Crystal Mountain to Stampede Pass

Over the years I have fallen in love with self supported long distant travels. There is something special about traveling long distances through the snow covered mountains and the way you become in tune with your surroundings. Over a decade I’ve been piecing together a traverse through the Washington Cascades and the Crystal Mountain to Interstate 90 was a trip I had been putting off for years. The area consisted almost entirely of tree covered peaks, clear cuts and logging roads and is one of the only areas in the crest of the cascades that’s not in Wilderness or National Park. Below is a link to some of the other traverses Jason Hummel and I did over the years. It’s through those week to 16 day traverses that I have some of my fondest memories I highly recommend checking out some of both my and Jason Hummels trip reports if you want to see some awesome and rarely mountains within the Cascades.

The Picket Range
The American Alps Traverse
Sauk River to Highway 2
The 14 lake traverse
Alpine Lakes Traverse
Snoqualmie Pass to Stampede Pass
Crystal Mountain to Paradise (in Mount Rainier National Park)
Paradise to Carbon River (in Mount Rainier National Park)
Carbon River to White River (in Mount Rainier National Park)

I had arrived in Washington early March 2016 with the intent to do a few on trips on my “tick list” only to find the forecast filled with wet and cloudy days nearly the whole months and a half while being in town. Jason Hummel and I scanned the forecasts almost daily and finally a forecast called for clear skies for 2 days. We knew this was the only opportunity and decided to attempt a 4 say traverse from Crystal Mountain to I-90, the last two days would be wet but as they say “you work with what you get”.

Ski traverses are a logistical nightmare if you don’t have two cars at your disposal so we came up with a plan to leave Jason’s car in Kent, take the train to Sumner and my good friend Rick Kadar was kind enough to drive us up to Crystal Mountain, when we made it to I-90…who knows but we would figure it out when we got there.

Taking the train………this is something I have gotten used to over the years as it goes no where near the actual ski resort BUT is on the route from Tacoma to Crystal so it allowed me to have options for carpooling from both Seattle and Tacoma and without the use of a car myself it was a good viable option. I have used metro buses on so many trips, taking multiday gear on 2 buses through the heart of Seattle to meet up with my friend Ben on Fridays for a weekend adventure. So like so many of my trips this adventure started with local transportation this time being the Seattle Sounder train.

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Day 1

I would lie if I said I was excited about this particular traverse as it had very little downhill snowboarding and we would be in forests instead of high mountains with the second half being on logging roads but I was excited to see what was beyond the Crystal Mountain backcountry. When we arrived at Crystal the forecast called for clear skies but that wasn’t the case with limited visabiltiy as we said good by to civilization for the next few days.

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Winds were howling and snow was falling sideways as we made it on top of our first ridge and with that we made the call, push forward and hope for the best.

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Here was the one part of the trip that I was truly looking forward to and here we were with nothing to see but walls of white, not only would it be somewhat challenging navigating but the weather had turned for the worse in the form of strong wind and blinding snow but we pushed forward through the forests with little ups a downs in areas familiar and leaving our travels to a mixture of trust, intuition and occasionally a GPS system.

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It was a catch 22 as they say because the alpine always delivers but the trees providing shelter from the winds. It was in these sheltered sections that we could take a breather and look about to what was in out limited view, the trees plastered in ice and rime.

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After a few hours we were at the end of the zone which I would call myself familiar with and heading out into an area that barely saw foot traffic in winter traffic if any at all during the winter months.

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For the rest of the day we were plowing through dense forests attempting to follow the Pacific Crest trail which was buried under feet of snow with only the occasional marker to confirm we were going the right way.

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For hours and hours we wrestled with thick forest making our way north slower than anticipated but we were happy to have Gps systems, we would have been fine without but I will admit it was nice to have this piece of equipment confirm we were heading i the right direction. Finally we found a suitable camping spot just a half our from sunset and if the forecast proved correct would have a clear view of Rainier if the projected forecast turned out to be accurate.

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Day 2

The next day we awoke to clear skies are rested for a few brief minutes before heading out. We knew we had a lot of ground to cover and this was our only clear day, it was vital to make it to the logging roads as it would make travel in the upcoming bad weather much easier so we need to make some ground.

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We had around 30 miles of travel ahead of us and 10 behind. Some of which was dense forest and the rest was logging roads. This was the only real time that I got a good view of the North Cascades firmly in the distance. There is something awesome about looking at Mountains 100 miles north and knowing you had snowboarded many of them, each one a story, each one an adventure.

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I was excited about having a sunny day and the oppertunity to dry out wet clothes and warm up my body. It was above freezing level and the trees were coated in new snow.

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For the first half of the day we were going through beautiful old growth (that sadly burnt down this summer) and getting constantly drenched by a downpour of melted snow. The day that I had predicted to be nice and invited turned out to be the wettest I had experienced in the trip.
But man was the forest beautiful.

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A few hours into the day I decided to take a less traverish and more direct line up and over a hill while Jason sidehilled along the trail. It was once I met up with Jason back on the trail that I realized I had dropped my dry bag which had both of my heavy duty pairs of gloves and a brand new Gimbal and Gopro. it was heartbreaking for my and very costly in the end but I knew we didn’t have the time to head back and look. From here on out I would only have a small inner liner gloves that was already soaked, it would be cold but I would have to deal with it.
Before long we were out of the woods and onto forest service roads and finally making a good pace through the Central Cascades.

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By the end of the day we decided to set up camp on the side of the road just past a burned section. The forecast called for rain for the rest of the trip starting in the night. We set up camp and enjoyed our last hour of sun on the trip knowing it was going to be nasty weather from here on out.

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Day 3

I woke up to the sound of rain pelting the tent and ferocious winds outside and rain around getting our gear into our bags, forcing our selves to stay motivated. We had a few miles of logging roads before heading up and over Blowout Mountain and back into the forests. At first my hands were numb from wet gloves but I felt the best antidote was to keep moving and let my body warm up. By the time we had made it back into the forests my Pomoca skins were almost compleatly useless with no stick at all and the only thing holding them somewhat onto my board was 4 Voile straps, it was fine when on flats but any sidehilling caused them to slip off and for me to stumble. It made me go about half my normal speed but going forward was the fastest way out so on we went making the best out of the situation.

