Adventures, Training, Uncategorized

Step 3 The Gear (this is the expensive part )

When I started this project in early fall I was pretty naive to the amount of gear that would be needed to get this thing going. I kinda though all I really need was a splitboard………turns out I was way wrong. Since then I have purchased bindings, specialized boots, climbing skins, and the board. Its a lot of big purchases but totally worth it when your carving beautiful powder with no lift line. My backcountry kit includes a bunch of items I am going to touch on the Splitboard specific ones in the below post:

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Thirty-two Jones MTB Boots-  https://www.backcountry.com/thirtytwo-jones-mtb-snowboard-boot-mens

While its possible to skin uphill in normal snowboard boots, its certainly not ideal. Normal boots have very little flex and make it less then comfortable to go up hill. Think about walking up or down the steps to the bar in the ski lodge in your normal shred boots, the stiffness and angle make it awkward to walk normal (This could also be do to the bar items). These boots allow you to pull a lever and open up the back area of the boot. This allows your ankle to move normally for the uphill. Once you get up top you can lock it down as stiff as you want and ride down. Additionally they come with all kinds of foam risers, pads, and plastic stiffeners to allow you to customize your ride. I really like the arch support options pictured below. The boots are pricey but totally worth it. Tip- if your an AAC member you can get a discount for soft goods at Backcountry.com. Not only do they have great prices but their gear heads are super knowledgeable and helpful. I felt like I was talking to a friend about gear and not your average customer service rep.

Jones Explorer 156 (Explorer) – worth every penny. I picked board because it is designed to function well in a variety of conditions. Additionally I am a huge fan of the environmentalism that the Jones Brand supports

Jones Nomad Pro Skins (Skins)- These got great reviews and are reasonable in price. They worked great on my first day touring in them. No slipping, bubbles, or fit issues.

Spark  R&D Surge Bindings (Bindings)- These bindings had great reviews and had all the features that I was looking for- easy mounting system, wammy bars, and Burton Straps. I also found them to be much cheaper then many competitor products.

Stay tuned to see how this set up worked on some Catskill Backcountry runs.

 

Adventures

Cold Redemption Part 2 of 3

As soon as we dropped our packs I pulled out my phone and found that we had enough service to send a text so I quickly messaged our location, situation, and general plan to my wife. I let her know that I would check back in shortly. It took me about 20 minutes to set the tent up as it required a lot of digging and shoveling to make a solid surface in the deep snow below the tent. At this point Mike added some extra dry layers and did some of the shoveling to try to warm up. Once the tent was up I had him get inside and get into my -15 degree sleeping bag, while I worked outside to secure the tent with a buried ice axe dead-man anchor and some trees. At that point I realized that Mike had dropped his Axe and a large water bottle when he fell about a half mile back up the trail. While there was plenty of snow to melt losing the water bottle would not be ideal, so I opted to hike back up and find it. I checked on Mike and found that he was still cold but feeling a bit better. I told him to do some sit ups every few minutes and to eat some bars to help warm him up.  It only took me about 15 minutes to return to the tent with the lost axe and bottle. At this point Mike was halfway out of the bag and rummaging through his bag for food. In hindsight I am kind of an A hole for not just getting him the bars to make it easier. He was now complaining of being even colder and moral was at an all-time low. In terms of moral something really changed at this point, Mike went from being cold but not really worried to really anxious and frustrated. Noticing this change, I decided it was best to come up with a plan based on a couple key priorities. Priority one was to get Mike to warm up to a point in which he was comfortable and out of any hypothermia or frostbite danger. After that I would have to assess if this plan was sustainable overnight for both of us or would it be safer to hike out before the sunset. Once I explained this to Mike he seemed to be a bit less anxious and really accepted the magnitude of the situation.

Ok priority one, get warm. Mike was now in the bag, fully zipped up and wearing pretty much all the clothing he had. To further improve on this I had him add the SOL Escape Pro Bivy to the system. This handy Bivy is made of a Sympatex Reflexion material and really helps to warm you up by trapping in body heat but keeps moisture out. He added this as a top layer to this sleeping bag. While he was doing that I fired up the stove and boiled a full 32oz bottle of water. I placed this bottle inside the bivy storage bag and had him place this near his feet inside the bivy. I should mention that I had been doing my best to limit cold air entering the tent. Within about 20 minutes Mike was feeling much better and was actually starting to get to warm. At this point now that he was not in pain or cold distress we began talking about priority two which was sustainability. Assessing our situation I felt that if it was possible for Mike to hike out today and that we would be taking a lot less risk by not staying overnight. Mike concluded that is was not fatigue that had caused him to want to stop earlier but really just being cold.  The hike out would only involve about 500 feet of elevation gain and then a long but not technical decent back to the Jeep. Mike stayed in the tent as I organized gear, removed the shell and undid all the anchors. I texted my wife letting her know that we were hiking out and after about five minutes of haphazardly gear packing we were on our way. I took as much weight from Mike as possible to make the climb easier. Additionally we put crampons on to ascend the steep slope that was now completely packed down. Mike dropped a few layers as we approached the slope and then added them once we got to the top and started heading down. All in all it took us a couple hours to hike out but we made it back to the Jeep just before sunset. We joked on the way home about all the mistake we had made and how bad it could have been. And while we had to bail on the overnight I was happy to have reached the summit and proud to have at least made the decision to hike out.

