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!

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.



Doug, making the skiing look easy in the couloir.

Thursday, February 13th 2014

It's Snowing!

Finally, after countless freeze-thaw cycles, it's snowing...and accumulating!  Perfect timing, too, as this is the time of year when we start to transition from ice climbing to backcountry skiing.  It's been a busy 6 weeks of climbing and guiding here in the Northeast and a fun stretch spent in Ouray, CO in January.  Check out the photo gallery below to see what we've been climbing. 

But before that, a big thanks to the three ice festivals we were lucky to take part in this year: The Ouray Icefest (first time at this one...looking forward to going back).  Adirondack International Mountainfest (the original hometown celebration of ice climbing), and the Outdoor Research sponsored Mt. Washington Valley Icefest (an amazing event, flawlessly organized and heavily attended).  Also a big thanks to my new favorite Mt. Washington Valley lodging: The Nereledge Inn right in North Conway.  Highly Recommended!

Don't forget, The Adirondack Backcountry Ski Festival is coming up.  Hope you can join us March 1-2, 2014.  Guest athlete is Chris Davenport!

Jesse and Emilie will be skiing and guiding in the Tetons with Exum Mountain Guides for part of this March.  If this is something that interests you (this year or in the future), get in touch!




Chicks with Picks, 'The Complete'. A great event with incredible women climbers. Here, a few ladies show us how to stay warm and get songs stuck in our heads all day!


Ueli Steck running it out on a steep pillar of ice not far from the Ouray Ice Park competition route.


Dara on a steep section of Dexter's Slabs. Ouray, CO


Another classic: Birdbrain Boulevard (WI5, M6, IV). Birdbrain is the subtle chimney system to the right of the more obvious, and also classic ice climb, The Ribbon.


Birdbrain Boulevard.


Erica, somewhere deep on Birdbrain Boulevard.


Erica on the last pitch of Birdbrain Boulevard, an awesome chimney system that follows hidden ice (and some choss) for eight pitches. Ouray, CO


Karen just above the steepest section of P1, Ames Ice Hose. Ames, CO


Karen on the first pitch of the classic Ames Ice Hose in Ames, CO.


Karen heading up on P2 of the Ames Ice Hose runnel.


The biggest disappointment during my trip to CO: not having a chance to climb this route, the classic Bridalveil Falls just outside Telluride, CO.


A consolation prize for Bridalveil Falls: this interesting variation of Sapphire Bullets. More chimney time!



Mt. Washington Valley, NH



Andy on a steep approach pitch to the hidden gully climb, Embargo. NH


Andy near the top of a snow covered but still steep Dracula at Frankenstein Cliffs. If you look closely you'll see he looks a little like Alice Cooper thanks in part to getting hit by some ice.


John at the top of P1 of the classic Frankenstein route, The Standard Route.


Pam in The Cleft, high on Mt. Willard. Crawford Notch, NH. I'll never get tired of this amazing, hidden climb!

Monday, December 30th 2013

Arctic Oscillation?


After climbing rolling waterfall ice for 1700' and bushwhacking for another 300', the walk off Cascade Mountain offers a panoramic view of the Great Range on the way down the trail.


Santa brought fresh ice on Christmas Eve.


After Christmas, Emilie found interesting mixed climbing and 'Unexpected Pleasures' up on Knob Lock Mountain.

Apparently neither El Nino or La Nina will dominate the Pacific weather patterns this winter, so the dominant player for the US is the Arctic Oscillation, which is fickle and unpredictable beyond the short-term. It makes sense, since it's not even New Year's yet, and since mid-November we've had three full cycles of relatively warmer, wet precipation followed by spells of subzero temperatures and very localized ice storm conditions. Which, while it makes the driveway downright deadly, makes the ice climbing great. We've had a good solid start to the season and there's plenty of ice to climb, with the promise of continued development with these extreme temperature changes. Provided of course, you're appropriately dressed and fueled up for full-on conditions.


As the rain ends and the temps plummet again for the third time this season, rhime flags start to grow again on exposed summits.


Fernando knows it's slippery when wet.


