Discover Splitboarding episode 4. – Couloir Mission

March 30, 2016 | 6:49 pm | 1 comment »

senjakuru (1 of 1)

photo : Teemu Lahtinen @laamaphoto

In this episode we get on to steeper terrain and climb a beautiful couloir in Senja, Norway. I explain the basics what you need you think and learn before stepping into more serious terrain and point out some tips and useful information. Also, new gear like crampons and axes are introduced as additional equipment for ascending and riding steeper terrain.

 

There are many things you need to think and learn before you can start climbing and riding steeper stuff.

  1. Number one is always safety. Get avalanche education and develop your backcountry skills before stepping into more serious terrain.
  2. Patience. Mountains are not going anywhere. Wait for the right and safe conditions. Do not rush. Mountains are fairly static, snowpack is not – it is constantly changing.
  3. Human factor. First of all, accidents happen usually because of bad decisions, not the conditions. Team up with people you can trust and have similar mind set towards riding and mountains. Group dynamics is very important and it strongly affects the decision making of the group.
  4. Fitness. Hiking steeper terrain in deep snow requires a lot of endurance, physically and mentally. Start from lines that you can handle and work your skills. Train and know your limits.
  5. Gear up. Additional gear like crampons and axes are good to have. They will make to climb and ride easier and safer and even possible; it only needs to be a short icy section that you could easily ride over but can’t climb without crampons or you want to have some extra grip that axe provides.  It sucks to turn back because of lack of right equipment. In the glaciers and more serious climbs you need to learn how to use ropes, harnesses, etc.

The gear that I use on steeper stuff :

Crampons : Black Diamond contact crampons or any similar that has straps and you can attach to your boots. beware of the ski/climbing boot clip attachment system.

Ice axes : Simond Fox carving choose a lighter ice axe for splitboarding and touring purposes, ice climbing is a whole another deal.

Ascending plates : Billy Goat plates. I find these very good since you can attach them to crampons if needed. You can climb ice and deep powder with this combo.

Avalanche backpack : Jones 30L for extra safety. If something does go wrong it is better to atleast try to stay on the surface when help is far away.

The story behind this couloir: I first saw it years ago when I came to Senja, Norway, for some spring surfing. It really stands out from the scenery.

SenjaKuluaari (1 of 1)

Ever since, I wanted to ride it in good conditions but it turned out to be difficult. It is located between the fjords so the weather and conditions change really fast. Then, it is facing south-southeast and warms up fast later in the season when the conditions and weather is more stable. So, if I want to ride it in powder conditions it has to happen during winter months. In December and January the sun does not yet rise above the horizon much and the day is too short. Basically, I was left with february or beginning of March right after a snowfall as my time window.

Finally, on 10th of February, 2016, the conditions seemed to be right but the weather was yet a question mark when we started hiking towards the couloir. It was cloudy and snowing but with some clear patches every now and then and the forecast was promising. We got to the exit and it was snowing hard and we could not even see the top half of the couloir. We dug a pit and assessed the snow. It looked deep and good but weather was still not looking promising. But suddenly, as we were assembling the boards, the sky cleared and we could see the whole beauty. It was on! We started hiking which turned out to be more like swimming. I was glad I had those plates with me. With their help, I was sinking only to my knee as my friend, Miikka Peteri, was sinking up to his waist without them. It took us way longer than we expected to make it to the top and we lost the best light while struggling in the deep powder. But the scenery and turns down were worth every sweaty step!

SurfCol1 (1 of 1)

SurfCol (1 of 1)

 Behind the col you can see the waves breaking. I tried to go surfing the day after but was caught by a storm when paddling into the line up.

The couloir turned out to be the pinnacle of the The Discover Splitboarding series for me. I am still really happy that we managed to ride it in such conditions. Big thanks to Miikka Peteri @miikkapeteri who joined for the mission and huge thanks to Teemu Lahtinen for filming, directing and editing series and for all the good times.

