The Northwest Couloir of the Pfeifferhorn

3/13/14 – Well Jonny showed up for a week of skiing in mid-March and, given the stable conditions, he and those around him were able to get after it… Grete showed him and another friend, Bryce, the goods all week long around Silverfork, Solitude, and Big Cottonwood Canyon while I was stuck at work.  When that day came around to finally enjoy the weekend, our posse set our sights on one of the Wasatch classics – the Pfeifferhorn’s NW Couloir.  Jonny and I had camped below it the previous season and had a feeling we’d be coming back for the line.

So, we set out bright and early with our stomachs full of Chuck-o-Rama and wandered our way up to the top in only a few hours.  The skiing in the couloir was sketchy, wind-buffed, and bullet-proof above the mandatory rappel… PERFECT FOR ADVENTURE!  Below the cruxy and crusty rappel, the skiing improved dramatically and we each arched hero-snow super-g turns out on the apron below.  The snow was actually so good, we all went back up the apron for seconds! It was a glorious day filled with nerve-racking, butt-puckering “skiing” and spent with the best of friends.  Here are some pictures that probably tell the story a little better…

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A Couple Days in Fruita…

6/10 to 6/12/2014 – After a couple weeks of non-stop rafting work, Grete and I needed an escape, if only for a couple of days.  To get away, we headed west to Fruita, CO to bike, camp out and celebrate her birthday.  We arrived at Fruita’s desert mountain bike trail system during the heat of the day -over 90 degrees- and decided to celebrate her birthday a day early. Her gifts included some new bikepacking gear, and after opening it, we opted to head for a quick overnight along the Edge Loop and to check out the freshly constructed Sarlacc Trail.  We ended up packing through the heat of the day and hitting the trails once the temps started to drop!

That evening we cranked out roughly ten miles and found an excellent campsite off the trail just before dark.  Subtle cloud cover and a constant breeze created an excellent evening above the desert.

Waking up the next morning, on Grete’s birthday, I knew that it was a special day.  Enjoying the views over a delicious oatmeal breakfast, I decided to go dig around through my pack for a certain piece of jewelry I had been carrying around for about a month…

During the final fleeting sunburst of the morning, I asked Grete to come “check out this thing I found on the ground,” took a knee and asked her to marry me!  She said yes! I couldn’t be more excited to be engaged to the love of my life -my dream girl- Grete!

The rest of the day, and rest of the trip, was filled with blissful happiness as we camped under the stars, enjoyed our first campfire of the season, and biked around Loma the next day.  Here are a handful of pictures from the trip… enjoy!

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Mt. Adams

5/13 to 5/14/2014 – After a couple weeks of day-in and day-out work on the trailer, Grete and I were hitting a breaking point… We were craving adventure, the fresh mountain air, and getting away from our monster project born in 1973.  We had been shut down a week earlier on an attempt at the Hidden Lake Lookout in the North Cascades due to (for my second time) whiteout conditions above treeline, but the weather looked good for a shot at a volcano.

A couple days before the weather broke and we headed south, I received an unexpected phone call from a Solitude patrol buddy, Cam, who was heading north from Oregon and was looking for ski partners!  Both Cam and Grete had never skied in the Cascades, let alone a classic volcano, so I was excited to get out with them in the alpine.  We had quite the drive there (10 hours rather than the 5.5 expected) due to a snowed-out forest service road, but arrived at the trailhead/snowline around 2:30am and went right to sleep to prepare for the next day.

The next morning we munched some breakfast, packed, and headed out with the plan to climb to a high camp on the Lunch Counter, sleep there, then rally onwards for a morning summit.  The climb was beautiful and the weather was spot on, allowing us to enjoy a warm, glorious evening in the alpine.  The sunset views of Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens were astonishing and refreshing.  The summit climb the next morning went well until ~11,800′ when a strong shot of Acute Mountain Sickness overcame Grete.  Her and myself turned for lower altitude while Cam continued on to the 12,276′ summit.  We rejoined atop the SW Chutes, waited a short bit for the corn cycle to set in, then shredded down the 4,000′ of the chutes as well as another 3,000′ back to the cars! What a trip… and here are some photos to sum it up…  Also, check out Grete’s post about skiing Mt. Adams on 14erskiers’ blog here.

