Sunday, December 31, 2006

Everest on TV

Got the Discovery Channel? That cool series on climbing Everest is on. Now. (10 p.m. New Year's Eve) If you miss it, check DC to see if it's on again. My brother in Cali called to remind me to watch. I'm reminding any of you who are checking in. Later.

avalanche - close call

from the AP:
SILVER PLUME — A father and son were able to walk away after triggering an avalanche that buried both of them in the backcountry today near Loveland Pass, Colorado Avalanche Information Center officials said.

An 18-year-old and his father were glissading, or descending without skis, on a section at 12,200 feet around 12:30 p.m. when they triggered an avalanche that ran 300 vertical feet and was 200 feet wide, said Scott Toepfer, a forecaster with the avalanche center.

The father was able to free his arm and dig himself out after several minutes, Toepfer said. He then yelled for his son and heard the teen's voice under the snow, allowing him to dig the teen out, Toepfer said.

''This was a bit lucky,'' Toepfer said. ''Most of the time the snow kind of insulates noise from inside the snow. They did not have (avalanche) probes or beacons, so this was the only way he was only going to find him.''

Both men received medical attention at the scene. ''They were checked out in and ambulance and everybody walked away, so incredibly lucky,'' Toepfer said.

Avalanche conditions for Sunday had indicated it was probable human beings could trigger an avalanche in the area.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Tribute to President Ford

Photo courtesy of nevasport

The Vail Valley will bid farewell to former President Gerald R. Ford on Saturday evening with a mix of music, remembrances by friends and colleagues, spiritual blessings and the thing that first brought Ford and his family to the community: skiing.

The candlelight tribute is set for 6 p.m. at Vail Mountain’s Golden Peak base area, and includes a torchlight ski down Golden Peak with Vail and Beaver Creek ski instructors.

“He truly loved this valley and it is most certainly a better place to live and visit because of that love and commitment," said Ceil Folz, president of the Vail Valley Foundation.

You're encouraged to arrive early and dress warmly. Go to www.vailgov.com and click on Town Services then go to Transportation and Parking for a list of free parking areas.

Search for Boskoff delayed -- till spring

From the AP:

The search for the body of U.S. mountain climber (and Colorado resident ) Christine Boskoff on a remote peak in China has been halted, probably until spring, a spokesman for Boskoff’s Seattle-based travel adventure company said today.

David Jones, a director of Boskoff’s company, Mountain Madness, said winter weather has made it unsafe to continue looking for her body. “Winter is definitely setting in in China and this area and there is a very high likelihood the search and recovery effort will be called off until the spring,” Jones said.

Boskoff disappeared along with fellow climber and photographer Charlie Fowler weeks ago while they were approaching China’s 20,354-foot Genyen Peak. A body found in the snow was identified as Fowler, friends of the pair said Thursday.

Fowler and Boskoff were not roped together — as friends initially believed they would be — when they were apparently buried by an avalanche high on the peak.

Jones said todaythat it has been snowing at the mountain’s 17,000-foot level, and searchers were called out of the avalanche field because conditions were too dangerous. He said Mountain Madness officials will keep in contact with people in China and will resume the search when conditions permit. Fowler’s body was being removed, but will take days to leave the remote area, Jones said.

MORE snow on the way!

More than 2 feet of snow blanketed the foothills west of Denver today and forecasters are calling for more snow tonight and through the weekend.

Gazette reporter Bill McKeown, who was born wearing skis (sorry, Mom!), is working on a ski resort round-up story complete with "How do I get there?" information.

Look for it on the home page or in Saturday's paper.

Wildlife watch

Department of Wildlife officials are asking everyone to be alert to wildlife following winter storms, especially deer and elk.

Deer and elk will move after a storm and are more vulnerable to cars and dogs. If dogs start chasing them, they can have difficulty moving in deep snow, exhausting themselves and becoming easy prey. DOW officers ask dog owners to prevent pooches from chasing wildlife.
They also remind us it's illegal to feed deer and elk.

Are you sitting at work, too?


Here I sit, Dave headed to Summit County and Deb up in Woodland Park - or maybe headed to the slopes. Boo-hoo.


But I'm laughing now, cuz I watched the Bloopers video on the Copper Mountain Web site. Ever wonder what happens before a boarder learns to stick the landing off a jump? Check it out!

If only there were skiing in Denver!


Two storms in a row, the mile high city has posted twice as much snow as ski resorts in the high country. This morning is no exception. The most snow Summit County saw last night was A Basin, which has four inches. For a full state ski report visit www.coloradoski.com.
Meanwhile, Denver has been hit by a foot of snow, and another foot is on the way, according to the AP.

The big winner in this storm pattern that has now sucker punched Colorado twice in eight days in little Echo Mountain Park, the state's newest, and one of its smallest ski areas, just west of Evergreen.
Echo got 22 inches in the last 24 hours. It got almost three feet in the last storm.
You might say Echo is the new Wolf Creek - a tiny resort with huge snow. Problem is, Echo is basically just a terrain park.
The clientelle there doesn't really want fresh powder. They want well-sculpted ramps. To see the mountain's terrain visit www.echomtnpark.com.
Oh well, at least for a few days any botched landings will feel a little softer.

Snow continues throughout the weekend. I hope you make the most of it.
I'm headed up to Summit County now. We'll have pictures and first-hand beta from the mountains. Tomorrow, there's already talk of hitting Vail's back bowls for what will be my first big powder day of the season. Keep your skis crossed, let's hope the mountains see some serious pow.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Body ID's as Charlie Fowler

Gene Johnson reports for the AP:

A snow-covered body found on a remote mountain in China has been identified as photographer Charlie Fowler of Colorado, who disappeared several weeks ago with his climbing partner, Christine Boskoff, friends said today.

Helen Chung, a spokeswoman for Boskoff’s adventure company Mountain Madness, said the body found Wednesday was Fowler’s but she had no further information. Boskoff, a top female climber who owns the Seattle-based company and who also owns a home in Colorado, was still missing but feared dead.

The climbers were reported missing when they failed to return to the United States on Dec. 4. On Wednesday, searchers on the mountain spotted a gray boot and blue gaiter sticking out of the snow. The position of the body indicated the pair may have been swept up by an avalanche, Mountain Madness director David Jones said. Friends believed the two climbers would be roped together, and that Boskoff’s body would also be found.

Boskoff twice reached the peak of Everest and had summitted the tallest peaks on five other continents, but she preferred to explore the unnamed, unclimbed mountains of southwestern China, Jones said. “It is the freedom, it is the challenge, both physical and mental, and the ability to go into places that no human has ever been. She’s more interested in going to the edge of the map.

"The fact that she was in beautiful, pristine mountains, unclimbed areas, and climbing with someone she knew, trusted and loved — I think she would be happy with this as a way to go.”
To contribute to search, rescue and recovery efforts, visit Mountain Madness.

Share a ride, save money, cut down on pollution


A lot of us are leaving town and driving two hours to the same ski areas.
So why not share?
www.skicarpool.com is a new site that allows you to post your zip code, ski destination and ski date, then matches you to other skiers in your area. Fun, easy, and the best idea since the monorail got voted down.

Oh, Snap! Check out this sweet North Shore video...


I'm completely amazed.

Click here for an awesome mountain bike jump fest in British Columbia. The mix of full-face helmets and deep green moss looks like a combination of Rad and Lord of the Rings.

Why do we put up with this white stuff?

THIS is one reason!

Even when you can't get to the resorts you can love snow as a medium for downhill fun.

Last Friday night an e-mail spread through the Manitoid school community: Sledding in Woodland Park on Saturday. 10 a.m. Meadow Woods Sports Complex. Be there!

Throughout the day a dozen parents and a couple dozen kids showed up to tear down a hill on discs, sleds and snowboards. Great fun in the sun.

We didn't get as much snow as other areas, so we turned to The Gazette's list of great sledding areas. Keep it in mind this weekend!.

Celebrities on skis... be afraid, be very afraid


Here's a cool site with pics of various retro notables on skis. Above is the lovely Marilyn Monroe, of course. I chose her picture over Benito Mussolini for obvious reasons. You'll also find Jackie O., John Wayne and Errol Flynn.

