ground in Pakistan. Arriving in Islamabad, Dave and the other guys from the K2 Tall Mountain Expedition tracked down their delayed luggage, met with the Ministry of Tourism about guidelines and regulations around their permit, and got more of the logistics organized with the travel agency (things like the number of porters – 70!). Hitting the road on Saturday from Islamabad on the way to Skardu and the Karakoram Mountains, Dave called in to Utah radio station KSL’s Utah Outdoors Show. KSL has the podcast of Saturday’s show online for listening here (about ¼ of the way through the podcast):

We’ll keep posting updates here, and you can catch Dave calling in to KSL’s Utah Outdoors via satellite phone every Saturday morning between 6-8am (MST).

Expedition goal: climb and ski Broad Peak and K2 via the Cesen Route. More here:

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

June Powder Day

We thought the powder days were over. The first hot days of deep slush had passed too, and a nice corn cycle had finally set up across the Cascades. So with a round of product testing scheduled for this week at Mount Hood, we had been looking forward to warm summer turns on the Palmer Snowfield, firm snow softening to corn, and debriefing on the prototypes in the sunshine on the deck of the Mount Hood Brewing Co.

Needless to say, we were a little surprised to pull into Government Camp on Monday night with snow driving sideways in front of the car. It wasn’t just the odd squall, and by Tuesday morning there was three inches on the ground in town and eight inches new reported up on the hill. High winds, snowfall and temperatures around 30 degrees had us feeling a lot more like January than June.

(June 10, 2008 - Kasha Rigby, Charlie Lozner, Graham Gephart and Alison Gannett gear up for testing with 8" of new snow on Mount Hood. Photo by Nils Larsen.)

We only had one lift to work with, but it was a blast to get out and ski mid-winter varied snow over the day. The lifts rose above the clouds on Wednesday, but the warm sun was offset by howling winds that kept us bundled up even as the snow corned up through the day. We had a great test crew in town, with Alison Gannett, Kasha Rigby, Shelley Hakanson and Nils Larsen accompanying Charlie Lozner, Eben Sargent and me.

(A little cold for June, but all smiles from Kasha and Alison in the powder.)

We heard a couple people referring to the crazy mix of weather “June-uary,” and I guess it’s enough to keep me from proclaiming (again) that I’ve had my last powder day for the year.

-Graham Gephart

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Monday, June 9, 2008

K2 Tall Mountain Expedition - Preparation

There’s a Karhu banner in our office that reads “Dave Watson, 8848m, 5/20/04, 6:55am,” and it’s a constant reminder that it takes a cool mind to stay safe at high altitude. Karhu Ambassador Dave Watson brought it to the summit of Everest on a successful bid in 2004. Two years later, Dave returned with skis and after summiting again, he made turns down the North Ridge from 7200m. It takes something more than a cool mind to click in and ski at that kind of elevation, dealing with technical skiing, difficult snow, steep angles and such thin air.

After a couple years of planning, Dave is headed back to the Himalaya, with a new goal in mind – a ski descent of Broad Peak and K2 via the South-South-East Spur (Cesen Route). Dave departs next week with a pair of next year’s Spire BCs for turns and the superlight waxless XCD Guide as his summit set-up. We’re bringing you insight into the preparation and how the trip came together, and we’ll continue providing updates through the trip from Dave and crew right here on

(K2 and the Cesen Route. Photo courtesy of Dave Watson.)

Here’s wishing Dave and the rest of the team and safe, sound and successful trip to the top of the world and back.

The time has come, two years in the making. We're leaving to go climb and ski K2. It even sounds ridiculous to me, but I'm still going to do it. I feel like all of my time in the mountains and studying the mountains has led me to this project.

It all started in 2004, climbing Everest with Chuck Boyd. We had a great time hanging out, climbing, skiing. We wanted to do another big trip together, but Chuck’s mountain guiding service (Vertical Realms) doesn’t let him get away as easily as I can. When I returned from another Everest trip in 2006, Chuck and I decided K2 was the next objective. Back then the planning was mostly talk, these days it is pure action – put the money where your mouth is.

Funding, logistics, equipment, food, training… the preparation is a full time job, in addition to other forms of employment and preparing the home team (wife) for a three-month absence. But it's a small sacrifice to make for the opportunity to climb and ski in Pakistan's Karakoram Mountains for a full summer.