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Fall Washington Roadtrip

10/3/2013 to 10/6/2013 – Last fall Grete and I were back in Washington for a short bit and took a couple day road trip to break in the new truck, Wendy. We hoped to enjoy a bit of Washington’s authentic beauty so the drive focused on both hitting the Cascades as well as the coast.  Our drive went up and through North Cascades National Park, down to Whidbey Island, across to the Olympic Penninsula, and finished back in the Seattle area.  Anyways, Grete was ecstatic about the trees and the forests and the drive was an excellent refresher for myself as well.

Hopefully there should be a few more posts soon!

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The Kokopelli Trail

10/12/2013 to 10/17/2013 – While having a glorious conversation with Jonny Cromwell in mid-September, discussing adventures during his summer in Glacier Point, Alaska and his plans (or lack there of) for the fall and winter, we came to the conclusion that another bicycle trip was in order.  A couple weeks later, Grete and I happened to be driving through Whidbey Island on a Washington state wander breaking in the new truck (Wendy) and got ahold of Jonny.  He had just gotten in -that morning- from his ferry ride back from AK and we ended up enjoying dinner, drinks, and a night under the stars on his parents’ roof.

Before we left the next morning, it was decided that Jonny would be accompanying Grete, Bonnie, and myself back to Colorado in a couple days and that we would be figure it out from there.  On the drive back to CO, we called up Dave and informed him that he would be joining us (reuniting the Dream Team) on the Kokopelli Trail in a few days.  Of course, he was down.

A week later we met-up at Dave’s mom, Holly’s, house (launchpad for all great adventures it seems), grabbed free beer from a Coors short-tour and headed west-bound.  A couple hours into the drive, we got a little distracted and ended up going skiing on Vail Pass, then continued to the desert… And the rest is history… So here are some photos to tell the story!

For further reading (and more great photos), here is another take on our glorious ride by Dave (link). A fellow bicycle adventurist friend, Nicholas Carman, was only a few hours behind us on the ride (unaware to us until we arrived in Moab) and his excellent write-up can be found here (link).

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This is Going to be Fun…

9/12/2013 to 9/19/2013 – This is the story of Dave, Grete and my ride of the first half of the Colorado Trail (Denver to Buena Vista).  It was each of our first endeavors in bikepacking, and was one hell of a great ride. The words for this post were generously provided by Grete Gansauer and the photos are by yours truly… Enjoy!

Packed and Ready to Go

Remember that week in mid-September when Colorado was under water and under a state of emergency due to the ‘hundred year rain storm’? Dave, Zach and I certainly do, since that was the week we decided to bike-pack half of the Colorado Trail! Maybe it was bad luck, maybe it was Nature forcing Zach to take a shower for once (zing!) but it was definitely an unforgettable experience that I long to repeat.

Grete and Green Moss

My adopted mantra, “This is going to be fun” rattled mockingly in my mind on the inclement morning of our departure. The grim 7-day forecast was out of my control, but I knew I had the power to keep my spirits up. The sky was saturated; shrouded in an impenetrable, hopeless gray that belongs in old maritime lore. In a jeering trial of morale, the heavens pelted us with angry raindrops as we loaded our bikes into Dave’s faithful Toyota PREVIA minivan, Bessie.

Dave biking through Remnants of the Hayman Fire

The clouds hung low as they unleashed their torrent upon us. We lingered in the garage packing and procrastinating. “You know, Moab’s forecast calls for warm temperatures and sun this week,” Dave’s mother Holly suggested brightly. Neither Holly’s alternative nor Mother Nature’s furious baptism were no matter, our hearts were set on pedaling through Colorado’s soggy autumn.

Bailey Resupply

To our surprise, an intermission in the storm greeted our arrival at the Waterton Canyon trailhead (the Northern terminus of the Colorado Trail, and the beginning of our pedal southwest). The rain was relenting, and an encouraging sapphire window was peeking through the sky’s gloomy veil. We burst into hollers of excitement, gitty with the prospect of dryness. We hastily unloaded our bikes from Dave’s PREVIA, reloaded the bikes with gear, saddled our mounts and hit the trail. This is going to be fun.

