Back Home in Idaho’s Pioneer Mountains

The Pioneer Range is a group of big, beautiful mountains that sit just east of the Wood River Valley. You can see the main peaks (stretching up to 12, 000 ft) from my home town of Ketchum, Id. While growing up, it was a daily routine for my dad to quiz me on the names of the peaks from the top of Sun Valley’s ski resort. Needless to say, they made an impression.

Hyndman, Old Hyndman, and Cobb

 The above average snow year made a 5 day trip into the Pio’s possible…. In late May. So with a group of seven skiers, three sleds, and a large amount of food and beer we made the trek into the Pioneer Yurt.Our first objective was the Comma Couloir off the top of Cobb. 

We climbed up the west ridge (seen above). The ascent ended up being just as exciting as the descent.Looking into the entrance of the North Couloir while hiking Cobb. We came back for this one a couple days later.

The skiing was great, all of my favorite conditions rolled into 3,500 ft of vert. Chalky up top with pockets of deep fluff and creamy spring corn down low.

Dropping into the Comma Couloir

The next day the weather wasn’t cooperating so we found a sweet area to lap with the sleds. Thanks to our new favorite toys we were each able to get 4 or 5 laps on “Freeride Zone 1”.  We then headed to Duncan Ridge with plans to ski the north facing chutes. Unfortunately the clouds socked us into a total white out and we were forced to ski back down the south side. We retreated to the yurt where we built a couple jumps, had a gourmet dinner, and sweated it out in the sauna. On day three the sun finally peaked through and warmed up the snow. We headed for Hyndman to ski some corn. The hike went by quick. And the view from the top stretched for miles.

Top of Hyndman (12009 ft) with a beautiful view of the valley below

We each chose a different line off the top, and imprinted ski tracks across the entire south face.

Hyndman's south face. If you look closely you can see our tracks.

From the bottom of Hyndman we checked out the North Couloir of Cobb and decided to go for it.

Axel pointing to Cobb's North Couloir

We were bummed to discover that the 6 inches of fresh snow that laid in the couloir the day before had been completely blown out. Axel dropped in first and the screeching sound of rock hard chatter snow made us all cringe. But, we had our hearts set on skiing the North Couloir so we sucked it up and prepared our legs for thousands of feet of hop turns. Good skiing, good food, good friends. Thank you Sun Valley Trekking, we will be back. Cheers

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Conquering Castles

CASTLE #1: DEVILS CASTLE, ALTA, UT

For closing day at ALTA I was fortunate enough to tag along with some of the Skierboyz  and go for the Castle Couloir. The technical couloir (usually requiring one or more rappels) opens up into a beautiful, powder filled, apron which can be seen from the top of the Collins lift. I had scoped the couloir multiple times and was ready to go for it. However, when we got to the top and saw that the couloir was very filled in we decided to hike a little higher and take a more exposed entrance.

The Devils Castle as seen from the top of ALTA. The line we skied begins on the peak to the left of the saddle (in the sun) and runs on a diagonal back into the shadow and out the apron.

We took a different approach than usual, hiking up sugarloaf and around the back of the castle rather than booting straight up the couloir.

Still not sure if the shot we had planned to ski actually went through, we put on our harnesses and dropped in to scope the scenario.

It went! A little technical in a couple sections but thanks to La Nina and the copious amount of snow we were able to “free” ski a line that is rarely skied without rappels.

Silas taking a direct exit into the apron. The line we skied is straight above him. (Thanks for the photo John Faye)

Dylan sends (as usual).

After saying our goodbyes at the Highboy party, we headed back to the desert for some more sun and an even bigger objective.

CASTLE #2: CASTLETON TOWER, CASTLE VALLEY, UT

Dylan and I ditched the snow and headed to Moab for some more climbing action (the addiction is setting in). Our main objective was Castleton Tower, seen here looming above our camp.

Day 1 was spent “warming up”. We thought it would be a good idea to practice a couple multi pitch climbs, since we hadn’t done much together. So we headed to the ice cream parlor and tried not to melt in the heat.

Sunday morning we decided to go for it. We woke up early and made the coffee fueled hour long hike to the base of the tower. Dylan getting ready to send the first pitch of the North Chimney.

Hanging out at the first belay station, all smiles. Castleton was our first tower and by far the highest either of us have ever rock climbed. The adrenaline rush was overwhelmingly fantastic.

Almost to the top. Thank you, Dylan, for being so competent and patient with my apprehensiveness.

We made it! The view from the summit was breathtaking, partly from beauty, partly from the realization that we now needed to get down. I quickly wrote our names in the summit book and we discussed the best route to rappel. We encountered 60 mph winds at the top and were worried about our ropes getting tangled. We ended up sticking with the original plan and made three, two rope, rappels down the North Face. We had a couple very scary close calls but with luck on our side and Dylan’s extensive experience with ropes we made it down with all of our gear.

Braving the wind on top of Castleton Tower. Relieved to be down from the tower we made our Mothers day phone calls and had a delicious dinner with good friends. A major adventure and learning experience, climbing the tower is the highlight of my spring. Well… so far.

Next up, Idaho’s Pioneer Mountains.