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This episode is a little different than most. Like in every other episode, Townsend sets out to bag another line, but he also reveals the logistics of the Fifty Project, from how they pick the lines to making evaluations on the mountain ensuring safe and successful days.
Townsend’s Trip-Planning Checklist
Check Avalanche Conditions
The first thing Townsend does before any expedition is to check the Avalanche app looking for nationwide trends. “Essentially what this app does is it takes every single avalanche forecast from around the nation and then color codes it so I can see where is generally stabilizing versus where is generally unstable,” says Townsend.
Observe Weather Trends
Then, Townsend looks for weather trends so he can narrow down his destination. He checks the website spot.wx to look at different forecasts in order to single in on specialized regions that are forecasted to have good weather.
Get Local Intel
Reaching out to people from the zone is next. Whether it be avalanche forecasters, athletes, or friends, “These people are pretty essential in making our decisions,” says Townsend.
Check Avalanche Conditions, Again
After that, Townsend takes another deep dive into the avalanche forecast by looking through observations and old reports from the region before deciding to pull the trigger and heading out.
Scope the Line and Make a Plan
The day before any expedition, a visual observation of the line they want to ski is vital. First, they scope the line looking for any signs of texture and sluffs or other indicators of potential dangers on the route. Using mapping technology, they then must determine how much vertical feet they’ll cover in order to plan the day and determine the length of the expedition and when to start.
Gather the Gear
The last step before a tour consists of packing the gear and figuring out what will set you up for success. Then the alarms are set while the anticipation builds for the day to come.
Line #25: McGown Peak
With stable conditions and local support, Townsend and his crew decided to send it to Idaho, driving 9 hours to the heart of the Sawtooth Mountains to attempt McGown Peak. After running through the entire trip planning checklist, all signs point to giving the summit a go, and the crew sets off through the frigid morning on snowmobiles before skinning the last 3 miles to the approach.
Catch up: The FIFTY Bonus Episode: The Fifty Rig
As they make their way up, Townsend is always observing not only the line, but the surrounding snowpack. Seeing heavy wind effect on the couloir, Townsend keeps an eye out for fractures and texture throughout the climb, constantly monitoring the conditions. But after a rocky entrance into the couloir, the crew enjoys untracked powder all the way down the narrow chute.
“One of the raddest things about Idaho is just how big and empty it is,” says Patton looking over the vast range of the Sawtooths. “You get out here to the top of this and look around and there’s one out here.”
Watch Episode 25: McGown Peak
Watch next: ‘Peak Obsession’, A Fifty Project Short Film