Unlike other places I’ve lived in my life, Alaska is not known for consistently fine weather. The windows tend to be short and, if you’re a skier, you need to pounce on opportunities when they present themselves. For the traditionally employed, this can prove to be a problem when good weather materializes during the week and the shit comes back in on the weekend.
Like a lot of essential back country ski gear, pole choice is nearly completely dictated by the popular brands seen at every gear store. In the US, Black Diamond seems to dominate the field with a variety of offerings. All them are adjustable and BD has developed numerous incarnations of the adjustment mechanism because, well, they often suck at some point. More on that later. In Europe, there are more options, some adjustable, some fixed. If you can break the spell of the former, you may be tempted by the latter.
I've been back from my annual pilgrimage to Jackson, WY, for a few weeks now. I've had some good days in the Chugach and Anchorage Front Range. More on those later. But I've been meaning to share some images from my two weeks in the Tetons. So, here they are.
I arrived in Jackson at the end of a creepy cycle of deep slab instability. Most of my friends had avoided travelling into the heart of the range for several weeks. Warmer surface temperatures had been working their magic and stabilizing things while recent snowfall had been lacking. I arrived on Saturday afternoon and had immediate plans to get after it with a couple of strong partners the next day. I typically don't recommend coming from sea level and playing at 10,000 feet but conditions dictated otherwise. With only 12 days to play, I needed to make hay while the sun was shining.
A Brief History
I’ve been ski touring and climbing in the mountains for most of my life. I’ve bought and used countless packs for a variety of outings. The size, style and shape of each pack reflected the type of trip and the era. The early 70’s were dominated by external frames from Kelty and Jansport.
Normally, when one travels to altitude after living at sea level, it’s best to ease into high-level physical activity. The physiologic adaptations, which allow us to tolerate exercising up high, take the better part of a week to get rolling. Certainly, several weeks are needed to feel strong. But with short vacations, it’s hard to be patient. On my recent trip to the Tetons, I demonstrated a complete disregard for what needs to happen.