Backcountry Gear: Osprey Switch 55+5 Review

The Switch 55+5 is the second pack I've owned from Osprey. Osprey is a Colorado based company with excellent product and support. I also own a Switch 25+5, which I use everytime I go out into the backcountry. It is last years model and is showing some wear and tear. Osprey encourages owners to warranty thier gear if they have problems due to wear or defect - this helps them improve next years design. I've heard the warranty and exchange program is top notch. I'll report back as I might try and send in my 25.The Switch series is designed for snow fun, and it is designed right! Store all your over night gear, stoves, gas, laterns, sleeping bag, thermal pad, and still have room for plenty of food and snow safety gear. I find the real beauty of this pack is the easy access to my snow science gear and Avalanche rescue gear. I store my BCA shovel, probe, and Link Link snow saw in the outer pocket. The pack is actually 2 packs in one, with a main base camp pack of 43 liters and a detachable outter pocket (700 cubic inch) which can be used for day trips from camp or short hikes.

The hydration system is interchangable between the larger pack and the day pack. Also, another great benefit is my bladder from the Switch 25+5 fits perfectly in the Switch 55+5. Options for A-Frame ski carry, diagnol ski carry, vertical snowboard carry and horizontal snowboard carry come standard. The design of the main pocket storage area allows you to place the pack in deep snow and open from the back allowing easy access to the contents inside and keeping snow out. The pack has a really nice suspension system placing most of the weight on your hip. Allowing for extended slogging and hiking with less fatigue.

This is my new hut-to-hut and multi-night backcountry snowboard pack. I'm very happy.

Colorado Backcountry: Loveland Pass - Five Car

UPDATE 12/31/05: Ffej's extreme workout video posted, check it out. This is the video from the 5 car area a week or so ago. Deep snow on the pass and lots of having fun. This video is hilarious!

5 Car - Ffej's Extreme Workout - (right click - save as)
5 Car - Ffej's Extreme Workout - (Mirror Link)

I met the vangina crew up at the Pass around 6:45am. After 20" over the previous two days conditions are deep. We waited for Mike and JJ to show up and started to shuttle the monster 4x4 van up the mountain. We hit some of the main chutes down from the summit and the pow was amazing and very untracked. Loveland Pass was closed during the storm so we pretty much had first dibs. We rode our favorite spots and decided to head over to the Gilbrater rock drop. Now this drop is the shit, a very large rock about 25 foot high sitting on the side of a really nice north facing chute with a great landing. From the top it feels like you are jumping off the end of the world, and with such a great landing and deep powder conditions you can go as big as you want. We all dropped it a few times and continued on with the day. The van crew had to take off around noon so I met up with Ffej, Jordan, Chris and Cash. We shuttled a few laps of powder and decided to head back over to the rock drop and have some fun. We each dropped it a bunch more times until we mashed out the landing. So much fun.

Colorado Backcountry: Bard Creek Dawn Patrol

Saturday Mike and I met up early. Dawn patrol and scouting for new locations was the plan, we had started hiking by 5:45am. Mike had scoped out a line last year on Mt. Bethel and the ridge to the northwest behind it. We didn't have enough time to make that but we decide to head back into the drainage and see what we could find. Mike had to be on his way out by 10am so are options were limited. We followed the creek back up into the basin and noticed some really nice north facing bowls with open trees and tons of powder. We pointed the snowshoes that direction and started breaking trail. We zig zagged back and forth up through the trees toward our destination, once at the top we geared up, did a quick beacon check and rode down to find a nice spot to dig a pit. Around 11800ft we found a spot for the pit, open trees, north facing, and around 32 degrees slope angle. 4-5 layers, we saw the same conditions as the previous week at Loveland Pass. 2-3ft of depth hoar, below a very weak layer about 3" thick. On top of that, various layers from the storms cycles and large slabs. We got easy shears on the layer roughly 18" below the surface. We decided to ski the mellower slope angle and denser trees to our left vs. the open bowl. The snow was deep and really fun, a bit heavy but you can't complain about powder. Back down in the drainage basin we started the hike out, happy to have found a great new spot. We wished we could have stayed longer and explored some more of the terrain. All in all we logged about 5 miles total and fresh tracks all the way back down.

Colorado Backcountry: Berthoud Pass - Current Creek Headwall

Current Creek Headwall 12/10 - (right click - save as)

We had huge plans to slog up to the hut after work on Friday, camp the night and ride bright and early. We got to the current creek parking area around 5:30pm and started to gear up, it was quickly apparent that there was no way we were hauling up all the firewood we brought. We cut the load in 1/2 and piled it into the duffle bag, I took first shift dragging the thing though the pow and up the trail. Dragging this US Marine corps duffle bag through the snow with 50+ lbs of firewood was not easy, we were about to give up and Alex had the idea to strap it to his snowboard. 500ft later, that wasn't working. We decide to forget the wood and try and find the hut, it's around 6:30pm, 5 degrees F, we start the hike up the trail. Navigating via GPS through waist deep snow it was a long journey. We learned a lot of things about our gear that night and never made it to the hut. We got within 300ft and decided to turn back. It was almost 8:30pm and we still had to hike out. Plan B, camp out at Mary Jane lot and have a nice fire -- attack in the morning.

Backcountry Gear: iPod Video Review

Picked up a 5th Generation IPOD 30GB Video last Friday night on the way back from the mountain. My mini-disc has been failing bad lately and the batteries haven't lasted more then an hour in years. I figured it was time to upgrade and enjoy shredding to music once again. Got the shiny new IPOD home and started to load my music collection, snowboard vidoes and charge the battery. All charged up I figured I was ready to go, went riding Saturday and the damn battery only lasted 2 hours. I was pretty upset, and decided to start doing some research on the web about the IPOD battery. Apple claims I should get 14 hours of continous use. Started surfing the web and the Apple discussion forums and noticed a lot of people with the same problem. It turns out that the battery meter on the IPOD is approximate, it needs to be calibrated in many cases. To do this it is recommended to do 2-3 full charge/dis-charge cycles on the battery. This allows the battery to condition itself and the IPOD will calibrate the meter automaticly. After the first chrage/dis-charge cycle my IPOD lasted 14 hours! Running for 14 hours straight shuffling music and watching a few videos I was very impressed. Some additional tips and tricks to maximize battery life are to turn off the EG, set Backlight to 2 seconds, turn off alarms, delete clocks, and not skip/rewind tracks. Way to go Apple! I'll be doing another cold weather battery test this weekend while snowboarding.Overall I'm very happy with the video IPOD, the sound quality rocks, videos are super crisp and fun to watch. Battery life is good once you condition the thing, the enclosure seems pretty durable. Check out the links below for battery information and other tips & tricks.

Colorado Backcountry: Loveland Pass & Arapahoe Basin

Saturday at 6:30am the pass was still closed, so we decided to head over to Arapahoe Basin where they have gotten 32" of fresh in two days. Saturday we got 3rd chair on Pallavicini and we were graced with 14" fresh. The riding was out of this world, deep powder everywhere. It was really fun to have another resort day, I love just messing around run after run, hitting rails, buttering down the mountain. The crowds weren't as bad as I expected either for a huge powder day. Noon comes around and we break for lunch, Alex hooks up some killer burgers and snacks. From the basin lot I kept a close eye on the Loveland pass traffic, around 12:30 it opened up so I made my way over there.


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