Photo of the Month: Skiing East Greely at Alta

My Ski season has ended because of an injury but I got some really good days of skiing in this year, this was one of those days at Alta. I didn’t take my camera with me on the slopes a lot but on a sunny day I had to take it with me.

Robert was kind enough to model for me and I decided to take this shot while shooting in the sun which is not generally considered a good idea but I wanted to give it a try. In the end I was really happy with this shot.

Skiing at Alta

Shot with Canon 5D MKIII with 24-105L, f/16, 1/640s , ISO 160.

Relatively Minor Injury and taking calculated risks.

A couple of weeks have passed since I broke my leg and I can’t help but think that my injury is relatively minor.

I did undergo a surgery but it was straight forward and I didn’t have any cast on my leg. Yesterday after a follow up visit to my orthopedic surgeon, who is awesome chill person and a skier who has gone through similar injury of his own, the staples came off and I could bear some weight on my right leg. He gave me some exercises to do and my complete recovery timeline would be around 4 months which is not bad considering I broke something, underwent surgery, It could have easily been lot worse and I have seen it happen.

It hasn’t been easy couple of weeks by any means, there isn’t a single day where I don’t think about how it happened and what could I have done to prevent it, if anything. I can’t help but blame myself about messing with the DIN though my injury could still have happened without it, I would never know. I had to cancel couple of backcountry and ski mountaineering trips which I was looking forward to for a long time, along with some other personal stuff and it was painful to do so.

It makes me sad to take look at my right leg, I am surprised by amount on muscle atrophy in two weeks but at least I can start working towards building them back so early on instead of having to wait another few weeks.

Atrophy in Right Leg

Overall, I am really optimistic about my recovery timeline which is about 4 months and motivated to put in the effort required to do so. It certainly won’t be a walk in the park but in the grand scheme of things I certainly consider myself lucky. I am already entertaining the idea of being able to ski in May but it is too early to say if it will be possible.

This brings me to the second half of the blog post, taking risks or rather calculated risks. I have always had discussions with different people about it and its interesting how everyone perceives it differently. After my accident the first response from my mom was “ok so you are not going to Ski again right, you have had enough fun”. Sorry to disappoint you mom but my parents know me and I doubt they expect me to stop, it was more spur of moment reaction.

I wouldn’t have been so much into outdoor sports if it wasn’t for their encouragement while I was growing up. I have been hiking since I was a kid, skipped a month of school in 10th grade to go hiking in Himalayas and 10th grade is very important in India. I have been in a nasty bus accident on way to Pindari glacier in May 1995, the bus got stuck on a tree which prevented it from going all the way into a ravine. Luckily I escaped with only scratches in this one but remember it very vividly.

Bus Accident

I always get asked and specially now it will get worse, Isn’t it is risky to keep doing all these sports? My usual response is Yes of course it is but you drive right? I don’t know about statistics on driving injuries/accidents but I consider it to be equally risky and not many people think about it. We are in control of few tons of steel and we drive it at crazy speeds not to mention there are others around us doing the same.

Takings risks is a very personal thing and it all depends on what you are comfortable with. I won’t hesitate to swim with sharks or ski a steep chute in right conditions but riding a bike on LA freeways is out of my comfort zone, that is not going to happen.

I have been skiing only for 6 years and my first season at Mammoth I didn’t even go to the top since I knew I couldn’t have skied down in one piece, my first day was spent only on one chair lift which is a beginner chair. I have taken it quite easy and have slowly pushed my limits as I have progressed in my skiing.

Steep and Deep Camp at Jackson Hole this year was one of the ways I wanted to push myself. I was thinking about how I would ski Corbet’s couloir, mentally preparing myself about the turns I will have to make after dropping in, visualizing them but after taking one look at it, I knew it would be stupid to attempt it. I wasn’t ready to take the risk, at least not this year. Yep, I do intend to go back to Jackson Hole and take the camp again. :)

The scariest run that we did during the camp was probably the Alta 2 chute, one left turn was between two trees and then had to make immediate right turn to avoid the rock. I nervously held on the tree as I dropped in which was a mistake but I made it out and that felt like certainly pushing myself.

Looking back at my accident, I attribute it to my own mistake. I had to make a easy right over a whoop, wave like feature in snow, but for whatever reason I didn’t follow the earlier tracks and the snow where my tip got caught was rock hard or it might even have been a rock.

Sometimes shit just happens and nothing you can do about it, doesn’t matter if you are skiing, rock climbing, driving or for that matter even walking. Of course at the same time there is a fine line between pushing the limit versus being totally stupid and I hope never to cross it.

Mistakes, Injuries and moving on.

Ever since I started skiing 6 years ago, I have always dreaded getting injured. For some reason I felt that it was bound to happen to me, I rather not have it happen, but the thought of getting seriously injured has always been in back of my head.