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That afternoon we just kept our heads down and pushed forward connecting Forest service roads and the PCT piece by piece and each push forward felt like a victory on its own. At one point I had to climb about 200 vertical feet through insanely dense trees without the use of skins but in the end I was able to do it.

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Near the end of the day we finally made it to our first downhill ski run which was more 7 miles of slightly downhill riding with ski poles in hand. It was at the bottom of the hill when the end was in sight, just 3 more miles of uphill on forest service roads and 5 miles of flat road traverse until we could finally descend to the Stampede Pass trail head. We set up camp at a small creek on the side of the road and slipped into our bags with the hope that we would be out by mid day the following day.

Day 4

We woke up to about 3 inches of snow on the ground and my food scattered around camp. It turns out there was a mouse who became interested in my food and found it under the vestibule. He had a snack here and there but there was easily enough food to go on as we packed our gear and started skinning up the road now covered in about 5 inches of new snow. It was right at the top of the pass that I had one last gear issue, I was testing out a protype pair of Karakoram bindings and had the touring pivot break on one of them rending skinning impossible from here on out I would be boot packing the final stretch before one last downhill. It seemed this traverse was just not going my way.

On a side note the abuse I put gear through far and exceeds the normal amount of abuse and it allows companies to find and fix weaknesses before putting there products out to consumers. AKA the problem has been fixed.

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In all I had been fortune because someone had groomed the last bit a few days earlier so my foot penetration only went to my ankle making it somewhat slow but as long as I was able to move I was happy. Jason was able to skate ski this section but I had to go one foot at a time and was more than happy to make it to the final downhill stretch where I switched over to snowboard mode and made it to within a mile of the trailhead footing the last little bit to our exit point. Luckily Jason was about to do a few days riding with our friend Lexie who were heading over the Cascades and so we were able to hitch a ride back to Kent with them so the only thing left to do was to finally kick up my feet and relax as we had finished a traverse I wasn’t exactly looking forward to and was happy to have it over with.

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In the end I am glad that we did the trip though I wouldn’t say I would do it again. The forests were amazing and it breaks my heart that we lost them this summer to fires so at least I had the opportunity to see them one final time. This trip threw so many curve balls but we kept level heads and worked with the situation one thing at a time. I have to say thank you to Jason for being such a great partner over the years and congrats to him finally pulling off Baker to Rainier one traverse at a time, i’m almost there but once again almost.

Thanks for reading and look for upcoming adventures in the near future.

Auto Draft

Look at social media sites during January and it is almost guaranteed you will see at least one photo of powder skiing in Japan and this is what sucked me in. I had the good fortune to be invited to a friends place to experience ski bumming and lift riding during for 5 weeks during the 2015 season and as for resorts it was some of if not the best resort riding with easy access pow laps day after day, a week after a storm. I was hooked and bought a ticket for the full extend of a visa aka 90 days from mid December to February 2016.

EPIC RESORT SKIING IN ON HONSHU 2015

When I arrived there was no snow in the lowlands and barely anything in the mountains. Being there for skiing we were hooked on weather forecasts but day after day it was too warm and was falling as rain in the high country and the resorts opened one run at a time over the next few weeks.

Though it was great snow quality we were quite limited and the snowpack was pretty dire needing a few feet to bury the sasa grass (aka bamboo).

The snowpack was getting deeper with a few cms every other day so we spent most of our time touring and making the most out of wind transported snow and areas that had no signs of traffic.

This went on for around a month as we kept exploring further and further away from the resorts and stumbled across this gem.

And another good zone.

After about a month and a half the snow finally came in the quantities that Japan is famous for and by mid Jan almost all of the tourists had given up leaving us with empty lines at 8:55 in the morning.

It was on and for the next month we made a routine of riding the lifts when the inbounds was good.

And when that was tracked out it was time to head into the “Powdered Snow Zone”

From Sunrise

to Sunset

It was because of these drought times that we were able to explore new and exciting areas and while I wouldn’t have complained about day after day of powder snow I am happy to say that we made the best out of it.

There is no question that it was a bad snow year and even though I kept getting texts from friends in Washington saying “I bet you wish you were here” I am glad that I spent time in some place new and different. In comparison to New Zealand you could say that ever day was great and even though powder resort days were few and far between I would say that I had 2 of my 5 best resort days within this time and when it all comes down to it, snowboarding to me is not about riding good quality snow, it’s about exploring and finding new and exciting things along the way, while you hope for good conditions I choose to not let it decide how my trip is going to go. Thank you so much for reading this and I hope you enjoyed.

First off I have to Thank my main sponsors who without them none of this would be possible.
Eddie Bauer
Chimera Splitboards
Karakorum Splitboard Bindings
Thermarest and MSR
and Licence to Chill

Next my friends
Huge thanks to Leigh Whitaker and the hand fulls of people that we stayed with at his place. Ben Starkey for handling the high speed stress of getting first tracks when the resort was good. Caley George, Kristen Elliot and the Eddie Bauer crew, Bryce and Tyler Kloster, Russell Cunningham and the Karakorum crew and Alister Horn from Chimera.

Thanks for joining me and until the next chapter and feel free to email me @ KyleMiller411@gmail.com if you have any questions.

And know the record breaking photo of…..15 plates at SUSHI TRAIN!!

Auto Draft

I have had the good fortune to learn about life through the use of a Splitboard for the past 15 years. In the first 10 years I focused on sharpening my mountaineering skills in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state and in the past 5 I utilized those skills abroad. I created a routine heading to the corners of the globe to focus on specific things that I have come to love in there epicenters. From Ski mountaineering in New Zealand to lift accessed powder riding in Japan I found myself in love with these places with and what started as a love for mountains quickly changed into the cultures as well. This report is over the 2016 season where I experienced ups and downs both mountain wise and mentally.

