Friday, February 13, 2009

Classic Northwest Ski Tours - March 2009

In preparation for our upcoming spring ski season in Europe, the Northwest Mountain School will be running three classic Northwest Ski Tours in the month of March.  The tours are: The Forbidden Ski Tour (March 7-10, 2009), The Spearhead Ski Traverse (March 13-16, 2009), and the Chiwaukum Range Ski Traverse (March 19-22, 2009).  Each is a tour that can be done in one huge day, two big days, or as we are planning them, in 3 or 4 days focused on getting in as much great skiing as possible.

In a year when the economy has some folks looking to do some solid skiing closer to home, we are noticing an increase in interest in these trips which each run for $625 based on a group of 4 skiers and 1 AMGA certified or IFMGA guide.  Each trip is also available as a custom trip on the dates of your choice.

The Forbidden Ski Tour: This tour takes place in North Cascades National Park and starts at the Eldorado parking lot on Cascade River road, up from the town of Marblemount, WA.  Most years we begin by skiing up the road for a ways before climbing up into Boston Basin.  From here the tour climbs over Sharkfin Col, the summer access point to routes such as the North Ridge of Forbidden Peak.  A traverse of the Boston Glacier, and another climb over the base of the North Ridge and we are into the heart of the tour, the Forbidden Glacier.  Perhaps the best skiing on the trip is often found in the long descent to Moraine Lake, which sits at the base of the massive Inspiration Glacier.  A longer itinerary allows time for us to fully explore an area that is very difficult to reach once with winter snow have melted.  


















The Spearhead Ski Traverse: For this trip we travel north to the ski town of Whistler, BC.  The tour itself makes a complete arc shape traverse from Blackcomb to Whistler via the impressive Fitsimmons and Spearhead Ranges.  Early reports for the winter 2009-10 indicate lower than usual snow coverage on the glaciers, which is part of the reason we are planning to run the trip early this year.  Two nights will be spent in tents, and the last night will be in the simple, yet protective Russett Lake Hut. 

The Chiwaukum Range Ski Traverse: A proud new offering for the Northwest Mountain School, the Chiwaukum Range Ski Traverse follows the North-South running range that is immediately East of Stevens Pass.  On this trip we will start on highway 2 and ski South for 4 days before descending into the Icicle Creek drainage and exiting to Bridge Creek.  This trip will be spent entirely in tents and will take participants to some ski descents that are rarely visited.  One highlight is the impressive couloir on Big Chiwaukum, one of the prize ski lines in the the Stevens Pass area.























For full details contact the Northwest Mountain School at 509-548-5823 or follow the links in this e-mail.  

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2009 Aconcagua Expedition Update

NMS lead guide, Robert Montague, has been back in Mendoza since Feb 11 and provided us with details of our recent Aconcagua Expedition.  2009 was a tough year on the mountain with several individuals including a guide friend perishing on the mountain.  Robert, and NMS clients Terry Ruhland and Scott Ruhland made a strong attempt and decided to pull the plug in the face of a storm that coincided with their summit schedule.  Robert is due back in the US today, February 14, and will give us a full report.

The short version is that the weather deteriorated to the point where the group made a decision to pull high camp and return to base camp.  The decision was difficult, but made more real by events that had resulted in recent deaths on the mountain.  It sounds like the group descended in decent conditions and then experienced new snow and winds that made them very comfortable with their decision.

We want to congratulate Robert, Scott, and Terry for pulling off a good trip, reaching high camp, and most importantly getting home in one piece.  I am sure that once everyone is home and has time to collect their thoughts they will have some good stories to share, a few of which we hope to post here.  Watch for more details.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Avalanche Education Opportunities - Leavenworth Feb 14-17, 2009

The long weekend will present a few good opportunities for those interested in expanding their understanding of avalanches and backcountry travel in winter.

