Here in Gulmarg Kashmir, hanging out waiting for it to stop snowing. The warm temps down low have made skiing in the forest a not so enjoyable experience. The alpine terrain is still getting hammered by a series of small storms and with the extreme avalanche danger and very limited visibility it is just too risky to head up onto the hill. I've been able to use this time to catch up with the local guides and continue mentoring them as they work on their guiding skills. My friends here (B4apres) are using the time to edit footage and blog about their recent tour to a very cool zone that is about a 4 hour skin from the ski area. Here is a link to their story, B4apres.com
I have been climbing with Phil for 14 years. We used to crush it in the boulders of Connecticut. Now we connect every once in a while to have some fun. While I was on K2 this summer Phil was killing it in the boulder fields of Rocky Mountain National Park. He sent Jade, V15, after only 3 days of work. He is the 3rd American to climb the incredible grade of V15. To see more of Phil's action videos, check his blog at phillipschaal.blogspot.com
This year I'm getting a late start to my ski season. I've had a few days out, face shots, white room and all but I can't consider my season officially started until I get a heavy dose of alpine. After spending so much time in the Himalaya over the past 5 years, even the Rockies seem flat. In early Feb I'll be going back to the Pir Panjal mountains of Kashmir. This is the land of 6$ gondi rides for 4,600 vertical of untracked. The vertical my not be huge comparatively but it is nearly all above treeline. And the touring puts you straight into a Himalayan wilderness survival situation. A buddy Anthony Bonello is over there now making a film. He shot this footie earlier in the season. Although it isn't in the Himalaya (it's BC), the terrain looks amazingly similar to the forests of fir trees common in Kashmir. During the storm cycles it is just too dangerous to ski in the alpine zone so we ski in the forest. Though this is not true big mountain skiing, it is the next best thing, Pow Pow.
This shot is from 2006. It was taken at the top of the 2nd step at 8650 meters. The traverse from the 2nd step to mushroom rock is one of the sketchiest parts of the route. Sugar snow on tiny downsloping ledges with very old and tattered ropes. The slabs of the upper north face look pretty mellow in this photo, but sure seem a lot steeper when your crampons are skidding around on the smooth rock at 28,000 ft.