Mustang Powder Cats, BC 2/21-23/2015

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Mustang Powder Cats, BC 2/21-23/2015

Postby tseeb » Wed Feb 25, 2015 11:34 pm

0241MPC_Bruno.JPG
Our lead guide Bruno, who always got the untracked and led us to it, above S slope of Cloud 9, our first long untracked run. He was lead guide the first two days, not there the beginning of third day, then was driving the cat in the PM
When some people did not renew their 3-day cat skiing trips in Feb. 2014 for the same period in 2015, Tony Crocker got me and two others to take the spots at hard to get into and expensive Mustang. We met the school bus that had chains on all 6 wheels at the Skyline truck stop on the Trans-Canada highway at 3:30 pm. After loading it with all of our gear, more than 20 participants, almost half newbies, rode it up a muddy dirt road for about 30 minutes. There we met the cats, transferred the load to them and rode mostly uphill for more than an hour, arriving after dark We got assigned our rooms and had an excellent dinner with soup, then slices of filet for main course, followed by dessert.

We were all concerned that weather had been unusual in BC without a lot of recent snow and multiple storms with rain up to an unknown elevation, but we had paid for our trips so we were committed. The next morning was mostly clear and cold. After receiving training using avalanche transceivers, probes and shovels, we boarded the cats about 10. We heard from the guides that we would be skiing 15-20 cm (6-8") of snow that had fallen since it rained nearly to the 8,000' top of Mustang's 30,000 acre tenure. Our first run was short, less than 500 vertical feet and while untracked, the snow got harder as we entered trees before cat pickup. We worked our way further into Mustang's area, eventually reaching their alpine that group on dates before us could not reach due to dense clouds. We skied a run called Kiwi Cruise that was not very steep, but was long and held very good untracked snow. We went further into the alpine and took at least three runs of about 1,000 vertical feet that was good snow although the new snow was usually less deep on steeper rollovers.

Towards the end of the day, the cats dropped us as high as the cat roads went on the W side of Cloud 9 Peak where we took about a 20 minute bootpack up a narrow ridge. Our lead guide cut a platform for us to put on our skis, then hiked up further with the 3 snowboarders on our cat, where he cut another platform. They needed to start higher to avoid dropping too low to make it through a notch to the S side of peak where we skied about a 2,000 vertical foot steep run. After another cat ride, we finished the day dropping off a ridge and skiing some fun terrain, then tucking the cat road back to the lodge, finishing at 4:45 PM with 16.7K vertical. Conditions definitely exceeded our limited expectations. (to be continued)
Attachments
0248MPC_KiwiCruiseUpper.JPG
Upper Kiwi Cruise
0728MPC_KiwiCruiseLower.JPG
Lower on Kiwi Cruise
0251MPC_CatRoad.JPG
We went down different areas of slope in foreground 3 times the first day. Note cat road going up Cloud 9 in background.
0266TonyCOnBootpack.JPG
Tony Crocker on traverse after bootpack. Note higher traverse for boarders. Area below traverse is called El Dorado.
0269TonyCAfterBootpackRun.JPG
Tony Crocker approaching first re-group on run after bootpack and traverse, our steepest run of the day into an area called Silver Lining. Area was untracked before our group.
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Re: Mustang Powder Cats, BC 2/21-23/2015

Postby flyover » Thu Feb 26, 2015 9:49 am

Don't have all my pictures off the camera and phone yet and likely won't get to it until the weekend, at the earliest. However, here is one of the first day's bootpack:

image2.JPG
This quick climb definitely pushed some people's comfort levels, but the down was very much worth the up, and one of the best runs of the day with a long consistent steep fall line and dry, deeper-than-average snow.
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Re: Mustang Powder Cats, BC 2/21-23/2015

Postby jamesdeluxe » Thu Feb 26, 2015 11:24 am

Nice pic, Flyover.
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Re: Mustang Powder Cats, BC 2/21-23/2015

Postby flyover » Fri Feb 27, 2015 10:39 am

jamesdeluxe wrote:Nice pic, Flyover.


Thanks James. Shot with an iphone 5c.

Getting OT just a bit, I really enjoyed your early February TRs and pics from Europe.
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Re: Mustang Powder Cats, BC 2/21-23/2015

Postby jamesdeluxe » Fri Feb 27, 2015 2:53 pm

How far up that ridgeline did you go before dropping in? Did you yell at the guide -- "for the amount of money we're paying, you should drive us up that!" :-)
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Re: Mustang Powder Cats, BC 2/21-23/2015

Postby Tony Crocker » Fri Feb 27, 2015 7:45 pm

At any cat operation the first priority is snow quality. By doing the boot packs we got some extra high altitude powder. Meanwhile the cat had a long drive from one drainage to another where the runs in between wouldn't have been that great.