Vail is playing up its Ford connection


The town of Vail is holding a candlelight tribute to the late President Gerald R. Ford on Saturday at 6 p.m. The tribute will include a memorial service and special memories of the Vail Valley’s "First Citizen."
A long-time part-time resident of Beaver Creek, Ford gave to local charities and hosted an annual American Enterprise Institute World Forum in the valley.
According to the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame, of which he is a member, "Ford started skiing back in 1939 in New England. In 1968 he vacationed in Colorado for the first time and the rest is history. One of the many contributions Ford has made to the sport of skiing his role in bringing two World Alpine Ski Championships to the State of Colorado. It was a major coup for the area to be awarded the event, giving Colorado a chance to promote ski racing in this country by taking one of the sport's preeminent events, putting it in the forefront of national attention and showing the world the U.S. can hold a great ski race, twice in a ten year period."

The coming storm... here are the best predictions

This is a snow accumulation map for the next 12 hours, blue means getting snow.
Blizzards are a window into human nature.
When they are predicted and they don't hit, most people grumble.
When they are predicted and they do hit, most people grumble.
And then there are those who yearn for fresh powder.
You won't hear them grumbling about getting rocked with 18 new inches.
Is it going to happen this time.
A cool site called http://www.bestskiweather.com/, which has maps, long range predictions, and a powder podcast predicts about 15 inches for the central mountains.
The National Weather Service is calling for 3 to 7 inches today on Pikes Peak, with another 4 to 8 inches tonight, and another 2 to 4 Friday. Add it up, that means 9 to 19 inches.
Summit County is calling for 11 to 21 inches by Saturday.
And that phenomenal geographic wringer, Wolf Creek Pass, is expected to pull in well over a foot. It's snowing there now.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Missing Colorado climber found in China

One unidentified body thought to be Colorado climber Christine Boskoff or her partner Charlie Fowler apparently has been found.

The AP reports: The body of a U.S. climber missing for more than a month has been found on a remote mountain in southwestern China while a second climber is still missing and presumed dead, a rescue coordinator said Wednesday.
The body discovered was partially buried and has not been identified, said Arlene Burns, a friend of the climbers, Christine Boskoff and Charlie Fowler.
"The rescuers were told to take pictures without disturbing anything. They will go back up in the morning with shovels," Burns said from Telluride, Colo., where she was helping to coordinate the rescue effort.
Boskoff, a top female climber, and Fowler, a climbing guide and photographer, were reported missing after they failed to return to the United States on Dec. 4.
"We are tremendously sad they are not coming home, but they were doing what they loved," Burns said. "For these guys, they were there by choice, climbing beautiful, pristine peaks with someone they respected at the top of their skills."

Burns, who was notified about the discovery by a U.S. mountaineering official heading up the search on the ground, said it was too early to say what happened.
"Whether they fell off the face or were swept off the face, we don't know," she said.
The body was found at the 17,390-foot level on Genie Mountain, also known as Genyen Peak, not far from the Sichuan border with Tibet. The mountain is 20,354 feet high.
Unlike the case of the missing climbers on Mount Hood in Oregon, the search had been complicated because the two did not leave detailed plans and rescuers initially did not even know which province in southwestern China to search.
But a clue to their whereabouts emerged several days ago, when rescue workers found a driver who had dropped the pair off near the mountain on Nov. 11.
Boskoff and Fowler told him they would climb the mountain and that he could meet them on Nov. 24 so they could pick up their bags, but they did not show up.
Boskoff ascended six of the world's peaks over 26,000 feet, including
Mount Everest. She owned Mountain Madness, a Seattle adventure travel company.
Fowler was an expert on climbing in southwestern China. He guided climbers up Everest and climbed some of the tallest and most difficult peaks.
Burns said both climbers had homes in Norwood, Colo.

Dreaming of the highcountry? Fly over the 14ers.

14ers.com, the very cool Web site dedicated to Colorado's highest mountains has a feature I never noticed. It's called flyovers. It's basically a computerized look at what it would be to fly over the main route up a mountain, a few hundred feet off the ground.

A great time waster, I assure you.

To fly up Pikes Peak, click here.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

James Brown is dead, but name lives on in ski town bridge


Who knew? I mean really, who knew?
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — The “James Brown Soul Center of the Universe” bridge has spanned the Yampa River in this northwestColorado ski town for 13 years, but it doesn’t have a sign bearing the name of the legendary singer who died Monday.

“There was originally, but people kept stealing it, so we just said no more signs,” Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord said Tuesday.

Brown, 73, died of heart failure at an Atlanta hospital, where he had been admitted for pneumonia.

The bridge was named for Brown after a radio station contest in 1993. He came to town for the dedication that year and sang his classic “I Feel Good,” but attention has faded since then,DuBord.

A group of residents petitioned the city this year to change the name to something more in keeping with Steamboat Springs’ ranchingroots, but the City Council declined.

DuBord said as far as she knows, no wreaths or other signs ofmourning have appeared on the bridge, which stands on the outskirtsof town.
Would you like to contact the city of Steamboat Springs and demand a new plaque or sign? Click here
Are you amazed the hard-living godfather of soul lived as long as he did? You're not alone.
Have a thought on who will be the next celebrity to die? Here's mine.

All 54 fourteeners? You're not alone.


The 2006 count is in, and according to the Colorado Mountain Club 1212 people have now officially climbed all 54 of Colorado's peaks over 14,000 feet tall (the 14ers).
Many took decades to do it.
The most common last peak was Culebra, which lies on private land and has only recently been opened (for a fee) to the public again.
After the 14ers, the list gets much smaller.
Only 152 people have climbed the highest 100 peaks.
52 have climbed the highest 200.
17 have climbed the highest 400.
and 14 have climbed all the peaks above 13,000 feet. There are more than 600.

My latest gross outdoor food experience -- it involves a goat

I've just returned from a three-day backcountry hut trip near Vail. The snow was great, the hut was cozy, the scenery was spectacular. Only one thing was unsettling really, the cheese.

Ever since I was introduced to canned kipper snacks at 13, I've long seen it as a proud tradition to bring stinky, nasty food that you would never eat at home on backpacking trips. And I've long seen it as a badge of honor to eat the stuff.
I've always stepped up, whether it be canned oysters, brown bread, or even cuy. But this time I have to draw the line. Friend and Gazette TV writer Andy Wineke brought a block of Gjetost (pronounced yet-ost) cheese. I'd never heard of the stuff but apparently the hard, brown cheese is made from caramelizing a mix of cow and goat milk and whey. It's nutty, it's sweet, it's stinky. It's really, really weird.

At first I didn't like it. I only tried it to be nice. And even after I tried it I didn't like it. But now, I keep thinking about it. I want to taste it again. The orange cube calls to me.

Is this the strangest trail food ever? I'll take other nominations below.

Davenport says Sangres skiable, end is near for 14er project


Many people I've talked to recently said they doubted pro skier Chris Davenport, of Aspen, would meet his goal of skiing all Colorado's 14ers in one year. Why? Because some ranges, particularly the Sangre de Cristos, get very little snow. They may only be skiable every five years or so. Last week the range got wallopped. On December 23, Davenport bagged Humbolt Peak. Before that it was Kit Carson. Now he's moving on to the remaining Sangres.

See his report on Humbolt here.

Here's his take on the rest of the project:

Mother Nature was tough on me last season, leaving me with nine peaks left to go this fall and winter. But then she came through in a big way this week with a fat storm that covered all the right zones. So now I have five peaks to go: Crestone Needle, Blanca, Little Bear, Shavano, and Longs. I was hoping to finish by the New Year, but now it looks like I will change to plan C, which would be to finish in a year period from when I started last season, January 21. That gives me three weeks to do five peaks. I’m excited to be getting down to the wire here. I think Mt. Shavano might be the toughest peak, because it has no snow on it right now, but we will have to wait and see.

Skiing without snow in Maine

I just got a note from a good ski buddy who lives in Maine. (I've tried to get him to relocate to no avail.) Anyway, here is how he is dealing with the dearth of snow this winter in New England:

Beginning back in 5th grade, I made it a tradition to ski every Christmas Eve day, usually for some turns on boilerplate.

