January 30, 2006

Grass Creek Yurt

Turns out there's a large backcountry yurt system in the mountains west of Fort Collins. The yurts come equipped with enough luxuries (propane stove, lantern, bed mattresses, firewood, etc.) that one must reserve and pay for the use of such a place. It also turns out that one of our friends reserved one of these yurts, the Grass Creek Yurt, for last Friday and Saturday nights. There was no grass, and any creek that existed was frozen and covered with snow at the not-so-aptly named yurt. Ashley and I spent Friday night in Boulder because she had bought tickets to an Aimee Mann concert for the two of us. It was worth staying in town for. I've heard some of her songs on NPR, and the concert was almost entirely acoustic. Anyway, we left Saturday morning on the 3 hour drive to the yurt. We actually had to park 0.7 miles away and hike in - kind of like car camping where you park your car and then walk away from it before finding a good spot for your sleeping bag. The terrain in the vicinity of the yurt was pretty flat, so ski touring was the adventure of choice on Saturday. During the tour we located a gradual slope by the name of Lary's Run. After lunch we found the quickest was to the top of it, and made a couple laps. The snow was ridiculously light and deep, which made the gradual slope even mellower. I found a way back to the yurt through a clearing that was later dubbed "Josh's Run". This run culminated at the kicker I constructed during out lunch break, right next to the yurt. Follow this link to see my slow motion turns down Josh's Run. It snowed a bit more on Saturday night, so the snow was even deeper when we made a couple more laps on Sunday before heading home. The drive home was not without adventure. The roads leading out of the state park were covered with several inches of that really cold, sticky dry snow. I felt the need to test just how sticky it was. Mission successful - I found the snow's breaking point just before burying the front end of my 4-Runner in a snowbank. I almost had it dug out when a Wes-like figure appeared in an obnoxiously large diesel truck. He wanted to pull me out so bad I couldn't turn him down. 15 seconds later I was back on the road.

Geotech Shindig

Thursday night, the dirt nerds made it out on the town. The picture below is of me with my friend, Joonyong. Joonyong is from Korea, and will probably go home to visit his family at the same time that Ashley and I are going to try to visit Keith and Melanie. Joonyong is from Soul, which is about an hour from Ilsan, where Keith and Melanie are living. I began my Korean drinking etiquette training this night. The most important things to remember are that you can never refill your own glass, and when somebody yells "one shot", you must pound whatever remains of your beer.

January 26, 2006

Quandary Peak 14,265'

Yesterday I met up with Dane, a friend from the OSU Mountain Club. He's currently living at his parents vacation home in Frisco, a few miles north of Breckenridge. We'd been planning to ski Quandary Peak as soon as we had a good weather day that corresponded with one of Dane's days off. He called me up on Tuesday and said the weather would be good enough on Wednesday, so I drove up to Summit County to meet him. The trailhead was only about 15 minutes from his place, and the summit a scant 2.5 miles from the trailhead. It took us about 3 hours to gain 3400 feet and make the summit. I was able to ski the entire way up the mellow east ridge, while Dane snowshoed and carried his snowboard. At the summit we found blue skies without a breath of wind. We couldn't have asked for better weather. We skied two nice bowls off the north side of the ridge on the way back down. We hiked back up and skied the lower bowl twice. The snow was a mixture of windblown crust and ice, but I was able to drop a knee a few times and keep the crashing to a minimum. Oh yea, making tele turns at 14,000 feet is exhausting. The last picture shows the upper bowl that we skied.

January 23, 2006

Ski, Bike, Chicken Butt Cooker

Nothing too exciting to report. Went skiing a couple times this week. Great powder day on Friday. Been doing a little mountian biking to get in shape. Plans to do a winter ascent of Quandary Peak, the most popular winter 14er in Colorado, as soon as there's a good weather window. Used my chicken butt cooker with a can of Dale's Pale Ale last night. Ashley was upset that the chicken didn't taste like beer, but it actually turned out great!