This is the 3rd time I've had Bruno as a guide. He's excellent at sizing up his group and stepping up the challenge for the go-for-it types or dialing it back if people need a break. Bruno did explain the bootpack and asked if people wanted to do it. No one objected.

When I was with Adam at Island Lake in 2003 we had a bootpack on the last day. The snow was sufficiently good that the group requested to do it again.

We know jamesdeluxe appreciates doing a little uphill to get some powder based upon his recent excursion across the Swiss border from Austria.
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Re: Mustang Powder Cats, BC 2/21-23/2015

Postby tseeb » Fri Feb 27, 2015 11:25 pm

On the second day we were on the cats and moving at 8:30. Our first run was a little longer than the one that started previous day. We also found the line in the trees where snow got crusty and difficult to ski had moved downhill about 300 feet, probably due to snow drying out more overnight. For our second run the cat dropped us high on Cloud 9 and we got a couple of turns on Silver Lining, but mostly traversed, then did a bootpack and skied a steep entrance, shady since NW-facing into El Dorado. The snow was untracked and good in places, but inconsistent with some areas without much new snow and frozen chunks/chicken heads that tried to knock me out of my line on some turns. After a short cat ride, we skied a different drainage into Kiwi Cruise, then a line on Forgotten Claim, an area we had skied three times the previous day. Snow was good and the clouds that made for another beautiful sunrise had disappeared.

We then moved into Alpine Meadows, the furthest out of the alpine area that Mustang skis. We skied three different lines in this area. On the first the rest of our group went down one drainage and mostly tracked it out. I was on nose between that drainage and the next one and I heard the lead guide on the radio saying he knew what I was thinking and to go for it. So me, then Tony Crocker and Nick, the owner of Mustang who alternated this day between driving our cat and being tail guide all got untracked that they probably were saving for another group or run. When skiing down with Nick he was always telling us "there is no reason to be crossing tracks".

We also skied a little of 5th Dimension, a run that can be 6,000 vertical feet, Mustang's biggest. One of the runs included a cornice that I dropped and found good soft snow underneath. A few of us wished we'd hit it a little harder although the first one off was the hardest charger in our group and he crashed in the flats with a lot of speed. We also took upper Mad Max, a run that dropped low to the N and found some interesting terrain and good snow. We ended the day with our longest vertical run of the week, Love Me Long Time. This started above 8,000 feet on Cloud 9 and dropped to the SE. The snow was not that great in some places and I set off a slab or two where I dropped in. There was some OK snow on the way down, then Bruno asked if anyone in the group wanted to try the sporting way. Five of us went that way and I think it was a little more sporting than Bruno expected as they all had to drop about a five foot rock band and ended up dropping at least 10 feet. The radio traffic as he coached them off it was entertaining to everyone waiting. He told me I could continue down the ridge a little where I found excellent snow after a couple of don't fall here or you will be in the treetops turns.

As we went lower the terrain and snow got sketchier and Bruno gave me the OK to go ahead of him and find my way down a gully where I found some holes so I went a little further left and skied down some spines and over some bumps to the waiting cat. This was not the cat that dropped us as it probably took it over a hour to return to the lodge. This was a backup cat that picked us up at 4,500 feet with a 12-pack of beer, then climbed the 1200 feet back to lodge, returning about 5 PM with 18K vertical. Some of the group had trouble with the sketchy finish. To me, picking your way through the bushes and around holes with little or no snow to get to the bottom reminded me of the last four years in CA Sierra (or Bobby D Snowbasin sidecounty tour, but without the base damage)

Our last day meant packing our bags, getting out of our rooms, then onto the cats by 8:30. We started with a medium length run, then had a long run on Cloud 9, all the way into a clear cut, then had our next drop by the Love Hump. We skied very steep Centurian, in the shade, with good snow although their were some chicken heads to avoid. Then we skied El Dorado a few times, getting long W-facing untracked lines that alternated steep bands with short flats. While climbing back up, probably further into the alpine, we heard on the radio that caribou had been spotted near the top of Forgotten Claim. Not only did that mean that we could not ski there the rest of the day, it also meant we could not get out to Alpine Meadows area because endangered caribou have priority over skiers in Canada. I also heard that many of the animals that live in the area crave salt and find it where cat skiers have urinated.