This year conditions were a bit thin here in Harrison, ME. However, with a good coat of WD-40 on my 4th grade Nordic skis I was able to straight-line the chute and make a big turn on the apron, also known as my parent's leach field.

I hope those of you in snowier places are out enjoying it. Those of you looking out the window at dirt, may the snow come soon

Monday, December 25, 2006

The gift of snow

If you aren't already on your way, here's a tip: Christmas Day is a great day to ski, especially after a little storm has passed through. Yesterday's storm brought 8 inches of powder to Vail, 5 to Copper, and 3 to Beaver Creek and Ski Cooper. Monarch got 2 and Keystone and Breck, 1.

Thinking about hiking Barr Trail?

Here's an update from Neal Taylor, caretaker at Barr Camp:
"We only received about 14” of snow from the last storm. For the last couple of days we have had sunshine but the wind has been kicking up. No one has been up toward the summit yet. It looks like the wind might be blowing snow off the rocks so there are probably clear rocks with very deep snow in between.

Most hikers to Barr Camp have been very surprised at how long it is taking them to get here. Almost double their normal times. The trail is becoming well traveled to here so snow shoes are not really a requirement but could be a personal preference.

Merry Christmas and Happy Trails,
Teresa and Neal"

Friday, December 22, 2006

More info about the Mount Hood climbers

Sometimes, bad things happen to experienced climbers. New information about the three climbers who were lost on Mount Hood recently show they tried to educate themselves before their fateful trip. Jerry "Nikko" Cooke, Brian Hall and Kelly James headed up the North Face of Oregon's Mount Hood and never returned. Here's an AP story about their preparation:

To the climbing enthusiasts who frequent web sites like CascadeClimbers.com and Summitpost.org, Cooke was known as “fuggedaboudit,” the name clearly a fond nod to his Brooklyn address. In posts on the forums, Cooke described his climb to the summit of Washington’s Mount Rainier from last June, adding at the end a now-bittersweet personal note to Hall and James: “Met a strong pair of climbers from Texas, Brian and Kelly, you two are gentlemen.”

But it is his brief posts on the Hood attempt that have prompted much scrutiny in online mountaineering forums, suggesting that the three climbers — though experienced veterans who among them could claim climbs in the Andes and Alaska — had plenty of questions about their Hood ascent attempt.

On Sept. 17, Cooke began a post on CascadeClimbers.com with an apology, writing, “Since I’ve never been there before, pardon what may be stupid questions in advance. I tried to buy the guidebook but it’s out of print.” His post continues with questions about the routes up Hood: about distances from the Cloud Cap Inn, at 6,000 feet, to climbing landmarks on the mountain, about park fees and special permits.

In another post, from November, Cooke asks about distances from a basic shelter at 7,000 feet up the mountain, noting that such an option would, “allow us to get there the day before and get an early start the next day. It also allows us to carry minimal sleeping gear.”

At the news conference, sheriff Wampler said evidence suggests that the three had been “lightly equipped,” adding later, “I think that they knew where they were at, but, you know, at nighttime, not ever being there before, there was some disorientation involved in this.” But he said the three climbers had “the basic knowledge and equipment to get this done in the time periods they had planned on,” until an injury to James’s shoulder, and the onset of bad weather, threw their plans into jeopardy.

As the dramatic search and rescue operation unfolded on the mountain over the past week, much of it televised live and coast-to-coast, mountaineering forums have been deluged by those offering sympathy to the families of the missing climbers, searchers reporting back on conditions on the mountain, and plenty of speculation about what exactly might have happened to the three. A few posters even reported encounters with James, Hall and Cooke, one telling of meeting the three in a Mount Hood warming hut on Thursday, Dec. 7, in a post that suggests that just a day before they were to attempt their climb, the three were still gleaning information about their route.

“They never really said exactly what line they were climbing, but they asked for any beta (information) on the routes,” wrote the poster. “They asked for any info on how to get down onto the Eliot (glacier) since they would be doing it in the dark, asked how safe I thought it was traveling on the glacier, and wanted a guess on how long it would take them to reach the schrund (the crevasse where a glacier pulls away from an icecap) at the base of the (North Face) gullies.”

But the three seemed confident about their trek, the poster continues, writing, “I had the impression the routes were well within their abilities...They seemed like great guys. Offered to fill my water bottle and offered all of us cocoa. Had the cabin fired up and warm and seemed very enthused about their climb.”

It’s not unusual for serious climbers to post questions about their routes, looking for the most current information from other climbers, officials with Portland’s Mazamas mountaineering group and others said. “They had done more than I usually do,” said Benjamin Ruef, co-author of "Rock Climbing Oregon," who said it took him 23 hours to complete the summit attempt on the route chosen by Hall, Cooke and James, after being caught in an early fall blizzard.

Familiarity with the route up Mount Hood might have helped the climbers, Ruef said, but only to a point. “It’s a very difficult route, and a bad time of year to be attempting it,” he said. “They had a window, and when you are at that level, you try to push your limits, and I think that is what they were doing.”

Echo opens beginners area



Echo Mountain opens a Beginners terrain area this weekend. The all-terrain park got nearly 30 inches of snow in this latest storm. The guys say they'll leave powder stashes, and remind riders to take their wide boards.

Echo's open till 9 tonight, 10-9 Saturday and 10-4 Sunday. It's closed Christmas Day so staff can rip open their own prezzies.

Gift for expert skiers at Beaver Creek

New expert and extreme terrain at Beaver Creek will open Saturday. Stone Creek Chutes offers short, steep, gladed runs in its upper reaches and 180 acres of steeps in-bounds in its lower reaches. Chutes range from 400 to 600 vertical feet with pitches of up to 45 degrees. There are also small to moderate cliff bands.
The terrain is served by the existing Cinch Express Lift, with two marked entrances leading skiers and snowboarders from the Red Buffalo run and Cinch run into Stone Creek Chutes. The terrain adds two new trails for a resort total of 148 trails—38 percent are rated advanced or expert—and 1,805 skiable acres.
For more information, go to www.beavercreek.com.

First avalanche death of the season

This should give skiers who duck ropes a moment of hesitation:

A skier died Thursday on a closed expert run at Snowmass Mountain. Nicholas Blake Davidson, 25, was buried for about a half-hour before the ski patrol and others were able to dig him out, the Pitkin County coroner's office said in a statement.

Davidson was skiing on the Hanging Valley Wall run, which had not been opened for the season, said Kristin Rust, a spokeswoman for the resort's operator, the Aspen Skiing Co. Signs clearly stated the run was closed, she said.

"There's not enough snow in there; there are exposed rocks," Rust told the AP.

A storm that wreaked havoc elsewhere in Colorado didn't appear to be a factor, she said. It dumped 15 inches on the resort in the past 48 hours.

This death comes on the one-year anniversary of the death of Colorado Springs high school senior Patrick Niedringhaus, who was buried in a slide near Torreys Peak while snowshoeing with a friend.

(There's a touching poem to him in today's Gazette obituaries.)

Our thoughts go to his family.

Dramatic rescue on Pikes Peak

If you're a regular reader of the Out There blog yes, this is a repeat. We reported this tale early in the week. For the rest of our readers, check out this tale of local heroes, it'll remind you why we have to prepare for the worst when we head out into our local mountains - and why we need to care for our fellow humans.

This was written by Neal Taylor who, along with wife Teresa, takes care of Barr Camp and its visitors.

As caretakers of Barr Camp we are located approximately half-way up Pikes Peak on Barr Trail. If hiking to the summit of Pikes Peak is the goal then hiking to Barr Camp is a relatively easy part of the journey. When most hikers arrive here on their way to the top they still have a good energy reserve and the summit “looks so close.” Teresa and I do our best to let people know how difficult it is from here to the top. But we do not have the responsibility or authority to keep hikers from going up. That decision rests firmly on their shoulders. Even so, we routinely worry about these souls up there on the trail. In almost every case they somehow find a safe way off the mountain. Barr Trail is only one of many options in getting off the mountain even in the winter. So when people say they will be back through the camp on their way down – they may, or may not. Hikers are very resourceful and when they start getting uncomfortable with their situation they are likely to change their plans. This happens routinely and we eventually go to bed and try not to worry.

