Microadventure On A Whim

The adventurer Alastair Humphreys was named as a 2012 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year for his pioneering concept of Microadventures; adventures that are close to home, cheap, simple, short, and yet very effective. This concept has resonated with me for quite some time. So much so that years ago I began offering something similar as part of the various outdoors programs in which I have worked. These Backyard Adventures have the same qualities as those stated above, but also must leave a minimal carbon footprint…and what better way to minimize one’s carbon output than by creating a microadventure that involves a bike.

Recently I took the opportunity to pursue an unexpected Microadventure. On a Friday afternoon, my friend Sam invited me to join him and some of his buddies on a backcountry hut ski trip. The plan was to travel into a backcountry hut, eat good food, drink plenty of libations, tell dirty jokes, pass out and sleep a few hours, do some spring skiing the next day while sweating out the demons from the previous evening, and then repeat it all the next day. I had already made plans with some other friends to ski with them on Saturday and then spend time with my loved ones on Sunday celebrating Easter so I declined Sam’s offer. But, by 6PM Friday evening, my Saturday plans had fallen through. I was a man seeking a weekend adventure, but with no one to join me. Perhaps I could partake in some of Sam's trip?

Loaded and ready for a microadventure...

Within an hour I was packed and ready for a night and day away from home. The Mukluk was loaded with skis, boots, a sleeping bag, extra warm clothing, food, and a 12-pack of beer (for the boys).  After a short stop at the local barbecue joint to pick up some dinner and lunch for the next day, I was making the fifteen-minute drive to the trailhead. By 8PM I was leaving the trailhead and beginning the two-mile ride up the snow-covered canyon road to the hut. Since it was late in the day, the snow on the road was soft and slushy in places. I aired the Mukluk tires down and began spinning the big wheels into the oncoming darkness. Not two hundred yards from the trailhead I came upon a scene that made me chuckle; two young men and a dog all staring at their truck buried axle deep in the soft snow. Ha! You should all have fatbikes if you want to make it up this road during the snow season.

Within 25 minutes I saw the lights shining brightly from the hut. As I pushed my bike and gear up the final steep section to the hut, my glowing headlamp drew the attention of the hut’s occupants. Sam and the boys were jamming with a banjo, guitar, spoons, tin bucket, and wooden blocks. Damn, they sounded good! I was welcomed into the fray with a shot of tequila and some fresh baked cookies made in the hut’s gas stove. “Guy’s Night” was in full effect.

Dawn brought a bluebird day.

At 6AM the hut began to stir. The woodstove was fired up and the smell of bacon was wafting through the hut. Of the seven of us, only three were ready and prepared to charge hard for the day. By 7:15AM we were packed and geared up for a day on the snow. Given that spring had arrived in the Rockies and our snowpack was strengthening into one cohesive unit, our goal was to ski a steep couloir off of a nearby 13,000’ peak.

Which couloir should we ski?

We made good time up into the basin where our objective awaited us to climb it and then ski its steep slope back into the basin. The day was bluebird and as we skinned up the apron towards the base of the couloir I could feel the morning’s heat begin to radiate off of the open slope. It was going to be a warm one so we had better keep moving before the snow got too soft for us to ski safely. On the way up into the basin we had already traversed across the debris field of a wet avalanche that had occurred due to the warm spring days. It was time to get a move on.

Climbing up the ever-steepening slopes of the basin to our chute...

Looking up into our objective...

Nearing the top, as things get steep...

Near the base of the chute the slope became steeper and forced us to take off our skis and begin kicking steps. Halfway up the couloir we experienced a deteriorated patch of snow and were soon groveling on our hands and knees to make any headway upward. After 90 feet of swimming through variable snow we were once again able to kick steps without them collapsing in on themselves. Before we knew it we were at the top of the couloir and looking down the steep north face. After an obligatory summit photo, Sam dropped in with a few tight jump turns. He was soon out of sight and it was my turn to ski the 40-plus degree slope to the wide-open slopes below. With a few butterflies in the pit of my stomach I slid off of my lofty perch and began a quick descent to the boys waiting below. Wahoo!

What goes up must go down; our descent line...

Reaping the fruits of our labor.  Photo courtesy of Sam Hensold

Once out of the rocky chute the landscape opened up to beautiful skiing. The snow was soft, yet with a firm base, and we were soon making big arcing turns to the bottom of the basin. Before long, we were back at the hut sipping a few beers in the sunshine on the deck. After a barbecue sandwich for lunch and another celebratory beer it was time to load up the Mukluk and ride back to the truck.  This Microadventure was just what my soul needed. It was inexpensive, within minutes of home, uncomplicated, rejuvenating, and involved two of my favorite activities: riding bikes and skiing in the backcountry. Perhaps the best thing about the entire endeavor was that it was totally unplanned and on the spur of the moment. In less than 24 hours I had left home, ridden a loaded bike into the wilds and out of cell phone range, shared an evening of laughter with new friends, ventured into unknown terrain to climb and ski off of a high peak, and returned via my bike to the comforts of home. Who can’t appreciate such a short getaway?!

A celebratory libation...

A last look back at our adventure for the day...

This post filed under topics: Bikepacking Brett Davis Explore Fatbike Mukluk Snow Biking Sponsored Riders

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Brett Davis

Brett Davis

I grew up in a military family where we moved 13 times before I left for college. Consequently, I have the continual urge to explore and travel having climbed, kayaked, and biked all over our amazing planet. My passion for the outdoors drives me to seek out adventures which often times combine multiple modes of travel or activities (i.e. biking to a wilderness area and then backpacking in to climb a high peak). "Keeping life simple" is a guiding motto of my life and for me, bike travel epitomizes simplicity.


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Harry Major | April 28th, 2013

Bloody awesome.

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Alastair Humphreys | October 1st, 2013

What an awesome trip!

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Mandy | September 14th, 2014

Excellent article. I certainly love this website. Thanks!

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