Carlos Daniel and I got back out on the splitboards for another tour on the San Francisco Peaks, selecting a route on the opposite side of the mountain from our prior day’s mission. Our goal was to find some soft snow and rip a few pow turns to satisfy the soul while working around potential avalanche hazards due to the recent snowfall and a couple of wind events thereafter.
After submitting our route and plan to friends not on the mission we headed up the Arizona Snowbowl chairlift system, disembarking at 10,200 feet (3108 meters), switching over into touring mode and beginning the 1,500 (457 meters) vertical foot ascent to our destination. Around the 11,000 foot (3352 meters) mark we encountered some B24 airplane wreckage, landing gear sticking straight out of the snow, something you don’t see everyday! We thanked those who served then continued up through the trees before breaking out onto a ridge, greeted by significant wind speed. We knew going into the mission winds would be picking up throughout the day so we skinned up as far as it was comfortable and safe and started a snow assessment at the 11,700 foot mark (3566 meters).
‘Digging a Pit‘ is the common term in seeing what the snow layers are up to on any given slope you plan to descend, ours being a 32-degree pitch, rider’s left of a known slide path. Aside from assessing the snow and the layers through a series of tests, common sense plays a big part in not being greedy, like dropping in on a convex roll next to a known slide path just because “the snow looks so good!” This is never the approach any of us take while in the backcountry, it’s not worth it, please remember that.
After completing our test, we knew avy danger was low on our selected route, so we felt good in descending for some quality turns, which we did successfully and safely. The remainder of the run concluded with variable conditions through the trees back into the resort and a solid high-five for another successful tour in the Arizona backcountry.
The next move was switching out the backcountry gear for the twintip board and ripping chairlift laps for the remainder of the day through the various terrain parks and natural features around the mountain. Overall another fine day on the The San Francisco Peaks for outdoor enthusiasts like you and I, it’s hard to beat a split tour in the morning and groomers in the afternoon! Blotto
Please visit Kachinapeaks.org for up to date snowpack conditions, weather forecast, education and training opportunities. Don’t go into the backcountry unprepared, get your friends together and take your avalanche courses, aight!
All images by Blotto ©deanblottogray/blottophotto2017