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  1. #1
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    MEGA TR: Adventures in the Ansel Adams & Yosemite Wildernesses

    Dates: Monday, May 7th – Friday, May 11th

    Locations: Ansel Adams & Yosemite Wildernesses, including Donahue Pass (11,056 ft.), Mount Lyell (13,120 ft.), Simmons Peak (12,497 ft.), Kuna Crest South (11,812 ft.), Koip Peak (12,968 ft.) and Mount Wood (12,657 ft.).

    Skiers: Enginerd & UCL

    Photos: As noted

    Synopsis: Towards the end of April each year, Enginerd and I start pouring over topo maps to piece together potential multi-day tours into the High Sierra. It is one of my favorite activities of the year, as there is so much potential for exploration deeper into the range. This year, the High Sierra had a pretty weak winter, so snowpack depth was of paramount concern. Lightranger was nice enough to link us to some NOAA snow coverage and SWE models that over layed on maps. Using this enabled us to quickly scrap some ideas we had been thinking about in the more Southern Sierra, as the snow coverage looked really thing.

    It was clear the Ansel Adams Wilderness had the most snow, particularly once you got in deeper past the Eastern edge of the Sierra Crest. We really liked the idea of skiing inside the Eastern flank of Yosemite National Park, back by Mount Lyell, Mount Maclure and Simmons Peak. Admittedly, these are pretty rarely-skied peaks given the level of commitment to get back into them and the distances involved. To properly time skiing the East aspects on Simmons Peak in their morning prime, you are really taking 3 days.

    From there, Enginerd through out working Northeast along the border of the Park and the Tuolumne and Mono county lines. We wanted to head to the vicinity of Kuna Crest, which had Koip Peak to offer. Similar to Mount Lyell, Koip Peak was a 50 Classic Sierra Ski Descent, so it looked promising. Our exit plan was to then traverse from Parker Peak to the summit of Mount Wood, and try to ski the longest holding ribbon of snow on the Eastside down as low as possible to Silver Lake.

    Ultimately, the trip was awesome. Our total mileage was 46.9 miles with 16,221 ft. of elevation gain (per Enginerd's GPS, so likely not capturing micro terrain changes).

    Day 1 – Silver Lake to West End of Waugh Lake

    Unfortunately the weekend before the trip, I came down with a nasty sinus infection from my twin toddlers. I have found my wife and I are constantly getting sick or on the verge of getting sick with toddlers. Such is life. In any event, after basically getting no sleep at Tioga Pass the night before due to sinus congestion, I was entering this trip at a very low energy level. I even puked in the parking lot before we took off. Not ideal.

    The customary trailhead shots. We were going light, although carrying the boots on the back to start always adds weight. Photos: UCL, Enginerd





    Day 1 was 9.4 miles and 3,038 ft. of elevation gain. The first half was going to be entirely dry trail walking until we got up around Gem Lake. From there, there was snow cover that allowed skinning, albeit with broken patches. Photos: Enginerd, UCL, Enginerd, Enginerd









    Once we got to snowline, the benefit was the ability to skin. However, the approach became significantly more adventurous. In addition to Rush Creek, there were a myriad of smaller creeks pouring down into the drainage. All of these had high Spring water, so it was essential to find crossings. If you stuck close to the "trail" (which was now buried under snow), you could find the designated crossings. However, the snow cover largely dictated whether you could find the trail, and the most efficient way to travel. So there was a lot of looking for the best way to cross water. Photos: Enginerd, Enginerd, UCL, Enginerd









    Honestly, I felt like death during Day 1. I was running at like 15% and starting to question if I was even going to make it to our bivy spot. It never dawned on me to quit, but between being sick and having no sleep, I was running on fumes. My goal was just to get to the bivy spot and crash, hoping to feel better the next day. Photo: Enginerd



    At least the views were super scenic. We took light weight running shoes with us the entire trip this year, given the Day 1 approach and the fact we knew we would have some dirt hiking out the last day. It worked well and they really didn't add a lot of weight. Photos: Enginerd







    At the far West End of Waugh Lake, we found a flat bivy spot on some rocks and cooked dinner. I barely ate anything, feeling nauseous, and just tried to crash. Photo: Enginerd


  2. #2
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    Day 2 – West End of Waugh Lake to Donahue Pass to Mount Lyell

    Our plan on Day 2 was to travel Northwest to Donahue Pass (11,056 ft.), and drop down to a glacial tarn around 10,400 ft. to set up camp. After that, we would see how I felt and ski some corn around camp.

    Ultimately, I felt better as the day progressed and we ended up not only setting up camp, but also climbing up to Mount Lyell (13,120 ft.) to ski it. We ended up travelling 9.9 miles and climbing 3,941 ft. for the day. It was a great day with awesome skiing at the end!

    Starting off, more water crossings. Photo: Enginerd



    I believe these are called the Devil's Teeth, and Enginerd mentioned Peter Croft did a full traverse of these back in the day. Photo: Enginerd



    We were very pumped to have consistent snow to skin on, heading up towards Donahue Pass. Travel became much more efficient from this point forward for the next 2 days. Photo: Enginerd



    After climbing up Donahue Pass, we got a nice small descent down towards where we planned to dig out camp. Corn was great, and the weather was warm. Photos: UCL, Enginerd, UCL







    We got to the glacial tarn around lunch and dug out the mid. We left it in the sun to sinter and generally didn't want to step foot into it later until the evening once it froze solid. It was great to empty out all of the overnight gear in our packs and transition to light, day-packs. I was feeling much better, so we planned to skin up to find some good N-facing corn (given it was the afternoon). Photo: Enginerd



    As we worked up, we decided we would go up to the Lyell-Maclure Col so we could scout summiting Lyell the next day. Enginerd had been back to Lyell in the summer with Lightranger many years ago, and recalled the summit approach to Lyell was very tricky. It was supposed to be third class, but Enginerd remembered having to back off due to the complexity and wallowing in summer snow. Photos: UCL, UCL





    Taking a quick break half-way up, with Lyell Canyon off in the distance. The back up climbing towards the Col. Photos: UCL





    When we got up to the Col, we both quickly agreed the rock-approach to the summit plateau was a total non-starter. No way at all it was third class. There was a steep snow ramp next to the rocks that looked thin. Enginerd was willing to give it a go, while I just said I would sit at close as possible and wait for him to see if he could get over and tag the summit. Photo: UCL



    Fortunately, Enginerd was making good progress and seemed like he was going to find a way up. The snow was hard and made for good climbing with crampons and whippets. Unfortunately, Enginerd then broke the rivet on the toe bail of his crampons. Unclear it if was a pre-existing issue or if he hit it on a rock. He then had to down-climb, as going up with one crampon was not going to happen.

    When we got down, we decided it was getting late and the N-facing corn starting just below the summit block was going to be skiing prime. So we decided to ski from there all the way down to camp (around 2,000 ft. below). It was an unreal run, with Maclure Peak off in the distance! Photos: UCL, Enginerd, UCL







    Looking up at Enginerd skiing down from the entrance to the summit block. Photo: UCL



    The snow was SO good on this run. Really a fabulous ending to an outstanding day. Very happy to have gone up to Lyell on only the second day. Photos: UCL, Enginerd, UCL, UCL, Enginerd











    An arrow of victory on Day 2! Photo: Enginerd



    Once the temp started to drop, we put up the mid and were given an awesome sunset and a clear, cold night. Photos: Enginerd, Enginerd, Enginerd, UCL








  3. #3
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    Day 3 – Simmons Peak and Mount Lyell

    Today's plan was to keep base camp set up and go spend the day skiing in this awesome zone. We got an early start and on the climb up planned to head over to more S-SE facing aspects for the early morning. Photo: Enginerd



    Once we got to the top, we quickly both glanced over two drainages to the East Couloir on Simmons Peak (12,497 ft.). There was little debate that we had to head over to check that out, hoping the snow conditions were OK for a climb. It was pretty windy and cold, so we were actually less worried about it being too warm given the solar aspect, but more about it still being frozen solid with the very strong winds. Photos: Enginerd





    Once we skinned over there, we realized that despite the winds, it was softened nicely. The snow was not wet at all, but did have a rotten quality where it was pretty unconsolidated in the top 2-4 inches. We were not worried about stability, but rather realized it was going to sluff off pretty easily. Sluff management was going to be the name of the game. Fortunately, underneath was nice and supportable, so booting up the couloir was not bad. Enginerd leading up. Photo: UCL



    I was dragging a bit, as I had a pretty sore throat and was coughing from my cold. Still, I was able to generally just put my head down and follow Enginerd throughout the day, trying to remain hydrated and take Sudafed ever 4-6 hours. Having said that, being sick during this trip was a bit of a bummer. Photo: Enginerd



    Simmons Peak is deep in the High Sierra when approached from the East. We got to the top of the couloir and were treated to awesome views of Half Dome to the West. It was really cool to see how big Half Dome is from this vantage point. Photo: Enginerd



    Tagging the summit proper of Simmons Peak was off the cards, as it was very windy and also a pretty exposed climb. Enginerd and I were both pumped how remote this peak was. Honestly, I can't imagine there are more than 40 descents of this couloir in its history. It is 3-days back there (assuming you want to ski it in the morning given the solar aspect) and really off the beaten charts as far as the more popular ski tours. Even 40 is likely high to be honest. Photos: Enginerd, UCL





    From the top, we also got a great vantage back at Lyell a couple of drainages back. We decided we would head back there and ski the North side from one of the sub-summit peaklets. The one on lookers right seemed awesome, and would offer a different descent of Lyell than the day before. Photo: Enginerd



    Looking down the East Couloir on Simmons Peak. Photo: Enginerd



    It was a great descent. The upper couloir had a lot of slow moving sluff given the unconsolidated 2-4 inches, but then the apron was perfect corn snow. Really a extremely fun ski. Photos: UCL, UCL, Enginerd, Enginerd, UCL, Enginerd













    Looking back… Blasted! Photo: Enginerd



    Before we headed up to Lyell, we got a look at the first half of the next day. Our plan was to get up early and travel from camp along the Tuolumne / Mono County Border, heading all the way to Kuna Crest South to descend down towards Helen Lake. We were both honestly anticipating this to be a complete death march in the sun for miles on end. The pass in question is the low point in looker's left of this photo (to the left of the long sloping rock ridge), way off in the distance. Photo: UCL



    We continued up towards the sub-peaklet of Mount Lyell. Photos: Enginerd, UCL





    We continued skinning up, the North-aspects holding good, stable corn snow. Photos: Enginerd, UCL





    About halfway skinning up the triangle peaklet, the snow was frozen solid by the wind and skinning was not possible. We decided to take turns using my crampons to boot to the summit to check out the views. Although I booted up with my skis, there was no way to dig out a platform as the snow was too hard. So we each climbed, took some pictures, and then down-climbed back to the soft snow. Photo: Enginerd



    Incredible views from the summit of Mount Lyell's South Face. Photos: UCL





    Looking South, the jagged summits of Mount Rodgers, Banner Peak and Ritter Peak in the distance. Photo: Enginerd



    To cap off the day, we skied 2,000 ft. + of perfect North-facing corn back to camp from just below the sub-peaklet of Mount Lyell. Photos: Enginerd, Enginerd, UCL X 3











    We continued on, a wonderful end to the day. Photos: UCL, Enginerd, UCL







    We ended up finishing Day 3 at 8.2 miles and 3,684 ft. of climbing.

  4. #4
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    Day 4 – Kuna Crest South and Parker Pass

    As I mentioned above, our next day was a long haul over to Kuna Crest South to descend to Helen Lake. Fortunately, we ended up making very quick time on the long traverse, as the snow stayed relatively frozen and we were able to maintain a high-line. Once we eventually hit Helen Lake, we kept going over Parker Pass to try and camp closer to Koip Peak.

    We ended up travelling 10.7 miles and climbing 3,061 ft.

    Early morning skinning was nice and frozen, making for quick travel. Photos: UCL





    Looking back at the Lyell Range, including Mount Lyell, Maclure Peak and Simmons Peak. We came a long way from the day prior. Photos: Enginerd





    Having been able to do a long, side-hill gliding traverse from basically Donahue Peak, we were surprised to have made it all the way to over by Kuna Crest South by 11 AM. Photo: UCL



    The SW side of the pass was pretty burnt out, so some tallus hoping was in order. Photo: UCL



    Fortunately, the East side of Kuna Crest South had an awesome corn run down to Helen Lake. Enginerd dropping in. Photos: UCL





    UCL following suit on the upper portion of the bowl on Kuna Crest South. Photos: Enginerd





    We were able to largely ski around the side of Helen Lake. Sadly, as we were going I heard a pop and saw something fly off my ski. We stopped and realized the top portion of my heal piece broke! This was the second year in a row where something from Dynafit broke, rendering me stuck in touring mode. Last year it was the top buckle on my Mercury Boots. This year, a Radical heelpiece. I was told later there had been a recall on these (I didn't realize), so hopefully it is something easily fixable via warranty. Photo: Enginerd



    After playing around a bit, I realized I could obviously just lock my heal down and ski in the back seat to ski. However, we had some fun descents of Koip Peak and Mount Wood theoretically on the ticket for the next day, conditions dependent. So we brainstormed a bit, and realized I could also use a Voile strap to lock my heal down when looped around the remaining heal piece. It barely fit, but would do the trick so I could ski for real the next day.

