The Outdoor Junkie
The Outdoor Junkie is a blog by Ann Driggers, a backcountry bon vivant who lives to hike, run, ride, ski and climb in the great outdoors, and is most often found roaming through the red-rock canyons and mountains of Western Colorado.
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By Ann Driggers
Saturday, April 19, 2014
As we move through spring the opportunities for skiing fresh powder become less and less. The key is to get out as the snow is falling or immediately following. It's a race against the sun - if its rays touch the fresh snow it turns to mush in a heartbeat. Being a weekend warrior it can be hard to get the timing right but a couple of weekends ago I lucked out big time, scoring a line I've wanted to ski for eons in the most delicious conditons imaginable.
My friends Amy and Marti and I had it in our minds to drop off the right side of Highlands Ridge into Maroon Bowl, but as we hiked into the storm we were engulfed by roiling clouds, fog and snow. The visibility was terrible and when we left the Highlands backcountry exit gate conditions seemed to get worse. We poked around for about 45 minutes, in the wrong place, looking for entry to our line and praying that the storm would abate so we could see where we hoped to go. Finally it did!
We had a fun little butt scooting down a chute to get to the top of our line:
Then we were salivating at the untouched powder that lay before us under clearing skies:
It was as incredible as it looked:
In fact it was one of the best runs of the year. Most delicious!
As is often the case, in the spring, exit from lines such as these always has an entertaining log crossing to add a little more spice. Actually this one was not too bad.
As long as you don't drop a ski pole in the water....and you have to chase it down while your ski partners roll around on the bank in laughter....
Either way, scoring a line like this in all time spring powder conditions will stay in the memory bank for a long time.
Post Script: A video recently appeared on vimeo which appears to be two snowboarders we dropped in right behind. Their tracks are visible in one of the photos above. Check it out, it's pretty sweet: Maroon Bowling
If I had known they were fiming I would have totally pulled some of those moves. Massive cornice huck..no problem.
By Ann Driggers
Sunday, April 13, 2014
As we move further into spring, the dawn patrol - getting up super early to ski before work - starts to lose its appeal. Firstly all the skimountaineering races, for which the dawn patrol is good training, are over for the season. Secondly the snow is icy and, if the ski area is closed, grooming operations have ceased and ski conditions are less than optimal. I keep my eye on the weather forecast however and once in a while there is the perfect scenario of an overnight storm, with a fresh dump of snow. Even better if the storm has cleared allowing for viewing of a beautiful sunrise. The stars aligned last week so I headed up to a closed Ski Sunlight with ski buddy Scott. As we climbed the eastern sky colors were quite beautiful:
We reached the summit just as the sun came over the horizon. Perfect timing!
The light was simply gorgeous.
Sure enough there was plenty of fresh snow and we enjoyed some lovely turns on our way down.
First tracks at first light - always a great way to start the day!
By Ann Driggers
Sunday, April 6, 2014
"I love the upward ways
To the sun tipped crest of the mountains
High over the billowy world;
Where the wind sings hymns of praise,
And the snow breaks into fountains,
And life is a flag unfurled." ~ Harriet Monroe
Photo of me by Scott on Sopris' north east ridge:
I have climbed Mount Sopris, the majestic mountain lording over the Roaring Fork Valley, almost more times than I count. However every time I have stood atop its lofty summit, just shy of 13,000 feet, it has always been in the spring, summer or fall. Due to snowbound approach roads, a winter ascent is somewhat more of a significant effort requiring a 16 mile round trip with 5,000 feet of climbing. The winter route of choice follows the north-east ridge which is virtually free of avalanche danger but is long and rolling. Any which way you look at it, it's a decent day out and, coupled with the short days and more rowdy weather of winter, its not as easily accomplished as in other seasons. However I have always harbored a desire to climb my favorite mountain in every season of the year. With winter technically ending March 19 and a spring like weather forecast the weekend prior my ski partner Scott and I found ourselves skinning into the inky blackness of the morning twilight hours and towards Mount Sopris. After an hour we emerged from the forest and into a meadow just as the eastern horizon started to lighten and our goal was laid out before us.
The route we were to take followed the ridge on the left, over the subsidary summit and then on to the eastern (left) summit of Sopris' twins - apparently of identical height.
Coyote track through the meadow as the sun rose:
Sunrise is such a special time, emerging from dark into light is so energizing, powering us onwards and upwards.
Once above treeline the views became even more spectacular. Here Scott skins along the ridge approaching the subsiduary summit.
It took us just under six hours to reach the true summit and once there I was pretty stoked! The entire Elk Range was laid out before us, with 14er Capitol Peak dominant on the horizon.
We elected to return along the ridge, forgoing our normal descent route of Thomas Lakes Bowl. The hike back was spectacular and the skiing was really pretty good.