New Zealand

New Zealand had always been a land of mystery to me. Like a great puzzle the rugged mountains and isolation hold the highland guarded and shrouded in mystery. This season was my 4th time returning to the Southern Alps after learning the lay of the land, the weather and an all new respect for these mountains the 3 previous seasons.

Something that anyone should consider before buying a ticket to NZ is that snow conditions can be what most would call poor about 80% of the winter time but that other 20% of the time it’s hard to find a more beautiful spot. Basically powder and snowpack is somewhat unreliable but corn skiing is much more predictable so because of that I made the call to arrive in early September 2015 and depart at the end of November 2015.

Australia

Before heading to New Zealand I had the great opportunity to hang out with the Godfather of Splitboarding in Australia for a week attending the Australian Splitfest for the 3rd year in a row, do some guiding on the side and head back into the Old Snowy Mountains.

The highlight of which was putting on a snow camping guided trip where I was able to show 2 clients/friends the strategies of safe travel and building windproof shelters among the fabled Western slopes. It was a great trip and though weather came in much earlier than expected and was a bit wet as usual we were prepared and had a great time sharing stories and experiences both in guiding and the Splitfest.

New Zealand

I’ve fallen in love with the Club Field culture which is a uniquely New Zealand thing and with the support of License to Chill (http://www.chillout.co.nz/) I was able to get a seasons pass to 12 different ski fields within the South Island.

If one hasn’t heard of the Club Fields 90% are based off of a lift system called Nut Crackers where you have a rope tow that drags you up thousands of vertical feet through the use of a harness and metal device, this is used so that you don’t crush your hands on the numerous pulleys along the way. I had the good fortune to meet up with my friend who goes by the nickname Pow Slash Wiggles who was working as a ski patroller at Broken River.

For the first few weeks we went from one club field to the next getting back into the swing of things and making the best of conditions.

A highlight of which was heading up to Mt. Olympus and riding a line I had seen a decade earlier but didn’t have the experience to feel comfortable with yet.

Another highlight was heading to the backside of Temple Basin during the NZ Splitfest put on by Shane Orchard and Richard Harcourt and enjoying epic powder in the Mingha bowl off the backside of this total gem.

For the last two weeks of Club Field riding we had the good fortune to have Zach Clanton come join us and Broken River was kind enough to give us shelter and a base of operation to show him what made this place so special.

If you ever have a chance to stay up there I highly recommend it, as you are within a 10 minute walk of the rope tows, in beech forest and best of all the place has a Sauna. I’ve fallen in love with Sauna’a after since spending a bit of time in Finland where it is a vital part of the daily routine.

Zach had arrived at a transition time between powder skiing and corn riding which meant the slopes were firm for the most part of the day and the snowpack was quickly melting away, but we took the opportunity to do some hiking and show him the ropes, quite literally.

The highlight of the time was doing a ski traverse from Broken River to Olympus and back and this is the only time that I have gone on a multi day trip bringing shorts so we could soak in Mt. Olympus’s hot tub. Aspects were melting out fast though and with a thin snowpack for the most part we had to stay on the high ridges.

When walking through these areas you could only imagine how amazing this place would be if the snow fell all the way to sea level.

When the club fields closed we had the good fortune to meet up with our friend Holly Walker, went out and bought a car and started to check out several huts that are located in the high country and ran by DOC (Department of Conservation). Being a tourist based economy there are more than 700 huts lined throughout both Islands and our first journey was to the Angeles Hut in Nelson Lakes National Park.

Sadly on our way in Holly had injured her knee pretty bad and wasn’t able to ride the local slopes but luckily the zone is beautiful and for the next 3 days we rode around our perfect little shelter.

We were even visited by a few baby Kea’s which had enough time to say hello and attempt to destroy are gear, those pesky little buggers….I LOVE THEM!!

Departing from the hut to the car was a 6 hour walk which was incredibly painful for Holly as her knee wasn’t getting better. I ran to the car and dropped off my backpack and returned to her halfway down the trail so I could grab her pack, making travel a bit easier for her only to find that our car battery had died and we spent a night in the parking lot before a car could come and help jump start it. With Holly’s injury she sadly and smartly couldn’t join us for anymore ski touring trips.

Are next adventure took us down to the Otago country near Queenstown where we stayed at the Routeburn Hut and decided to head into a zone that Pow and I had been to a year earlier and our friend Remi was happy to join us.

We carefully skirted around the lakes shores and headed up into an area referred to as Valley of the Trolls

We have spotted a line that caught our interest but as we started climbing clouds made there way in and as we reached the summit we found ourselves in a white out. Pretty typical of New Zealand especially since this zone was 5 kms from the Pacific ocean.

We descended a beautiful couloir in whiteout conditions and made the call to head back to the shelter knowing there was good chance conditions wouldn’t improve and that it is just not safe to travel when you can’t see anything.

We made it back to the trailhead where Holly was waiting after 3 much needed days in Queenstown and made the decision to go visit Milford Sound as it was something all of us could enjoy. Along the way we would occasionally stop to check out the surrounding mountains just long enough for the Kea to come and attempt to destroy our car.

Milford Sound is one the most beautiful Fiords I have had the good fortune to visit with rugged peaks dropping straight into the ocean.

We decided to go on an overnight cruise where we went halfway down the fiord in sunny but windy weather and the next morning finding the most brutal weather NZ can offer.

The winds can do some crazy things

With Holly’s knee not recovering she made the right decision to head home and we took a small road trip waiting for weather to improve. Once the forecast called for sunshine we made the call to head to Mt. Cook village where we met up with local legends Ryan Nicol and Yossi Jager and flew up onto the Tasman Glacier and we stayed at the Kelman hut, exploring explored the local scenery.

