Mountain Running

Here are a few images that inspire me to lace up and get out there.

What motivates you?

First light. Andrew Jensen running the Alta Ridgeline at sunrise, Wasatch Range, Utah.
Andrew Jensen and Jeremy Howlett on their way down from the summit of Devils Castle while traveling the Alta Ridgeline, Wasatch Range, Utah.
Robert Hunter picks his way up the ridge on his way to the summit of Frary Peak, Antelope Island, Great Salt Lake, Utah.
Jacki Arevalo runs Big Water and Little Water Trails, Wasatch Mountains, Utah.
The view from Sunset Peak, Brighton, Utah.
Jari Hiatt negotiates a rocky ridge in Washington Gulch, Crested Butte, Colorado.
Jacki Arevalo traverses from Pole Line Pass to Flagstaff Peak, Alta, Utah.
Jacki Arevalo traverses from Pole Line Pass to Flagstaff Peak, Alta, Utah.

Winter Backcountry Photography.

Splitboarder Maxwell Morrill boots his way to a wintery summit in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah.
Splitboarder Maxwell Morrill boots his way to a wintery summit in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah.

I had an idea about ten years back, “it would be easier to get great ski and snowboard imagery if I just shot the places I was backcountry skiing with friends.” No lift lines, no tracks, no crowds. Simple, just bring the camera along and watch the bank account grow from all the money rolling in from sales of my work…
That’s not exactly what has happened, not even close, but there is something rewarding about getting out into the wild and coming back with something that isn’t recycled.
With each passing winter season in the Wasatch I am always amazed with new discoveries. A different approach, a new zone, a new line I either didn’t know about or hadn’t visited yet. The exploration seems to be never ending…

Powder

On the morning of April 15, 2015 I was up around 430 AM. I couldn’t sleep. Looking out the window I saw that a blanket of fresh snow covered the lawn. I brewed coffee, surfed the daily headlines and tapped my fingers waiting for Snowbird to update it’s overnight storm totals.

24″ and still snowing! I immediatley loaded up the car and met Hannah Follender at Snowbird’s tram. These are a few of the images from throughout the day. When it finally stopped coming down it added up to 40″ in less than 24 hours. Not bad for Tax Day!

Ka-POW!

What are your passions?

Zach Grant exploring the wintery Wasatch Range.
Zach Grant exploring the wintery Wasatch Range.

“What are you passionate about?”

My wife asked while skinning up a winter trail in the Wasatch Mountains. As she passed through the arch of an aspen tree that bent over the track I paused. A wave of snow clung to the trunk’s upside only inches wide and at least twelve inches tall and serpentined the entire length of the arch. Its position on the tree defied gravity and the sun.

Jacki Arevalo during a post climbing yoga practice, Red Cliffs Desert Reserve.
Jacki Arevalo during a post climbing yoga practice, Red Cliffs Desert Reserve.

I wouldn’t describe my youth as happy. In fact, looking back it was a very tumultuous time filled with angst and bad choices. My twenties were mainly a dark depression that to this day still tugs at me from the shadows. When my wife asked me that question I had an answer.

Jewell Lund takes on the crux of Fine Jade, Castle Valley.
Jewell Lund takes on the crux of Fine Jade, Castle Valley.

“You know that feeling when you’re climbing and you’re afraid but somehow you keep climbing and push through that fear? You’re still nervous, and still struggling, but for some reason you’re slightly removed from the situation? Like you’re seeing yourself from the outside? Aware of the acute nature of the situation; a small human dangling on a big cliff in the middle of a forest, in the western US, on the planet Earth, within the Milky Way, somewhere in a fold of the Universe?”

My wife shuffled ahead entering a stand of snow flocked spruce trees.

“Okay, it doesn’t have to be climbing. It can be skiing in the backcountry, hiking, running, yoga, sailing… any activity, anywhere outside. I’m talking about those moments where, while still being present, you see a bigger picture of everything and your place within it.”

Zach Grant snowboarding deep in the Wasatch Mountains.
Zach Grant snowboarding deep in the Wasatch Mountains.

One kick turn after the other we switched-backed up a ridge passing the gnarled and twisted bodies of dead limber pines.

“It doesn’t even have to be outside, but for me, during my youth and after my parents’ death I found these profound moments occurred out in the wild… It’s not necessarily about how hard, how fast, whether I was first or whatever. All that stuff is great, but it’s much more rewarding to have these moments to connect with each other, other people. What’s the point if it’s not shared?”

Jenny Powers chasing the sun along the crest of the Wasatch Range.
Jenny Powers chasing the sun along the crest of the Wasatch Range.

At the crest we quickly transitioned; skins ripped from skis, jackets, gloves and goggles on, we were ready to ski.

Hans Koomen navigates the Bay of Biscay on the Anne Margaretha.
Hans Koomen navigates the Bay of Biscay on the Anne Margaretha.

“Do you remember the bent aspen tree we walked though down below? How the snow was still hanging onto it?” I asked.

She smiled, “It was beautiful… and amazing!”

Caroline Gleich on the summit of Reids Peak, Uintah Mountains.
Caroline Gleich on the summit of Reids Peak, Uintah Mountains.

My passion is sharing the outdoor life.

 

Winter’s Sunrise.

I have never regretted waking before dawn… Especially in the snowy months.

Split board mission in Wyoming. Day after day of pre 4am wake ups definitely made a mark, but scenes like this one made everyone worthwhile. First light in the Grand Teton National Park.
Split board mission in Wyoming. Day after day of pre 4am wake ups definitely made a mark, but scenes like this one made everyone worthwhile. First light in the Grand Teton National Park.
March 2013. Wolverine Cirque sunrise mission take two. On our first trip the week prior clouds on the horizon obscured dawn. Second go, not a cloud in sight.
March 2013. Wolverine Cirque sunrise mission take two. On our first trip the week prior clouds on the horizon obscured dawn. Second go, not a cloud in sight.
December 2014. The iconic south face of Mount Superior is not a secret. It's been skied every which way and photographed as much… I sort of avoided shooting it until now… Don't ask me why.
December 2014. The iconic south face of Mount Superior is not a secret. It’s been skied every which way and photographed as much… I sort of avoided shooting it until now… Don’t ask me why.
January 2015. Morning twilight in the Little Cottonwood ridge line. The warm glow of the coming dawn makes it easy to forget that at the moment of this image temperatures were hovering in the single digits.
January 2015. Morning twilight in the Little Cottonwood ridge line. The warm glow of the coming dawn makes it easy to forget that at the moment of this image temperatures were hovering in the single digits.
April 2014. It's funny how much the Wasatch clears out once spring arrives. Luckily there are friends who take advantage of the deep snow pack and lack of crowds. Sunrise from Flagstaff.
April 2014. It’s funny how much the Wasatch clears out once spring arrives. Luckily there are friends who take advantage of the deep snow pack and lack of crowds. Sunrise from Flagstaff.
April 2014. The idea of connecting the seven ski areas of the Wasatch is not new. Last year there was new life breathed into it. If completed it would consume excellent backcountry terrain. Sunrise from Clayton Peak.
April 2014. The idea of connecting the seven ski areas of the Wasatch is not new. Last year there was new life breathed into it. If completed it would consume excellent backcountry terrain. Sunrise from Clayton Peak.

Twelve memories from the twelve months of 2014. What do you recall?

 

Winter's Sunset
January: Sunset session in upper LIttle Cottonwood Canyon. Reconnecting with Quigley.
February: Traveling north I found myself falling in love with the Canadian Rockies and Icefall Lodge. Sunshine for days, cold temperatures and skiable terrain for as far as the eye can see.
February: Traveling north I found myself falling in love with the Canadian Rockies and Icefall Lodge. Sunshine for days, cold temperatures and skiable terrain for as far as the eye can see. Florian Jungen trying to teach me how to wiggle.
March: Absence makes the heart grow fonder. On the road from the end of January until the beginning of March I was excited to get back to the Wasatch, family and friends.
March: Absence makes the heart grow fonder. On the road from the end of January until the beginning of March I was excited to get back to the Wasatch, family and friends. The always willing Chris Smith living it up in the mountains above Salt Lake City.
April: I have never regretted getting up for sunrise. Chris Smith shows me a proper Wasatch Sunrise.
April: I have never regretted getting up for sunrise. Chris Smith shows me a proper Wasatch Sunrise.
May: Not quite ready to let the snow go we traveled north to the Tetons finding longer approaches and bigger objectives are worth the effort.
May: Not quite ready to let the snow go we traveled north to the Tetons finding longer approaches and bigger objectives are worth the effort.
June: I finally succumb to the season. Transitioning back into the vertical realm is a slow process, luckily I have friends to help hang the rope. Paul Shilton gets steep in the City of Rocks.
June: I finally succumb to the season. Transitioning back into the vertical realm is a slow process, luckily I have friends to help hang the rope. Paul Shilton gets steep in the City of Rocks.
July: The summer heat has chased us into the otherworldly narrows of Maple Canyon. I once thought there wasn't much to photograph here… I was wrong. Jacki shows me how it's done.
July: The summer heat has chased us into the otherworldly narrows of Maple Canyon. I once thought there wasn’t much to photograph here… I was wrong. Jacki shows me how it’s done.
August: Third generation Utahn, World War II veteran, widower, neighbor, friend. Edwin "Ted" Olson gave me a tour of his families centennial farm and the house he lived in as a child in Vernon, Utah.
August: Third generation Utahn, World War II veteran, widower, neighbor, friend. Edwin “Ted” Olson gave me a tour of his families centennial farm and the house he lived in as a child in Vernon, Utah.
September: New experiences feed me. Having lived on solid land my entire life I decided to sail from the North Sea to Lisbon, Portugal. Leaving the final lock from the North Sea Canal in Holland the Anne Margaretha enters the North Sea at days end.
September: New experiences feed me. Having lived on solid land my entire life I decided to sail from the North Sea to Lisbon, Portugal. Leaving the final lock from the North Sea Canal in Holland the Anne Margaretha enters the North Sea at days end.
October: You are usually in control when climbing, but when the rappel anchors for the only way down are star driven expansion nails from 1973…I don't think so.
October: You are usually in control when climbing, but when the rappel anchors for the only way down are star driven expansion nails from 1973…I don’t think so.
November: Making images of yoga has never been a profitable endeavor, but man… I can't help myself from creating more.
November: Making images of yoga has never been a profitable endeavor, but man… I can’t help myself from creating more.
December: Once again winter returned to the Wasatch Mountains. Staying open to possibility provided another unforgettable sunrise. Caroline Gleich and Rob Lea hike the east ridge of Mt Superior.
December: Once again winter returned to the Wasatch Mountains. Staying open to possibility provided another unforgettable sunrise. Caroline Gleich and Rob Lea hike the east ridge of Mt Superior.

Risk in avalanche terrain. What’s it worth to you?

I recently watched this interview with Utah Avalanche Center’s Bruce Tremper. In it he talks about risk in avalanche terrain. About half way into it something he said stuck with me. Paraphrased, “There are three types of people in the backcountry; those who don’t know they are at risk, those who know and go and anyway and then there are the people how go because there IS risk.”

Kordell Black and Cindi Lou Grant isolate a column of snow in the Wasatch backcountry.
Kordell Black and Cindi Lou Grant isolate a column of snow in the Wasatch backcountry.

Reflecting on time spent in the mountains it’s fair to say I have fallen into all three categories at one time or another. I shudder at the memories of a teenager rambling through the mountains completely ignorant of the dangers. Through my twenties I was trying to prove something and made terrible choices. (What was I trying to prove? I am not sure, but for some reason it felt like time was limited and the need to catch up was great.)

Cindi Lou Grant performs a compression test on a column of snow.
Cindi Lou Grant performs a compression test on a column of snow.

Another note from the interview that hit home was the possibility of having a lifetime in the sport. I like this. Numerous close calls and the accumulation of time in the hills have begun to change the way I approach avalanche terrain. Education, choosing the right partners, patience and having a willingness to walk away have all become part of the process. Don’t get me wrong; I still have my eye on steeper lines it’s just now I am more willing to wait for better conditions. Hopefully this will lead to a long and rewarding outdoor life.

After digging two separate snow pits and evaluating the layers, conducting a stability test and having a frank discussion with his partners Kordell Black boots up a 36 degree couloir in the Wasatch backcountry.
After digging two separate snow pits and evaluating the layers, conducting a stability test and having a frank discussion with his partners Kordell Black boots up a 36 degree couloir in the Wasatch backcountry. Following a one at a time protocol I headed up first stopping below a cleft in the cliff then Kordell followed and continued to the top.
The reward. Cindi Lou rides out of the couloir.
The reward. Cindi Lou rides out of the couloir.

August 14, 2011. What were you doing?

(This is a journal entry from the morning of August 14, 2011)

It rained lightly through the night. Neither Jacki or I slept well. Around 530 the rain stopped and the moon appeared through a hole in the clouds. It was nearly full. I reluctantly crawled out of the tent in an attempt to make a photo. I rattled off one blurry frame before it disappeared into dark clouds.

Another slow morning. I wandered around to see if anyone might be up. All the climbers were still down.

The clouds broke apart by seven. I brewed tea and ate breakfast alone, Jacki was finally asleep.

Pika’s whistled to each other across the cirque of Lone Peak.

I hear these sounds. Trickling water from the melting snowfields. Echoing planes overhead. A bird’s song in the distance. Pika’s; chirp, chirp, and then a responding chirp, chirp… their call.

I see these things. Clouds floating in a blue sky. The haze from the previous week is gone. Dirty, red, tinged snowfields flow down from cliffs and in between them piles of talus. Pikas sprint from rock to rock. A robin hops along the grassy patches in search of breakfast.

Small yellow flowers hover above the grass. At an elevation nearing 11,000 feet stunted pines hang onto ledges in the surrounding cliffs. They are ragged and hardy. Columbines, Buttercups, appear in sheltered corners of the rock. Their coloring appears tired, but beautiful. The Bull Thistle has yet to bloom and grows defiantly strong despite the limited environment.

Shallow pools of rain water vibrate in the coming day.

Yellow, rust and brown lichen clings to the stone which is covered in red and green patina. A few boulders are made of diorite. I sit on one rock.

The trailing clouds above are releasing the last of their moisture. It does not reach me.

I hear muted voices rise from the fields of granite. It’s time to start the day.