Specially since I started getting better at skiing and pushing myself from time to time, I somehow felt it was a matter of when and not if, I was going to get injured. Of course, I didn’t want it to happen but I have always been trying to mentally prepare myself for it as such. I know there are people who have been skiing for decades without any serious injury but for whatever reason I always felt that wasn’t going to be case with me.

It was the final day of Steep and Deep camp at Jackson Hole and we were going in the backcountry. We did one run which was great and now it was time for the second one. We hiked to top of 4 Pines and It looked like we were going to get some nice powder turns.

I had to make a fast right turn over a whoop and as I got into the turn, I didn’t follow the earlier tracks for some reason and my ski tip got caught in the snow. I fell forward and immediately knew that I had broken my foot. It happened all of sudden, I didn’t know how to react, there was nothing I could do about it.

All the goals for the season were destroyed in that moment, I had planned some special things which were going to be cancelled, my life was going to be in disarray and possibly never the same but it definitely took a while for me to process all that.

Since we were in the backcountry, it took Ski patrol around 45 mins to get to my location and then another 45 mins or so to get me out of there. It wasn’t easy for the patrol to get me out of there and I really appreciate their effort.

Once back at the clinic, they did primary assessment and took the X-rays. I had broken my Tibia in couple of places and it was a butterfly break. I had to go the hospital in town where the orthopedic doctor would see me and they wheeled me there in an ambulance.

Surgery seemed to be my best option for a quick and full recovery, without it I would be in cast for 12 weeks and chances were that the bone wouldn’t heal 100%. It all went pretty quick from there, I was knocked out with general anesthesia and woke up in a boot around my leg.

The break

The fix

Its been little over 48 hours since I had my surgery and I am not sure why I am writing this but It feels nice to get it all out. Its a cathartic experience while writing this post.

I mentioned earlier that I was mentally preparing myself for an injury but nothing could have prepared me. I am truly humbled and grateful for all the support that I have received from my friends and family. I am really lucky to have a support system around me which will help me overcome this difficult phase of my life. Its going to be long 6-8 weeks before I can bear full weight on my right leg and crutches are going to be my best friend.

Looking back at the accident, I can’t help but think about that one moment but at the same time I believe its entirely my fault for putting myself in this situation. It sucks but I can’t do anything about it now and its something I have come to terms with. I messed with my ski bindings while trying to adjust the DIN setting and I think because of that the ski didn’t release when it got stuck in the snow.

I learned my lesson the hard way which is going to be emotionally, mentally, physically and financially draining but at the end of the day, this entire experience is only going to make me stronger and I can’t wait to hit the slopes next season.

Photo of the Month: Tamarack Lodge reflection over Twin Lakes, Mammoth Lakes, California

This year I spent Christmas and New Year’s at Mammoth and I felt it appropriate to have one of my favorite photos from there as photo of the month. This was one of the first shots I took while trying out night photography.

I had a hard time getting the manual focus right but in the end, I ended up putting the camera in auto focus with the focus point set at the lake and since it was a full moon night it worked.

Tamarack Lodge over twin lakes, Mammoth Lakes, California

Shot using Canon T1i with 18-55mm kit lens at 28mm, f/8, 138s exposure. Click here to buy a print of this photograph.

Photo of the Month: Backlit Chromodoris macfarlandi

I wanted to try out something different so I decided to play with back lighting a bit and I hadn’t tried shooting the Canon MP-E 65mm at 4.x magnification so a day of diving in Palos Verdes sounded like a perfect opportunity for it.

I was going to focus on shooting Skeleton shrimps mainly but the conditions were too surgy and this Chromodoris macfarlandi was in perfect position. I could have easily gotten a black background since it was way up on top but as mentioned I wanted to play with back lighting.

Backlit Chromodoris macfarlandi

Taken with Canon 5D MKIII with MP-E 65mm lens at 4.x magnification. f/16, 1/100th , ISO 320.

I would have been happier with a better composition with the entire nudibranch in frame but with the surge it was really hard and I didn’t even think about it. In the end, I am really happy with this shot and the detail I was able to get on the rhinophore.

Photo of the Month: Diaulula sandiegensis, San Diego dorid laying eggs

I haven’t been blogging as much as I would like to so decided this will be a good way to blog and share my pictures at the same time.

Dive Site: Coral Garden, Anacapa Island, California

This was the last dive of 2 day trip on Peace Dive boat chartered by Bluewater Photo for the 2014 Socal Shootout. I have done this dive couple of years ago as part of 2012 shootout so I remember it well since its easy to navigate.

Its more like a wall dive with lot of Gorgonians and Sea fans to see in the 70-90 ft range and last time I found a few Tritonia festivas so I was using my Canon 100mm lens.