On Saturday I went to a trad climbers party. I knew they guy who was throwing it from my summer job at Lyman Henn. I'm convinced that the 12 most serious climbers from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs were at this party. They referred to themselves as the Crack Addicts. They all seemed to be familiar with every inch of every crack in the lower 48. The guy who hosted the party had two manufactured adjustable off-width cracks attached to his deck for practicing. I learned a lot just from talking to these guys, and met a couple people who were willing to take me out and teach me a few things. I promised one guy I would teach him to make beer if he tought me how to trad climb. We'll see what happens.

January 17, 2006

Arestua Hut

On Saturday Ashley and I went to the holiday party for Lyman Henn, the company I worked for last summer. It was held at the Wyncoop Brewery in Denver, and I walked away with a chicken butt cooker from the white elephant gift exchange. Anytime I get as much free beer and wine as I can drink is worthy of some blog space.

On Sunday we hiked into the Arestua Hut with three of Ashley's friends from work. Ryan, the guy in the photo taken inside the cabin, and I skied in from the top of the Corona Chairlift at Eldora. This made the total distance something like 2.25 miles. Ashley, Whitney, and Melanie snowshoed in from the trailhead, making for a 4.5 mile hike with significantly more elevation gain. Ryan and I owe our smarter route to my new GPS, which constantly told us how far we needed to go and in what direction to travel. We all spent the night in the hut and had no additional company. It snowed about 5 inches overnight. While the cold temperatures found at 11,000 feet made for heavenly snow conditions, the woodstove in the cabin efficiently heated the room to a higher degree than most of us heat our own homes this time of year.

January 11, 2006

Thesis Defended

From 2:oo to 4:00 yesterday I presented and answered questions about my research. Of course, there were issues with some of the aspects of my work, but overall my committee of professors seemed pleased. I anticipate that I'll spend the next few weeks making changes and tying up loose ends. As soon as I'm finished, I plan to take some time off to ski and possibly take a short road trip. I'm not thinking about what happens after that.

January 08, 2006

Snowy Fun

After reading Aron Ralston's book (He's the guy who got pinned by a rock and amputated his arm in order to survive), I've gotten motivated to get in shape so I can be a better ski bum for the next few weeks. Earlier in the week, I skied into the Arestua Hut, located about 5 miles from the Eldora Ski Resort. On Saturday, Ashley and I went up to Eldora where Ashley rented Telemark gear and took lessons. While she was taking lessons, I skied off the backside of the resort and went exploring. I was trying to find the same hut I went to earlier in the week, but from a different angle. I was doing just fine until I was suddenly reminded that Colorado mountains only have snow on one side, the leeward side. The only positive thing that came from my meandering is that I think I know how to get there when I make my second attempt. I also got some good pictures from up high, see Exhibit A (yes, too much thesis writing is wearing on me).

So that was Saturday. Notice the bluebird day in the picture. On Sunday Ashley and I went to do some skiing/snowshoeing in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. We expected a nice sunny day skiing on two week old snow, but were pleasantly surprised to find 8 inches of fresh snow. We eventually made our way to the fanciest ski hut I'd ever been to. The hut is maintained by the Colorado Mountain Club - Boulder Chapter, and there were about 15 of them there at the time. The snow continued to fall heavily the whole time we were there. Overall, it was about a 10 mile loop.

After such an excursion, our standard routine is to stop at the Nepalese Restaurant in Nederland. Upon parking the car, I couldn't resist taking this picture of two Chocolate Labs in the front seat of a neighboring vehicle. We think the big one was teaching the little one how to drive. The picture just doesn't do it justice.

January 04, 2006

6 Days and Counting

I completed the first draft of my thesis a few days ago. I sent it to my advisor, made most of the changes he recommended, and I'll be sending it to the rest of my thesis committee today. I'm about 1/4 of the way through creating my PowerPoint slides for my presentation. Despite all this, I was able to take some time off (a whole day) and ski into the Arestua Hut, a backcountry ski hut that is about 5 miles from the local ski area. I logged it's location with my new GPS, so now I can try to get there from the top of the ski lift, which should make the trip considerably shorter. The day before that, Ashley and I tried to go skiing at the resort. We made one run, a nice powder run at that, and then they shut the lift down indefinitely due to wind. In about a week I should start having more exciting blog posts as I plan to take some time off before starting work, wherever that may be.