Tailgate Alaska: Day 13 - With my own two feet

Thursday was another bluebird day on Thompson Pass Alaska. Although I had exhausted my heli budget, I was determined to get some snowboarding in. Plus I still had the Fuse bindings that I borrowed from the Spark R&D guys the day before. I had already tested them going downhill, but I figured today would be a good day to test them going uphill as well.

Look up Gully One.
That roll on the right was my goal. I didn't want to skin too high and get into real avalanche and glacier hazards. I was about two thirds of the way to the roll when I took this picture.

I took my time getting ready since I was not in a hurry to line up for a heli. First thing I had to do was to switch over to my bigger pack so I'd have room for my skins and touring poles. I was psyched about finally getting to use my split board in Alaska. However, since I didn't have a touring partner, I wanted to keep hazards to a minimum. I chose Gully One to skin up since it's seen heavy snowmobile traffic so if something was going to go, it would have gone already. I also chose Gully One because I wanted to air over a huge windlip that had formed about ¾ of the way down.

I setup my split in touring mode just beyond the Tailgate lot on the south side of the road at the base of Gully One. While I was getting set up, Doug came by on a sled and asked me if I wanted a bump up the mountain. Normally I might have said yes, but this time I actually wanted to test out the Spark R&D bindings in ascent mode. I thanked hime and continued to attach my skins for the trek up.

I started up the main face and it was easy going until I got to the first really steep pitch. I had to start doing switchbacks because it was an awkward climb even with the climbing bars up (I was actually surprised I remembered how to do switchback turns). It might have been easier to take a mellower slope but it was a longer trek distance wise. Besides, I wanted to take the most direct path to my objective.

According to the Big Mountain Taxi guys, it took me a little over an hour to reach my objective, the first roll after the windlip; about half way up to the saddle of Gully One. I could have gone higher, but I was a) not feeling that ambitious, and b) on my own and didn't want to get into too much hazard where no one could see me. Once I got to the roll, I did the switchover to riding mode which was quite quick with the Fuse bindings – they slide off the pucks a lot more easily than the plates that I have – put my down jacket back on, strapped into my board, and dropped the first cornice I could find into some fresh pow below (all hazard avoidance went straight out the window apparently).

The ride down took probably 1/20th of the time it took to skin up, but that ride down was so much fun. It really does give you a sense of satisfaction when you earn your turns. I did hit the wind lip like I wanted to, however, I pulled back a little bit because on the way down I remembered that I had an ice axe strapped to my pack and the consequences of not sticking it could have been painful.

Mike Basich's Transformer Truck.
Mike Basich's transformer truck. The ramp on the back can hold up his sled. It's still a work in progress though.

When I got back to the Tailgate lot, I ran into Mike Basich who was just getting back from sledding, and was playing with his dog. He showed me his custom transformer truck which has a lifting ramp where he can park his sled, and underneath is a living area for himself. The truck is still not complete, he still needs to build an extension to his ramp so he can lower it to the ground to be able to load up his sled without the need of a snowbank, but it's still a very cool looking machine, and a pretty beastie truck. We also talked briefly about Area-241, a plot of land that Mike owns near Tahoe where he does all the testing for his 241 line of outerwear; something that I'll probably want to look into further.

Even though it doesn't seem like I did a lot, day thirteen certainly felt like a full day. I'm pretty much as exhausted now, if not more, than I have been at any other time during my sojourn in Alaska. This is a good kind of tired though, and since Friday will be my last full day in Alaska, I'm considering doing something even more ambitious; like possibly skin up the ridge to Berlin Wall. Then again, I'll have to see how much my body protests in the morning. Either way, I'm holding on to those Fuse bindings for another day, so I'll have to use them at least once.

Winter Matters Bubble

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Damn, it sounds like you had a blast! I really want to go next year. I just was able to pick up a pair of Mr. Chomps for my Fuses. It doesn't look like I'll be trying them out around here, any time soon, though. Have a safe trip home!

Marc's picture

Yeah, it's been a blast. I got to see next years Fuse bindings, they are quite possibly the lightest binding on the market PERIOD. Also, they are teaming up with Union next year for the highbacks and straps.

That's good news about the Union straps. It is pretty hard to find parts for Bent Metal Bindings. I might have to pick up a newer model if I can, next year.

Marc's picture

I'd be willing to go with this year's model. I don't want to go back to riding with plates, it sucks.

I'm not going back to plates either. Sparks just improve the experience x100. Kathy and I just picked up some Tracker 2's. We got a really good deal on them.

Marc's picture

Nice! You'll have to let me know what you think of the Tracker 2 (as compared to the Tracker). When I was doing beacon practice in AK, I found the Tracker was slow on picking up the signal if you moved too fast. The Barryvox had the same problem, but it was worse with the Tracker; maybe because I'm used to the Barryvox. I'm thinking newer DSPs will mitigate this. I'm also curious about the isosceles triangle problem.

I believe it was equilateral triangles... that's right, I went geometric on your ass.