We next skied low angle Mustang Glacier which some in the group enjoyed more than me. I felt like I could have straight-lined it. I did make a lot of low-angle turns. Next our group went up Thunder Dome where we went down N-facing Sidewinder. The snow was not that great as it was variable due to wind affect, plus it was shaded and last pitch had many chicken heads. Then the exit included about a very narrow 10 foot sidestep where snow got thinner as more of the group went through, followed a tough traverse where I hooked a ski on a tree. Then we had to climb up about a 100 feet to where cat was waiting above us. Jamesdeluxe would have been complaining. Next we did another Mustang Glacier run, this time all the skiers did a long traverse to get steeper face while snowboarders had to repeat low angle. I was complaining the cat could have dropped us higher.

I think we did a couple more El Dorado runs before getting a higher drop and skiing Coliseum where snow was better for me, being one of the first down as there was only a little soft snow. A highlight of the run was when our guide ignited a dead tree something they try to do to prevent disease or insects from spreading. Our last run of the trip was down Cloud 9 and sun had really baked the slope. It was still OK, very cream cheesy, and we could see that it would not be good for next group when our tracks, pinwheels and rollerballs froze overnight. We finished a little later than planned at about 3:40 with 16K and were on the cats out by 4 pm, arriving at our car a little before 6 with about a 2 hour drive over Roger's Pass to Golden, BC.
Attachments
0272MustangCats.JPG
Cats getting ready to go a little before 8:30
0274BoarderStruggling.JPG
Sometimes the boarders struggled and ended up way below the skiers.
0285ElDoradoUpperGroup.JPG
This part of our group took an higher entrance into ElDorado after bootpack early on second day
0293TonyCSkiingElDorado.JPG
Tony Crocker skiing El Dorado
0297TonyCrockerElDorado.JPG
Another one of Tony Crocker skiing El Dorado
0302MustangBlueSkyOurTracks.JPG
Bluebird day at Mustang. Our group made tracks at right after bootpack early on 2nd day
0303TonyCrockerCloud9.JPG
Tony Crocker at highest cat drop on Cloud 9
0307ViewFromCloud9.JPG
View from Cloud 9. The cat sticks it nose over edge while turning around.
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Re: Mustang Powder Cats, BC 2/21-23/2015

Postby tseeb » Fri Feb 27, 2015 11:36 pm

Connection at motel in Missoula is really bad so I giving up after finishing pictures from 2nd day. Sorry, but none are from skiing.
Attachments
0746MustangMenu.JPG
The menu for second night at Mustang. Food is excellent.
0741LambDinner.JPG
The lamb was especially good. So was BC salmon on last night.
0743NickGivingTony5yrJacket.JPG
Nick, the visionary founder/owner of Mustang presented Tony Crocker a jacket for coming to Mustang for 5 years/times?
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Re: Mustang Powder Cats, BC 2/21-23/2015

Postby tseeb » Sat Feb 28, 2015 10:03 pm

Hoping the 3rd or 4th time is a charm for adding pictures from our 3rd/last day at Mustang. Last night in Missoula, when I tried to add pictures it locked up my laptop so bad I had to remove battery to free it.
Attachments
0749SunriseWHottub.JPG
The sunrise was better the 2nd day, but I did not have my camera or phone during breakfast. The hot tub does not have jets and requires a walk across the now, but still feels good, especially when people from your cat are sharing there whiskeys
0753AllTheCats.JPG
All three Mustang cats getting ready to go. The first one had Steep Chutes group that requires skins and had 6 people. The second one had 10 people, mostly connected to mining industry and ours named Carlos had 13 customers.
0313MakingTracksMustangGlacier.JPG
This is one of our group making tracks on steeper part of Mustang Glacier
0318MyMustangGlacierTracks.JPG
I'll claim one of these tracks on Mustang Glacier
0321TreeLit.JPG
Guide lighting dead tree using cigarette lighter
0324FlamesToTop.JPG
Once lit, they go up quick
0325TreeExploding.JPG
All these pictures were taken within the same minute from their time stamp. Tree literally exploded once lit.
Last edited by tseeb on Sun Mar 01, 2015 9:27 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Mustang Powder Cats, BC 2/21-23/2015

Postby jasoncapecod » Sun Mar 01, 2015 8:16 am

The burning tree is crazy!!!
The skiing doesn't look to shabby either..
Do you need to be a hotshot powder skier ?
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Re: Mustang Powder Cats, BC 2/21-23/2015

Postby tseeb » Sun Mar 01, 2015 9:23 am

jasoncapecod wrote:Do you need to be a hotshot powder skier ?


You would struggle if you do not have a moderate amount of powder experience. The pace is pretty fast and you would not want to be paying so much to sit out runs if you are struggling. For Steep Chutes cat, you need to be a hotshot powder skier.

According to Mustang's Q&A at http://www.mustangpowder.com/questions-and-answers you need to be "strong intermediate skiers or expert snowboarders capable of dealing with deep powder snow in the backcountry
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Re: Mustang Powder Cats, BC 2/21-23/2015

Postby Tony Crocker » Sun Mar 01, 2015 10:14 am

jasoncapecod wrote:Do you need to be a hotshot powder skier ?