December 12, 2006 would not fall into the routine category. At about 1:00 pm a hiker named “Joe” arrived at the camp and stated he was going to the summit. Considering the late hour and his lack of proper clothing I tried my best to dissuade him from this attempt. I was a little more firm than is typical for me. Teresa was not in camp this day so it was up to me and another hiker to give it our best shot. To no avail Joe headed up the trail. But we have been through this same scenario a hundred times before – he’ll be fine. I noticed that rather than the typical backpack Joe had a small blue duffle bag slung over his shoulder.

A couple of hours later two hikers came back down from their hike to timberline. Timberline is at about 11,500 foot elevation, it is three miles up from Barr Camp, and there is an A-Frame style shelter. They mentioned seeing Joe and said he had stashed his bag on the trail about a half mile up from Barr Camp. Since I knew Joe was the only person up the trail at this point I threw fresh snow on the trail just up from Barr Camp. I have since learned that Search and Rescue refers to this as a track trap. It would allow me to see his tracks if he descended on Barr Trail.

After a day of activities I tried to settle in for the night and not worry about Joe. As in many cases he would likely find a better way off the mountain than coming back down Barr Trail. I could not resist going out to check the track trap every so often, no tracks.

I attempted to call it a night but I could not sleep. Still no tracks out front and I could not help but wonder if that blue pack was still in the trail. If it was gone then Joe presumably picked it up on his way down and slipped past Barr Camp. If it was still there then maybe I would look farther up the trail to the Bottomless Pit intersection and maybe on to A-Frame. If I was going to start a trek up the trail looking for someone then it was time to let the Search and Rescue (SAR) coordinator know about my concern. Skee Hipsky, the on duty coordinator, has been through this a thousand times. He operates in a calm, matter-of-fact, but still very caring, manner. Skee agreed that since the bag was not far from the cabin it was worth checking. At about 10:30 pm I set out to see if the bag was still in the trail. But I had prepared myself to go higher if needed.

As the two hikers had said earlier, the bag was about a half mile up from camp. This fueled my concern so I kept going higher. At the Bottomless Pit intersection I could identify Joe’s tracks going out on that trail then his return tracks on top. He had investigated the Bottomless Pit trail but returned and continued up Barr Trail. I was a little concerned but many times before we have hiked up looking for hikers only to find them happily coming down the trail. On up Barr Trail I continued.

Upon reaching the A-Frame shelter at 11:45 pm I found Joe. He was shivering inside the shelter under as many tarps as he could find. He was in advanced stages of hypothermia. He also had pain from multiple falls against rocks while hiking; these injuries seemed to be bruises. It became obvious that Joe was not going to be walking down to Barr Camp with me. Kevin Classen with SAR arrived at Rescue Base and initiated a page for all available members to respond for a rescue from A-Frame. Kevin and Skee also decided to check on Flight for Life (FFL) availability. At this point in time I did not think FFL would be required but Kevin and Skee knew to at least check on their availability.

Joe told me he had lost consciousness before I got there. About a half-hour after I arrived he lost consciousness again which lasted 3-4 minutes. Even when he was awake he was not very alert. He mentioned that he would not have made it through the night alive and I had to agree. After his loss of consciousness and all the other symptoms he was showing I reconsidered my opinion of FFL. Now I was ready for them. FFL turned out to be the option we all needed. If not for them I am not sure how Joe would have faired with a carry-out rescue. Having FFL respond saved hundreds of SAR man-hours and the associated risks to all.

I could see the helicopter coming up from Colorado Springs down below. There was an awesome crescent moon-rise which I took a moment to appreciate. I asked Kevin and Skee where the closest Landing Zone (LZ) was to the A-Frame. To my surprise they told me it was about 75 yards downhill from the structure. I am pretty familiar with the area and I could not picture an area large enough to land a helicopter. I took a walk down to make sure it was clear of debris which it was but I still could not imagine a landing on that spot. I looked around and saw a level spot 50 yards north (horizontal) of the A-Frame structure. This spot looked equally as dangerous to me. I knew that I was the rookie in this situation. I was told they have landed here many times in the past.

The pilot was given our SAR frequency and since I was the on-site contact the pilot and I communicated direct with each other. He mainly asked about wind direction and Joe’s condition. I alternated between checking on Joe and watching the helicopter get closer. He came in from high above and dropped in toward the lower LZ. I took up a spot in front of the shelter where I could keep an eye on both Joe and the helicopter. I was excited and relieved that help was so close. The pilot had turned on all his search lights so he had no problem seeing the rocks, trees, and shelter. He approached the lower LZ, and to my surprise, he kept on going past it and started heading uphill toward the shelter. As the noise got louder and the snow started to whip around me I was amazed at how precise and slow he moved his craft. I realized he was going for the upper, and smaller, LZ adjacent to the shelter. My initial excitement started turning into mayhem as the noise and wind became overwhelming. Rather than watching in fascination, I started looking for protection! Suddenly I felt like I could not get enough big things between me and the helicopter. I checked on Joe real quick, he was fine so I ducked in behind the shelter while peeking around and try to keep those rotors in sight. They seemed to be very close to the edge of the shelter. When the helicopter was about 15 feet off the ground it seemed to get very wobbly. This may have been my first time in this situation but it was not the pilot’s. As crazy as this all seemed to me I realized that this was just another day at the office for him and the flight paramedic. I now have new respect for what these people do. Wow!

I am reminded of a Navy F-14 Fighter Pilot who told Teresa and I that he would never fly a helicopter, because, he said “they have a million moving parts, all desperately trying to get away from each other.”

The helicopter was sitting on the ground now with the engine still running high. The flight paramedic hopped out and came over to Joe and I. After a brief discussion with Joe he told me that Joe could walk to the helicopter with our help. We had to yell at the top of our voices to communicate above the engine and rotor noise. The paramedic instructed me to assist with Joe and make sure to keep my head down! I found this internally comical because for the last few minutes I had thought of nothing BUT those rotors! Keeping my head down would not be a problem. As we were assisting Joe toward the helicopter there were a couple of rocks in my path. It was funny that normally I would step over these rocks without even thinking about it. This time, those rocks would raise me up a few inches – I avoided them.

The helicopter lifted off with much noise and wind. It seemed to me that he was again very close to the shelter. But hey, his normal day is different than mine.

In a few seconds it was over, the time was 1:45 am, two hours after I arrived at the shelter. I stood there in the quiet and started gathering my gear. I was totally alone on the face of Pikes Peak. I reported in to Kevin and Skee. I thanked them for their support. I told them that I thought their decision to send Flight for Life was a life-saving decision for Joe.

Hiking back down the trail gave me some time to reflect on what had just occurred. There are some hero’s and they are: The flight crew – absolutely amazing. The whole SAR group with Kevin and Skee – my radio would have been a useless weight without them on the other end. And I recalled what I had told Joe while he was at Barr Camp earlier in the day “Pikes Peak can bite!”

Thursday, December 21, 2006

More about Leadville 100

In case you missed our earlier post:

Our favorite cyclist/blogger UltraRob has another scoop. He says that ousted Tour de France racer Floyd Landis (who has a new hip) is also planning to compete in the Leadville 100 mountain bike race in August. Whatever you think about Landis or that other guy who is entering the race - Lance Armstrong - you've got to admire race organizers who seem determined to add a little star power to their race. Check out Rob's blog at www.ultrarob.blogspot.com

After the storm, the powder count

Photo from Winter Park, courtesy Colorado Ski Country USA

When I woke up this morning, Colorado's blizzard was the top news on NPR. Denver closed. Airports closed. Everything closed. The reporter signed off by saying the storm was a boon for Colorado ski resorts.

Unfortunately, few of them saw the snow people in places such as Black Forest are now digging out from.
Here's a sample of the numbers:
Breck 3
Beaver Creek 3
Vail 6
Copper 4

It was only the usually scant Front Range hills that picked up serious snow:

Eldora 24
Echo Mountain 14

Winter Park got at nice shot: 14

Oh, and of course, Wolf Creek got ROCKED, as usual: 3 inches in the last 24 hours, but 40 inches since the storm started.