    We had originally planned on camping by Helen Lake, but it was early in the day and we wanted to keep moving on over Parker Pass. The snow in this area was super burnt out and not confidence inspiring. Nevertheless, we pushed on past Parker Pass Lake and to a glacial tarn at 11,600 feet below Kuna Peak and Koip Peak. [B]Photos: UCL, Enginerd, UCL X 3[B/]











    Our campsite on the tarn was awesome, back in a land of Winter with great coverage. We dug out the mid and then booted up around the corner to see if we had an easy way to access Koip Peak Pass between Parker Peak and Koip Peak. It went, so we were excited about that.

    We cooked up some dinner as the temps dropped. Photos: UCL





    Day 4 campsite. Photo: Enginerd


  5. #5
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    Day 5 – Koip Peak and Mount Wood

    We woke up on Day 5 to extremely strong winds. The sky was clear and blue, but the winds were cranking. While the weather in the High Sierra is largely pretty stable, once you get out to 5 days the extended forecast becomes a bit meaningless. When we had left on Monday, it was a bit murky regarding whether a system would move in on Friday.

    Our plan had been to climb to Koip Peak Pass and empty out our overnight gear, to then climb to the summit of Koip Peak and ski the North Bowl. We were worried about it not softening, as the snow around camp was frozen notwithstanding the sun. We waited it out in the mid for a while, and then finally decided to get going and see what it was like up at the Pass. Photo: Enginerd



    Enginerd improvised his crampons, as they were definitely needed this day for the boot up to Koip Peak Pass. Photo: Enginerd



    Around the corner we got a look at the North Bowl of Koip Peak. The descent looked amazing, but I was clearly not pumped about the wind. Everything appeared frozen solid. Photo: Enginerd



    We headed over to the Pass between Parker Peak and Koip Peak and buried all of our overnight gear under rocks. We then booted up to the summit of Koip Peak, as miraculously the winds started to die down. We still assumed the North Bowl would be frozen, but knew there were other aspects on Koip that you could ski, coverage dependent. Photos: Enginerd, UCL





    At the summit of Koip Peak (12,968 ft.) we were treated to amazing views, even all the way out to Mount Lyell and Simmons Peak, many miles away. It gave us a good vantage to how far we travelled on this tour. Photo: UCL



    Enginerd took a bunch of panos showing the good coverage in the Ansel Adams and Yosemite Wildernesses. You just have to put in the effort to get back deep in there! Photos: Enginerd







    Ritter and Banner looking gnarly from this vantage point. Photo: Enginerd



    At the top of Koip Peak, we saw there was an awesome S-SE couloir that appeared to be in good condition. The very upper portion was soft notwithstanding the wind. In the middle, it was a bit more frozen, and then the apron opened up to great corn. Regardless, it was a fabulous line and definitely looked more promising than the North Bowl which was essentially a sheet of ice.

    Enginerd drops in hot, sticks the landing and throws a great turn up on the wall! Photos: UCL







    The Voile Strap fix to my ski mode worked well, particularly on the harder snow. I was happy to have my heal locked down for sure. Photos: Enginerd







    Enginerd continuing own down the sustained fall line. Photos: UCL









    Feeling more confident by my Voile strap heal system, I decided it was time to ski the remaining portions GS style! Photos: Enginerd






  6. #6
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    After an awesome run, we climbed back up to Koip Peak Pass to re-pack all of our overnight gear. Our plan was to head over around Parker Peak to Mount Wood. This involved the NEVER-ENDING side-hill of tallus and scree. It was soul crushing to be honest. The weather was moving in and we just really wanted to get over to Mount Wood while we had visibility. We had taken pictures from HWY 395 and saw there were three prominent couloirs from the summit, but only the third one connected to lower snow fingers that could take us very near a trail by Silver Lake.

    Did I mention the tallus and scree was never-ending? Photos: UCL, Enginerd, Enginerd







    For his heroic efforts dropping in hot on the Koip Couloir, Enginerd earned thirty-seconds wearing The Honorary Horns of Heroism. Photo: UCL



    And back to the scree! It was actually cool in that the cloud layer was forming right at the Crest, with Mount Wood summit above the clouds. Photos: Enginerd, UCL





    My face = tired + headache+ sick of tallus + worried about visibility and finding the correct couloir on Mount Wood. Photo: Enginerd



    At the summit, we consulted our prior photos from HWY 395 and were able to figure out the correct couloir to drop. Fortunately, we had that beta. Unfortunately, we were about to ski into a pea-soup of clouds. Photo: UCL



    Voile strapped in, we were ready to ski into and then out of the clouds. Photo: Enginerd



    It ended up being awesome! We skied through the clouds quickly, and found it was snowing very lightly on the other side. We were able to ski down connected fingers of snow way, way down to the sagebrush. It was great, as we ended up only having to walk for 15 minutes until we hit a trail to take us back to the parking lot by Silver Peak. Really, a fabulous completion to the loop tour. Photos: UCL X 2, Enginerd







    There is something awesome about skiing to the high elevation desert on the Eastside that I love. The sky was great, dropping down underneath the clouds. [B]Photos: UCL, Enginerd, UCL X 3,











    A bit of walking was not bad at all, particularly given we lugged running shoes the entire tour for this very purpose. The temps were cold and a light snow fell. Literally it picked up stronger as we got into the car. Photos: Enginerd







    The last day ended up with 8.7 miles and 2,497 ft. of climbing.

    A special thanks to Mrs. UCL, who took care of twin toddler 2-year-olds for the week while I was on this trip. That is another MEGA, MEGA TR in an of itself.

    Another amazing multi-day spring mission in the books!

  7. #7
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    Dec 2006
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    Very nice, dude. Bummer about the mechanical.

    Lyell is a pretty special place, and it's rad to be the only ones on Yosemite's highest peak. (I'm jealous you didn't have to endure the Lyell canyon dry hike that I suffered through.) I'll do Koip for sure at some point. I've also got a long-term goal to do a mid-winter traverse from June/Tioga to Yosemite Valley, skiing some of the weird climbing-adjacent stuff in Tuolumne.

  8. #8
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    Nice, I’ve been waiting for this since you mentioned it in the east side thread. Epic!

  9. #9
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    Awesome, strong work. I see the term "corn" get thrown around a lot on this forum, you posted perfect representation.

    Having had a bad head cold this week, I can't imagine leaving the comfort of my bedroom, much less doing a megatour.

  10. #10
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    Thanks for taking the time to post that!!!

  11. #11
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    Hell yeah dude! That was awesome.
    sproing!

  12. #12
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    Fucking fantastic! Nice work figuring it out with the broken gear and persevering through the illness.

  13. #13
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    Massive write up (and skiing!) Is that June in the distance?
    Merde De Glace On the Freak When Ski
    >>>200 cm Black Bamboo Sidewalled DPS Lotus 120 : Best Skis Ever <<<

  14. #14
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    Bravo

  15. #15
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    Excellent TR, thanks for taking the time to post. This is why I don't need magazines.
    www.apriliaforum.com

    "If the road You followed brought you to this,of what use was the road"?

    "I have no idea what I am talking about but would be happy to share my biased opinions as fact on the matter. "
    Ottime

  16. #16
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    Wowsers.

  17. #17
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    Great, thanks for writing about it.

    Sent from my Moto G (5) Plus using TGR Forums mobile app

  18. #18
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    Jan 2008
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    Nice work and tr! I'm impressed that you can stay fit enough for multiday Sierra tours while living at sea level and having a family and job(plus a cold). Hard enough to stay fit enough to do day trips.

  19. #19
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    Jun 2006
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    Wow, great TR, and way to power through the illness. I would have just curled up in a sleeping bag and whined.

    Great that you where able to McGuiver the binding fix. Not just that, but still manged to ski some nice lines and to ski aggressively.

    I agree it is a constitutional right for Americans to be assholes...its just too bad that so many take the opportunity...
    iscariot

  20. #20
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    Jul 2004
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    In the sewers of Folsom
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    Awesome trip and report UCL & Enginerd!!! Way to overcome the challenges (gear, etc) and get her done!
    Quote Originally Posted by Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer View Post
    Day 2 – West End of Waugh Lake to Donahue Pass to Mount Lyell


    ^^ makes me miss doing overnighters w/the megamid.

  21. #21
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    Apr 2006
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    Maybe UCL is playing up his illness for dramatic effect, but my first thought was wtf are you doing hiking deep into the BC being that sick? Sounds like a SAR recipe for sure. You may have just as well fallen in some ice and needed to be thawed out by scientists thousands of years in the future. Anyway, cool trip and way to power thru it. I would have hunkered into fetal position on my couch for sure

  22. #22
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    May 2008
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    Bravo. Great TR!

  23. #23
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    Stellar.

  24. #24
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
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    Great job on the trip, and thanks for putting together this awesome TR!

    So, are you going to bother with Dynafit, or just take the weight reduction of your new Voile bindings?

  25. #25
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    Awesome TR. Now THAT'S how it should be done! Just writing that up took a fair amount of time, I'm sure. Thanks for putting it up.

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