Photo of me by Scott:
Check that one off the list! It was so good that it will likely be a repeat next winter!
By Ann Driggers
Thursday, January 16, 2014
Oh my word! Or lack there of. I can't believe it has been two months since I last posted anything. Bad, bad blogger! No one reason in particular - just been plenty busy and not had a huge motivation to write anything until now. Lately I have found I have really enjoyed taking photos and have been posting a lot on Instagram and Twitter. If you haven't been following me (@anndriggers) here is a compilation of highlights from the past couple of months to get you caught up:
We had a lot of early season snow and enjoyed fantastic skiing from mid November on. For me, backcountry skiing is as much about the up as the down. I love the simplicity of following a beautiful skin track through a meadow with the winter sun hung low in a bluebird sky:
Or skinning through a beautiful forest, trees laden with fresh snow, sparkling pixie dust in the air:
Of course the down is important too. Especially when the turns are like this:
In addition to providing us with plentiful snow the weather gods have been kind enough to give us clear skies on full moon nights. Skiing by moonlight is truly a magical experience - stars sparkling in the night sky above, snow a glittering blanket on the earth, powder turns through the aspens or ripping freshly groomed corduroy with friends.
Overnight trips to a yurt:
More powder turns:
Ringing in the New Year with a good trail run:
And into the sunset:
And last but not least, trying something new - dog sledding:
Which brings me to the #tryingstuff part of this post. About 18 months ago I was invited by Columbia Sportswear to join their #omniten team, a group of social media folks, to join in testing gear and following their motto of #tryingstuff. The only obligations were to provide honest feedback on their gear and have fun in adventures, so I agreed. Over the months it has turned into so much more and has become a beautiful and inspiring community of outdoor and adventuresome people I now call friends. Last week Columbia brought together 30 of the #omniten to Park City, Utah for the #omnigames which pitted us in teams of two in a series of challenges including fire starting, rope courses, ski racing, dog sledding, shelter building and other fun activities. My team partner @AleyaJean (blogging at rockandsky.com) and I built a website to explain what the #omniten program is about, what #tryingstuff means to us, and how we fared in the #omnigames. Check it out at The Trying Stuff Life!
Thanks for reading and don't forget that if I'm quiet here it usually means I'm outside adventuring. I hope you are too!
By Ann Driggers
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Now the high country has been shut down by snow for long distance foot travel I was jonesing to get out and stretch the legs. So this recent weekend I picked out a 20 mile loop of trails and roads that traveled through a small section of the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park. My friend Holly agreed to throw in with me and mid morning saw us at the Upheaval Dome trail head setting out under glorious blue skies and in warm desert sunshine. Our route took us down the southern half of the Syncline Loop trail, through Upheaval Canyon onto the famous White Rim road, up Taylor Canyon and then finished with the last 6 miles on the Alcove Springs trail.
We chose the clockwise direction as I had read that the views were better and we would avoid the strong western sun by climbing up the east facing Alcove Springs trail at the end of the day. After a quick look (top picture) at the Upheaval Crater from which we could see where we were headed (a long long way away) we started on the descent:
At times the trail was very rough and our first destination, top right in the valley bottom, seemed to be an interminable distance away:
Always the scenery was spectacular and the hardest thing about running was tearing our eyes away from the towering red canyon walls so that we didn't fall flat on our faces.
In Upheaval Canyon we found one lone cottonwood tree and we felt that it needed a hug. Which it did because it hugged right back as you can see by its arms:
On the White Rim Road for a very short section, it was funny to be running over the top of all the bike tracks as the White Rim is a loop I have ridden more times than I have run in the last month (six):
For the most part the roads and trails were in great shape, not too sandy, because of plentiful autumn rains. Still I had two rules on this run, in order to preserve my feet and legs for the long distance, - no running in deep sand or on pavement (there was a short section at the beginning).
About half way into the run at the 10 mile mark we turned off the White Rim and onto the Taylor Canyon Road. As I mentioned earlier this route was made up of sections of different roads and trails. Each was about 5 miles long so Holly and I would keep saying every time we reached an intersection "Off on another daily run!" since that is more my typical running distance. Really this 20 mile run was, for all intents and purposes, done off the couch. The last intersection with the usual poor views of sandstone towers, in this case Zeus and Moses:
And then we are off up the Alcove Springs trail which followed a sandy wash for over 4 miles:
We found a large cairn so we popped another stone on top and offered a prayer up to the canyon Gods to give us strength to climb the last 1,400 feet and 5 miles back up to the rim.
Eventually we reached the alcove for which the trail was named:
And shortly thereafter the trail really kicked up. I confess, walking happened here too, but it was hellish steep:
Before we knew it our desert adventure was over and we were back at the trailhead and ready to celebrate our awesome run across the Island in the Sky: