Cloudsplitter Mountain Guides offers private mountain guiding, rock and ice climbing and instruction, High Peaks summit climbs, backcountry ski tours and selected alpine climbing opportunities with our AMGA certified guides and instructors. Come visit us in Keene Valley, NY- the heart of the Adirondack High Peaks and the East’s greatest mountain wilderness!
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Friday, April 25th 2014
The Ford Couloir on the South Face of the Grand Teton. Note the three sets of new tracks in the sun.
It's late April. Taxes are done. The driveway has thawed. Snow levels have retreated up into the higher mountains. I was bitten by a mosquito while rock climbing the other evening. It will surely be cold and may even snow a bit again, but spring has sprung.
In winter, our philosphy is to 'climb when it's icy and ski when it's snowy.' It's a tidy, simple algorithm for us and our partners to make the most of any given winter day, and it reconciles equal passions by favoring climbing in the early winter and skiing in later winter.
Richie enjoys the view of the Tetons from near Albright Peak.
This March, while Mark continued reliably icy Adirondack climbing games with our guests in the Adirondacks, I transitioned into another spring ski season with Exum Mountain Guides in Jackson, Wyoming. March and early April proved again to be a great time to ski in the Tetons- with a deep and generally consolidated snowpack. The terrain presents a lot of choices for classic powder touring or steep ski mountaineering, and good turns in the backcountry are there for those who want to earn them. Travel to Jackson is surprisingly easy, and since it's a small mountain town, the skiing is close. Our relationship with Exum Mountain Guides continues too grow, and we will be rock & alpine guiding in the Tetons with Exum again this summer, and ski guiding there again next winter.
Skiing across the ridgeline to Peak 10,696.
Self-explanatory great day (bluebird + powder).
Richie gives up the tele turn for power parallels- and better float in powder.
The classic 'Son of Apocalypse Couloir' on Prospector Peak.
In position with a support crew filming a ski descent of the Grand Teton. And the waiting game begins...
30 degree, wide-open slopes and boot-top powder. March in the Tetons delivers again.
As the season and snowpack transitions into spring, our formula changes a bit to reflect a more diurnal approach. Climb up in the early morning when it is cold & icy. Ski down in the afternoon when it is warm and soft. Eventually freezing levels move higher into the mountains, and we are faced with a choice: to continue to ski up high in the alpine or go rock climbing in the valley?
The 'ice hallway' below the New Angel Slides.
Spring corn harvest on the Angel Slides.
If one of the Alp's longest telepheriques can transport you from valley bottom to the high alpine in about twenty minutes- then skiing is still a very attractive attractive option! Emilie is already trained and certified as an American Rock Guide, but she is pursuing international mountain guiding certification, which includes all disciplines (rock, alpine, ski & avalanche forecasting). She has been completing requisite objectives in preparation and participating in an Aspirant ('apprentice') level ski mountaineering guide course & exam being held by the American Mountain Guides Association in the high Alps near Chamonix, France. It's a rigorous process that, by design, requires candidates to have a depth of experience in diverse terrain & snowpack- from the coastal ranges in Alaska, British Columbia and Cascades- to the Rockies, Wasatch, Tetons and the Alps.
In the future, Emilie will capitalize on this experience and expertise to share and enjoy the beauty of the Alps with her guests and partners to make the most of their vacation, but right now, there's likely an instructor watching and grading her every move, and that process is no holiday!
Down in the valley, while the last of the corn snow melts away in the Northeast, we'll be rock climbing in the Adirondacks. We've already had a few cycles of warm sunny weather and some nice days on dry, grippy anorthosite. There is usually a window of good rock climbing in the Adirondacks in May. The days are progressively warmer, there are no leaves yet on the trees blocking the sun or views, the bugs haven't hatched (yet), and there are few other visitors around. It's a good way to satisfy that spring fever, and many of our guests & partners that are coming to the Adirondacks in May to rock climb are training for alpine (rock) climbs- with us and Exum Mountain Guides- in the Tetons later this summer.
Making the most of an early spring day at Pitchoff.
Craig getting off the beaten path onto 'The Lonely' at Pitchoff.
Spring ritual crack climbing on Pitchoff Chimney Cliff.
While we are rock climbing in the Adirondacks, our friends at Exum will continue their peak ski mountaineering season in the Tetons through May...This something to think about for next year's spring objective if you like ski mountaineering.