Snow photos and the Leadville 100



(courtesy of a Gazette reader)

There are some amazing and amusing blizzard/storm photos (such as those above) that readers have sent in and posted at gazette.com.

And Ultra Rob, a local cyclist and Out There friend, has some posted on his blog, too.

Rob, too, is talking about Floyd Landis racing this year's Leadville 100. A couple of our photographers were pondering that yesterday, and I meant to check it out and post it. Landis and Lance Armstrong powering through the hills - sounds like fun.

Check out Rob's blog for the photos and more info.

And, if your kids are stuck inside today and are Harry Potter fans, in a completely unrelated announcement - but one that seems fitting on a day many would love to spend curled up inside with a book - J.K. Rowling has announced the title of the last Harry Potter book. I'm a fan (even though I think Rowling needs a better editor) - I wish Out There could cover quidditch!

Wow, an avalanche warning on Pikes Peak...

That doesn't happen very often, but with serious snow and phenominal wind loading the slopes of Pikes Peak, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center issued this warning:

AVALANCHE WARNING FOR THE PIKES PEAK AREA AND
HIGH ELEVATION AREAS OF THE FRONT RANGE MOUNTAINS. THE BACKCOUNTRY
AVALANCHE DANGER IS HIGH. NATURAL AND HUMAN TRIGGERED AVALANCHES ARE
LIKELY. ACCUMULATIONS IN EXCESS OF 20 INCHES OF SNOW HAVE
FALLEN...THIS ALONG WITH HIGH WINDS ALONG THE RIDGETOPS HAVE
DANGEROUSLY LOADED THE SNOWPACK.
BACKCOUNTRY TRAVELERS ARE ADVISED TO AVOID TRAVELING IN OR BELOW
AVALANCHE TERRAIN OR OTHER STEEP SLOPES THAT ARE NOT HEAVILY
FORESTED. SAFE BACKCOUNTRY TRAVEL WILL REQUIRE ADVANCED AVALANCHE
AVOIDANCE TECHNIQUES.
THIS WARNING IS VALID THROUGH 4 PM THURSDAY AFTERNOON.
THIS STATEMENT IS OF PARTICULAR INTEREST TO PERSONS USING THE
BACKCOUNTRY OUTSIDE DEVELOPED SKI AREA BOUNDARIES. WHEN NECESSARY
SKI AREAS USE AVALANCHE CONTROL METHODS WITHIN THEIR BOUNDARIES.
FOR ADDITIONAL AVALANCHE INFORMATION...CALL...970-482-0457 IN FORT
COLLINS...719-520-0020 IN COLORADO SPRINGS...970-668-0600 IN SUMMIT
COUNTY...719-395-4994 IN BUENA VISTA...970-247-8187 IN DURANGO...
303-275-5360 IN DENVER. OR VISIT OUR WEB PAGE AT
WWW.GEOSURVEY.STATE.CO.US/AVALANCHE.

No word yet from Barr Camp on what conditions were like up on the peak yesterday. When we hear, you will too.

Little guys are big winners in this snowstorm

In Colorado Ski Country's report of 24-hour ski totals, the winners are: SolVista, with 25 new inches and Eldora with 24. Winter Park also fared well with 22. Summit County also got a gift of snow, but nothing like those three: A-Basin got 11 inches, Vail, 7, Breckenridge, 5, and Copper 5.

Drifts of 5 feet!

Here in Manitou I didn't see much evidence of the blizzard of '06 - other than photos at gazette.com and on TV. My drive to and from the newsroom in downtown Colorado Springs was uneventful as well. But it seems anyone north, south, east or west of that narrow corridor was blasted.

What happened at your place? Did you get out amongst it - or open the door to a 4-foot drift and bag it? Reporter Deb Acord e-mailed a link to the Ute Pass Web cams -- www.utepasscams.com -- and this note: For once, that's what it really looks like! In a voice mail, she said there was no way she could get out down her Woodland Park street IF she could manage to get out of the driveway!

Zen, you're up there, too. What's it like? Jody, if you log on from WP-divide area, give us a shout. The kids must be LOVING this.

Rescue called off

You've probably already heard/read (my computer was tied up by someone doing homework, of all things!): The search for 2 climbers missing on Mount Hood has been called off. With no sign of them since the search began more than a week ago, the discovery of a deceased colleague and climbing gear near the summit, and another storm hitting, I don't know what other decision officials could make.

A small plane flew around the mountain again yesterday looking for the men, but fliers saw no signs of life.

Thoughts and prayers to their souls and to their friends and family members. It seems these men knew what they were doing. I'll focus on descriptions the photos developed from the camera found with Kelly James in his snow cave show three guys having the time of their lives on their climb up, doing what they loved.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Snow day for the ski industry.

Here's when you know it's bad: Vail Resorts just canceled its shareholder's meeting, due to weather.

Sound off: how many inches do you have?

I know that sort of sounds like a spam message, but I'm talking snow here.
It's 2 p.m. I would estimate the Gazette roof has about 4 inches of snow in the spots where the wind hasn't scoured it away.
Not exactly the blizzard of the year. Though I bet there are some mondo drifts.
How is it where you are?
Or, to use the local idiom, where you're at?
Is it yeti conditions yet?

Indy Bowl


If you haven't been up there (what have you been doing all week, working? studying for finals? Christmas shopping?), check out Dave Philipps' story tomorrow in Out There on the newly opened Independence Bowl at Keystone. It's part of a planned move to blow open the resort's backcountry.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A powder day?



Did you see this photo from Colorado Ski Country USA? Santa, taking a break from toymaking, to sample the slopes at Silverton Mountain!

Will you be joining him Wednesday? Silverton reported a foot of new snow! So did Telluride. Durango? 17 inches. And Wolf Creek? 19!!!

Too far? You may not need to wait long. Let's see what tomorrow brings. Drop us a line, or check out our new Snow Ride Guide.

What happened to Fowler and Boskoff?

Photo of Haizi Shan by Tamotsu Nakamura. Did Boskoff and Fowler climb to its summit?

Christine Boskoff is one of the world's best female climbers, and one of only three to have climbed the seven summits. Charlie Fowler is a Coloradan who is known as one of the world's best first ascensionists. Together, they set out on a two-month trip to climb some remote mountains in western China. When they didn't return in early December, friends became worried and started searching, but so far, there's no sign of them. The site www.alpinist.com has been doing some detective work, and dissects what is known right now about the missing duo.






Photos of climbers cast doubt

The AP is reporting that photos found with deceased climber Kelly James on Mount Hood have raised official worries about how long his two fellow climbers could survive.

“We’ve got some pictures. Kelly James had taken some pictures of his climb,” said Hood River County Sheriff Joe Wampler. “So we know pretty much what they had with them." After examining the photos, Wampler said, “looking what they had with them, I’m pretty concerned about how long somebody can last out there.”

Wampler also said that rescue teams had scaled back the ground search today and are asking themselves whether they are “spinning their wheels” by continuing the search for Brian Hall and Jerry “Nikko” Cooke.

Searchers are using two fixed-wing aircraft to watch parts of the mountain that are too dangerous for other climbers. They hope Brian and Nikko "stick their heads up out of their hole and rescue themselves. We want to be there to see that, if that happens,” Wampler said.

Most of the searchers have been volunteers. It was unknown how many would be available today, and another storm is forecast for tomorrow.

Wampler said James had a dislocated shoulder. His body was flown off the mountain Monday.

Top adventure racer rescued after three days lost with broken pelvis


Photo from the Gallup Independent.

Danelle Ballengee, a Summit County adventure racer who is one of the top women in her sport, is set to undergo surgery today after she fell 60 feet while trail running in Moab, Utah, and broke her pelvis in four places. She tried to crawl for help, covering only a quarter mile in five hours. After that, she waited, immobilized for three days in a desert canyon, drinking from puddles until she was rescued.

What is it about Moab? It's the West's own adventure sport Bermuda Triangle where experienced outdoor athletes get trapped by stupid mistakes, and never seem to tell friends where they are going. Case in point, Aron Ralston, the guy who cut off his hand.

Rescuers found Ballengee when they spotted her dog, Taz, and followed him to the injured runner.


