Conditions dictate the plans part 2.

April 2, 2014 | 1:43 pm | No comments »

014_9960_engadin_bydavidbirriFilmer David Doom getting slowly buried by the snowfall. Photo David Birri

UNIQUE CONDITIONS

As the days got fewer the snow fall only grew thicker. It soon became obvious that we had no change of getting into any mountain hut. They were probably already buried by now. And even if we did manage to find a hut and dig it out, only thing we could do is just sit in it since the avalache danger was so high. We were having hard time hiking even in the trees with this much snow. I could only imagine that the waist deep hiking would turn into swimming above the trees.  The dreamy alpine lines were better to be left alone this time. The conditions forced us to stay in the trees and ride belly deep powder and pillow lines all day long, day after day. What a bummer?!!

At first we really were bummed that we had to turn down our original plan. We were so fixated on the hut mission that we almost didn’t realize what was going on around us. The snow records were breaking daily in the valley. They had never measured such depths since 50 years when they  had started. And even if we have ridden deep pow before this was truly something different. I said it in Japan this year that it was the deepest powder day of my life there but now I had to correct that again. I never thought the Alps could top Japan in powder depth but it was happening right here, right now. We soon let go of our plans and decided just to enjoy the moment and the incredible snow. A saying “When the mountains are telling you something you better listen” applies again. Lesson revised. Otherwise you might miss out on all the fun.

Conditions dictate the plans part 1.

March 17, 2014 | 12:43 pm | No comments »

pic: David Birri

photo by David Birri

IT IS GOOD TO HAVE A PLAN BUT….

We had thought of a mountain hut mission somewhere in the Alps for years. It is nice pull back from the crowds completely every once in a while and let just the surrounding mountains and snow sink in. There is lots of these mountain huts located all over the Alps. We made a plan, even before the snow started to fall this season, to find one with good riding close by.

Snow fell very locally in Europe this season; some places barely had any and the next valley could have had tons. The storms seemed to be coming in from the south so we narrowed our search to the southern mountain valleys. Sten Smola knew some huts that fit into our plans,  promised to help us out and even join us on our mission. We set our eyes on the southern parts of Swiss Alps and decided to do a last minute call between few options once we saw the conditions and the forecasts. Everything looked promising when we flew in to Zurich and made our way down to meet up with Sten. But then suddenly the forecast changed completely. Fair weather turned into heavy snow and shifting temperatures. Nobody wants to be in the middle of the mountains in a storm so we had to retreat into the end of Engadin valley to wait it out.

Fortunatelly Sten also knew some treeruns which were supposed to be untouched by the crowds. We wanted to escape the crowds originally so at least that was following the plan. We had no idea that in those woods we found a snowy paradise.

As the days passed we learned that it was useless for us to make any plans. Conditions and nature were making the calls and we had no choice but to follow which was awesome!

 

PART 2. – Mountain Sanctuary

May 24, 2013 | 10:26 am | No comments »

PERFECT SPRING – Sun, camping, splitboarding, powder, lines and couloirs

Postadsfjellet_camp (3 of 9)

Jonas at cauliflower camp pointing at the next line

 

Eventually sky did open,  almost just about the same time as the bird had to leave. How coincidental? We did get some stuff done with the help of the spinning blades but it was like nature was working towards getting us on our feet the whole time this spring. First high pressure showed up on the forecast the same time as the helicopter was still visible in the horizon flying away. But it didn’t really bother me or any of us. Of course it makes filming easier and access faster but at the same time creates this pressure and takes little something off from the peaceful feeling of  being in the mountains. I was happy to return to my own feet and splitboard.

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On the way up to plateau in Stordalen

 

Now we had pretty good idea of the snow conditions in the valley and had a solid plan what to do when the weather finally opened up more than just few hours. We packed our camping gear into big backpacks and hiked up to Stordalen. (Autti, Hagström, Siivonen, Autio, Lahtinen, Kärppä and Ollilla). Jonas came in few days before and brought the swedish luck with him. I was happy to ride with him again!

We had decided to set camp on a plateau in about 1000meters where we had great access to all kinds of riding above and below us. It was a hike an a half to get up there with 30kg backpacks but the spot paid off and back ache disappeared in the surrounding views.. We were in a big bowl between Postdalsfjellet and Sorjfjelltinden. From the tent you could see lines around 270 degrees and the rest was dedicated to a view of the fjord. You could not ask for a better spot! We spent the next days hiking up straight from the tent and riding lines back to camp, fueled up and repeat. The remaining time we spent admiring the sunsets and the amazing views. It was just perfect. Me and Jonas ended up staying one more night since the weather seemed to be on our side this time and could have stayed even longer but food ran out even when the others gave all the remaining food to us before they left. It felt amazing to be all alone in the mountains but in the same time we had to remember that when riding – help was not close either if something happened.

