Sunday, April 3, 2011

Ultralight Backpacking Blog has Moved

Dear Readers,

I recently opted to move this blog, "Ultralight Backpacking" off the Google Blogger servers and onto the personal server space I host at  The reason behind this is two-fold.  One, over the years I've grown to prefer the Wordpress blogging software to Google's Blogger software for it's open-source nature, expandability, and nearly endless configuration options.  Secondly I prefer my personal web content be located within a server space that I own and control as opposed to Google's Blogspot. No, I'm not worried about all that SkyNet brouhaha but do prefer to have near-total personal control over my data.

Those of you who subscribe to this blog via my RSS feed will automatically continue to receive updates in your RSS reader of choice assuming you are subscribed to my Feedburner feed.  It may behoove you to unsubscribe from my blog in your RSS reader and re-subscribe to be certain.  The feed address is

As part of this move I've decided to re-name my blog from it's general "Ultralight Backpacking" title to the more apt "Going Places Lightly".  Backpacking is one of my main passions but I am also passionate about other types of quiet recreation such as bicycling and splitboarding.  Those who read my blog know that I write about these other sports as much (and sometimes more) than backpacking - depending on the season.  Changing the name will inform new readers that by following my blog they will be reading about more than just backpacking, although the tenets espoused therein will more than likely always remain rooted in the simplicity that is the heart of going ultralight. 

I sincerely hope my current readership will remain with me in this move.  To continue following and subscribing point your web browser to "Going Places Quietly".

Blog URL (for casual readers):

Feed URL (for RSS subscribers):

Sam Haraldson

Monday, January 24, 2011

Splitboarding Chestnut Mountain

Absaroka Mountain Range as viewed from the East side of Chestnut Mountain
Gallatin National Forest, Montana, USA

View all the trip photos or the GPS track.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Snowbiking Chestnut Mountain Trail

Quality Bicycle Products supplied my favorite local shop, Bangtail Bikes with a couple demo snowbikes recently.  Mike and I have taken them out on three separate occasions and put roughly fifteen miles on them. 

The first rig is a Surly Pugsley:

The second rig is the newly released Salsa Mukluk

Both rides are equipped with Surly tires.  These tires are inflated to an amazingly low six p.s.i. of pressure and are sized at 3.8 in. (9.65 cm) wide.  The flotation from these things is spectacular for riding on snow or sand. 

It's no doubt that a number of the readers of this blog are familiar with the Pugsley snowbike; probably having heard either directly or offhandedly in their use along "The Lost Coast", Iditabike, or the Arrowhead 135.  The Salsa Mukluk frameset is new and doesn't yet have the same badass reputation as the Pugsley.  Cyclists are stoked about it however because it differs from the Pugsley in that the wheels aren't offset from center making for a slightly smoother turning action.  Personally I don't mind the offset because most of the usage of these bikes are at relatively slow speeds on highly-diverse terrain not making the offset as noticeable as it would be at speed on asphalt. 

I first rode a Pugsley in 2009 while visiting family in Minnesota.  My brother and I took them out for a trail ride in the popular mountain biking destination, Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis.  The riding on a packed snow trail is excellent and rivals summertime singletrack riding.  That evening after the trail riding we sessioned the bikes for a couple hours jibbing on snowbanks for a few hours. 

This past weekend Mike and I took the Pugsley and Mukluk to the Chestnut Mountain trailhead near Bozeman and were able to ride them about 1.5 miles up the trail before the amount of foot traffic had lessened enough to not provide an adequate riding surface.  Riding back down the 1.5 miles was exhilarating.  There's little scarier than having both front and rear disc brakes locked up as you and your bike slide left and right along a steep switchback section of trail.

View an interactive map of our route on Chestnut Mountain at

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Backcountry Forays along Ketchum, Idaho's Titus Ridge

Ketchum, Idaho is a small, swanky town that is home to Sun Valley Ski Resort. Many of the skiers here are rich fashionistas that never leave the smoothness of the groomed runs and comfort of the ski lifts. There are definitely some badasses that live there also however and for those willing to head only a few miles out their own backdoor a nearly endless sea of peaks and ridges awaits.

Ketchum lies comfortably nestled  in a pocket formed by the Challis and Sawtooth National Forests of Idaho with State Highway 75 the artery supplying fresh tourist dollars and backcountry dirtbags alike to the town.  Mike and I are of the latter category although we did buy some groceries, burgers, and beer while we visited.  The highway passes through downtown and heads North into the National Forest.  On it's way it switchbacks up and over Titus Ridge, topping out on what is called the Galena Summit at 8700' (2652 m).  A road that goes to nearly 9,000 feet simply screams, "Come ski me!"

Sam skinning along Titus Ridge away from Galena Summit

The views of the peaks along the drive north from Ketchum are peppered with skin tracks and descent lines but the quantity of terrain combined with the lack of users means plenty of freshies lie in wait for the motivated (and even the not-so-motivated) backcountry skiier or splitboarder.  Driving to Galena Summit and skinning from the trailhead for even just 30 minutes will provide you with enough snow and hillside for a dozen turns through myriad terrain types ranging from steep rocky chutes to open bowls to tight trees.
Usage may be low but I'm a powder snob and let's face it, I like to walk so after our first day of checking out the zone immediately adjacent to the highway it was time to top out at our previous days high point and then continue onward into the next bowl.  It was here that we found a true backcountry destination consisting of a big face with lots of options from couloirs to spines to gladed trees.  

Our destination for day two and three.

This is the kind of face I like to ride.  I'm relatively conservative in my choice of terrain not so much because I'm held back by my abilities but because I'm held back by my confidence.  It was good riding with my friend Loid whom I don't ride with often (he lives in Ketchum) because he pushed me a little outside my comfort zone, got my adrenaline rushing, and reminded me that I am a pretty good snowboarder.  

We sessioned the face in the photo above on day two, following it up with a repeat of our exit line from day one.  I wasn't ready to be done so upon arriving back in town I stayed suited up in my ski gear and set my splitboard to walking my way to the top of Sun Valley Ski Resort. This made for another seven miles of walking another few thousand vertical feet.  The views from the top were delightful but I was tired and cold so I took no photos to share with you my blog readers.  

Day three Loid was required to be at work selling ski and snowboard gear but Mike and I were amped to get a half day in before the drive back to Montana.  We opted to head to the same zone as day two and considered hiking farther out to yet another peak.  It would have been nice to hit another face but time was of the essence as many hours of driving were in front of us.  We filed it away for future plans and proceeded to kill a line parallel to the previous day.  

A face filed away for next time we visit

The riding was spectacular all three days.  We were successful in finding snow of superb quality on North-facing aspects and in all stability tests we performed we could not get an extended column to break (I managed to pound one column to a 45 count before my hand started hurting).  The company of Loid who I don't see all that often as well as Mike with whom I share an apartment was great.  To put it simply this is the kind of out of town trip that will stick in my memory for a long time to come.  



Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Skin to Win Randonee Rally - Bridger Bowl

Wikipedia defines Ski Touring as "...a form of backcountry skiing involving traveling over the winter landscape on skis under human power rather than through the use of ski lifts or snow vehicles.

The competitive form of ski touring is often referred to as randonnee racing wherein participants compete in a timed event during which they must move through a course ascending (both skinning and bootpacking) as well as by doing traditional ski descents.

On January 29th, 2011 my local ski hill Bridger Bowl is holding their annual randonnee Race, "Skin to Win". Two classes are available with the Pro class being required to follow a course with a minimum of 5,000 vertical feet and a Recreational class with a minimum of 2,100 vertical feet.

Competitors are required to carry/use the following equipment:
  • 457 kHz avalanche transceiver
  • Ascent skins
  • Backpack
  • Skis/splitboard (with adequate retention devices)
  • Helmet
I've been wanting to participate in this race for the past two years since moving to Southwest Montana so I've got it on my calendar.  I am capable of putting in the vertical required for the Pro competition but I typically would require all day to do it.  Since this is a competitive format I'll be entering the Recreational class. 