Grete Enjoying Some Roots on Kenosha Pass

That day, we wound our way up the lush, lonely Waterton Canyon, surmounting the ridge, descending the flip side, and eventually making camp a few miles into segment two. The trail made laidback work of the climb, twisting its way through the drainage and switchbacking like embroidery in the hills. The singletrack of the first section was well-constructed and fun—segment one would be an exciting out-and-back day trip to repeat without weight.

Photo by Grete

Photo by Grete

As an enthused cyclist but novice bike-packer, I found pedaling with added weight was initially very difficult. Luckily I got used to it, since we had seven more days of pedaling ahead of us!

Dave Descending Georgia Pass

And so the week rolled on, our emotions undulating like the terrain. The Lows came and quickly went like the rainstorms; lingering until bright rays of sunshine chased the clouds away.

Grete Breckenridge-Bound

“What comes down must go back up,” I brooded silently during one descent, tainting my own enjoyment with foreseeable toil. I caught a glimpse of the upcoming climb and my eyes widened with a sarcastic roll: “This is going to be fun…”

Dave Ascending Searle Pass Above Janet's Cabin

I felt my mood darkening, and as we began to climb again, ‘The Low’ was settling in. Every breath was a chore, every pedal stroke a throbbing burden. It wasn’t long until I submitted to defeat and dismounted, figuring I could make easier work of stumbling up the mud and rain-lacquered rocks. As I plodded every step, draped like a sloth off my handlebars, my feet hung limp at the ends of my legs. My head hung limp off my neck. I watched the ground pass, knowing that if I picked my chin up I would see the trail rising like a tidal wave before me.

Campsite Just below Kokomo Pass

I trudged on, fighting gravity, unaware of my whereabouts, steadily digging deeper into The Low. I paused for a moment. “Well this is an adventure,” I panted. And then it hit me. This is an ADVENTURE. I gripped the words with white knuckles. This is why I am here. Every breath is a gift, and every pedal stroke propels me closer to the top, closer to my goal. This is fun.

Restocking in Leadville

Eventually, in my rejuvenated spirit I found Zach and Dave who had stopped to rest and let their laughter ring through the forest. Their smiles stirred the bitter cloud that had enveloped me. And they gave me some gummy worms to eat, which helped too. Dave led Zach and me in a routine yoga session—a welcome change of pace for our weary muscles and minds. Limbered up and refueled, we pedaled on, excited for the ensuing descent. “This is going to be fun!!” we howled together.

Riding Through Aspen Groves at the Base of Mt. Elbert

Over the course of that week in the mountains, The Low sought each mind individually, when we were under separate pressures. But the highs were shared.

Dave Bursting Through Sunlit Aspen

We sped through descents together, our nonsensical whoops singing back and forth because the adrenaline in our veins bubbled right up and out of our throats. We tossed our heads back in laughter together, hearts thumping excitedly in our chests. We basked in the grandeur of the Colorado Mountains together, like specks among giants. We were alive together, relishing in the euphoria of adventure.

Descending to Clear Creek Resevoir

On the eighth day, we pedaled into Buena Vista together and smiling. Though Buena Vista is only at about the halfway point of the Colorado Trail, this was our end due to time constraints and technical difficulties. We made it. Memories of agonizing ascents melted with each high-five and congratulatory hug when we pulled into town. Almost immediately we burst into recounting silly stories from the trip. We spent eight days together and still had conversation to share. Silently, I sighed in reverie. That was so much fun.

Tunnels into Buena Vista

PS – If you dug this but wanted another take on the ride (including a video), check out Dave’s post about it at this link.

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Its Been a Tremendous Fall

Just to keep you all up to date… photos will be coming sooner or later concerning last winter, spring, and summer as well as this fall.  It has been a busy post-rafting season which has allowed no time for editing but I am going to work harder than ever before to get up stories this winter.  I believe that the blog may become a bit less written-story-focused and, instead, develop towards letting the pictures tell the story (also to expedite updates).  Adventures to look forward to include: rafting in Idaho, bikepacking on the Colorado Trail, Washington wandering and bikepacking the Kokopelli Trail… SO GET EXCITED!

Afternoon Camp Near Kokomo Pass

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