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  1. #1
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    The 1st Annual Str8line Camp - AK Edition

    You’ve seen all the movies, stared at pictures of unimaginably long and steep lines, and dreampt of one day getting in a chopper and visiting this magical place for yourself. But until you get there, these are just dreams…visions limited to the flatness of a theater screen or the tiny confines of a television set.

    The reality is much larger. Much more awe inspiring.



    You try to tell yourself that you live higher than the peak you’re currently standing on…but it doesn’t matter. You’ve just unloaded onto a ridge barely large enough for you, much less your group. The pucker factor is high. If you take a wrong step and slip off the back, there’s a good chance you’ll die.



    Your desired line in front of you is 2,000 to 4,000 vertical of steep, wild terrain with glacial runouts going for miles. Then you see it…your line. Focus sets in…a huge smile creeps over your face…you drop in…



    Welcome to Alaska.

    A couple of months ago, lph came up with this crazy idea: “Let’s go to str8line’s camp in AK.” I thought he was crazy; my checkbook said I was crazy for even entertaining the idea. But there was that little voice in the back of my head, “Do it.” So I plunked down the plastic and booked a trip into the unknown. I thought I knew what I was getting into. I’d seen enough ski porn. The reality was as I described above…I really had no clue.

    The night before we left, I didn’t sleep. I blamed it on packing and a departure celebration for a good friend, but the reality was my adrenaline was pumping like mad. It was exactly like the night before a deep pow day. A hour of sleep, two flights, and several thousand miles later we would find ourselves arriving to a storm in Girdwood. Better yet, the forcast was calling for more on Sunday.

    We geared up early Sunday morning for the orientation and safety briefing. There would be no flying today, but the resort was good to go. Many greetings were exchanged; and we met our fearless leaders, str8line and the Sarge. We also got to meet our other group member: this big kid from Pittsburgh who had spent some time living in Squaw.



    Things were looking good.

    With the meeting done, we all headed to the tram for a day of skiing at Alyeska. At this point it was after 10 am and we were bummed to have missed the openning bell. “Wait, why is the tram taking so long?” To our surprise, the mountain didn’t open until 10:30. Sweeeeeeeet!!!! We arranged ourselves on the dock for first tram and anxiously awaited our trip up. Unfortunately our fearless leader had forgetten something in his room. It was then that the Sarge reminded us of the 1st rule of skiing: “There are no friends on a pow day.” So without even a millisecond of thought we ditched str8 and procedeed to lay tracks all over Aly. The Sarge found us some great pow and this cool little mini golf area. Tips were given and we procedeed to dance our way down the mini golf lines like the gapers we really were. The snow was great up top, but turned to complete mank down low. Excellent, just like a nice wet storm back home in Tahoe. Chair 6 was delivering the goods, so we just kept hitting it lap after lap.

    Eventually we would run into str8 who looked like he wanted to beat us like a bunch of red headed stepchildren. Thankfully the Sarge quoted the 1st rule; and really, how can you argue with that. Shortly after his arrival, the gates dropped on North Face. We hiked up behind the chair and scored first tracks into what I think was New Year’s chute. It was perfect hero snow all the way down the Face. We jumped back on the tram and headed up for more. This time dropping into a side gate and hitting a nice steep pitch with a choke. Beautiful deep pow was found on the ridges and open faces that greeted us below. So we naturally went back. On the way up, we decided to use the next run to start working on beacon practice. It was time to prepare for the trip ahead. The Sarge gave us a brief but thorough introduction and we all took turns individually looking for a buried beacon. We turned our backs while he buried the test subject. Conway picked some great spots. For instance, mine was buried in a snow deposit in front of a tree. They we paired up and did a wide area search where we had to coordinate our efforts with another camper. What really set this apart was the fact that we were looking for a beacon in a huge debris field. At times, lph and I couldn’t even see each other due to debris waves that were over our heads. Traveling over such immense debris was a challenge in and of itself. It was a lesson well learned. Often we practice beacon searches in plain jane snow fields or manicured beacon basins. But once you get yourself onto a debris field like that, you realize just how hard your task will be if a real slide does occur. The experience was invaluable and new lessons were learned.

    We called it a day and headed back to our hotel. The forecast was calling for bluebird the next day. Time for dinner at Jack Sprats and a good night of sleep.
    Last edited by Arty50; 10-20-2011 at 12:38 AM. Reason: Fix links
    "I knew in an instant that the three dollars I had spent on wine would not go to waste."

  2. #2
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    We awoke early to grab a good breakfast and hitch a ride to the chopper at 9am. We called the CPG hotline and found out we would be departing at 9:30. Unfortunately, the Sarge still wanted us there at 9. So when I rolled in at 9:13, I was told to drop and give him 13. One for each minute late. Damn. I couldn’t tell if he was joking or not so I got down and did 13 pushups. It was a nice warmup, plus it had the effect of scaring the bejezus out of the other heli groups. I don’t think anyone else was late the rest of the week.



    We arrived at the airport several minutes later and loaded up. It was my first ride ever in a helicopter and damn was it fun. As we ascended to our first LZ, the chills grew exponentially. One thought kept running through my head, “I’m going heli skiing.” Even better was the fact that we were getting dropped off on fresh untouched faces. So we’d dig a pit and then ski some amazing pow down to a pickup point a few thousand feet below.










    My mind was absolutely blown. Str8 and Sarge had started the instruction process the day before and it really kicked into gear that first day. They immediately noticed the things we doing wrong and managed to convey their suggestions to us in a way that was never nagging and always encouraging. I’ve taken a lot of lessons since I was 4 years old, and this was the best instruction I’ve ever received. Skiing never became work, fun was always the main emphasis. We also started to get a feel for how far we were willing to push ourselves. We started ramping up the terrain, always with an eye on safety and armed with our instructors’ incredible ability to find us the best conditions. Sadly, some low clouds rolled in around 3:30; which forced us to send out an extraction call to our pilot, who just happened to be named Lucky:



    The Winter Park and Glacier Park areas had definitely delivered the goods, and so we made our way down the hill content from a great day. It was then that we met 3pin and his crew and we all headed down the mountain in the cat. At one point I looked over at lph and the green look on his face from the bumpy cat ride made me glad I wasn’t sitting in his vicinity.

    Weather was supposed to roll in the next day, so we decided to booze it up and hit the town. Gordy hosted a happy hour in his room and then we went out for a killer dinner at Maxines. Owens showed up for dinner also and convinced us to continue the festivities at Chair 5. There’s nothing like getting hammered and laughing your ass off all night to bond a group together. Thankfully we all managed to avoid monster hangovers, because much to our surprise Tuesday went blue.
    Last edited by Arty50; 10-20-2011 at 12:50 AM. Reason: Fix links
    "I knew in an instant that the three dollars I had spent on wine would not go to waste."

  3. #3
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    Tuesday found us hitting a new zone: the Bench. We found some nice long runs that sent us down to this incredible glacier below. Luckily, we took it a bit easy in the morning because we were all nursing hangovers from the previous night. However, after lunch we would step it up bigtime. We crossed the road and got dropped off on this sweet LZ. A prior group had laid some tracks down the gut, but we had other ideas. We crossed along the ridgeline and stopped above this rollover that seemed to drop off the side of the ridge. Conway scoped the roll and set the left track while Gordy set the right boundary. The Cannon (more on the nickname later), lph, and I had carte blanche in the middle. Lph dropped in first to go video us from below. The Cannon was up next. When both dropped over the roll, they just disappeared. I was so amped. The ski advice was paying off in spades for some reason that day. I was feeling it and so it was game on. I accellerated towards the roll and without stopping dropped into the steep face. I would guess it was 45 degrees, maybe more. My first big turn rewarded me with a face shot, “Hellllllll yeahhhhhhh…wait…I can’t see!” A quick little shake of the head shed the snow and I proceeded to rip down the rest of the face. The adrenaline was pumping. I was like a junkie in a crack house.

    The next drop off was even better. Our pilot, Ken, was The Man. He left us on this tiny little ridge. I have no clue how he managed to set the chopper down there, and there was barely room to move. One misstep could lead to a world of hurt. I can’t imagine what a tow in would be like. Once again, Conway set the left track and Gordy set the right. I watched lph and the Cannon drop into some of the best pow on the trip. I was jealous. Those bastards were getting all the goods. But then Conway calls up. “Arty, head left.” He puts me on top of the peak and sets up at the bottom where he wants me to ski to. I had seen the face where the others had skied, but didn’t get a look at this line. In front of me is a blind roll and what appears to be a cornice that I can’t judge the height of. At this point I’m thinking to myself, “Is Jim confusing me with the Cannon and sending me to my certain death for the giant fart the Cannon just ripped in the close confines of the chopper.” But I was on, so I swallowed the fear of the unknown and dropped in. Besides, all joking aside, Conway is a great guide. I was rewarded with a long, consistently steep run in knee to thigh deep pow. It was my favorite run of the trip and one I will never, ever forget.

    We hit a few more lines North of the road, and then crossed back over to hit Comet Couloir. We got dropped off on the exposed dome and made our way down the to the entrance. A hole had openned at the bottom possibly due to a bergstrom, and so we had to ski the steep face and then cut a hard right above the hole. Then we would continue on to the bottom of the face and head across the long (at least 1/4 mile) snow field below. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.

    We took the day off Wednesday to regroup. Everyone was a little sore and we had plans to step it up big in the coming days. So we took the opportunity to have some class time. The Sarge gave us his condensed version of Avy I. I had taken the full class a week before the trip, and I must say that he covered the bases really well. It helped me to reinforce the knowledge I had gained earlier and keep it all fresh in my mind. He even gave us a test at the end to make sure we had understood the material. The loser had to buy a round for the whole group. If we all got 100%, he and Gordy would buy a round. Sadly, the Cannon and I tied with 90% so we each had to buy the whole group a round (damn trick questions and lack of partial credit). I don’t think I’ll ever forget those answers again though.

    Also, Owens presented us with an interesting opportunity. Chugach Powder Guides had just secured some new terrain in Seward. No one had ever skied down there (not even the CPG staff) and the ribbon cutting was going to occur Thursday. We weighed the pros and cons as a group. It would be an exploratory adventure into virgin terrain. We could either strike gold or get skunked. Alaska has lots of microclimates and so snow quality and avalance activity can vary drastically even in relatively short hops. Almost everyone had seen pictures of the new terrain; it looked sick. Also the forecast was calling for blue skies for everyday we’d be there. So we took a chance, packed our stuff, and headed down to Seward on Thursday morning. There would be three groups: the Steep Camp, a group with one of the owners/guides, and a Warren Miller crew with Kaj Zackrisson and Mark Abma.
    "I knew in an instant that the three dollars I had spent on wine would not go to waste."

  4. #4
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    At first glance it was a great call, but as we flew deeper it became evident that the avy danger was fairly high. There was an unbelievable amount of natural activity in the area. So we gingerly set down, and Conway and the other guides went to work. I can’t commend them enough for the job they did. They managed to find us challenging terrain all while ensuring our safety the whole way through. We set down in multiple zones and they consistently found us good pitches with great snow. Pushing it was out of the question though. By pushing it, I mean really getting into serious pucker terrain with 50+ degree pitches and exposure. Many of the truly steep aspects had significant sluffs and/or heavy wind loading, rendering them unsafe. We did get to ski some good northernly steeps, but we waited for Southernly aspects to corn up before charging like banshees.

    Some pics from day one in Seward:












    I know CPG is going to hit this terrain a lot in the coming weeks. So no one is going to being flying blind into it like we did. We were litterally the first people to ever set foot on these peaks. None of them even had names. I’m not talking about the runs. The peaks didn’t have names. They’re way too remote. I’m not really into first descents and stuff. If someone else told me they had stood up there before me, I would stare at them in awe not jealously. Also I can’t rememeber a single run in Seward that I set first tracks in. But in this case I honestly believe we were the first people up there. Anyway, my point is that in the coming weeks many new lines will be discovered and new LZs will be found. And they’ll have a much better idea how climate affects the terrain down there. Both Jim and Gordy were constantly commenting on how it was probably the best filming area they’d ever seem. Namely because of the sheer multitude of sick lines and the incredible vastness of the area. It looks like CPG has a real gem on their hands. I honestly can’t wait to go back and ski some of the lines I was drooling over. And as you can tell from the pics above, the journey was far from disappointing.
    Last edited by Arty50; 10-20-2011 at 12:49 AM. Reason: Fix links
    "I knew in an instant that the three dollars I had spent on wine would not go to waste."

  5. #5
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    So Seward day one was exploratory. We bagged some nice long decents and skied some pretty nice pitches, always keeping an eye out for the next line and getting a feel for the new area. On day two we pushed out even further. Once again, we were amazed by the terrain. Sickness to the left, sickness to the right, and all in between. The day culminated with our group punching into two killer South facing runs. The first was dubbed Cornhole, just to keep consistent with the prison theme that seemed to be going on when it came to naming runs. I’m guessing the run was around 3,000 vert of perfect corn, so we hit it twice.



    Then we hit the peak. There was only one name that would do: the Great Cornholio. It was this beautiful super long run that led to a glacier below. Nice consistent steep pitches and plenty of room to really open it up. It was mind blowing.







    Day 5 on the heli greeted us with heavy winds, and so we made our way back to Girdwood and stopped at the Bench again for our last day. We skied a combination of some steep (45 degree) corn on Southern aspects and some nice long pow runs on Northern aspects. Our second to last run found us in a super long coulie with a nice rollover at the very top which lead into a long 50 degree pitch with some exposure. Sluff management was mandatory.





    We finished the trip with another great happy hour, dinner at Jack Sprats (yes, again...they had 1L mugs of Spaten on tap), and promises to come back for more.
    Last edited by Arty50; 10-20-2011 at 12:51 AM. Reason: Fix links
    "I knew in an instant that the three dollars I had spent on wine would not go to waste."

  6. #6
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    amazing!

  7. #7
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    So I know what you’re asking, “Was it worth it?” The answer is a resounding yes. I went into debt to make this trip happen and I’d do it over again…and again…and again. From the beginning, we were skiing challenging terrain that most heli clients probably don’t get to until their 3rd or 4th trip. And this lets you push the envelope like you probably can’t do at any resort. We all learned valuable lessons about technique without being lectured and without making our trip feel like a day at work. We also got invaluable experience in avalance awareness and safety. And most importantly we had a shit ton of fun.

    Even if you can’t attend the AK camps next year, I highly recommend you go to one of the other Str8line camps. All year, I’ve felt like I hit a plateau in my skiing. There was something holding me back and I just couldn’t figure it out. Last week, Gordy helped me immensely. Immediately he caught my faults and more importantly he provided a great environment for me to work on them. It wasn’t like the typical gaper PSIA lesson where skiing becomes like work. It was more like “Hey let’s go charge some sick lines…oh and try this while we’re at it too.” Not to mention he’s one of the truly great people you’ll ever meet. I guarantee you’ll laugh your ass off. It’s easy to think that pro skiers don’t think that their shit stinks. But as Gordy proved when the stench cleared us off the top of that one peak, his shit most surely does.



    And what can I say about the Sarge. Like any good group of cadets, we had to nickname our Sargeant. So the Cannon came up with “the Curmudgeon” (which mysteriously ended up as one of the names to a line in Seward ). We all knew that wasn’t the case though. The pushups turned out to be merely a joke, and he led us in our efforts to ditch Gordy on a pow day. He also gave us indispensible hands-on knowledge about assessing avalanche terrain, stuff that you just don’t get in class. And of course, he kept us safe on our adventures. He was our spotter from below and always gave great instructions when we couldn’t see. Not to mention the fact he knows a bit about skiing instruction also.



    I can’t thank the two of them enough. They provided us with an experience that I will never forget. If you looked at the other groups we skied with all week, we were consistently skiing harder terrain than everyone else (Zackrisson and Abma excepted of course).

    And many thanks to Owens and his crew. They served us as hosts and gave us first crack at the new terrain in Seward, not to mention all of the other sickness in their other terrain. I can only think of one time that we had to wait for a heli. The rest of the time we were getting whisked off right away. So once again, a huge thanks to the one who never sleeps.

    Finally, there’s the Cannon (short for Loose Cannon). He came into this thing completely blind. We at least had the board as a medium to get beta on everything. The guy is hilarious as all hell and just flat out rips. So when he gets on here, be sure to JONG the shit out of him. And if you get a chance to ski with him or hang out, don’t pass it up.

