I have noted articles on ski mountaineering outside the Northwest when they contain interesting ideas or trends.
Rock & Ice, 1984
Mar 1984, p. 2: Harlin, John, "Skiing Long's Peak"In May 1983, the author made what may have been the first ski descent of Long's Peak in Colorado, via the north face. He was accompanied by Niels Anders Thorn, who took pictures but did not ski the mountain. Most of the face was of moderate angle--no more than 40 degrees--but the author used a rope for safety at the Cables section. He writes of Long's Peak: "Its virginity speaks more to a lack of interest in the sport of peak descents than to any difficulty or poor conditions. [...] Europeans have proven years ago that most moderate snow and ice climbs can be skied under decent snow conditions."
Sep 1984, p. 3: Harlin, John, "Notch Busters, or Skiing the East Face of Long's Peak"Jimmy Katz and the author made the first ski descent of the east face of Long's Peak in Colorado in 1984 via the Notch Couloir, Broadway Ledge and Lamb's Slide. The pair belayed most of the exposed 45 to 50-degree descent by tying two ropes together and running them through a fixed anchor so that each skier descended with a top-rope. They made one rappel in the couloir and Harlin traversed Broadway on skis with an ice axe in one hand and a ski pole in the other as Katz crossed on foot. Most interesting are the author's comments on belayed skiing:"Belaying an 'extreme' descent raises a number of questions. Chris Landry's definition of extreme skiing easily catches the public's imagination: 'If you fall, you die.' By that philosophy, a belay would automatically remove the descent from the extreme category. But, for crying out loud, climbers can do hard and interesting things in the mountains without undue worrying about death. Why not skiers? Why must steep skiing be free-soloing? So, I rationalized to myself, belaying could and ought to be introduced to 'extreme' skiing. Someone else could have the honor of the first 'free-solo' of the descent if they so chose."
Rock & Ice, 1985
Nov 1985, p. 29: Harlin, John, "Huascaran on Pins"This article describes an expedition by Jimmy Katz, Steve Howe and the author to make the first three-pin nordic ski descent of Huascaran in Peru. The article is interesting for the subtle stylistic distinctions involved in "nordic" ski descents. The team had a rivalry with Rick Wyatt, who made the first nordic ski descent of the Grand Teton in 1982. On Huascaran, Wyatt skied the peak first, using plastic mountaineering boots, cable bindings, and alpine-width skis, "a unique free-heeled version of alpine randonee equipment." The author's party used three-pin bindings, leather boots and skinnier skis, "all superior for touring and walking." [To avoid this sort of hair splitting, I make no effort in this project to separate descents using one sort of gear from those using another. See What is a Ski?]
Rock & Ice, 1986
Jan 1986, p. 63: Smith, Terry, "White Weekends"The author praises the new generation of alpine touring gear, particularly the equipment designed and sold by Paul Ramer. According to Ramer, "the salespeople at many mountain shops were selling the public a bill of goods on the 'telemark craze.'" For those who are not "hot-shot 'career' three-pin skiers" modern alpine touring gear is a better choice for above-timberline backcountry skiing, writes the author.
Mar 1986, p. 40: Skoog, Lowell, "Skiing the Picket Range""During the last five to ten years, backcountry skiers throughout the western United States have been searching for the ultimate American high route. Inspired by the Haute Route of the Alps, they have established traverses like the Colorado Grand Tour and the Sierra Crest Route." In the North Cascades, the Ptarmigan Traverse was first skied in June 1981 by Brian Sullivan, Dan Stage and Dick Easter. In March 1983, Sullivan, Gary Brill, Mark Hutson and the author skied the crest between Snowfield and Eldorado Peaks, which they dubbed the "Isolation Traverse." One final section of the Cascade crest between Glacier Peak and the Canadian border remained to be skied, "a supremely rugged area known as the Picket Range."
In May 1985, Carl Skoog, Jens Kieler [then Kuljurgis] and the author traversed from Hannegan Pass to Diablo through the Picket Range in six days, making a ski ascent and descent of Mt Fury along the way. Regarding the trip philosophy: "We had all climbed in the Picket Range before, so we were familiar with the terrain. Still, I knew it would be different on skis. Skiers and climbers see the mountains differently. They look for different routes; they appreciate different lines. Our intention was not to force a route where skis didn't belong, or where they were a handicap. I wanted to find a natural line, a skier's line--to experience that part of the Picket Range where skiing made sense." Finally: "I thought about the other trips, of the Ptarmigan and Isolation Traverses, and realized that the ultimate tour would be to combine all three."