If you want to ride in Senja, Norway, contact Senja Lodge for mountain guiding services and lodging.

Discover Splitboarding episode 3. – Conquering the mountain

March 22, 2016 | 6:38 pm | No comments »

MiikkaHast-JaniKarppaPhoto-2220

Blåbaertinden south face, photo : Jani Kärppä

In the third episode we ascent and descent a mountain, Blåbaertinden, Tamok, Norway, from bottom to the peak. We will go through the basic techniques and information what you need for climbing and riding a mountain, a full tour. Everything from the essential planning, skinning and hiking techiques, on tour route finding to preparing for sudden changes while conquering a mountain.

 

 The most important in the mountains is to stay alert and pay attention to the surroundings and conditions at all times. Try to think well ahead while ascending and riding down too. It prevents you from getting into “what the hell I am doing here”-type of situtations, which happen easily in the mountains when conditions suddenly change or you lose your line for any reason. It is always good to have a back up plan.

How to choose a mountain to conquer then? If you are on an area you don’t know, the best way to start is ask questions and tips from locals, dig into touring guides and consider hiring a mountain guide who can open the gates for you.

Locals usually know a good place to start and something about the snow conditions but always trust your own gut feeling too. After asceding one mountain you will see more yourself and pick the next peak to climb and ride.

Touring guides are great help for planning tours. They usually point out the commonly used routes, difficulty and time estimate. It is not easy to figure out the starting point or estimate duration of the tour when entering new zones and the books provide this info cheap. Good planning will make the tour lot more relaxed.

Hiring a mountain guide is always the best option if you don’t feel comfortable stepping into new terrain by yourselves. They ensure the safety and you can learn a lot by just obeserving their routines and ways in the mountains.

Book tips:

For the Finnish readers there is a great book about freeriding and stepping into the mountains. Vapaalasku -kirja is highly recommended for any one interested about snow, mountains and freeride culture.

“Staying alive in avalanche terrain” by Bruce Tremper is a classic. The name pretty much sums it up.

Discover Splitboarding episode 2.

March 15, 2016 | 7:14 pm | No comments »

MiikkaHast-2347

Buttering. photo : Jani Kärppä

Many people, who I talk to, who are hiking on snowshoes and riding solids, still doubt the performance of the splitboards and shun all the “extra” gear that it takes. I personally never used snow shoes after I tried split for the first time years ago, except on snowsurf days. I felt that it is so much easier and more efficient to move around in the mountains with a split compared to snowshoes. Also, I discovered that the splitboard performs very well in various conditions. I trusted the equipment right away. In powder snow, I don’t feel much of a difference anymore between split or a solid. Of course it is not the same since the board is cut in half but once you have some speed it performs almost like a solid. I even feel comfortable riding freestyle stuff with a split.

There are lots of new gear that you have to get when starting splitboarding in addition to the basic backcountry safety equipment (first episode): the splitboard itself, bindings, skins, poles, crampons, etc,. It can be quite the maze which one to choose and the gear is quite pricy as well. There is an option to start with DIY set and cutting your old solid in half but the performance and durability will suffer.

Here are my tips for gear selection :

Board: there are lots of shapes to choose from these days. I recommend trying out the board before buying if possible. The powder surf shapes are very tempting, great fun and work well in good snow just like powder solids but they are maybe not for every day. So think about the terrain and conditions you are going to use the split the most. When I travel and can only choose one board I always take the trusted board shape  (Jones Solution) that can handle any condition. So if I was to pick my first split I would go with a shape that I could use in any conditions.

Bindings : Have come a long way too. When Karakoram came up with the quiver connectors (plate that connects split binding into solid) I stopped using regular bindings. Since I ride a lot with split and I feel most comfortable with split bindings I want to have the same feel on solids as well. Anyway, invest if possible on split bindings over the plates that you can use under the regular bindings on splitboard. The feel is from another world when you are closer to the board and it is much lighter. Crampons are good addition to the bindings. They help the hiking and climbing a lot on icy or slippery conditions and save a lot of energy.