Northwest Mountain School is offering our 3rd AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Course of the winter from February 14-16.  For those with a romantic bent, don't worry, we have scheduled it to still allow time to take your sweetheart out to dinner for Valentines Day.  The course will run from noon-6 pm on Saturday February 14th, from 8 am until 6 pm on Sunday February 15th, and from 7:45 am until the end of the day on Monday February 16th.

The course will follow the excellent AIARE Level 1 curriculum and will focus on "Decision Making in Avalanche Terrain."  The course is designed to give backcountry skiers and snow boarders a a basic understanding of why avalanches occur and to develop a framework for making decisions while traveling in avalanche terrain.  Sleeping Lady Conference Center and Retreat has provided classroom space on their beautiful Icicle Canyon grounds for the indoor portions of the course.  Stevens Pass Ski area is providing quick access to the backcountry around Stevens Pass for our field activities.  The course will be led by IMFGA and AMGA Certified ski guides.  Cost is $275 per participant, but you can get a 10% discount if you register through Leavenworth Mountain Sports.  This can be done over the phone if you do not live in Leavenworth.  LMS can be reached at 509.548.7864.  NMS customers receive 10% off avalanche related items, and 20% off demo AT ski gear.  They are having a huge sale starting Friday, with ski gear being cleared out for spring at great prices.

On Tuesday February 17 a variety of sponsors including Northwest Mountain School will be showing two films: A Fine Line and Down Days at Sleeping Lady Mountain Retreat as part of a fundraiser for the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center (NWAC) We have been using A Fine Line as part of our avalanche education program.  This film was produced by Rocky Mountain Sherpas and combines outrageous skiing with very level headed avalanche education.  This showcases some amazing avalanche footage with an educational bent.  Following the first film we will be showing Down Days, a film that "follows the lifestyle, thoughts, and emotions of the big mountain extreme skier."  This was shot in Haines, Alaska and is sure to please.

Cost to view both films is $10, with all proceeds going to help fund the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center.  Beverages will be served and a variety of sponsors have stepped up to provide raffle prizes including donations from NMS sponsors, Patagonia, Petzl, National Geographic TOPO, La Sportiva, and Leavenworth's very own Boudreaux Cellars.  We will be donating space on a future avalanche course.  The program starts at 6 PM and runs until 9 PM.  This is a great opportunity to mingle mid-winter with the local backcountry community and take home some really nice gear.  Feel free to call us at 509.548.5823 for details.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Call from Robert Montague - Aconcagua Leader

Robert called us yesterday (February 8) from Plaza Argentina to report that his group was headed home from Aconcagua.  The plan was to walk partway out on Feb. 9 and then complete the trip out to the trailhead and then Mendoza on Feb. 10.  We do not have full details yet on what ultimately brought their summit attempt to a close, but Robert's phone call mentioned weather as being a component of their decision.  He reported that all are healthy and happy with their effort.  We will post details when we have them.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Feb 2, 2009 Aconcagua Expedition Update

Robert Montague checked in with us yesterday and reported that he, Terry, and Scott successfully made the carry to Camp 1 on Jan 31.  They took a rest day on Feb 1 at Plaza Argentina, and are planning to move to Camp 1 today, on February 2.

From Robert, "All is well here at Plaza Argentina.  We carried yesterday to camp 1.  It took 8 hours roundtrip, but we had heavy loads.  Everyone feels good today and is looking forward to moving up.  The weather has been good so far.  A bit windy at times.  Yesterday and today there were clouds building over the summit around 4:30 pm each day."

Robert also mentioned that he is on the mountain guided Aconcagua Expeditions from RMI and Alpine Ascents International, both groups being led by friends guiding for those organizations.  The RMI group being led by John Lucia was planing to move to Camp 2 on Feb 1.  He did not give details on the location of the Alpine Ascents (AAI) group, and only mentioned that they were also on the mountain.

Robert went on to mention that it will be more difficult to post information once the group is above Plaza Argentina, but he hopes to get some information out through other groups and through our base camp support.  So far all is on schedule for the Northwest Mountain School's 2009 Guided Aconcagua Expedition.