Spring is a great time to get after trailwork. It is easy to see drainage issues, the ground hasn’t become summer cement and there aren’t any bugs! Last fall Rob and I did a bunch of work on the Skyline Trail in Jackson, and now that the snow has melted, it looks like we are going to have another go at it!
How do you get involved in trailwork, you ask? A lot of trailwork, you can do without any tools. See a stick on the trail that is waiting to eat someone’s derailleur? Throw it out of the way! If there is a small tree across the trail and you happen to own a silky saw (the best things ever) and carry it with you (I do in the spring), you can make easy work of it. For drainage and larger trees, it is best to find the facebook group that covers that section of trail and make a trailwork party out of a section. Everyone loves cold beers and getting their hands dirty making the biking world a better place. Plus the next time you shralp that section of trail, you will just know. Trust me.
The backcountry off Teton Pass is heavily trafficked, but you would be surprised how concentrated that traffic is around the closest tours. I guess it isn’t that surprising considering you hike less and ski more downhill with the closer lines, but I enjoy the touring part of ski touring. So I will often head out to the Claws, or even further. This weekend, since both Rob and I were recovering from the Jackson crud, we settled for the Claws and Avy Bowl.
Did I say settle? I guess that is what you call settling when you live in Jackson 🙂
Right out the back door of the cabin on Sand Mountain in Clark, and a short 20 minute snowmobile ride up lies Meaden Peak. Meaden has some incredible tree skiing, but more importantly, it has an awesome view from the top and some great steeps. Rob and I first skied the NW aspect last year, but wanted to put turns on the NE side, so we could view them from the cabin.
Rob and Sam set a really steep skin track to the top, and the skin across the ridge was completely worth it. With 360 degree views it would have been perfect, except for the clouds moving in and blocking the sun as the day went on.
The NE face offered some great turns but almost zero visibility as a cloud descended once again.
The face offered up untouched deep and steep goods that we throught were alright. Just as sweet were the lower turns through widely spaced pines on the way down to meet my parents at the snowmobiles.
It has been the backdrop for many of my adventures growing up: building a kicker in the backyard, clearing fallen trees,epic bonfires, and long hikes with the family dog. It is a lone volcano shaped peak in a sea of ridges. Hahns Peak has been on my skiing bucket list for a long time.
Finally, with the encouragement of Rob and Sam, it was going to happen. We loaded up the snowmobiles for the approach with the temperatures a balmy -11 F, and roared off in a two stroke cloud. The snowmobile ride brought us from the cabin near Sand Mountain to the northern side of Hahns Peak.
We started our skin through an incredible, old-growth aspen grove. A few of the trees were wider than my wingspan, truly huge for an aspen tree. As we neared the cloud ceiling visibility got continually foggier.
On the last push to the ridge, I could barely tell the difference between the snow under, my feet, the stuff falling from the sky, and the fog. It was a nauseating couple of switchbacks, only helped by closing my eyes. Once on the ridge, the visibility was a bit better, and it highlighted the cliffs on both sides. Those of you who know how much I LOVE heights won’t be surprised when I say that I made the traverse fairly quickly.
The building at the top of Hahns used to be a fire watch-tower, and the watchman would live at the top year round. Rumor has it they are going to open it to the public starting in the fall, which is too bad, because we could have used a reprieve from the wind right then. Instead we settle for a few Oreos, some elk jerky (fresh – thanks mom and dad!), and got ready for the descent.
Steamboat is an incredible place and a great access point for adventures. The Zirkles, Flat Tops and Sand Mountain are all just a short drive and a hike away. Rob and I had the opportunity to get up to our cabin in Clark, and we quickly got all three snowmobiles stuck in the driveway. With old, circa 1990 snowmobiles, the paddle is about a half inch deep and on new, unpacked snow, this means having a great digging machine. Finally we put in a track and waited for the snow to set up.
In the meantime, we skinned across the field and skied the cabin chutes, a series of chutes on a north facing ridge that my parents and uncle cleared out last fall.
It is incredible to have safe, fun powder runs right in our backyard!
With hours of digging snowmobiles and skinning under our belts, the only logical thing to do was to fire up the wood-fired hot tub that we built in the fall. I would say life up north is pretty damn good!