Black Canyon Trail

For our first ride together (without a trailer) in two years, we decided to ride the classic Black Canyon trail at Teton Pass outside of Wilson, WY. The Black Canyon trail is one of the original Teton Pass trails, now maintained by the grassroots Teton Freedom Riders trail building crew (also see this little documentary about the organization). It’s sort of a “baby” trail at the Pass with no built jumps, but incredibly fun. We also did something that is considered crazy in these parts: rode our bikes up to the pass from the bottom, rather than hitching a ride or shuttling. I thought the climb on the old pass road was rather nice — only 550 meters of vertical, really no reason not to ride it up.

The trail proper starts at the top of the pass and traverses a steep hillside that makes a great ski run in the winter time:

The traverse and climb up the ridge goes through some beautiful meadows and starts to feel remote very quickly:

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Spending most of our time in the european Alps, it’s really a treat to see so much uncultivated and untouched forest in all directions:

Finally we reached the top of the climb, a good 200+ vertical meters from the pass. The afternoon sun lit up the dried grasses and made for a perfect resting stop.

Finally it was time to taste the downhill part of the day. The trail weaves down the hillside with some fun switchbacks through the open meadows. Unlike the switchbacks we’re used to on the hiking trails in the alps, these never broke up the flow of the trail and were very smooth to ride.

All the way down into the forest we were treated to sweeping views of the valley. We even saw a herd of deer run up the hillside in front of us.

The trail changes character as it enters the forest, earning its namesake.

Some fun root sections and creek crossings lead you back to the old pass road:

As usual, you can see the full gallery as well.

Birthday tour — Rorspitzli 3220m

Part of this year’s annibirthday (2 birthdays + wedding anniversary) fell on a beautiful, sunny Friday. Luckily, it happened to be my birthday and not the anniversary, and I managed to convince Tobias to go ski something. He had told me about this great tour from Göschenen with a 2000m descent before and it fit my wish for “something tall in Uri”.

If you want to skip the text and just go to full-screen photos, go here.

We knew that there would be lots of climbing — 2100m of vertical gain. We also knew that this effort most likely will not lead to powder heaven, but instead to some nondescript crusty mess.

In the end, this felt like many ski tours rolled up into one — first the spring-like approach and blistering heat, then some proper alpine-looking scrambling above 3000m followed by 1000m of very enjoyable north-facing snow, and finally the worst death crust you can think of for the last 1000m down to the valley floor.

We started like all good spring tours should start — carrying skis.

Heading up from Göschenen -- snow levels not looking promising

Finally up in the open looking over at Salbitschijen:

Near Salbithütte:

Heading up on the open slopes near Salbithütte

Looking toward the impressive walls below Dammastock

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Heading toward the couloir that gives access to the Rorplatten that eventually lead to the Rorspitzli:

Climbing the little couloir:

Looking back in the direction of Andermatt:

We were trying to move reasonably quickly, but the warm weather got to us and we started slowing down… so not many photos until the summit 🙂

A couple following in our tracks seen from the summit of Rorspitzli (they were super friendly and eventually gave us a ride back down to the train station…)

The summit of Rorspitzli is a kind of unremarkable rubble pile. The scramble up and down is straightforward, but you have to be on the lookout for loose blocks… here we’re downclimbing and you can see the glacier with ski tracks below:

Ridge leading up to the summit pyramid:

Downclimbing the ridge to get to the glacier:

Finally, skiing… the snow was windpressed, recycled powder, but skied much better than expected.

Until we hit about 2000m — then the game was over and for the next 1000m of vertical we skied some pretty horrible breakable crust all the way down to the road.

Here’s Tobias demonstrating the proper technique for skiing this kind of crap:

This will be a great tour to do before work one day… 🙂

Engelberg freeriding

Sometimes you can’t resist the slopes, the snow, the sun, the friends. It’s always fun skiing with Romain and Andreas — we used to pretend that these workday ski outings were group meetings, but now that I’m no longer an astronomist we just call them for what they are: skipping work to play in the snow.

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On this particular day, we didn’t actually go touring but instead opted for a lift-accessed pow-fest. The avy danger was a bit sketchy so the plan was to stick to cruiser slopes and soak in the sun on the family-friendly side of Engelberg at the Brunni resort. When we showed up, the only other people in line were kids going sledding — are we being crazy?!

Once we traversed out of the resort proper, the light, fast powder confirmed that we made the right choice, although it wasn’t quite as plentiful and untracked as we had hoped. Here’s Andreas practicing his tele-style:

We skied all the way to the bottom and at the end found ourselves on ~5 centimeters of snow on top of grass. I cried a little for my skis here and there. Here’s Romain on the most dangerous part of the day:

We eventually got back up to the top and scoped out new lines:

Prof. Teyssier showing off his impeccable french powder style with Titlis in the background:

Lunch on the terrace at Brunni is spectacular with huge cliffs on all sides:

Finally we realized that the south-facing slopes were not gonna last much longer and headed a bit further north in the Engelberg valley to the famous (secret?) Haldigrat non-resort. This place is really special — a single lift allows you to access relatively gentle ungroomed slopes… with an hourly capacity of 50 people.