Ballengee may not exactly be a household name, but in the world of adventure racing, she's so famous she doesn't need her last name. She's a Madonna, a Hillary, an Oprah, a name everybody knows.

She races for Colorado-based Team Spyder, which is regularly a top contender at races around the world. She used to race for Team Nike, another Colorado-based power house that regularly takes first place at big races.

She holds the women's record for climbing all of Colorado's 14ers, doing it in 14 days 14 hours and 49 minutes. She has won the Pikes Peak Marathon.

She also manages to keep up with three super-human male teammates on courses that can cover hundreds of miles and last for days. During these times, the racers sleep only a few hours. They may cover almost 100 miles in a day. By the end, their vacant, sunken eyes and stumbling gaits make them look like zombies.

Top adventure racers are not only severely talented athletes. They have the mental will and discipline to push themselves through pain that would flatten most people.

She told Denver's 9 News "I definitely thought about how easy it would be . . . to just stop moving and to just lay down and just go to sleep and just die."

But I have a feeling she has had that feeling about five dozen times during grueling races. One can only assume her career as an adventure racer helped her manage the ordeal.

The hero here is Taz, who, according to reports, encountered a search party five miles from Ballengee. He barked at the rescuers, but wouldn't go near them. Ultimately, the rescuers say they followed Taz all the way to Ballengee, 52 hours after she had fallen.

Want to see the TV report? No video of her, but she is talking on the phone. Click here: http://www.9news.com/includes/buildasx.aspx?fn=http://wm.kusa.gannett.edgestreams.net/news/1166452371760-12-17-06-MoabHiker-10p.wmv&sp=http://wm.kusa.gannett.edgestreams.net/ads/sales/pre-stream/intelligentoffice11-06b.wmv

Ballengee is obviously out of competition for at least a year, which begs a question in the world of adventure racing, where talented female athletes are at a premium: who will replace her? Will this injury start a domino effect, a stealing of female racers by other teams? We'll see.

No one is talking about that yet.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Grim outlook for 2 Hood climbers


Oregon sheriff Joe Wampler said today he and others fear two climbers still missing on Mount Hood may have plummeted to their deaths near the summit.

“If they did not get in a hole somewhere, we might be beyond survivability periods. You can last a long time in a hole. So we are looking for a hole,” Wampler said.

Fellow climber Kelly James’ body was discovered Sunday and taken off the mountain
today for medical examination, said Capt. Mike Braibish of the Oregon National Guard.

Wampler said climbing equipment found on the mountain — including two slings and two aluminum anchors driven into the snow — led rescuers to believe Brian Hall and
Jerry “Nikko” Cooke had tried to secure themselves to the steep slope. That was the last sign of the two.

The spot on the 11,239-foot mountain where the two men appear to have vanished is commonly known as “the gullies,” with a 60-degree slope and a 2,500-foot drop-off. Thirteen deaths over the past 40 years have been recorded in the same area.

The two dug a snow cave on a steep slope about 300 feet from the cave where James was found. They apparently used snow anchors to secure themselves to the mountain as bad weather raged around them, the sheriff said.

“At some point they were standing there clipped into something, probably because it was so windy there. I mean this is a really steep, dangerous place on the mountain,” Wampler said.

Two ice axes, a glove, some rope and a piece of sleeping mat were found along with the slings and snow anchors.

But he also had hope the two could still be found safe inside a snow cave. “We’re still looking for that cave in the snow, that hole in the snow” he said.

A rescue on Pikes Peak


Here's a letter we just got from Barr Camp care-taker Neil Taylor about a rescue of a man high on Pikes Peak last week. Riveting stuff:

Pikes Peak can bite

As caretakers of Barr Camp we are located approximately half-way up Pikes Peak on Barr Trail. If hiking to the summit of Pikes Peak is the goal then hiking to Barr Camp is a relatively easy part of the journey. When most hikers arrive here on their way to the top they still have a good energy reserve and the summit “looks so close.” Teresa and I do our best to let people know how difficult it is from here to the top. But we do not have the responsibility or authority to keep hikers from going up. That decision rests firmly on their shoulders. Even so, we routinely worry about these souls up there on the trail. In almost every case they somehow find a safe way off the mountain. Barr Trail is only one of many options in getting off the mountain even in the winter. So when people say they will be back through the camp on their way down – they may, or may not. Hikers are very resourceful and when they start getting uncomfortable with their situation they are likely to change their plans. This happens routinely and we eventually go to bed and try not to worry.

December 12, 2006 would not fall into the routine category. At about 1:00 pm a hiker named “Joe” arrived at the camp and stated he was going to the summit. Considering the late hour and his lack of proper clothing I tried my best to dissuade him from this attempt. I was a little more firm than is typical for me. Teresa was not in camp this day so it was up to me and another hiker to give it our best shot. To no avail Joe headed up the trail. But we have been through this same scenario a hundred times before – he’ll be fine. I noticed that rather than the typical backpack Joe had a small blue duffle bag slung over his shoulder.

A couple of hours later two hikers came back down from their hike to timberline. Timberline is at about 11,500 foot elevation, it is three miles up from Barr Camp, and there is an A-Frame style shelter. They mentioned seeing Joe and said he had stashed his bag on the trail about a half mile up from Barr Camp. Since I knew Joe was the only person up the trail at this point I threw fresh snow on the trail just up from Barr Camp. I have since learned that Search and Rescue refers to this as a track trap. It would allow me to see his tracks if he descended on Barr Trail.

After a day of activities I tried to settle in for the night and not worry about Joe. As in many cases he would likely find a better way off the mountain than coming back down Barr Trail. I could not resist going out to check the track trap every so often, no tracks.

I attempted to call it a night but I could not sleep. Still no tracks out front and I could not help but wonder if that blue pack was still in the trail. If it was gone then Joe presumably picked it up on his way down and slipped past Barr Camp. If it was still there then maybe I would look farther up the trail to the Bottomless Pit intersection and maybe on to A-Frame. If I was going to start a trek up the trail looking for someone then it was time to let the Search and Rescue (SAR) coordinator know about my concern. Skee Hipsky, the on duty coordinator, has been through this a thousand times. He operates in a calm, matter-of-fact, but still very caring, manner. Skee agreed that since the bag was not far from the cabin it was worth checking. At about 10:30 pm I set out to see if the bag was still in the trail. But I had prepared myself to go higher if needed.

As the two hikers had said earlier, the bag was about a half mile up from camp. This fueled my concern so I kept going higher. At the Bottomless Pit intersection I could identify Joe’s tracks going out on that trail then his return tracks on top. He had investigated the Bottomless Pit trail but returned and continued up Barr Trail. I was a little concerned but many times before we have hiked up looking for hikers only to find them happily coming down the trail. On up Barr Trail I continued.

Upon reaching the A-Frame shelter at 11:45 pm I found Joe. He was shivering inside the shelter under as many tarps as he could find. He was in advanced stages of hypothermia. He also had pain from multiple falls against rocks while hiking; these injuries seemed to be bruises. It became obvious that Joe was not going to be walking down to Barr Camp with me. Kevin Classen with SAR arrived at Rescue Base and initiated a page for all available members to respond for a rescue from A-Frame. Kevin and Skee also decided to check on Flight for Life (FFL) availability. At this point in time I did not think FFL would be required but Kevin and Skee knew to at least check on their availability.

Joe told me he had lost consciousness before I got there. About a half-hour after I arrived he lost consciousness again which lasted 3-4 minutes. Even when he was awake he was not very alert. He mentioned that he would not have made it through the night alive and I had to agree. After his loss of consciousness and all the other symptoms he was showing I reconsidered my opinion of FFL. Now I was ready for them. FFL turned out to be the option we all needed. If not for them I am not sure how Joe would have faired with a carry-out rescue. Having FFL respond saved hundreds of SAR man-hours and the associated risks to all.

I could see the helicopter coming up from Colorado Springs down below. There was an awesome crescent moon-rise which I took a moment to appreciate. I asked Kevin and Skee where the closest Landing Zone (LZ) was to the A-Frame. To my surprise they told me it was about 75 yards downhill from the structure. I am pretty familiar with the area and I could not picture an area large enough to land a helicopter. I took a walk down to make sure it was clear of debris which it was but I still could not imagine a landing on that spot. I looked around and saw a level spot 50 yards north (horizontal) of the A-Frame structure. This spot looked equally as dangerous to me. I knew that I was the rookie in this situation. I was told they have landed here many times in the past.