The short answer is that you need to be a "hotshot skier" (Patrick would be a good example) if you do not have extensive prior powder experience.

I had skied with tseeb, flyover and his friend John in powder before inviting them for this year and knew they were on balance better skiers than I and in better physical condition (far better in the case of flyover).

My own experience this year was illustrative. My Head Jimi skis work fine in ~90% of backcountry conditions but only have moderate amount of rocker and were more work this time. On day 1 they were exhausting in the "dust on crust" in the trees, but those sectors were short and I survived without diminishing the experience in better snow up high. On day 2 the 3 runs in Alpine Meadows were dense and wind-affected and I took a fairly hard fall on the first one. I was skiing subpar the rest of that day, but I could adapt in order to not hold up the group. I was careful to seek out the softest snow and lowest angle lines to conserve energy. The final descent at the bottom of Love Me Longtimes was pure survival skiing and I was beat at the end. Had there been a final "Lodge Run" after that I would have sat it out.

I talked to Nick about renting skis for the final day. Earlier this month at Mammoth I had been demoing heavily rockered skis more in the 185 range, but this time I rented Armada JJ's and went down in length to 175cm to minimize effort. Flyover remarked after 2 runs on day 3 that I was skiing better than the prior day. Love Me Longtimes was exhausting to several of us, and in general day 3 had somewhat mellower skiing than the other 2 days.

Another discussion I've had a few times involves observing typical eastern skiers with limited powder experience like Liz. Liz enjoys ungroomed skiing on advanced mountains like Jackson and AltaBird and would be considered advanced but not expert by most observers. Put her in 6 inches of new snow and she's happy and comfortable. Make it 18 inches and she'll ski slower and work much harder. This makes little sense to us addicted powderhounds but it's an observation I've read about intermediate/advanced eastern skiers many other times. Two years ago we had 4 new skiers at Mustang in super deep conditions. They skied pretty well but were soon sitting out runs because they were so tired, which makes little sense to me at north of $1000 per day.

So in general Mustang is not a good place for most people's first cat skiing experience. We held to my historical pace of ~16K per day despite more variable snow conditions. Most places average 10-12K per day. This is almost unavoidable at the day ski operations where you don't start until after 10AM due to transceiver drills. If you want the multiday lodge experience with lots of terrain and good snow at a more measured pace, Chatter Creek and Baldface provide that very well. Island Lake also has a very high standard of service and does well in accommodating skiers of varied abilities, as when I took my friend Richard there in 2004. Richard is intermediate but had climbed Kilimanjaro 6 months before and was in the best shape of his life.
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Re: Mustang Powder Cats, BC 2/21-23/2015

Postby jamesdeluxe » Sun Mar 01, 2015 10:30 am

Tony Crocker wrote:in general Mustang is not a good place for most people's first cat skiing experience.

I think that most people would agree -- Grand Targhee qualifies as a near perfect first cat-skiing experience. Even though it has a comparatively small amount of acreage compared to the BC operations Tony is accustomed to, the amount of snow it gets takes that concern off the table.
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Re: Mustang Powder Cats, BC 2/21-23/2015

Postby Tony Crocker » Sun Mar 01, 2015 9:19 pm

Grand Targhee was my first snowcat experience in 1995. Acreage was small then and is smaller now that the Sacajawea lift took about 1/3 of Peaked Mt. And yes it can run out of untracked snow. When we were there Jan. 25 there was no cat skiing and lift skiers were even allowed to hike or traverse in. We took a short test run and the snow was stiff and tracked out.

I would still recommend Targhee's cat for last minute or the early season special James tried.
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Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
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Re: Mustang Powder Cats, BC 2/21-23/2015

Postby flyover » Mon Mar 02, 2015 11:42 am

Some more pics, in no particular order:
Attachments
IMG_1090.JPG
John and I
IMG_3642.JPG
Mustang glacier. Our guide Bruno said it is really more of a permanent snowfield.
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IMG_3636.JPG
Somewhere on that peak are our tracks.
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IMG_3632.JPG
Middle section of Love Me Longtime
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IMG_3629.JPG
Tony Crocker dropping into something steep - can't recall which run.
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IMG_3621.JPG
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IMG_3595.JPG
Tseeb and Tony Crocker
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IMG_3576.JPG
Tseeb on either one of our El Dorado or Cloud Nine runs.
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IMG_3563.JPG
Ours for the taking.
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IMG_3552.JPG
Tony and two other skiers from our cat, middle section Kiwi Cruise.
IMG_3552.JPG (86.63 KiB) Viewed 8085 times
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