Skins : Lots of different ones to choose from and basically the difference is in the glue and the hair. I trust regular glue that you can patch or replace completely if needed. Mohair versus nylon skin? Mohair glides better but loses on grip agains nylon. Mohair is lighter in weight. There are different mixes in the market that combines mohair and nylon which are best option, I think. Is the tail clip necessary? Not necessary but it is very handy specially if you are doing many laps or runs per day. It will holds the end part of the skin in place better when the glue starts to be wet or icy.

Clothing : Layering is the key. Start with technical first layer that keeps you dry when sweating. Then add a thermal layer depending on the temperature and cover everything with a good shell jacket and pants (at least 10000mm). I use Protest James jacket and Miikka Pants. Then I always have a extra puffy jacket in the backpack for warmth if the conditions change and it is nice to have on the top of the mountain.

Poles : Choose ones that fit inside of your backpack so they won’t hit or get stuck on anything while riding. And try to pick durable material (I use aluminium) so they will hold a lot of wear and bending.

Avalanche airbag/rescue bag : It is very good to have if accident happens but you should not trust it to save you or make you take more risks. Avalanches can be serious and deadly even if they don’t bury you. The airbag does not affect my risk taking at all. Even if I have it and I think there is a slight chance of a serious avalanche I turn around without hesitation. I use the airbag in case there is a unexpected slide which can always happen too.

Pocket camera : For riding navigation. If you approach your line from behind you should take a photo of the face since it will look very different when you are standing on the top. Even cellphones serve the purpose these days. They are also good if you need to call for help but keep in mind that the phone disturbs the beacon signal a bit.

Accessories : piece of plastic for clearing ice, piece of rope for tying up things or cutting snow, first aid kit, sunglasses, screwdriver/pocketknife

Second episode is filmed mostly in Pyhä Ski Resort and the freestyle stuff in Tamok and Lyngen, Norway.

 

Discover Splitboarding episode 1.

March 8, 2016 | 12:47 pm | 2 comments »

Split_pyha2016_teemul 219

In the beginning of this backcountry season me and Teemu Lahtinen did a four episode series for EpicTV. Discover Splitboarding is aimed for riders who are interested of splitboarding and stepping into the backcountry. Series starts with the very basics and progresses into more advanced riding, hiking and climbing so there will be some useful tips for more advanced riders as well.

First episode is about the splitboarding philosophy, why I got into it and how it changed my perspective and also about the very basics what you need to think when stepping into the backcountry. There are lot of things to learn when you start exploring the back country. Safety is the priority.

IMG_3084

When we started planning the series I needed to think what makes splitboarding so special to me. Why I choose splitboarding over chairlifts, snowmobiles and helicopters?

Expand – your terrain outside of the slopes and motorized runs into the wild. You are free to go where ever your legs take you.

Explore – the mountains and nature in a very immersive way: by your own feet and senses. It can change your whole perspective how you look at snowboarding. Quality replaces quantity.

Escape – the crowds and the rush. Freeriding is getting popular and easy access spots are tracked fast. Choose your own mountain or leave the resort boundaries behind fast with just a little hike to find untracked terrain with no hassle.

Empower – Choose your own lines. Feel empowered by climbing and riding mountains yourself.

There are lot of things to learn when you start exploring the mountains. Safety is priority. So start from your comfort zone and start pushing it’s boundaries slowly but always in control. Taking big steps too fast will only make you feel like fish out of water – scared, out of place and breath. Mountains and backcountry are very good teachers of patience; we can not force the conditions. The mountains will let us in when it is time. Once you learn more about moving in the backcountry, snow safety and choosing the right routes and lines you will feel more comfortable stepping into bigger terrain.