It was my third time in the area as the year before I did an 18 day traverse, so I had gotten to know the area pretty well. Conditions were quite firm as the wind wasn’t allowing for the snow to soften up but we made the best out of it by taking in the views

Our time together was a bit challenging as the weather was constantly fickle, racing to attempt to get peaks before the clouds came in and having the lines in pretty dire conditions but we made the best out of it.

But the beauty of this place is just unreal.

By Mid October Wiggles and Remi were on planes heading home and Zach had become more interested in Rock climbing, which is totally understandable as that is another of his passions and the place is a rock climbing mecca. I had gotten the invite to join Ryan and Yossi into a relatively unknown zone at the head of the Rakaia river. They took a helicopter in with my snowboard, while I decided to do the 30 km approach with 2 weeks worth of food and gear solo.

Along the way I had to do a thigh deep river crossing in glacial water which meant I couldn’t see the ground below me, this scared the crap out of me not knowing how to swim so well in swift, cold waters. I made it one step at a time only to get on the other side and toss my backpack onto the ground and the brunt force was on my camera, breaking it and only leaving me with an Iphone to take photos.

The Rakaia is a beautiful braided river valley with massive mountains on both sides which made my journey pleasant.

When I finally made it up to a small knob that I had to climb over to get down to the Lyall Hut that Ryan and Yossi were using as a basecamp I really started seeing the potential of this zone.

Where I had come from

Where I was going

Another valley if weather allowed

From here I had to drop a thousand feet down to the hut and I made the mistake of trusting a downloaded map on my smartphone which showed a trail which wasn’t there. I made the stubborn decision to thrash down the bush slope as the sun was starting to set and found myself in some of the worst bushwhacking of my life through thorn covered bushes so thick I couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of me. After many hours of clawing through the bush I barely made it to the river valley minutes before sunset, covered in scratches head to toe and making it to the hut just after dark.

I spent my first night there alone as Ryan and Yossi had decided to go on an overnight adventure since arriving with fresh knees. After a day of resting by the river they arrived back at the hut. It turned out that Yossi had a bit of a nasty slide in firm conditions during the trip which made him a bit stressed. He was soon to be a father and you could tell he was having a bit of mental tug a war with proceeding with the plans while we hung out in the hut for 3 days waiting for weather to clear In the end he made the right decision and called in for a helicopter when the weather finally broke and than it was just Ryan and I for the next week and a half.

I had my own issues as my splitboard wasn’t wide enough causing heel drag, this was fine when snow was soft but left me without a heelside turn when conditions were firm and steep, this added a whole new level of stress that I was dealing with during the entire NZ season but I made due and Ryan and I came up with plans to head for a peak called The Warrior.

As with most isolated peaks in the Southern Alps this moutain required an approach to an approach followed by another approach just to get to the base of the mountain, all of which are exposed. Here we are looking back at the way we came with the hut being at the bend of the river.

Finally we were high enough to get our boards off our packs for a little bit and get to skinning in the high country

Followed by another sketchy traverse above cliff bands to get to the valley below which gave us direct access to the warrior

Once in the valley we were looking up at The Warrior and making plans for an early departure so we would have firm climbing conditions. This was going to be another exposed zone so we wanted to make sure there was no chance of a wet slide taking us out.

We left at about 5 a.m. and made good time up the first and mostly exposed area with crampons and two ice axes in hand making it to an upper flat plateau just as the morning sun warmed us up and gave us a chance t dry our sweated out gear.

We looked up our line that made it all the way to the summit and made the call to start climbing before the sun hit it in fear of being hit by a potential wet slide.

Pictures never do lines justice but this one was steep and firm climbing in which you had to focus on every step, barely getting your crampons to take purchase. Before long with a sigh of relief we had made it onto the high ridge and were looking out among the beauty of the southern alps.

We waited for it to slowly soften trying not to be too early and not to be too late taking in the views and I cleared my mind not allowing my anxiety overcome me.

Looking back at our approach and the hut way in the distance.

Ryan being the boss that he is dropped in first finding conditions to be somewhat firm yet edgeable and smoothly made his way down the first part of the line.

I carefully made my way down after him before feeling confident in the snow. As and snowboarder who has rode steep and firm conditions knows there is a level of trust and a bit of fear that goes into the first healside turn and after a few seconds I knew I had to go for it. There was a sigh of relief when I went for it and the edges held on somewhat soft snow. The rest of the run back to camp super fun and enjoyable with the heavy part of the line over with. I was proud and honored to do this line with Ryan and we were back at camp by 11 a.m. where we packed our stuff and headed back to the hut arriving just before sunset.

For the next few days the weather was atrocious with high winds and rain making the idea of heading out not so appealing. so for the next few days we sat in the hut and read what ever books were there and made massive dinners waiting for more favorable weather. In the time span think I read “The Heart of Darkness” 3 times to figure out all the underlying plots before the weather finally cleared for the next trip.

For our next trip we decided to skirt around Lyall Lake and head up the glacier to the mighty headwalls of the Rakaia walking on miles of moraine that buried the glacier underneath it.

Our plan was to camp at the high col and attempt to ride the couloir in the distance if conditions allowed the next morning.

When we made it to the col we dropped off our gear and took in the views before heading for a late afternoon climb.

We made a descent in somewhat firm conditions than made it back to camp right as the alpenglow was lighting up the southern alps in a beautiful display of colors.

That night the wind howled and the weather stayed above freezing so the snow didn’t have a chance to properly freeze. When we woke up we could hear wet slides in the distance and the approach to the line we were interested in had a small section of steep and exposed climbing that seemed to be in isothermal slush, so we made the call to turn back. It was a very hard call but we both knew it was the right call.

As we walked down the glacier both sides were having massive wetslides rip to the valley floor and it reassured us that we had made the right call.

The glacier goes all the way down to the lake though if you saw this picture you would never believe it.