Or to climb in the Alpine?
For most rock climbers in the Tetons, June is too 'early' for climbing. Some are still skiing whatever alpine lines they can find. But for those climbers who are more into mixed alpine climbing on snow, rock and everything in between, early season in the Tetons is a season of opportunity. While the weather can be less settled than later in summer, it is still a semi-arid environment- what I call 'Wyomistan'- so you can dry out when it clears and the weather is generally pretty good relative to the Cascades in June. There's plenty of featured Teton granite on ridges and southern aspects, and on the northern aspects, the snow and ice cover makes travel over scree, talus slopes and couloirs much easier and faster, and makes LNT practices for camping and water collection much easier. With so much less visitation in the Park in June, it is also a good opportunity for us to camp up high in the canyons and link several objectives- for better acclimatization, easy access to alpine starts on the routes with snow climbing, and to have the place to ourselves. Several of my long-term partners with prior alpine experience and/or mixed rock & ice experience have really enjoyed these trips in past years, and this unique alpine opportunity first brought us to Exum and the Tetons four years ago.
For more info on this summer in the Adirondacks, Tetons and beyond, check out our 2014 SCHEDULE
For example, here's a video of the Grand Teton's East Ridge and Middle Teton's NW Ridge, with Mike C in 2012...
Thursday, March 27th 2014
March is for skiing
Lone Peak (11,000'+) at Big Sky. Yes, the tram goes to that highest point. Lots of steep, exposed, incredible skiing and a pretty good training ground for the Alps.
March is a great month for skiing...just about anywhere. And while the month is nearly over, with alleged spring like conditions not far away (Hmmm.... it was still only 0F here in Keene Valley this morning...again), there is still time, snow, and lots of skiing to be had.
March skiing may have started off questionably, but we did have just enough snow (actually plenty of snow above 3000') for another great Adirondack Backcountry Ski Festival. With a few additional inches of snow accumulating in the mountains every other day or so, I had a few great days out, guiding classic backountry descents like the Marcy Trail and the Wright Peak Ski Trail before heading to Big Sky Resort in Montana to test myself in steeper terrain (BTW -- Big Sky is amazing, can't wait to go again). Meanwhile, Jesse headed to the Tetons to ski guide with Exum Mountain Guides for nearly all of March; next week he heads to the Wasatch for a final week of skiing and guiding before heading back to the Adirondacks. With both of us out of town during peak backcountry and late season ice climbing, Mark did a great job holding down the fort, guiding lots of multi-pitch classics -- most of which are still huge due to a sustained, cold winter.
But it's not over yet, at least not for me! While I'm currently headed to the Red Rock Rendezvous in Las Vegas to teach rock climbing clinics on behalf of the AMGA and GORE-TEX, a quick turn around will have me in Chamonix, France for most of the month of April for some ski mountaineering adventures.
While this may all sound like a glamourous and gallavanting lifestyle, everything we do is done with purpose and direction. Certainly we're fortunate to have connections and opportunities outside the Adirondack Park, but it should also be noted that experience, skill, and knowledge are largely gained by pushing beyond known terrain. A month long trip to France isn't cheap, but I expect the rewards will be high and the experience invaluable. Of course we always love checking out new venues for future guiding opportunities, too!
SO, that's what we've been up to. It's been a busy but fantastic winter of climbing and skiing. And if you joined us on any trips, clinics, or custom guided days, thank you for being part of our adventurous lifestyle! --Emilie
Steep, technical skinning on the Wright Peak Ski Trail during Skifest.
Mike, about to catch a little air on the Marcy Trail during Skifest.
My co-guide, Jim, having fun on the Marcy Trail during Skifest.
Noah (12) and his Dad, Kris, on the summit of Wright Peak. Whiteout conditions but that didn't stop these guys from going for the summit!
Noah on descent. This kid can ski!!
Noah's dad, Kris, he can ski, too! We went from summit to car in about 35 minutes (not the recommended descent speed for everyone, though!)
Good powder below the Big Sky tram.
Jen on her way out after skiing the steep and firm, Big Couloir, at Big Sky, MT.
Jesse and Doug at the top of 25 Short in the Tetons. We skied the big, wind-blasted couloir in the background...firm snow in the feature, amazing snow down lower on northeastern aspects.