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.

Follow Ann Driggers on Twitter by clicking HERE.

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Foiled Again

By Ann Driggers
Thursday, April 2, 2009

It’s been a wee while since I wrote my first and only post about kiting. Kiting silence on the blog does not reflect reality. I have been able to get out and practice a fair few times both in the park and on the snow. However the conditions haven’t always been too favorable with winds either dead calm or close to hurricane force. Of course I have had plenty of fun trying, whether snoozing in the grass at Canyon View waiting for the wind to pick up, shooting across a snowy meadow whilst being lashed by willows, or scattering geese on the thawing ice of Lake Dillon. Indeed entertainment has not been in short supply, but progress has.

Kiting at Canyon View or Waiting for the Wind.

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However, an opportunity to proceed beyond the comedy show recently beckoned. I was invited to receive a lesson from the best snowkiting instructors in the country, who happened to stop by the Mesa one afternoon this week. Furthermore conditions promised to be good with a forecast for 10 to 15 mph winds and a recent dump of fresh powder providing a soft landing for the inevitable wipeouts. With great anticipation I drove up the Mesa. But upon arriving at the Lands End Road the weather forecast looked kind of wrong. Actually it was very wrong. A quick check of the anemometer revealed sustained winds in the low 20’s with gusts of 30 mph. The temps were in the single digits, wind chills were well below zero and it was snowing about an inch per hour. Uggh! 

Still, all the students were very enthusiastic, as were the instructors, so we headed out into the meadow to begin our lessons.

Enthusiasm withstands the nasty weather.

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We were barely 30 minutes into the proceedings before I had a white patch growing on my cheek - the first signs of frost nip. I had to return to the warmth of the truck to take care of it. After that I had a very hard time getting warm again and the weather continued to be pretty nasty, so my afternoon was spent hunkered down inside.

My view for the majority of the afternoon. Yes, that does say 9 F at 3:08 p.m. Lovely springtime weather!

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So unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make much in the way of progress but I did manage to snap some photos of the pros ripping across the snow. Hopefully I will luck out soon and the right weather conditions will coincide with my kiting attempts. I swear it wont be long before I too am jetting through the powder behind a kite. The pros show us how its done:

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They have some fine tricks too...

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And some goofy ones....

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MOG Sale and Outdoor Festival

By Ann Driggers
Wednesday, April 1, 2009

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Saturday April 11th brings the 4th Annual Manufacturers of Outdoor Gear (MOG) and Outdoor Festival to downtown Grand Junction. If you are interested in screaming deals on outdoor gear and clothing (who isn't?), or catching the Telluride Mountain Film Festival or hanging with fellow outdoor folks at the LOKI party, this is the event of the year. See you there!

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Going Big

By Ann Driggers
Sunday, March 29, 2009

- big adjective big-ger, big-gest, 1. large, as in size, height, width or amount, 2. of major concern, gravity, importance or the like, 3. outstanding for a specified quality. Yesterday was a big day in the San Juan's. My ski buddy Jack Brauer, along with friends Parker and Aimee, skied two big lines which added up to around 5,000 feet of vertical. The recent storm refreshed the relatively consolidated snowpack with a foot of powder, allowing us to center punch north faces in fantastic conditions. Here's how the day went down: Jack and Parker skin up on their splitboards through light wind buffed powder. The San Juan mountains above Red Mountain Pass provide the back drop.

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After two hours of climbing we receive our reward, the first descent of the day. Parker rides between the rails - mine and Aimee's ski tracks.

Parker Rides.jpg

The bottom of the face converges into a large gully, all of it serious avalanche terrain. Jack enters the half pipe. Our run ends at the road far beneath us.

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Our second ascent of the day starts with a little creek jumping which was accomplished without mishap. Jack makes the leap:

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Above tree line our goal comes into view. This massive face is almost 2,000 feet long.

For more photos from this trip and others check out Jack Brauer's website.

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Jack continues the shredding.

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And keeps on going.