Couple of minutes into the dive, I came across this beautiful dorid laying eggs and figured it would be perfect for a behavior shot. It won 1st Prize in Behavior Category.

Diaulula sandiegensis, San Diego dorid laying eggs at Anacapa Island, California

Shot with Canon EOS 5D Mark III, canon 100mm macro 2.8l lens in a Sea and Sea housing with 2 Sea and Sea YS 110a strobes. ISO 160, F/16 and 1/125th Shutter.

Backpacking North Fork Trail via Cascade Canyon

If you would like to read my entire Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park road trip blog, here is the link.

Since the snow this year was crazy I carried all mountaineering gear including my shovel. My pack easily weighed around 45-50lbs. I started at around 9.45 not a super early start by any means but the hike was going to be around 9 miles so I figured I would be fine.

The initial half hour was devoid of any snow but then it started showing up, I had to be really careful about not post holing but once in a while I did sink up to my knees. So it was really slow going, I didn’t take the higher hidden falls trail and after couple of hours I was at the hidden falls. From here the trail goes into the canyon and so far following it wasn’t a problem.

Jenny Lake

Jenny Lake from Inspiration Point

I got to inspiration point and beyond it there was no obvious sign of the trail. I got little worried but then looking around I saw footsteps going into the canyon so I followed them. It was tricky following them but I knew the general direction I was headed into so wasn’t worried.

Some Footsteps

At one time I did think of turning back but the canyon was really narrow and it has a stream flowing so as long as I stayed to the right of it I would be fine. Soon enough it seemed that the footsteps I was following were leading up a couloir so I decided to make my own path.

I had the entire trail programmed into my Garmin Fenix but the trail was entire loop and I needed to start it from first point so it was kind of useless.

After an hour or so I thought to myself the worst case scenario would be that I would have to camp somewhere in middle and since there was snow everywhere it wouldn’t matter but I was seeing signs of trail here and there so I carried on. It also helped that the stream was there so I could not go far from the trail in this narrow canyon. There was a reason I decided to hike this in such conditions the navigation was relatively straightforward. There was a trail underneath all the snow and I was never far from it.

Keeping the stream to left

As I got deeper into canyon it started to get wider and I was slowly getting unsure of the trail. My GPS was now showing the way points that I had saved but the scale was not enough for me to use them but luckily for me I came across very obvious set of tracks and so I decided to follow them.

These set of tracks led me over a bridge and to a cabin, later I found that this bridge indicated start of north fork trail but then I had no clue about the south fork.


The cabin seemed deserted although I had no interest in finding out whether it was occupied or not. The tracks stopped little further away from the cabin and at this point again I had no idea where I was. Seemed like I was on the north fork trail but in that case where would the south fork be and how do I get there or my second night of camping.

I decided to continue further north and it seemed like I had definitely hiked lot more than I should have to be in the camping zone. It was around 5 at this time so I better established campsite before the weather got worse it certainly didn’t seem like improving.

I wanted to camp at spot which would give me great views of the Tetons but it was little exposed and I didn’t think the weather would cooperate for some night photography so I decided to head back and camp at a similar spot which was lower and protected. If I wanted to do some night photography I had to hike for 2 minutes and I would get some nice views.

View of Tetons

The smart ass in me decided to make a platform for the tent and started to dig it out but it seemed another n exercise in futility so that plan was quickly abandoned and I used that for kitchen and pitched the tent at other spot which was somewhat level. I did dig a hole for the vestibule so taking off and putting my boots would be convenient.

I had to hurry and make dinner quickly since the weather was turning for the worse and sure enough as I finished dinner it started raining with some hail. I got back into the tent and called it a night.

Even though I wasn’t expecting any bears given the conditions I made sure that I kept food and all the smelly things outside. I thought about staying at this site for the second night instead of going to south fork but I wasn’t sure if weather would be good and if I had to do cooking inside my vestibule because of that I didn’t want to attract any bears. Small chance but why take it.

All night long I could hear raindrops along with some crackling sound which couldn’t quite figure out. I somehow got decent sleep and it wasn’t surprising since I was spent.

Next day morning I was hoping for clear blue skies and it seemed like for change my wish would be granted and I thought about staying another night here to see if conditions improved. I really wanted to take that shot of Tetons in glow of sunset.

It didn’t seem worth the gamble so I decided to pack it up and head back.

Heading back was lot easier since I had my own footsteps to follow but again there were times when I managed to loose them. I wanted to take mg own time hiking out but the weather was starting to get worse again there was little bit of snow and the canyon was starting to get socked in and if I didn’t hurry I was going to be in white out conditions. It felt like the mountain was asking me to gtfo and as I was leaving there was a white dense fog behind me.

Cloud cover moving in.