Catskill Winter Backpacking 1 –  Mike and Andrew 0.   Stay tuned to hear how we evened the score in Part 3.

Adventures

Cold Redemption Part 1 of 3

It was 7:00am on January 29th 2017 when we arrived at the lot on Rt 47 for Slide Mountain in New Yorks Catskill Mountains. We had an uneventful drive up from Philly with zero signs of snow until we hit some light snow fall on route 28 in Saugerties. When we got to the parking area there was fresh snow on the cars in the lot and it was lightly snowing. In addition to the snow it was a bit colder than forecasted with temps in the upper 20s at the base. We geared up and started up, my first warning sign should have been Mikes refusal to drop a few layers before starting up. At the time Mike and I had only been on a handful of short backpacking trips together, but almost all of them involved steep ascents and mountain conditions. However, Mike had never hiked in the winter or had any experience with Snowshoes, Crampons, or winter sleep systems. This likely should have been my second warning sign but I had a good amount of winter experience and was comfortable with the terrain. My thought process was that if we had the right gear (which we did) and took it easy we would have no serious issues. Turns out I was wrong.

Slide Mountain at 4180 feet towers over New York’s Catskill Mountains and is one of two peaks that extend over 4000 feet in elevation putting both summits on the Northeast 115 high peaks list.  Slide is a popular warm weather hike but seems to be lightly traveled in the winter months. In terms of difficulty, the popular Catskill High Peaks guide site Catskillmountaineer.com lists the hike as moderate with a total elevation gain of 1749 feet. Our last Catskill backpacking trip involved around the same gain and I had previously had days of over 6000 before. This led me to thinking that this would be a decent first winter summit for Mike. However heavy packs and fresh snow meant slow going up the long gradual slopes. In addition Mike had never walked in Snowshoes or crampons before which added to our growing list of red flags. Mike was cold immediately after stepping out of the Jeep and really loaded up on layers. In particular he had a thick beanie type hat and large Marmot Ama Dablam jacket on. Both are great for camp or breaks but not great for hiking uphill. This goes against my general rule of starting out cold and then warming up as I start moving uphill. My thought process was that once he warms up he will shed a layer. As we made our way up I asked a few times if he was warm enough to remove the heavy down jacket, each time he replied that he was still cold. In hindsight this should have been a redflag turn back sign as I was only hiking in a long-sleeved Tech shirt and thin gloves. However I figured that because we were moving slower that maybe Mike as actually cold? I had him switch to my lighter more aggressive MSR snowshoes to increase our speed. However this did not do much to help as we still ended up taking frequent breaks and getting cold. Shortly after this Mike asked if I had a warmer pair of gloves. He had been hiking in a pretty warm pair of OR gloves but they had gotten wet (likely sweat). Yep another red flag, we were planning on a cold camping night and his gloves were already wet. I gave him my Black Diamond guide gloves that I had brought to sleep in and we pushed on.

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Shortly after a steep section I noticed that the back of Mikes down puffy looking wet near his neck area. I stopped and asked him if was warm and he said no he was still cold. I called out that he was starting to sweat through his jacket and he replied that he had not even noticed. R E D F L A G! He ended up taking off the jacket and pushing on until we got about a half mile from the summit and he decided that he had to put it back on as he was really cold. I figured there was no harm in pushing to the summit as we could always turn around and head back to the car. However when we reached the summit Mike had warmed up and he was noticeably in a better mood and wanted to push on. Our plan was to descend down the back of the mountain to a col between Slide Mountain and Cornell Mountain that was known to be a solid camping area. Spirits were now high and we pushed down past the summit. The terrain was mellow at first until the trail narrowed and became really steep and covered with deep snow. At this point the wind was blowing snow off the tight trees and on to us. I stopped before a short but very steep slope to check on Mike and offer him the rope that I had hauled up for a rappel. The terrain was steep but not run out or overly dangerous, a slip would mean sliding 10 feet down the snowy slope to a flat area. I offered to set up a rappel but Mike was confident that he could easily get down. In hindsight he was likely starting to get cold and did want to take the time to rappel or short rope down the slope. Another red flag that I should have identified and forced him to lower down the rope. At his point Mike was wearing really nice MSR snowshoes with a solid crampon bottom, which should have allowed for him to easily descend the slope. However, fatigue and inexperience led to a slip and fall about half way down. This did not result in any injuries but did cover Mike in wet snow.