The article includes two sketch maps and the following photos:
- Carl Skoog and Jens Kuljurgis descend the Chilliwack River trail, skiing on dirt.
- Lowell Skoog admires the north face of Mt Fury from Challenger Arm.
- Jens Kuljurgis climbs on skis toward the summit of Mt Fury.
- Sunrise and Luna Peak viewed from SE Fury col.
- Carl Skoog stands on Stetattle Ridge at dawn above a cloud sea with the North Cascades in the background.
- Carl Skoog skis Stetattle Ridge.
Sep 1986, p. 93: Blumstein, Daniel T., "Avalanche Hazards and the Extreme Skier and Big Mountain Climber"Avalanche expert Betsy Armstrong notes that experienced skiers take more risks: "They develop a mind set--it's not going to happen to me--other people may get caught--but not me." Paul Ramer observes: "Sports that incorporate extreme physical risk are truly suicidal without a very high level of integrity," which he defines as not breaking personal promises with oneself. Knox Williams of the Colorado Avalanche Center said that he sees extreme skiers and big-mountain climbers pressing their limits and that they are willing to sacrifice things in the pursuit of their goals. "They violate a lot of rules." In the September 19, 1969 issue of Science, Chauncey Starr wrote, "The acceptability of risk appears to be crudely proportional to the third power of the benefits (real or imagined)." The author concludes, "If the benefits (adrenaline, prestige, etc.) are great enough, the risks taken or sacrifices made may be immense."
Rock & Ice, 1987
Jan 1987, p. 75: Oliver, Charly, "Steep Thrills (Down)"Sylvain Saudan: "The extreme begins on slopes above 45 degrees at heights where a fall may be fatal." Anselme Baud: "I don't believe we can ski down thinking we can fall." Patrick Vallencant: "With extreme skiing, you don't have to be such a good skier, but you must be strong in your mind." The article includes advice for those interested in steep skiing and a list of seven selected ski descents in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Mar 1987, p. 74: Oliver, Charly, "Randonee Equipment""Here in the States we go ski touring in the high mountains, but most of us do it on three-pin gear," writes the author. Among alpine tourers, "many people use their plastic climbing boots in leiu of a true randonee boot." The author discusses alpine touring skis from Fischer and Tua, bindings from Salewa and Petzl, boots from Dynafit and Koflach, and accessory items such as skins, poles, avalanche transceivers and shovels.
Nov 1987, p. 8: Pole, Graeme, "Viewpoint: The Penny Drops""In the mountaineering community, it takes more courage to speak from the heart on the matter of why we climb than it does to put up a bold new route, or point skis into a desperate fall line. Such words are not words of habit. And they demand some objective distance. They are not painted darkly with the pathetic black humor and morbid understatement of the hard man recounting his many brushes with death. No, they pulse with the desire of lives which long to transcend the growing phase which extreme sport now represents in our society. They are full of a longing that our mountain experiences truly enrich our lives, and not steal us from our place mid-stride."
Nov 1987, p. 40: Hildebrand, Jack, M.D., "Ski Mountaineering""This form of skiing is not particularly popular in the United States, but has a tremendous appeal in the European Alps," writes the author. He discusses skis, boots, bindings, poles, skins, bivouac essentials, and where to go. The Koflach Valluga has been the most popular ski mountaineering boot in Europe. For bindings, he describes models from Emery, Silvretta, Petzl, Ramer, Salewa, Tyrolia, and Secura-Fix, an adapter that turns a step-in downhill binding into a touring binding.
Rock & Ice, 1988
Jan 1988, p. 26: Vogler, Romain, "Surf's Down"On April 22, 1987, Bruno Gouvy descended the Eiger west face, Matterhorn east face and Grandes Jorasses south face in a single day on a snowboard. He flew by helicopter to the summit of the Matterhorn and made his descents carrying an ice hammer in each hand for security. This article introduced the idea of extreme snowboarding to the U.S. mountaineering community.