The pilot was given our SAR frequency and since I was the on-site contact the pilot and I communicated direct with each other. He mainly asked about wind direction and Joe’s condition. I alternated between checking on Joe and watching the helicopter get closer. He came in from high above and dropped in toward the lower LZ. I took up a spot in front of the shelter where I could keep an eye on both Joe and the helicopter. I was excited and relieved that help was so close. The pilot had turned on all his search lights so he had no problem seeing the rocks, trees, and shelter. He approached the lower LZ, and to my surprise, he kept on going past it and started heading uphill toward the shelter. As the noise got louder and the snow started to whip around me I was amazed at how precise and slow he moved his craft. I realized he was going for the upper, and smaller, LZ adjacent to the shelter. My initial excitement started turning into mayhem as the noise and wind became overwhelming. Rather than watching in fascination, I started looking for protection! Suddenly I felt like I could not get enough big things between me and the helicopter. I checked on Joe real quick, he was fine so I ducked in behind the shelter while peeking around and try to keep those rotors in sight. They seemed to be very close to the edge of the shelter. When the helicopter was about 15 feet off the ground it seemed to get very wobbly. This may have been my first time in this situation but it was not the pilot’s. As crazy as this all seemed to me I realized that this was just another day at the office for him and the flight paramedic. I now have new respect for what these people do. Wow!

I am reminded of a Navy F-14 Fighter Pilot who told Teresa and I that he would never fly a helicopter, because, he said “they have a million moving parts, all desperately trying to get away from each other.”

The helicopter was sitting on the ground now with the engine still running high. The flight paramedic hopped out and came over to Joe and I. After a brief discussion with Joe he told me that Joe could walk to the helicopter with our help. We had to yell at the top of our voices to communicate above the engine and rotor noise. The paramedic instructed me to assist with Joe and make sure to keep my head down! I found this internally comical because for the last few minutes I had thought of nothing BUT those rotors! Keeping my head down would not be a problem. As we were assisting Joe toward the helicopter there were a couple of rocks in my path. It was funny that normally I would step over these rocks without even thinking about it. This time, those rocks would raise me up a few inches – I avoided them.

The helicopter lifted off with much noise and wind. It seemed to me that he was again very close to the shelter. But hey, his normal day is different than mine.

In a few seconds it was over, the time was 1:45 am, two hours after I arrived at the shelter. I stood there in the quiet and started gathering my gear. I was totally alone on the face of Pikes Peak. I reported in to Kevin and Skee. I thanked them for their support. I told them that I thought their decision to send Flight for Life was a life-saving decision for Joe.

Hiking back down the trail gave me some time to reflect on what had just occurred. There are some hero’s and they are: The flight crew – absolutely amazing. The whole SAR group with Kevin and Skee – my radio would have been a useless weight without them on the other end. And I recalled what I had told Joe while he was at Barr Camp earlier in the day “Pikes Peak can bite!”

Neal Taylor

Avalanche danger

Two snowmobilers were killed over the weekend in avalanches in Montana and Wyoming.

Two snowmobilers were buried Saturday in a slide near Jackson, Wyo., according to the Bridger-Teton National Forest Avalanche Center. Rescuers found and dug out Greg Huntsman, 42, of Idaho Falls, from 6 feet of snow and resuscitated him. James Boschae, 30, of Swan Valley, Idaho, was buried by 8 to 10 feet of snow and
asphyxiated.

Jeffrey Michel, 34, of Jamestown, N.D., died Saturday in an avalanche triggered by a companion just outside Yellowstone National Park. He was with a group that was highmarking.

Gazette reporter Dave Philipps attended at avalanche safety class on Pikes Peak on Dec. 9. Look for his story in the Out There section on Dec. 29. For more info, check the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

Catching some air


Guess what? A terrain park for boarders and skiers is so yesterday. What's new? An Airboard terrain park. That's what is drawing Airboard or "snow rocket" fans to Canaan Valley, W.Va., the first resort in the country with a park designed for the inflatable sleds.

Fans of Airboards say they are easier to maneuver than snow tubes, and they travel faster and allow more steering. You ride an Airboard lying facedown, gripping the handles and flying headfirst downhill. Plastic rails on the bottom of the board help you steer. To stop, you push your weight off and spin 90 degrees (like a skate in a hockey stop).




Friend says body is Kelly James

I suppose it's what we all figured. I heard that family members had told the NY Times on Sunday the body found on Mount Hood was Kelly James of Dallas, who called his wife from a snow cave a week ago to say the group was in trouble.

Here's the latest from the Associated Press' Joseph B. Frazier:

A body found in a snow cave on Mount Hood by searchers looking for three missing climbers is the same climber who placed a distress call to relatives a little more than a week ago, a person close to the family and a military official said today.

Jessica Nunez, who is close to the family of missing climber Kelly James and has been acting as a spokeswoman, said the body is that of Kelly James. She said the information comes from James’ family, and that she had talked to them.

A military official involved in the search also confirmed the body is that of James, 48, of Dallas. The official asked not to be identified.

James’ mother, Lou Ann Cameron, told the AP she did not want to comment. Reached on her cell phone, she referred queries to the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office. The sheriff’s office said they could not yet comment on the identity of the body.

A Chinook helicopter was preparing to fly to the snow cave, about 300 feet below Mount Hood’s 11,239-foot summit, to recover the body, said Pete Hughes, a spokesman with the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office.

He said other helicopters — two Blackhawks — were getting ready to fly to the mountain to search for the two climbers still missing: Brian Hall, 37, also of Dallas, and Jerry “Nikko” Cooke, 36, of New York City.

A team of climbers who stayed overnight at a lodge about half way up the mountain will also participate in the search, he said.

Hughes said today's search effort would center on possible descent routes on Eliot Glacier and Cooper Spur, relatively lower levels of the mountain, in case the other two got down that far.

“Eliot Glacier is real dangerous so we will do that by air only,” Hughes said. “It’s a bad avalanche area with crevasses. There are still people in crevasses that have never been recovered.”

Searchers had been trying to find the stranded climbers for a week, but they were thwarted by blizzards that kept hammering the mountain.

They got a break Sunday, a day that was sunny and clear with diminished winds.

Searchers found a snow cave Sunday near the spot located by cell phone signals.

Kelly James made a four-minute call to his family a week ago Sunday. He told his family he was in a snow cave, the climbing party was in trouble and that the other two had headed back down.

The body was found in a second snow cave near the first cave. Rescuers found two ice axes, a sleeping bag or pad and rope in the first. It was not known if any gear was in the second cave.

The body remained on the mountain Sunday night because darkness made it too dangerous to retrieve, rescue workers said.

Near the first snow cave, helicopters had spotted rope that had been intentionally laid out in a Y-shape, which climbers often use to indicate their location. There was also an ice spike and footprints, apparently headed up the mountain, said Sgt. Gerry Tiffany, a spokesman for the Hood River County sheriff’s office.

Searchers dug through the first cave to ensure no one was there and took the equipment, which will be examined for clues. The second cave with the climber’s body was found a short time later.

It was not immediately clear which cave was occupied first, or why or when the climber, or climbers, in it decided to move.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

1 body

If you haven't read or heard, rescuers found one body on Mount Hood, believed to one of three climbers missing for a week. They also retrieved equipment from a snow cave - there found two, not far from the summit - they'll use in the continued search.

My thoughts go out to the hikers and their family and friends and the rescue teams. It has been brutal up on that mountain. If you hear more news, post a comment. If you're headed out into our mountains, even for a short hike, be careful. Weather is upon us.