Once we made it to the hut we were barraged with bad weather again for what seemed like a week. Within this time we had one day to get out as it had snowed all the way down to the hut and we came up with plans to climb a near by peak. When we prepared for the climb I layered up with my baselayer bottoms under my shorts while Ryan just wore shorts. I thought this was unusual until we made it up to a low col and I was completely soaked and shivering by bashing though snow covered grass. I had hoped that the sun would come out and dry off my gear but there was little chance of this happening and I had to make a decision, keep on heading up and take the chance of getting hypothermia or turn back and not chance it. I chose the latter and went back to the hut, built a fire and dried off my wet clothes while Ryan went for the peak. It was a hard decision but I knew that I made the right one.

a few days later the weather broke for the morning and we were able to call in a helicopter to fly us out to the west coast.

This trip had a bunch of highs and lows but I had no regrets as making the wrong decision had the potential to be fatal and that was not something I was not willing to undertake. New Zealand can be brutal for numerous reasons but I knew I had played my cards right as I had made it out in good health but most importantly I had learned quite a lot about myself both in the high country.

For two weeks after that I stayed with my good friend Chris Rayner and kept him company as he worked in his garage building a CNC machine and 3D printer all by hand (this dude is a legend) before a weather window was finally going to open up. Ryan was interested in doing a 3 peak bag of Rolleston High Peak, Armstrong and Philistine in Arthurs Pass. This was an area I had looked at numerous times across the valley from Temple Basin and I was excited to give it a go. In the end this trip took 22 hours where we started in the dark and ended in the dark, but man was it the great ending that I needed. From 55 degree almost ice climbing to exposed ridge walking everything turned out perfect and I could tell that my years in New Zealand had really helped me learn invaluable techniques when climbing.

Those 4 months in New Zealand had many highs and lows but with a dire snowpack and dismal weather conditions we did what we could to make the best out of it, and that’s what we did. As I get deeper and deeper into the Southern Alps I quickly realize I have only scratched the surface of possibilities. This land is an adventure lovers paradise, with a rich history of mountaineering and great people pioneering the endless mountains. Though conditions can be pretty harsh, it is the rugged adventure and the people who have brought me back year after and to them I have to say a huge THANK YOU and it’s been a pleasure sharing these trips with you.

First off I have to Thank my main sponsors who without them none of this would be possible.
Eddie Bauer
Chimera Splitboards
Karakorum Splitboard Bindings
Thermarest and MSR
and Licence to Chill

Next my friends
Pow Slash Wigley, Zach Clonton, Remi, Holly Walker, Ryan Nicols, Chris Rayner, Yossi Jager, Adam Flemming, Jaime Flemming, Mike Cheney, Shane Orchard, Rich Hartcourt, Adam West, John Luzinsky, Stu Waddel, Oliver Bersani, Caley George, Kristen Elliot and the Eddie Bauer crew, Bryce and Tyler Kloster, Russell Cunningham and the Karakoram crew and Alister Horn from Chimera as well and as the crews from Broken River, Temple Basin and Mount Olympus.

Thanks for joining me and until the next chapter

New Zealand

New Zealand 2014

Over the Months of July to Mid November I was fortunate enough to spend my time on the road getting aquanted with the different regions of the vast South Island of New Zealand. Within these few months I went hut bouncing all the way from Nelson Lakes on the Northern End to the boarder of Fiordland and Mount Aspiring National park with trips all inbetween. For 3 months I lived out of a 45 liter Eddie Bauer Arc light back pack and bounced around both living and skiing off the land and hospitality of friends that I’ve gotten to know over the years, mainly Chris Rayner, Ryan Nicol (and roommates), Adam Flemming, Jaimie Splatt and Pow Slash Wigley.

Here is a writeup of 2014 from Ryan Nicol and Pow Slash Wigley

AA New Zealand

Back in the Land of the Long White Cloud

Getting back into Winter in the Canterbury Ski Fields

Getting back into Ski Mountaineering

OZ Splitfest with Firstlight Snowboards and Adam West

Muller Hut: A Mission back into Mount Cook National Park

Craigieburn Traverse and Temple Basin Splitfest

A Brief Stint in the Craigieburns and the Remarkables

Heading into the Routeburns

Spending time in Nelson National park at Angelus Hut

And then winter returned…….Temple Basin

And we went out to the Macaulay Valley

Before doing an Epic 18 day traverse of Mount Cook and Westland National Parks

After that I decided to the North Island and check out Mt Ruapehu

Than return to the Otago Country and Remarkables on the South Island

With my last trip being Mt. Clark in Mt. Aspiring National Park

Exploring the Reese Valley; Mt. Clark

I quickly realized that my time in NZ was running out with less that two weeks so I was fortunate to meet up with my friend Manu and start a predawn mission up the Reese Valley heading for Mt. Clark..

We are heading towards those snow covered peaks

Pre Dawn Lightshow

I hate river crossings

By now I could use some sunshine

About 6kms up valley and a few crossings of the river we got to the base of our climb and started heading up an area referred to as Clarkes Slip, this is when the views started coming out.

Heading up Clarke's slip

Well Hello Earnslaw

After a tad bit of a sketchy climb and a tad bit of Tussock bashing we were in the high alpine and trying to climb Clark before the bad weather arrived.

Looks like the weather is about to crap itself

Okay it looks pretty rad up here

We were heading for a peak behind the prominent rocky one.

Looking at our route towards Mt. Clark

Manu skinning up with Earnslaw in the background

Manu skinning with Lake Wakitipu in the distance

From the summit of Clark I got my first view of the Reese and Dart valleys and the endless potential of the area. It’s rugged and it’s wild and I like what I see.

Looking into the Reese Valley

The Dart Valley

Bad clouds on the horizion and Mt. Aspiring

After the views from the summit we raced down as fast as possible knowing it was going to rain hard soon. While I did film the descent I didn’t get any pictures until we made it to the spicy descent down Clarke’s slip.

We went up this?

and then we were crossing the river and back out of the Reese Valley and back into Glenarchy.

Heading down the Reese

While hanging out at the DOC station I found out that I am from a pretty rad area and that I had a bunch of epic riding to get back to. But I had one final week in NZ and some of the best snow.

Washington sounds pretty rad!!