Rock & Ice, 1989
Jan 1989, p. 72: Vulliamy-Lanctot, Dominique, "Extreme Ski!"This is a profile of Pierre Tardivel, the latest extreme skiing phenomenon in France. Tardivel, 25, began skiing at age 13 and soon started tackling steep terrain under the tutorship of Daniel Chauchefoin, another famous French extreme skier. In his late teens he repeated most of the famous alpine descents (listed here) and pioneered twenty-seven new routes, the latest being the Eckpfeiler Buttress on the Grand Pilier D'Angle and the Brenva Pass on Mont Blanc. Tardivel says, "I don't like the word extreme. What I do is never extreme. On a 60-degree incline, when I take a turn, I'm sure of myself. You mustn't consider the slope, but the quality of the snow. You can be more scared on a 50-degree slope with icy or rotten snow than on 60 or 65-degree slopes in good condition."
Jan 1989, p. 76: Oliver, Charly, "How to Ski the Extreme"According to this author, extreme skiing begins on slopes of about 40 degrees and becomes nearly impossible on slopes exceeding 65 degrees. "To date, no one has actually skied slopes much steeper than 65 degrees." He provides good explanations of steep skiing techniques: side slipping, pedal jump turn, parallel jump turn, and windshield wiper turn. The windshield wiper turn is for soft, deep snow up to about 50 degrees. The pedal jump is most effective in deep powder or crud, when you have to leap clear of the snow to make each turn. The parallel jump is most effective on harder snow, including corn, where the skis are not buried deeply. The author discusses using self-arrest ski pole grips and rope belays for safety. "Using as few aids as possible, being bold, skiing without a rope, and jumping cliffs instead of rappelling them, is going to be accepted as the best style, no matter how foolhardy it may seem. Hopefully, a balance somewhere between will allow most skiers to challenge their technique and ability without needlessly endangering their lives, subsequently affording the most gratifying experience possible. However you approach the sport, keep in mind that skiing is not worth dying for."
Jan 1989, p. 83: Oliver, Charly, "Review: Skiing Extreme"The author was asked to review "Skiing Extreme," a video by Eric Perlman. He writes, "There is not much of what I would call 'extreme skiing' shown, though there are some quite radical ski maneuvers going on." The author's concept of extreme skiing is the European one, the descent of steep snow faces and gullies in high mountains. This video features "skiers screaming off cliffs, flying through the air, crashing and having what looks to be a riotous time." He concludes: "If you get a kick out of watching 22 minutes of radical skiing, I'm sure you'll enjoy this video. But don't expect to see the 'good stuff' 'cause it ain't on this one, folks."
Mar 1989, p. 34: Skoog, Lowell, "Flight of the Ptarmigan"This article describes a one-day ski crossing of the Ptarmigan Traverse by Lowell and Carl Skoog in June 1988. A quote: "I was struck by how my perception of the Traverse had changed. It wasn't that the route seemed any shorter--no my sore muscles prevented that impression from forming. It was that I now grasped the entire traverse as a whole--as though we had written our tracks across it in one flowing stroke." The article contains information about the Ptarmigan Climbing Club that pioneered the route on foot fifty years earlier. It includes a sketchmap of the traverse and the following photos:
- Mark Hutson skiing toward the South Cascade Glacier at sunset (by Kerry Ritland).
- Lowell Skoog near the end of the traverse with Glacier Peak in the distance.
- Carl Skoog at Cache Col at dawn with Mt Johannesburg in the distance.
Nov 1989, p. 58: Katz, Jimmy, "The Cold War Thaws on Liberty Ridge"In 1983, Tom Carr and Eric Hendren descended Mt Rainier's Liberty Ridge on nordic ski gear. In June 1989 the author made another nordic ski descent of the route, accompanied by Valentin Trenev, a Bulgarian alpinist, on foot. He discusses his philosophy of steep skiing: "I'm not interested in extreme skiing where 'if you fall you die.' I like to do 'adventure routes,' where I could learn from my mistakes. I figured if I was going to risk my life, it should be for something more socially significant. Nordic gear provides the right tool for many situations and allows me to challenge myself while skiing lower-angled slopes." (See also rnews-1990.)
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