Changes for Ski Cooper

New children's center at Ski Cooper

No, there aren't any luxury homes popping up around the state's smallest ski resort. But there are some noticeable improvements this season. and long-time employees are thrilled. Cooper, which has been open on weekends and is now open seven days a week, has a new Children's Center building housing children's ski school and a nursery. Thc ticket windows have also been relocated, and the old ski school building is now a spacious employee building. The improvements came about after last year's impressive 13 percent gain in skier visits. But that doesn't mean Cooper's slopes are crowded. This weekend, many of the trails hadn't been skied since the snowfall earlier in the week and the skiing was as good as it gets.
If you haven't checked out Cooper yet and if you have a Gems card or know someone who does, this could be your lucky week - skiing is free with a Gems card Monday through Thursday (this week only).
The cards are gone for the season. If you've been missing out, make a note to get one for next year - it offers discounts at eight areas, including Monarch, Arapahoe Basin and Loveland.

What can you do with $85?

Buy a lift ticket to Vail. That's the price the resort has just announced it will charge this year. Aspen trails behind with a bargain-basement price of $82. At $85 a day, you'll pay about $10 an hour... if you don't stop for lunch or anything else and you ski from open to close.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Zion fee hike


(Photo by E-Chiao Huang, courtesy of National Park Service)
The cost to visit Zion National Park will increase 25 percent to $25 per car, starting Jan. 1. It's the first fee increase since 2000. Bicyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians, 16 years or older, will pay $12, a $2 or 20 percent increase. Both fees are good for seven days.


On Jan. 1, the government will also start selling the $80 America the Beautiful pass, good for entry to federal recreation sites across the country for one year.

Pilots don't see hikers; efforts expanded Saturday

The AP reports:

A National Guard C-130 circled Mount Hood today in search of three missing mountaineers, but struck out, its commander said. Rescue workers defeated by three storms this week hope for a break in the weather tomorrow and are planning what one called a major push by climbing teams.

At a news conference today, officials produced a handwritten note that said the climbers took food and such gear as fuel, bivvysacks, a shovel and ropes, all of which could be helpful as the three hunkered down against the storms.

Rescuers hoped today's C-130 flights would give them information about where to search on the 11,239-foot mountain. The C-130 Hercules, a troops and equipment transport workhorse, is equipped with infrared imaging devices. But snow and clouds prevented it from gathering any thermal hits, and the equipment also iced up, said Col. Jon Proehl, commander of the 152nd Airlift Wing of the Nevada Air National Guard, which provided the plane.

The plane made three passes, one at 8,000 feet, the next at 10,000 feet and the last, over the top of the volcanic summit, at 12,500 feet. Proehl said two C-130s would be on standby for more flights Saturday from their base at Reno.

Mountaineering experts said that to survive, the climbers had to have dug good shelters. Proehl said the C-130’s equipment wouldn’t have detected body heat from a snow cave in any case. But the plane’s crew spotted no visible sign of the climbers, such as a piece of clothing secured outside a snow cave — and couldn’t see anything on the east side of the mountain.

The last clue to the climbers’ whereabouts was a cell phone signal returned from James’ cell phone on Tuesday.

Keystone's Indy Bowl: premium powder for a premium




I was lucky enough to go on a sneak peak cat tour of Keystone's new Independence Bowl today. Even though there has not been significant snowfall in a few weeks in Summit County, the northeast facing shots of Indy were knee deep in perfect powder. Wow.
Why? Well because all the snow from Keystone's other hike-to bowls gets blown over to Indy.
As one of our ski patrol guides said: Those bowls are the fetch zone, and this is where the wind drops what it fetches.
There were a couple of guys from Snowboarder and Transworld Snowboard magazines in town for the Grand Prix at Breckenridge summed it up succinctly after our second run. "It was awesome! It was ***king sick!"

Of course, the reason it's so good is because it is very hard to get to. Skiers have to either buy a guided snowcat tour for $81 on top of the regular ski pass cost or hoof it from the top of Dercum Mountain -- a 30-45 minute walk at treeline.

No wonder we didn't see any tracks -- well ok, we didn't see any tracks because it doesn't really officially open until Saturday, but still, this is way out there.

Keystone may be onto something though. It bills the area as "backcountry lite" -- all the powder and sweat of the backcountry, none of the avalanche deaths. Keystone's ski patrol does avalanche control work (i.e. bombing) to make the area safe. And for anyone who has a season pass, it's well worth the hike. Bring water and a lunch and stay all day, "Killin' it" as the snowboard writers would say.

This is just the latest phase in an ambitious plan to extend lift-free, backcoutry lite access into five more bowls extending almost to the town of Montezuma. Keystone wants to eventually offer guided backcountry tours through the area that will include staying over in remote, resort owned yurts.

More about that later, right now, I'm late for a little shindig.

Boarding at Breck


Six Olympic medalists are in the lineup at this weekend's Chevrolet U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix at Breckenridge: Gretchen Bleiler (silver '06; Aspen), Lindsey Jacobellis (silver '06; Stratton Mountain, VT), Kelly Clark (gold '02; Mount Snow, VT), Ross Powers (gold '02; Stratton Mountain, VT), Danny Kass (silver '02, '06; Mammoth Lakes, CA) and JJ Thomas (bronze '02; Golden).

"They do such a great job dialing this pipe and I always look forward to this contest," said Bleiler, the reigning Grand Prix champion.

If Olympians aren't a big enough draw, the quarterpipe that's sitting downtown in the Miners parking lot just might be. Last year Luke Mitrani boasted 31 feet of air at the quarterpipe after a tow-in during the Paul Mitchell Progression Session. Give me a "whoa!" people.

DJ Roots and DJ Vajra will perform live during and after the downtown exhibition.

What time?
SATURDAY
11am-noon HP Finals Practice
Noon-1:30pm HP Finals Awards
6-7pm Exhibition practice
7-8:30pm Exhibition

SUNDAY
11am-noon Junior Jam Practice
noon-1pm Junior Jam

If you're tied up with work or Christmas shopping and events Saturday, make a note to check NBC's TV sked on Dec. 24. Breck folks say the Peacock network will show all the action worth airing.

Davenport skis Kit Carson


It was 14er #47 this week for world-class skier and adventurer Chris Davenport of Aspen, who's nearing his goal of skiing down all of Colorado's 14ers in a calendar year.

He sent this e-mail:

Christmas came early for Ted Mahon and I on Kit Carson Peak in the Sangre De Cristo mountains. Not knowing what we were in for, we set out on a long drive Tuesday and found ourselves camped at the trailhead for Kit Carson Peak Tuesday night. Wednesday was a long and incredibly satisfying day on Kit Carson. Skiing deep, fresh powder on a steep fourteener in the month of December is a rare treat, and we took full advantage.

Happy holidays everyone! If Mother Nature grants my Christmas wishes I'll be back in the high peaks soon, so stay tuned.
Chris
Read all about Chris's quest on his blog.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Cell signal on Mount Hood

The cell phone of one of three climbers lost on Mount Hood since the weekend received a signal from the cell phone company late Tuesday night, “indicating it was back on,” authorities said today.

The T-Mobile cell company has been signaling the cell phone since climber Kelly James, 48, used it to call his family Sunday, the AP reported.

On Wednesday, the company said the phone went silent the day before.

The Hood River County sheriff’s office said that at 10:55 p.m. Tuesday “T-Mobile received a signal on the phone indicating it was back on, when it had been off.”

The sequence of signals suggested that James may have been turning his cell phone off to conserve battery power, a possibility that brought hope to family members who have gathered near the mountain.

“My heart was in my throat when I heard that, because if it’s true it means Kelly is alive, and he has his wits about him,” his brother, Frank, of Orlando, Fla., said at a news conference.

Rescue workers confronted stormy weather on the mountain again today, and said they would be searching lower elevations in hopes that James’ two companions, Brian Hall of Dallas and Jerry “Nikko” Cooke of Brooklyn, N.Y., had gotten down from near the top of the mountain, where James was believed holed up in a snow cave.

Video shot Wednesday and shown on various news programs shared the brutal conditions the climbers and rescue teams and enduring.

James' wife, Karen, said at today's press conference that the families of the three men remained confident.

“While this is one of the worst weather days, our spirits are still high,” she said. “These are three of the most phenomenal men you could ever meet. They’re smart, they are strong, and they care so deeply for one another.

“My husband proposed to me on Mount Rainier, and we’re planning our 50th wedding anniversary there, so I know he is coming off thismountain."