The first episode is filmed around the Pyhä Ski Resort which is a perfect example of a place where is good to start splitboarding and learning ways of the backcountry. You can start by riding in the resort and exploring little further. Progress by stepping out the boundaries and advance into doing your own missions into the near by fjells which are part of a national park and only accessed by foot. The terrain is variable with open faces, little couloirs, good treeriding and even pillow fields. The area is not too big to make you feel overwhelmed but big enough to experience great backcountry riding and wild nature with reasonable hikes.

This season conditions have been great in Pyhä. Lot of new terrain has become rideable because of a good snow year and favorable winds. We have found ourselves returning again and again for riding, exploring new spots and even filming in terrain untypical for Finland – the land with no mountains.

pyha (1 of 1)

 

 

Fjordland in a mobile basecamp

March 12, 2015 | 12:01 pm | No comments »

Senjatripping (3 of 4)

This season I decided to ride more local and not chase snow all over the globe. It has been a dream to explore the nearby mountain ranges and wait for the conditions, not chase them. Also, the birth of our first-born reduced the desire to travel in to distant mountains and made the desicion natural. She was born at the heart of the winter. It has been wonderful to watch and share her first everything.

Most of the good mountains here above the Arctic have fairly short approach from the road but the winding roads are in desolated areas and there is no accommodation around. RV makes the perfect transport-basecamp combo in Northern Norway. During summer, I found a great one that has gas powered floor heating, good insulation and big trunk where I can store and dry snowboard and surf quivers, camping and fishing gear, other equipment and even mountain bike. A perfect basecamp which parks at the foot of a chosen mountain. There is no better way to start the snowboarding day than by gazing at your line while still sipping your morning coffee (while waves are breaking on the other side!!)

 

Senjatripping (4 of 4)

 The arctic sky put up an amazing northern lights show for us one night

Our (Me, Jani Kärppä and Miikka Peteri) plan was to scope out conditions and ride in Lyngen, Senja and Tamok. Forecast history didn’t promise much for the riding part since warm temperatures and high winds had been plaguing the regions but you never know what you are going to find until you go.

Season start in Northern Norway has been slow this year, like it has in many ranges all over the globe. Winters are turning weird, or worse solid winter seems to be fading. Winter jumps from early season straight to late season. Consistency of winter conditions is lost. At least, this is how it appeared to us again on this trip.

tooth (1 of 1)

The forecast history was pretty much spot on. Conditions seemed more like late April than mid February. Snow pack was fairly thin and it was wet even higher up or really wind beaten. Our trip turned out to be more scoping and less riding. On the positive side, it is early season in these latitudes and  the base is solid now. We found  lines that went straight to the hitlist and all they need now is a new cover.

fugl (1 of 1)photo: @jkarppa

The weather continued to be warm and windy through out the week. We drove around in different regions but conditions were more or less the same everywhere. We  stuck to poking snow, exploring new places and enjoying the scenery, wild life and camper life.

Karvis (4 of 5)

I also wanted to catch some surf while exploring the coastal mountains. There was a big swell approaching but winds were a problem again. Good swell waves were ruined by high cross shore winds that generated small wind waves against the good ones. Yet again, arctic winter surf turned out to be more of an beautiful and raw experience than good surf.

arctic surferphoto: @jkarppa

We almost decided to leave and return only after the conditions got better but the suddenly weather at least calmed down. You can’t pass a sunny spring day in the mountains with the ocean below. We were scratching our heads to find a sheltered couloir that might still have some good snow. We ended up in Lyngen after some detours and cloud dodging. Our pick of a south facing couloir turned out to be great surprise with some soft and dry snow at the top part. It brought back the good feeling of climbing and riding pow. Now, let it snow and the season to begin in the Arctic.

 

Karvis (3 of 5)Miikka Peteri putting in some steps for the turns

Senjatripping (1 of 2)

 

SPLITLINES.com
SPONSORS
SPLITLINES.com
© 2017 All Rights Reserved