Our first Splitboard Course of the season
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January 24th 2008
Splitboarding! Once learned it is by far the most fun way to get your snowboard into the backcountry. For Michelle, Eric, and Nick our course was everything I could have hoped for. In most courses there seems to be big gaps that either conditions or experience of the group naturally produce. This is the first course I've done that I can honestly say covered nearly every aspect that splitboarding has to offer.
Our first day found us on June Mountain getting used to the equipment and doing a little split skiing. It's always fun to watch folks that have been snowboarding for so long trying to ski again. Especially on a splitboard where it's hard to call it skiing, and easier to call it flailing. After several transitions and some snowboarding with a pack on we ducked the boundary and did our first backcountry run. The snow was untracked and soft for our tree run down to Yost Meadows. We enjoyed a relaxing lunch looking up at the Negatives. After lunch we transitioned to skins and learned a lot of uphill techniques before calling it a day and heading back to the car via 4 seasons. We found a nice patch of willows on the way down that finished off our energy for the day.
During our evening session we had a quick avalanche awareness presentation and a tour planning session for our tour the next day. I could see by the looks on their faces that that the weren't sure they were ready for the planned tour. After some pizza and some beer they were ready for some rest and sleep.
Day two found us ready to tour. We had planned to have breakfast and then use June Mountain again to start up high. There was some pending weather for the day so we were somewhat optimistic that we would be able to do our ideal tour, but we had planned some options in case the weather came in on us. Breakfast didn't work out as planned as a bus load of preteens got in line right before us. So ten Snickers bars later we were ready to head out. We duplicated our first run from the day before with Eric leading the way through soft snow down to Yost meadows. We transitioned to skins and Nick took the lead with the goal of the Summit of San Joaquin Peak. We had some interesting route finding, some crusty snow and finally some booting when the slope got too steep to skin up. The clouds started to come in as we put the skis back on and reached the upper ridge. As expected the winds were high on the ridge and the temperature was low. With all our layers on we worked our way up the ridge to the saddle between San Joaquin and Dream Mountain. Near the top the winds were so high that we were flattened a couple of times before making it over the top. We decided to forgo the summit and started down the Fern Creek Drainage. With the winds and new snow falling the visibility was about 50 feet. For the first part the snow was very wind effected and we stayed close so we wouldn't get separated. Several fun pitches later we found ourselves at Fern Lake taking one more break before heading to the car. Our original plan was to go down Devils Slide but will all the recent wind loading we opted for the steep trees to the right. Our run down to the car was the best of the day with some nice pitches in soft snow.
We made it to the car an hour later than we had hoped for but with daylight to spare. Michelle, Eric, and Nick were troopers and will have plenty of stories to tell about their first backcountry experience. My guess is that Ebay is hot with hits for splitboards.
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