Heading back to the Otago Country and getting into the Remarkables

After a long night of hitch hiking and getting onto the first plane avalible I was heading back to the South Island and meeting up with my friend Adam Flemming.

Looking at the Canturbury covered in new snow

With all the new snow we decided to head up to the Remarkables to enjoy some Mid November powder conditions.

Dust on Tussock

Luckily the groomers had just enough of a snowpack that we were able to skin all the way up to the goods.Tad bit quiet up there

Looking pretty good

From the summit ridge we took in the views of Lake Wakatipu and the greater Queenstown area.

Tad bit of an awesome view

So many mountains such little time

So that's why they call it the Remarkables

The snow was quite heavy but it was still really good.

Cascadian Mank

For our second run we decided to check out the Alta Lake chutes and see finish our trip off with a another South facing run.

Skin track art

Looking back towards our first run

As it would turn out this was by far the best run I had in the Remarkables as season.

South Facing Pow laps, only in the Southern Hemisphere

Both Adam and I were stoked on the goods and the fact we were still getting faceshots in November. We decided to end the day on a highnote and after the second lap we were back down to Queenstown and enjoying the sunshine and I was prepping for my next trip up the Reese Valley.

Soo good I could almost go for another

Visiting Mt. Ruapehu on the North Island

I had an itching to ride some sweet volcano corn and decided late spring was the time to head to the North Island and check out Mount Ruapehu, so after a few much needed days of R and R staying with my friend Ryan in Christchurch I was on a plane heading to Wellington.

If I fly with my fitwells on I can pack 2kg more of gear

I was super lucky that Simon Edwards was kind enough to pick me up at teh Wellington Airport and carpool with me up to Ohakune where I met up with my friend Shannon and we waited for a storm to push through. I had the intentions of riding corn but once I arrived the volcano got blasted with snow for 2 days straight. It was our intent to stay at the NZAC hut on the North side of the volcano and found that we could take a shuttle for 40$ or we could carpool to the southside and ride Turoa for 50$ in 30cms of new snow then climb up and over in the afternoon, we decided to do the latter.

Turoa with 30cms of new

From around 9 a.m. to a little after noon we had a blast riding Maritime style pow and though I had never been to the resort it was easy to traverse and find the goods. We kept going further and further until that got tracked out as well then decided it was time to climb up and over the volcano and find our shelter.

Conditions were a total whiteout the whole climb and I carefully navigated off of slope angle and elevation making it all the way to the summit with almost zero visibility, I don’t recommend doing this but I felt confident in my abilities. I knew I was on the summit the moment the terrain flatened and I could smell sulfur and it was at this moment that the clouds cleared up for a second revealing the crater lake.

I think we made it to the top

Once on the summit we found a low col that dropped off the North side and carefully navigated our way down until we got under the clouds. It was a sigh of relief when we got within the Whakapapa ski field and found the hut just as the sunset alpenglow was starting to arrive.

Sunset over Mt. Ngauruhoe

Sunset over the West Coast and Taranaki

3,000 vert of summit above you and accessed in 90 minutes

It was a full moon and there was powder to be had so Shannon and I decided to start moving at 3:30 a.m. and ride the southern powder slopes through the glow of the moon. It was a surreal experience.

Enjoy the show

Shannon skinning across the summit

Powder, Full moon and sunrise= perfection

The Shadow of the volcano appearing

That day I went from a NE to west circle going counter clockwise and hitting all the glaciers along the way.

Hello sun

I expected nice protected pow on the glaciers but all the Eastern aspects were pretty hammered by the wind.

About to descend the Mangatoetoenui Glacier

After riding the Mangaturuturu Mangatoetoenui and Whangaehu glaciers I decided to head for the true summit of Tahurangi via a direct route inside the crater. I expected it to be mellow climbing but near the top turned into solid Ice climbing. By that time it was about 10:30 A.M. and I was sure everyone from Turoa had hiked the 2,000 vert to the top and was tracking it out but when I got there I realized I was about 20 minutes ahead of the crowd bootpacking up for first tracks, so I transitioned and made my way down as a hundred people hooted and hollered.

Thanks for the bootpack guys

Once I rode down to the top of the chair I followed the bootpack to the summit ridge then put on some crampons for the spicy sidehill to the true summt. Here there was a hundred people but I shared the true summit with only one other guy.

Looking at the crater from the True summit

I rode both the Wahianoa and Mangaehuehu glacier before heading down to the Turoa resort to grab some much needed water for my final climb of the day then set my way back up to climb the volcano for the 6th and final time that day. I was really exhausted and not stoked to find that snowshoers had destroyed my skin track.

Not snow shoes on the skin track

For my final run of the day I traversed a little bit further north so I could ride fall line back to the hut. The clouds had built up down low but I felt confident in my skills to navigate back to the hut.

It should go?

That night we enjoyed a beautiful sunset and I was physically exhausted from a 14,000 vert day and one of the worst sunburns I have ever received.

Not a bad place to be

Goodnight Pinnacles

The next day I slept in to about 9 and was back on the summit by 11:00

The view from Pyramid Peak

and riding off Pyramid Peak by 11:30

Lonely Tracks

I was super fortunate to meet up with Nick Voltaren who is a local and we made our way to the summit of Paretetaitonga.

SO radagascar

Such a rad guy

Pretty Unreal

He showed me a gem of a line riding down the South face.

Lets do this

It was sick and amazing powder all the way from the top. Nick decided he would start traversing towards the resort after the first thousand feet as I decided to drop the full 3,000 feet all the way to snowline.

Such a sick line

When I got to the bottom I realized the terrain was going to be a challenge heading back up safely so I carefully chose a route.

How am I safely going to do this?

I decided I would put in a steep skin track and stay on the firm snow on the edge of the slope compared to the wind loaded gut. If it did slide my hope it that it wouldn’t accumulate nearly as much.

Good times

As I climbed the clouds came in once again and I was going on Braille. I would pass other peoples skin tracks but decided not to take them as I had no clue where they were going. Once again the clouds only cleared out once I made my way to the summit.