    Here’s your graduating class of 2005:
    Last edited by Arty50; 10-20-2011 at 12:52 AM. Reason: Fix links
    "I knew in an instant that the three dollars I had spent on wine would not go to waste."

  8. #8
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    lph and Arty50=my heroes


    [killerwhalegeek]Is that Aialik Bay in the background? Where in "Seward" were you at?[/killerwhalegeek]
    Putting the "core" in corporate, one turn at a time.

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  9. #9
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    Sweet. Ya lucky gits

    edg
    Do you realize that you've just posted an admission of ignorance so breathtaking that it disqualifies you from commenting on any political or economic threads from here on out?

  10. #10
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    ahahahahahahahaa............... i must get rich ASAP.
    best TR ever ?i dont know but certainly one the best yet?

    edit : i guess this will get 10 times more replies than my Krippenstein TR. but hey it was 10 times more expensive so it better should
    Last edited by subtle plague; 03-24-2005 at 02:33 AM.
    It's a war of the mind and we're armed to the teeth.

  11. #11
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    Thumbs up

    WOW! That was amazing. Great TR.

    This is now putting ideas into my head about heading to AK for a camp.
    ...what? what I thought we were in the trust tree in the nest, were we not?

  12. #12
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    How did the Spatulas perform?

    Some of that terrain looks mind blowing.

    "You try to tell yourself that you live higher than the peak you’re currently standing on…but it doesn’t matter."
    Great line.
    Last edited by bad_roo; 03-24-2005 at 06:54 AM.

  13. #13
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    Nice trip Arty50, I saw you (someone matching your description) smearing Knuckles on your resort day!!!
    Not take anything away from your Awesome experiance , but as for being the 1st to ski a peak, I'd have to be somewhat careful about such boasting around AK; while it is more than likely that you did (especially considering the aspects you guys are looking for)-some pretty progessive people have been flying (heli and planes) onto peaks all over South-Central Ak for nearly 50 years, not to mention those crazy adventurers up here who are willing to go through herculean efforts to slog up something new and differant!!
    I'm blown away all the time when I hear some of the adventures from some of the OldTime Hardcores around here! There's a retired smokejumper/ski racer who jumps from a plane (with a chute!) after dropping his ski's at the top of the peak he plans to ski.
    Quite a few peaks just a few miles east (boat accessable have been climbed/skied)from several aspects.
    Scientists now have decisive molecular evidence that humans and chimpanzees once had a common momma and that this lineage had previously split from monkeys.

  14. #14
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    That was a great TR to wake up to. I'm at a loss for words. Awesome.

    With the very last picture i couldn't help but think "IceyHot Stunnaz of AK"

  15. #15
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    Thumbs up

    Wow- just realised how sick this shot is.


  16. #16
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    Wow! I hope I'm rich enough someday to do the same. Looks mind blowing. Excellent report and great pictures.

  17. #17
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    Infukingsane. A must-do trip.
    Avoiding the real world since 1979

  18. #18
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    Completely recockulous.


  19. #19
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    I second the motion for best TR yet

    How much money do I have to steal for next years camp?

  20. #20
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    So many unbelieveable pics, but this one caught my eye.
    Pretty friggen steep for full pow.


  21. #21
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    "It is not the result that counts! It is not the result but the spirit! Not what - but how. Not what has been attained - but at what price.
    - A. Solzhenitsyn

  22. #22
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    nice write-up Art!! Thanks for sharing.
    Glad you guys got to see/ski the new terrain.
    "... she'll never need a doctor; 'cause I check her out all day"

  23. #23
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    Thumbs up

    Holy Shit. Amazing.
    Be good, or be good at it.

  24. #24
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    one of the best TR's Ive seen here. skiing those lines is amazing. you now have a problem; everything else sucks!
    Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature... Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. -Helen Keller

  25. #25
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    Incredible. Thank you for filling my foreseeable future with visions of Huge Mountains, empty snow fields, and spectacular vistas. Time to buy that lottery ticket...


    You're in 1/2 the pictures! Who took them? Did you just pass around the cam? From a technical perspective the photographer(s) had a GREAT eye for composition and good reflexes. I understand these are the cream of a very large crop, prolly, but could you post some more pics sometime (soon?)

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