'Call Mr. Plow, that's my name. That name again is Mr. Plow' - Adam channels Homer Simpson

Rather than daydream about conditions elsewhere though, or get caught up in the useless argument that any one mountain town always has the best conditions, I think it's better to enjoy what is accessible to us -wherever we happen to be- and to learn the value in the diversity of games to play in the mountains, from climbing ice in the Northeast to skiing coolers in the Tetons.

Right now, we're here in the Adirondacks and since every single surface is now glazed in a half-inch sheath of water-ice, this is the time of year to ice climb. So that's what we do. See below for a photo gallery from the last month of early-season ice climbing.


Fern swings for the fences, dodging the waterfalls on a warm, rainy day.


Rob enjoys perfect frozen butter on the fourth pitch of Weeping Winds, north side of Pitchoff Mtn.


Adam found that in early December, White Line Fever ran out of 'white' at the exit.


More fresh ice for the holidays. Thanks Santa.


The Shralpinist of Hoboken- aka Gary- doesn't just ski ice, he climbs it too!


Plenty of fresh yellow ice (from the sediment) in the Cascade Gully.


Trees and snow don't always stick to the Cascade slide, but ice always does.

I'll be here guiding ice in the Adirondacks for January and February, and I still have some availability on weekdays (only). Emilie is headed on the festival tour as an ambassador athlete with Outdoor Research - to Ouray, CO for their ice climbing festival and Chicks with Picks events in January and to the Mt. Washington Valley Ice Climbing festival in February. She has a little bit of availability left in each venue throughout the season.

Later it will be time to ski... Which gets skiers contacting us about providing avalanche education. Certainly the Adirondack slides are notorious avalanche terrain when conditions are right (or wrong), but the conditions are so variable that it is hard to schedule and package an effective program, and the access to practical time on real avalanche terrain is fairly burly for the average novice recreational enthusiast trying to squeeze it into a long weekend. 

For those serious skiers and alpinists who are looking to expand their avalalanche education as an investment in their own long-term skill progression, we strongly suggest they look into one of the programs offered by our friends at the American Avalanche Institute in Victor, ID. Instead of spending money on the latest gear, take a trip to Utah, Wyoming or Montana. There is simply no substitute for real application and experience in context, learning how to answer  the 'so what?' as they say at AAI.

For those skiers who have completed a level 1 or 2 avalanche education course, our private ski guiding is a chance to review and practice those skills alongside a trained professional, and learn their application in the context of the slides. This is almost impossible to schedule in advance, so those ski days happen on short-notice, when a recent snowfall makes playing hooky from work worth the risk on a powder weekday.

As for us, the transition into more skiing and less climbing will take place in mid-February. In March, I will be ski guiding in Grand Teton National Park (Jackson, WY) through our friends at Exum Mountain Guides. Some dates are already on the schedule, but I still have plenty of availability if we've skied or climbed together in the past, and you'd like to do so together again out in the Tetons. We choose our seasons and transitions very carefully to get the most diversity, but also to maximize the best windows of opportunity in each venue. If now is a reliable time to find ice in the Adirondacks, then March is a reliable time to find good snow in the Tetons.

If travel is westward is not in your cards this year, but the Adirondacks are still on your agenda in March, then we can set you up with our local associates Mark Scott or Dan Sandberg for the season's best backcountry conditions here too.

And finally a late congratulations to Emilie- she's already certified as an AMGA Rock Guide, and recently completed the AMGA's Advanced Alpine Guide Course/Aspirant Exam in the fall. She's headed to the Alps for the Advanced Ski Mountaineering Guide Course/Aspirant Exam in April. (A breadth of experience in diverse terrain and snowpack is mandatory in the ski guide discipline.) There are currently less than ten American women trained and certified by the AMGA to the full international standard (IFMGA / UIAGM) as a Rock, Alpine and Ski Mountaineering Guide. If you know Emilie, it is a fitting goal to work at the highest standard in her chosen profession and livelihood. She's 10/13 of the way there...if you support her initiative, then consider hiring her for your next mountain adventure!

- Jesse


North side of Pitchoff - 'where the blue Fern climbs'

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