I think I am on the summit?

Pretty quiet up here

After that I rode back to the hut and called it a day.

Alpenglow!!

The next day was a weather day with it being a 100% white out until the afternoon arrived. I could tell that the NW corner of the volcano was in a rain shadow and the only clear spot on the mountain so around 6:30 p.m. I made my way to the summit and took in the views for the next 3 hours.

The Summit Crater

Alpenglow

Before making my way down the one break in the clouds.

Time for a 3000 vert descent

It will be a memory that I will carry for my life time.

What a light show

The next two days the storm raged and I rested my beaten body waiting for a clearing. Luckily rain had turned to snow.

It could be good riding when this clears

I was stoked when I woke up one morning to find bluebird powder conditions.

Pow Pow

Here I was at a ski resort with 30cms of new snow and not a soul around.

I like what I see

I skinned up to the summit crater and had an amazing run back down to the resort.

Stoked!!

This is going to be so good

And it was awesome!!

I was hoping for corn but I will take this

The rest of the day I ran around the ski resort and attempted to track out as much runs as I could.

Wild area

Bluebird Pow

Ngauruhoe looking awesome

Such awesome terrain

It turned out to be such a rad final day on the volcano. I had hoped for corn but got something much better.

Whakapapa ski resort

After that I hitched 4 times and finally made my way down to Wellington and off on an airplane heading towards Queenstown.

Looking towards Lake Tekapo and the Mckenzie country

A Week in Mt. Cook National Park Turns into a 18 Day Traverse

With a resupply of food in Twizel and a night in Mt. Cook Village Shannon and I met up with Chloe and Dan from Christchurch and my friends Christina and Peter from home in the states. We played our cards right and were able to get take a ski plane up the Tasman Valley.

Goodbye Mount Sefton, The Tasman Valley and comfort food

And past the Caroline Face of Mount Cook.

Um....Don't think I will be trying to ride that this season.

Waterfalls of Ice at the Grand Plateau

Looking up the Upper Tasman at Ellie De Beaumont

Looking down at the Tasman Saddle Hut

Flying over the Tasman Saddle with Ebens ski tracks heading down

And then we found ourselves at The Murchison Glacier.

Home for the first week

For the rest of the day we put in a bootpack up to the Murchison Hut and dug it out as we were going to be there for a week. It wasn’t until the second day that we started looking around our backyard.

Heading up the Ada Glacier

Looking down into the Godley Valley

We made our way over to the summit of a peak called Sydney King and noticed another group of two up there. We chatted and quickly found out it was Eben and his friend Jaimie from Seattle/AK this would be the only random group I ran into all season. We joined forces and made a loop heading down to the Classen glacier and up and back over to the Murchison.

Dropping into the Classen

Skirting above the Ice Cliff

Then down the Murchison glacier with our hut in the distance

The next day we decided to head up and check out the Tasman Saddle.

Climbing the Murchison Headwall

And get a view of the Main Divide.

What a view!!

Then we found excellent corn on riding back down the headwall.

Great conditions

Shannon, Dan and Chloe rode around on the glacier while Peter, Christina and i decided to make a detour and check out the Mannering Glacier.

Peter about to huck the Shrund

It was quite the quiet place.

For our final run we went back up to Starvation Saddle then summit a side peak and in the end making a huge descent back to the valley floor.

Not a bad view, eh?

I could ride lines like this everyday for the rest of my life.

The next day we decided to head towards the Divide and attempt to ride Mt. Mannering.

Heading up and over Classen Saddle

But the weather clung to the Divide and we didn’t feel like navigating through a White out.

Clouds on the Divide

So we rode back down to the Murchison and came up with another plan.

Hanging out with Mount Cooper in the background

We decided to head to the summit of Mount Cooper.

Another Summit

And make a descent down the Eastern Faces.

Dropping Cooper to the Murchison Glacier

That afternoon we watched the weather changing and relived we were going to be in the hut for a few days.

Starting to look bad

The next morning there was a small weather window and Dan, Chloe and Shannon decided to get a heli out. I originally planned on leaving with them but figured out a way to stretch my 7 days of food out and stay as on the glaciers as long as the skiing was still good.

I can make this last

The next two days we would get a small weather window but they were just teases as the clouds would come back in as we made it into the high country.

The suns out

Run!!! The clouds are coming in

The next two days the storm raged but what started as rain turned to snow in the end.

My board is plastered with maripow

We were getting stir crazy so decided to move base up to the Kelman hut after heading back for a lap on the Mannering.

Powder in Late October

Don't touch my tracks

Then up and over the Tasman Saddle to our new zone for the week.

Welcome to the Tasman Glacier

That afternoon we waited for the Sunset Alpenglow before doing our final descent of the day.

Sunset Pow turns

and watched the darkness arrive knowing we were going to be hutbound for the next few days at the Kelman Hut.

Looking down the Tasman at De La Beche

Looking towards the Murchison Glacier

The next two days we were stormed in and hanging out on the Fridge on the Ridge.

Peter hanging out and all of us drying our boot liners.

Luckily it once again came down as snow so we decided that when the weather did clear we needed to start riding as soon as possible because the sun was going to destroy all the new.

The next clear morning I woke up early and watched the alpenglow.

De La Beche

Looking toward the Murchison

and the sun is out

We got our gear together and made sure to ride the Tasman before the sun hit it.

Hurry!! Before the sun hits it

It turned out to be awesome conditions.

Glacier Pow turns

Once we got to Darwins corner we changed direction and started heading towards The Hochstetter Dome.

Nothing better than breaking trail

Mount Cook and the Tasman Glacier in the distance

Making it to the top

From the summit we were looking directly down towards the West Coast and a true Tiger Country.

Tiger Country!!!

Ellie De Beaumont and NZ spines

Eh, just the Main Divide

and we dropped the Hochstetter in awesome powder conditions.

DROPPING!!!

What started as POW ended as slush

The next day we decided to head up the Darwin Glacier and see what that area had to offer.