He got up brushed off the best he could and we pushed on. However, the fall, cold temps, and increasing wind severely depleted moral and I could tell Mike was ready to stop. At this point I started to throw out the option of bailing and turning back to the car. However, Mike was adversely against going back up the steep sections and inclines again today. He had slowed down a bunch in the last few minutes and was now saying that his toes were cold. I knew we had to make camp as soon as possible but I wanted to get lower on the mountain, we were still around 3000 feet. However, I feared that Mike would not be able to make it out if we descended any further down the slope. I decided that I would keep pushing down until I found a sheltered spot for camp. A few minutes later I found great spot that was protected by thick pines and a large hillside and opted to set up camp as fast as possible and get Mike to warm up.

Stayed tuned for Part 2 to see if we make it :).

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Adventures

Step 2 Finding “Local” Powder

Disclaimer- If you are looking for long, super steep, and exposed back country runs this info will likely not help you much, as these are found  mostly well outside the Philly area day trip range.

The next step in my Flatlander splitboard project is to start scouting out and reporting back on some “local” backcountry areas to skin up and ride down. This is in addition to the list of local resorts that allow uphill travel in step 1. The goal of finding BC areas is to beat the crowds and save on access fees. I think Jeremy Jones says it best with  “Price of admission is lots of calories”.  I am designating “local” as areas that are within a reasonable day trip of my house in SE Pennsylvania. This really means that it should take me no more then 3.5 hours each way.  While 7 hours of driving in one day is not ideal, it is certainly doable. However this is a last resort in favor of backpacking, car camping, or local hotels/Air BNBs. The goal is to maximize the time outside and minimize the travel time.

My plan is to explore the Catskills, Hudson Valley, and Northern Pennsylvania this winter and keep updating new areas and trip logs here. This past weekend I made it out to Bearpen Mountain with @pinto375 with the goal to bag another Catskill 3500 summit and explore the possibility of back country snowboarding. While my Splitboard did not arrive in time we were graced by a rare heavy snow in November, and I opted to haul up a resort board. We ended up finding ride-able lines and beautiful hiking.

Bearpen Mountain sits just outside the North Western edge of the Catskill Park and legend has it that it was once a Ski resort back in the day. We parked at the end of the paved section of the southern side of Rt 3 near Fleischmanns. The parking is allowed in a very limited tight roadside area, this area is obvious to find as  every other tree seemed to be marked as “no parking” or “Keep Out”. We almost turned around as the area was still very active with hunters and we were not 100% clear if hiking was allowed on the non paved continuation of Rt 3. However after some rapid google fire we found that the state still had the right away up the road and into the State Forest and we had plenty of orange to wear. We hiked up passing many quad tracks and a super spooky and intimidating  hunting cabin with blacked out windows and a generator running. However once we got into the preserve it was clear that there were some great opportunities for skiing/snowboarding. We hiked up the old logging roads to the summit and found an awesome view point. From our perspective it looked like there were some opportunity for some super tight glades on the old grown in Ski trails. I strapped in and went down a short but steep drop off from the summit area and quickly found myself screaming down the snow cover logging road. I stopped about 250 feet down the road but could have easily kept going. My only caution is that the ruts from the ATVs made carving and checking speed pretty difficult.  The snow was thin but I believe later season snow pack and less motorized hunter travel will allow for some great mellow runs down the old logging roads and glades. After a few runs we turned around and started descending back to the car. Much of the old logging roads back to the car are steep enough and wide enough to comfortably ride and we quickly made it back to the car.

Overall Bearpen offered some fun mellow riding but looks to have some more potential on the North side of the mountain near Heissinger Road. I plan to head back soon and check out the potential on this side.  If your looking for any more info feel free to shoot me a PM on instagram @piotrowski1825.

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Adventures

Step 1 Gaining Access

UPDATED BELOW- The first step in my current Flatlander on the Mountain Splitboard project is to find out what local ski mountains allow uphill travel and the research/scout out some non-resort back country areas to ride. This week I started by sending an email to 10 Ski Resorts, these included:

Blue Mountain PA, Elk Mountain PA, Jack Frost/Big Boulder PA, Liberty Mountain PA, Ski Round Top PA, Camelback PA, Big Bear PA, Windham Mountain NY, Hunter Mountain NY, and Plattekill Mountain NY.

I have now heard back from 8 of the original 10, but I plan to expand this list to a couple other local ones including: Bear Creek PA, Belleayre NY, and Spring Mountain PA.

Windham NY – Yes!

Blue Mountain PA- Yes!

Ski Round Top PA- HARD NO

Jack Frost Big Boulder- No ( They claim they are too small)

Elk Mountain PA- no

Liberty Mountain PA- No response but likely no given they are affiliated with SRT.

Camelback PA- yes

Big Bear PA- sometimes

Hunter Mountain NY, – yes 2 hours before opening.

Plattekill Mountain NY.- Nothing yet but pretty sure its allowed per a online discussion.

Stay tuned more to come.