You call up the guy and let him know you’re coming up so you can pay him for the runs that you plan to do:

The views are amazing all the way to lake Luzern and the north-facing snow stays good for some time — if you can find some untracked patches still a few days after the snowfall…

… which we did

On the way out we got stuck between two creeks and opted to ski out one of them…

View the full-size gallery here

Pizzo Rotondo 3192m

I’ve had plans to get into the Rotondo area for the past four years but the plans never quite materialized. This year it was the destination for the annual “Ralf & Guido Tour” with the ZSS — in previous years, R&G tours have gone to Wallis for multiday high-altitude ski touring at its finest (Turtmanntal and Zinal) but this year a single day trip was the only possibility. The magic of the Rotondo region is that it marks the border between the typically colder north and milder south right in the middle of the main alpine ridge, offering views of the central swiss alps and the 4000ers of the Berner Oberland and Wallis to the west. All of this coupled with a tour that ends in an exciting 200m couloir to get to the summit of Pizzo Rotondo makes for a very attractive tour.

The Bedretto was a particularly popular spot that morning — I guess the scary amounts of new snow and strong winds in the north pushed everyone south of the ridge. You had to be quick if you wanted a spot to sit down on the bus from Airolo:

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Soon we found ourselves on the north side of the beautiful Bedretto valley in flat light…

On the lower slopes we definitely were not alone…

But soon our track veered off from the main stream onto some steep and firm terrain:

Eventually the visibility went down to almost nothing. Once we reached the couloir, its walls provided some much needed contrast and a reference point:

Our group on the summit:

Descending the narrow snowy ridge was quite spectacular in the flat light:

Back in the couloir:

Then it was time to ski! It looked a lot like this:

Although the visibility improved lower down, the snow deteriorated…

On the way out, we waited for a bus next to this family-friendly ski resort:

This friendly woman wanted to make sure no one needed to use the facilities before she locked up…

And everyone generally enjoys huge amounts of snow, especially on roofs…

See the full size gallery here.

chasing the sunrise

To catch the sunrise highlighting the storms brewing over the mountains in the distance… that was the plan but getting out of bed before 6am on a Saturday, just to bike up the local hill is pretty challenging.

I was half an hour too late and had to settle for the beautiful color while still on the uphill road:

Since I missed my main objective, but I had a tripod with me, I decided to play around a bit and see whether it’s possible to use the automatic shooting functions to catch myself riding the trail:

Finally on top, I had the place almost to myself with great hazy light — I think I prefer it like this compared to when it’s perfectly clear. It also means fewer tourists…

Some telephoto shots with the 20 year old Minolta Rokkor 135mm f/3.5:

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Check out that nice in-lens vignette at f/3.5:

And a view up at the trio well-known to most residents of this lovely city… but from a slightly different perspective:

pre-work lake-to-sky adventuring

Abundant snow fall at low altitudes meant that some “special” tours were doable — including Stöcklichrüz, which is a hill above the town of Lachen on the southern end of the Zürisee. What this tour lacks in fun steep slopes it makes up for with the novelty of skiing basically from lake level…!! Good fun, back at work before lunch time…

Full gallery on www.rokroskarphoto.com.

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First skiing of the season — Redertengrat

… this actually happened two weeks ago, but somehow I haven’t found the five minutes I need to post the pictures. We went to the closest awesome place, Wägital with its always-tracked-to-hell Redertengrat. The freshly-coated forest looked spectacular in the diffuse light coming through the fog and it was a lot of fun trying to capture the feeling on camera. With the falling snow and the wind and the crap that got stuck on my lens somewhere in between and the zero visibility it was pretty satisfying. It looks like it might be a yearly tradition to ski this tour in a white out. Always fun but leaves you wanting just a bit more… aching for the next adventure.

Full gallery on rokroskarphoto.com.

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New Year’s Day walk about

Šiška – Tivoli – Šiška

short and sweet. 1st day of the new year.

into the park, walking and running

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sleds and sledders

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looking for birds and squirrels

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much needed break with hot chocolate at the center for design

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(these next few at the cafe are taken by my niece Živa)

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always playing

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something comforting about these gray winter days

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(pre) teenage angst

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Tiporenesansa: a print shop in the heart of Ljubljana

Strolling around town and catching the snowflakes, we ran into Marko, an old friend of my sister’s who happened to be walking to his studio… which happens to be a print shop in the heart of Ljubljana. It is stocked with printing presses saved from the tooth of time (slovene phrase, but it fits) by tender love and deep appreciation for the art of typography and printing. Really a remarkable place, check out their website and pay them a visit, maybe learn a thing or two or just enjoy the beautiful space and letters all around you.

(full-size gallery)

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Machines:

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Art:

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