Monday, December 27, 2010

Top Ten for Twenty-Ten

The end of the year is a time for contemplation.  It marks a clear passage of time which we can use to evaluate the state of things in our lives.  One way of celebrating these activities, things, places, et al is to make a list of that which we liked best in the previous year.  My list isn't necessarily composed of things that were new in 2010 (although most of them are) but instead focuses on them being "new" to me.  I should also note the list is in no particular order. If you make a list, post it to the comments below so I can check it out.

The Top Ten for Twenty-Ten
Retribution Gospel Choir - "2"
I fell in love with Retribution Gospel Choir while living in Duluth, MN during '05 and '06. They played regularly and I have seen them perform dozens of times. The anticipation related to the release of this album was strong in me. I acquired a copy of this on vinyl as well as in mp3 and it was the album I listened to most this year.
Spark R & D Blaze splitboard binders
The fellows at Spark are some innovative chaps. I have been riding a set of the Ignition II binders since 2008 and decided to upgrade for performance and weight saving reasons. I had the opportunity to do some part-time work at Spark R & D which meant I was able to assemble my own set of these badboys. I've only been on one tour with them but am already very pleased.
Backpacking Light Stealth NANO backpacking tarp
A five ounce cuben fiber tarp that can withstand mega winds, hail, and keep you dry in a blowing rainstorm? Yes, please. Manufactured by top-quality sewers in the good ol' U S of A and sold by the beloved Backpacking Light this tarp is an absolute winner.
Bike Route Toaster
I log my bicycle mileage using Green Light Ride and I've found the best online map routing service to be Toaster. The ability to map, save, export, and share routes and it's inherent elevation, speed, and distance measuring is easy, friendly, and practical.
Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness
Most of my summer backpacking trips in 2010 were in the 900,000+ acre AB Wilderness. Stretching a vast distance barely pockmarked by any roads the Absarokas are home to some of the most pristine and wild landscapes I've ever set foot into.
Everytrail PRO Android app
I recently upgraded my telephone to an HTC Droid Incredible that has built-in GPS capabilities. Running the EveryTrail PRO app allows me to post GPS routes from my phone. I carry the phone while hiking anyway because of the built in camera and for the possible security it may afford me should I need a rescue. Once uploaded Everytrail will sync with the photos (automatically geotagged by the phone) I've posted to my Flickr site.
Marmot Leadville softshell jacket
Splitboarding and high-energy output sports in the winter require highly breathable yet insulating clothing. A softshell is the obvious answer to this dilemna and after researching a dozen different models I settled on a Marmot product for its combination of weight, features, and price. I have been very pleased with it's balance of warmth and breathability.
Wuss - "DEMO"
I frequent a music blog called The Shadowkick and some time back a post to the demo release from a band called Wuss was posted. It is a gritty album that fulfills my love of metal and punk.
Recycle:cycle Cargo Bike (DIY)
Throughout 2009 I contemplated, researched, and began designing a do-it-yourself longtail cargo bike. Sometime in the early months of this year I finalized the build. It is still a work-in-progress but she rides well and hauls some huge loads. I brazed her up from two bike frames, tubing cut from one or two others, and steel I sourced from a discarded grocery store shelf.
Every top-ten list needs a bit of an inside joke. So, to my #wolfpack I raise my glass and say SKOL!!!.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Post-Skiing Bliss

I was looking over my Twitter feed when I came across a suggestion from Dave C to read a post by Aaron T whom I'm familiar with through other avenues.  The connections grew stronger when I found out the blog post was about an old friend Ben whom I used to work with.  Small world.

None of that has anything to do with this blog post other than that I decided to spend ten minutes looking through Aaron's blog and found the photo below from his May 5th, 2010 post Best. May Day. Ever. He describes a day of skiing in which none of the participants wanted to stop.  They wanted to continue, lap after lap, knowing it was probably the last time they'd get to ski powder until the fall, some months away.

The photo exhibits a certain quality to me.  The old jeep parked aside a muddy road.  Snow melting around the men as they quietly and methodically put on warm, dry gear all the while calmly sipping a bottle of what is most certainly a local Northwest craft brew.  Both look content in an environment that 90% of the world would consider to be cold, wet, and unpleasant.  I tip my hat to people like these that capture the essence of why we backcountry ski.

Photo © Aaron Teasdale from Best. May Day. Ever.