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Upon reaching the base of the face the valley curves around for even more descending and it was a couple of miles before we hit the road. After almost 8 hours and with barely a break, we reach the car exhausted but exhilarated, a combination which is achieved after a big day.

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Sky Chutes

By Ann Driggers
Sunday, March 22, 2009

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Without fail, every one of the many times I have driven I70 over Vail Pass, as I round the corner past Copper ski area, my eyes lock onto the Sky Chutes. An improbable feat of nature, the three couloirs etch the word SKY onto the west side of the Ten Mile Range. Reportedly these chutes are classic ski lines and in my driving daydreams I have skied them many times. But never for real. Until this weekend. My husband, Chad and I were staying with friends in Breckenridge and I quickly found an excuse to forgo the $92 ice skating ticket. Save money and go ski the sky? It was a no-brainer for me, though I was unable to persuade anyone else to join me. No matter… The weather was forecast to be very warm and sunny, so I was eager to be up and out early on, and now I could make my own schedule. Despite the chutes westerly aspect and the snowpack being relatively consolidated, the previous day’s avalanche report of wet slides in the area had me a tad worried. As the sun rose, I crossed the Tenmile Creek and climbed directly into the base of the S chute. For the most part it was broad and flat, and about 50 feet wide as it snaked its way upwards through dark lodge pole forest. The slope angle was a mild 30 degrees, allowing me to skin all the way, though I was definitely loving my secret weapon, ski crampons.

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I took my time, climbing slowly and steadily at a pace befitting of someone who was playing air hockey interspersed with tequila shots just eight hours earlier. I stopped frequently and watched the sun’s rays slowly creep down the side of Copper Mountain. After climbing 2,500 feet I ran out of snow and reached the windblown and grassy ridge. Despite my rather laxidasical pace the sun had yet to penetrate the inner shadows of the S chute and the snow was icy. I was way ahead of the schedule for corn skiing. Time was needed for the chute to transform into the buttery snow I had dreamed of. I decided to wait. I found a comfy snow seat sheltered by a stunted tree and had a snack. I looked at the incredible views south over Tennessee Pass. I called my mum in England to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day (not the same Sunday as in the US). Luckily she didn’t answer the phone. She may have said “You are where?!” and “I’d rather hear about your adventures AFTER them and not during!” I waited some more. I called Chad. They were cooking bacon and eggs. That sounded rather good. My resolve to stay put began to crumble. My breakfast-less stomach started to grumble.

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I clicked into my skis and headed down, skiing the south facing side of the chute where the sun had lightly softened the snow. In just a matter of minutes I was back at the creek. I briefly entertained the idea of climbing up the adjacent K chute, but decided to leave it for another day. After all I need something else to dream about next time I drive over Vail Pass.

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Signs of Spring

By Ann Driggers
Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The sun is shining and the temps are climbing. Spring has almost sprung in the Grand Valley. Now there is plenty of daylight after work I figured it was time to break out the mountain bike for the first ride of the year. As I packed up my gear early this morning, I made double sure I had everything. Bike, check, shoes, check, helmet, yes, camelback, yup. Good to go. And then I looked at my bike shorts. Eeeek! I was struck with a terrifying thought. My blinding pasty white legs, hidden in ski pants all winter long, would surely burn the corneas of any poor soul who agreed to ride with me. Right there and then, I made the decision to ride alone. I also reasoned that I needed to take my time to get back into the groove having been off the bike for six months. No partner would thank me for standing around waiting while being subject to involuntary lasik eye surgery. So toute seule, I headed out to Kokopelli's trailhead for my 2009 season opener.

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Looping through sage brush and pinyon, the trails roll over red rock benches above the Colorado River. The fast, ripping desert single track has a few mild technical sections thrown in which yanked my eyes from the scenery once in a while. The trails were in great shape for early season riding. There were few signs that the desert is waking up to spring yet, but 70 degrees sure makes it feel like it. About the only indicator I could see was the number of others out there with pale glowing limbs, also dusting off the cobwebs and stretching the riding legs. I guess I wasn't alone after all.

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