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Riding the cauliflower face. Pic: Jonas Hagström

 

 

 

COULOIR HUNT

When the sun comes out for days this time of the year it’s obvious that it will warm up the snow pretty fast too. At this latitude it rises up early already in April and sets late which gives a lot of time during the days (and nights) but also effects the faces longer. The high pressure that we had during the camping mission heated up the mountains and we had to turn to northernly aspects and sheltered couloirs to find the best snow. We did find some awesome couloirs in Lyngen and Tamok. Sometimes the snow was still amazing powder and sometimes we had turn back or ride more challenging conditions. My legs and body started to feel the stress of the previous non-stop month too. The weather was warming up even more so it was a time to take a little break. I dropped Jonas off in Tromsö airport and drove home admiring the mountains along the way. It was time to visit friends and traditional season ender events and parties but I was planning to come back as soon as the conditions would settle again…

Jonas dropping in unnamed couloir in Lyngen. Own footsetps guiding the way

Jonas dropping in unnamed couloir in Lyngen. Our footsetps guiding the way

 

FIRST DESCENT AT PÖTSI – The NIGHT SHIFT

Approaching Pötsi at 4 am

Approaching Pötsi at 4 am. photo: Mikko Lampinen

I returned north in the beginning of May. Conditions had settled but snow hadn’t melted at all. It hadn’t snowed much either but there was some jewels still to be found. I teamed up with Ape Majava, Tero Ainonen and Mikko Lampinen. Ape had seen this couloir in the backside of Postadsfjellet that might still be in good condition. It is facing northeast and gets the early sunlight. We started at 2 o’clock in the night to catch the best light and for safety if things started to warm up too fast. The sunrise and the light on the mountain were specially beautiful this night and our couloir looked seductive. So we raised the pace. We reached the bottom around the same time with the sun at 4.30. We discovered that the snow was still dry and amazing, tougher to hike up but rewarding to ride down. The sun was fast and we were trying to beat it almost running up the couloir as fast as possible. I didn’t feel too comfortable under the big wind lips and tried to keep my pace fast. We reached the top of 600 meter vertical couloir before six am and were soon ready to drop in. Snow and conditions were awesome and riding was easy besides the leg burn from the fast hike. We succeeded on the first ascent and descent and the couloir got the name Pötsi. One of the best missions of the season for me.

Ape ripping the first turns. May Pow!

Ape ripping the first turns. May Pow!

 

 

 

FROM BEST TO WORST

MayTamok (3 of 3)

Ominous Otertinden couloir. almost 1000m vertical of slippery ice.

Few days after one of the best missions of the year, I did one of the worst. I Hiked up solo this long, almost 1000m vertical, couloir at Otertinden in similar aspect as Pötsi hoping still for good snow or at least soft spring snow when the sun heats it up. I trusted the forecast too much and was concentrated on the hike that I neglected the conditions. I was few meters from the very top of the narrow, partly 45-50 degrees steep and still icy couloir when I realized that the sun was hiding behind the clouds still and would actually not warm up the icy surface at all. I had been to eager to reach the top and had nobody but myself to blame. After swearing for a while and waiting for miraculous clearing of the sky  I had to admit my mistake and make my way down somehow. Teemu was filming from the road below but the low clouds were circling between us so he could not even see me all the time – not the best situation. I started jump turning down the slippery chute with ice axe in my hand in case of slipping. It was one of the worst runs of my life and little sketchy too but in the end I had no troubles of making down safely. Teemu said that he could hear my turns and sliding to the road from kilometers away – that’s how good the snow was! Learn by doing and from you mistakes could be the lesson from this one. Well, anyway I was one experience richer and I did see a wolverine and a snow weasel on the way up crossing the snow field.

Ice axes came in handy - both going up and down!
Scratching and side slipping my way down.

Scratching and side slipping my way down.

 

MAY POW – WINTER AND SPRING CONTINUES

Snow was not really going anywhere. It still stayed reasonably cold the following week and we found dry snow on higher altitudes. It even snowed a little every now and then which gives a short time window for the next day to score some really good may pow on sheltered places. But you also have to be up an early bird to catch the worm otherwise you might get flushed by the slough. May is still awesome time to spend up in the northern mountains even when the snow starts to change quick as the sun circles the sky endlessly. The weather is better usually and there is almost 24h in the day to spend outdoors.  As the sun begins to heat the norhtern world round the clock the sea starts to look more and more tempting…

Sea view from powder house

Sea view from powder house

 

Caravan life - my home in Tamok. Surfer mag awakes dreams of surfing. Luckily the sea is not far

Caravan life – my home in Tamok from end of March to mid May . Surfer mag awakes hunger of surfing. Luckily the sea is not far…

 

Special thanks to Tero Ainonen for the additional footage, Jonas Hagström and Mikko Lampinen for photos and everybody else too riding and enjoying the time in the north. Next up surfing… and snowboarding!

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