Heading up the Darwin

And checked out the views around Hamilton Peak

Not a bad view

Looking down the Darwin Glacier where it connects with the Tasman

We found the skiing to be in perfect corn conditions.

Dropping!!!

Before taking a nice rest on the Tasman Glacier.

Not bad!

I’ve skinned in some amazing zones but I think the Tasman may take the cake.

Super quiet other than all the helicopters hovering above us

That afternoon we took one final lap off the Darwin Shoulder.

Looking up the Tasman towards Ellie De Beaumont

Than took in our final sunset from the Kelman hut.

Goodnight D Archiac

The next day we woke up super early and rode down the Tasman and started heading up and over the Rudolph Saddle towards the West Coast.

Heading down the Tasman to De La Beche corner

There's Glacier under there

Heading up the Rudolph Glacier

Finally getting back on the snow

Graham Saddle on the right side above the Ice cliffs

Then we had to get up and around the Ice cliffs which was by far the crux of the trip traversing bulletproof steep slopes where falling isn’t an option.

The route up is on the right hand side than onto the main glacier after the Ice cliff

And then we were up on the West Coast looking towards the Tasman Sea and heading to the Centennial Hut.

Skinning on the Franz Josef Glacier

The weather was calling to be miserable for the next few days but the next morning we were able to get out and stretch our legs.

This isn't a glacier it is a ice pleateu

Ellie De Beaumont looks crazy from every aspect

More Tiger Country

The next two days we were stormed in but once the weather cleared we got up early in the morning and made our way up and over to the Fox Glacier.

Is that blue sky? Run while we have a chance

Heading up and over West Hoe Pass

Then off to the Fox Glacier

We wanted to stay at the Pioneer hut and explore the Fox glacier for multiple days but the storm was once again coming in and Christina and Peter had a plane to catch so we explored the glacier for the rest of the day before heading down to the Chancellor hut.

Rad zone but those Crevasses are hiding everywhere

That afternoon it was time to descend off down the Fox glacier and make our way onto solid ground.

Heading down the Fox

Peter heading by the Seracs

When in doubt stay right

We were able to make it down to a spot where we climbed back onto solid ground. The thing that really surprised me was the happiness to see green, smell the vegetation and watch the Kea. That night we stayed in the Chancellor Hut and waited for a early morning back heli flight down to the town of Fox.

The view from a hut built in 1912

In the end the trip was 18 days traversing throught two National Parks and up and over the Divide. I had no intention of doing the traverse but in the end was very happy that I came along. While Peter and Christina took a plane back to the U.S. I was on a plane to experience the Volcanoes of the North Island.

Stoked to be back in civilization and for Peter to get his Soda

Thank you to Peter and Christina you were awesome company.

Heading up the Macaulay Valley

After getting a ride to Christchurch with Chris I took a bus to Geraldine and met up with Shannon. We grabbed some food at the local Four Square and got our 4wd on up the Macaulay River.

You mean we are going to drive across this?

Wow!! I need to get a truck

We drove 19km up the river with multiple crossing. I quickly realized that if you want to get out to all the hunters cabins you needed a 4wd truck to access places like the Macaulay Hut.

You have to be kidding me

That night we enjoyed the gas powered stoves and a 24 person bunk house to ourselves before waking up in the Predawn hours and heading into the alpine.

Dust on Tussock

Land of the Golden Tussock

That morning we walked about 8kms to get to snowline and the base of Mount Sibbald. With weather turning we decided to check out lower slopes.

Welcome to Mackenzie Country

Looking back down the Macauly River

Looking into the Two Thumbs

The weather turned for the worse and we were hut bound for the next few days. Once the weather cleared we were heading up into the alpine.

Better put on the crampons

Just skirt around the waterfall

After skirting around a massive waterfall we got out of the basin and into the high alpine. This terrain was within an hour of the hut.

Shannon putting in a skin track

Not bad

Crazy textures and shadows

The snow was quite firm from the wind event which made for easy cramponing as we made our way to the summit.

Good climbing

From the summit the Sibbald Range came into display. There is an abundance of good riding to be had.

Mount Sibbald

Looking into the range

Looking up valley

Tad bit quiet

We found good nice corn all the back to the base of the valley.

It were off

Good times

Rad

Rad zone

After a few days up the Macaulay we drove out but not before checking out the Godley Valley.

There are a few good lines in the Godley

And after crossing about 10 separateShouldn't be a issue river crossings we had one last one to get back to civilization.

But our luck was against us because the car stalled while crossing and we had a nice wait as the river went through the truck and we were fortunate to get some Japanese tourists to drag our car out via a nice little winch

Good Times!!

Luckily there was no damage to Shannon’s car and after a quick stop at Twizel to get some food we were off on a mission to Mount Cook National Park

And then winter returned.......Temple Basin

New Zealand is full of surprises and after most of the club fields were shut down the Craigieburn and Divide received 3 feet of snow.

Castle Hill and the Craigieburns

It's looking like winter on the Main Divide

Most cars were using chains as we drove up to Arthurs Pass with a little bit of skilled driving we were up at the Temple Basin Parking lot. It was a early October sleeper pow day, Chris Rayner and I were going to have a good day.

Heading up to the ski hill

If you haven’t been to Temple it is a mandatory 45 minute hike just to get to the rope tow but once you are there it is a special place.

Looking into Arthur's Pass National Park

What was bare rock a week early was now barely enough snow to crank up the rope tows and enjoy a Kiwi classic day.

Classic Kiwi rope tow

In total there were 16 riders on the mountain.

There's no one on the field

Not hard to find the untracked

Getting rad!

Before long we decided to head over to the Mingha bowl which was loaded with what felt like a meter of solid riding conditions. These were my last and best turns at a ski field in the 2014 seasons.

WHITE ROOM!!!

Such an amazing place

Some would say that it was the worst season in the history of NZ but I made the best out of conditions and had an amazing time.

Heading back up the boot pack

It was time to head off to Mt. Cook National Park.