The guys are all super stoked and spirits are as high as can be. In addition to Chuck and me, we have Dan McCann and Andy Selters. Dan is a rad guy from Park City, who’s certainly been around – skied Cho Oyu, soloed the Grand Teton, firsts in the Himalaya, classic testpieces in the Alps. I'm psyched to have him as my main ski partner.

Andy is another guy who we are really lucky to have with us. He's been cruising around amongst the greatest mountains and walls on the planet for decades. He has authored books about the history of North American mountaineering, glacier travel and crevasse rescue as well as a guidebook for Mt. Shasta. Andy has guided major expeditions all over the world, and in 1992 he made a serious attempt on the then-virgin summit of Shipton Spire in Pakistan. He climbed with Chuck, and the guys were stormed off within feet of the summit before Chuck went back in ’96 and sent it. Andy has also climbed a first ascent on Trango Tower. With a team like this who wouldn't be stoked.

Our main objective is to safely climb and ski K2 via the South-South-East Spur. This route is a variation of the classic Abruzzi Ridge and is also known as the Cesen Route or Basque Route. The route was chosen for its skiable nature and the possibility that we may be the only team on this line. We also have permission to climb and ski Broad Peak, the 12th-tallest mountain on earth. We plan to do so by the classic West Ridge.

Time is ticking away and next week (June 11) we'll be flying to Islamabad to start the amazing adventure. More to come soon!

For more info visit the expedition site at or stay tuned here on

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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Bagging Shuksan

Mid-week, and with Pacific Northwest June gloom in full effect, it’s hard not to drift back to memories of the clear skies and open corn over the weekend. Ski season continues here in the Cascades, and the bigger peaks are first-served when the weather cooperates. Here’s a dispatch from brand director Charlie Lozner and engineer Eben Sargent on their assault on Cascade-classic Mt Shuksan.

(Warm snow, blue skies, and massive snowy expanses. Photos by Linden Klein.)

What defines the perfect tour? In late-May I choose to define the perfect tour as including long days, glaciers, mixed climbing, and lots of vertical in pursuit of the sublime alpine summits of the Pacific Northwest. This Saturday, I was able to get up to the North Cascades with Eben Sargent and his roommates. Our goal was to ski to the summit pyramid on Shuksan, climb the summit gullies, and Shuk some corn back to the car… all in one long day.

(The endless climb, always longer than it looks.)

On Friday night, we camped under the stars at an impassible section of blow down on the Forest Service road up to Shannon Creek. At 4am we rose to clear skies and cool temps and by 5am were moving quickly up the road, climbing over downed trees and plodding through patches of old pine-covered snow. We approached Shuksan from the south and got our first good look at the summit pyramid as we finally crested onto the Sulphide Glacier. The alpine glacier environment always gives you a warped sense of time and space. What looked so close was actually still very far away. We hit the base of the summit pyramid in time for an early lunch and soon set out to climb the final 600 feet of snow-filled gullies to the summit. The climbing was not technically difficult, but the exposure was enough to give you pause.

(Gearing up for the glacier, and getting a good look at the ascent of the summit pyramid.)

As one can expect in a 7000 feet descent, the snow conditions ran the gamut. Perfect corn under the pyramid degenerated to mushy shmoo by the middle. The bottom through towering pines was actually nice and consolidated, though covered with needles and branches. Twelve and a half hours later, we were back at the cars.

(Summer skiing in the Cascades hits its prime.)

In case you thought the winter was over, it is cold and rainy in Seattle, which means snowing in the mountains. We’ll see what mixed bag this weekend brings.


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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Lost Ski Areas Exhibit

The lost ski areas of New England are a natural destination for any backcountry skier. Dotted across the mountains of the Northeast, nearly 600 ski areas sit dormant but not forgotten. Their trails cut long ago still make faint tracks down the mountainside, but hold plenty of space for powder turns. Documented over the years by the New England Lost Ski Areas Project (NELSAP) for history buffs and adventurous backcountry skiers, these resorts are now getting attention from the New England Ski Museum. Ski Press Magazine reports on a new exhibit on the lost ski areas:

Franconia, NH – The story of the ‘lost’ ski areas of New England mirrors earlier boom and bust cycles of land use in the region, and has left physical traces on the face of the land, as well as nostalgic memories in the minds of many skiers who knew the lost resorts. A fascination with the derelict areas akin to interest in ghost towns of the West became evident with the popularity of a website,, that tracks the phenomenon, and now a new exhibit at the New England Ski Museum features the history of a selection of the hundreds of small areas that closed.

Read on at Ski Press, and visit NELSAP to find lost areas near you.

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