I had ski tracks to follow now but they didn’t lead me to inspiration point and they led me north side of jenny lake which wasn’t right so I decided to make my own tracks since I knew the direction in which I was supposed to go and soon enough I reached jenny lake dock which was nice and I chilled there for a bit. A Fox came by to say hello but I think he was more interested in the squirrel than me. He didn’t linger long enough for a photo opportunity either.

Relaxing at Jenny Lake Dock

I continued on some footsteps around the lake but soon came to a dead end and if I wanted to get back on trail I had to cross a log bridge which wasn’t in good shape so I went back to finding the right trail which didn’t take that long. It was now a matter of getting back to the car, which wouldn’t be for another couple of hours. Along the way I met with lot more folks, which was surprising since I just met one person on the way in.

Tricky Bridge

I was in hurry to get back to the campground so that I could grab a campsite before it got full and I was there by 2 pm or so. I was planning on staying there for couple of days and then spend another two at Yellowstone. I really wanted to camp at amphitheater lake but after this backpacking experience I decided that it wasn’t the best idea.

I would love to come back and do the entire Teton Crest trail and i am seriously considering doing in Mid September this year. Though I have to say some company would be great, If you are interested hit me up.

Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks Road Trip Report

One of my goals this ski season was to go to Jackson hole but that didn’t happen and after that when an Alaska ski mountaineering trip wasn’t feasible, I felt the need to get out and take a break.

A visit to Grand Tetons sounded like perfect gateway and when I found out about Teton crest trail the trip was on.

I booked my flights to Salt Lake city and from there the plan was to drive out to Tetons. I planed out the entire hike and had a day or two to visit Yellowstone but the entire trip didn’t go to according to plan.

I knew that this year Tetons had received crazy amount of snow, 2nd highest on record, so couple of weeks prior to my trip I called the ranger station and asked about it. They told me there was lots of snow and hiking over the passes wasn’t a good idea. Since I was by myself I gave up on the idea of hiking the trail.

I still wanted to do some backpacking and then suddenly a brilliant idea hit me. Why not drive all the way from LA so I could lug all my gear including skis. I contacted couple of guiding companies and they only offered private 1 on 1, which was pricey, but I kept that option open.

Packed and Ready

So now that I was set on driving I decided to leave early Friday from work around noon so that I could beat la traffic but unfortunately its LA so I was faced with traffic. I had forgotten to pack my windbreaker and since thunderstorms were predicted I didn’t want to take a chance. I remembered about it only 20 minutes into the drive so it was worth it going back for it and it delayed me an hour.

I hadn’t planned on where I was going to spend the night, all I knew that I wanted to be as close to Tetons as possible since I wanted to get there early enough to grab a campsite and get my backcountry permit for next day.

I wasn’t planning on driving through the night so I decided to spent night at Fillmore rest stop. I asked the nightly rate for Bestwestern but 80 seemed too pricey so I ended up sleeping in my car.

Next day morning woke up at 7 and started the drive. After regular stops along the way and enjoying the scenery I reached Grand Tetons at around 4pm. My initial plan was to get permit for north fork on cascade canyon trail but the south fork was right there so I got permit for two nights. I also wanted to get permit for Sunrise Lake but the ranger suggested that the route was tough and it wouldn’t be a wise idea with all the snow

I decided not to get the permit for now since I could always come back and get it. I wanted to get to jenny lake campground and grab a site before it was full. I managed to get one and after establishing the site and eating diner at around 6 I thought that I could easily crash and be done for the day.

I managed to go to bed but after n hour half of sleep I was wide-awake. I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep until mid night now and I heard the guys in the next camp talk about how clear the weather was. So I got up and decided to drive around for some night photography. Unfortunately I wasn’t impressed by any of the shots.

It rained at night and next day morning it was quite cloudy. I was unsure about my plans to go and do the backpack so I decided to talk to the rangers about the weather. My main fear was whiteout conditions on the trail but ranger said that there was 20% chance of snow and the weather has been like this for few days and it should clear up later in the day.

I said f**k it, I will take my chances and so I wrapped up the camp and after purchasing bear spray I headed out into cascade canyon and plan was to camp on the north fork trail go to lake solitude and then the next day go to south fork trail and possibly try to go over the pass into Alaska basin. Now that I think about it I can’t help but laugh at the futility of my ambitious plan.

This backpacking hike deserves its own blog post so here it is. Backpacking North Fork Trail

I went to the visitor center to inform the ranger about my change in plans and I asked them what would have happened if I stayed another night at north fork instead of south fork and the ranger said that it would have been fine given that it was still early in the season. It’s just that during peak times they ask folks in the backcountry to stick to their itinerary. I came back to camp and decided that it won’t be a bad idea to have pizza and beer instead of my pre cooked meal so I went to Dornans but they had some event there so I had to drop that idea.

My plan for the next day was to take it easy and do some other hikes in the park.

I woke up from sleep early around 7am but then I remembered that I was on vacation so there was no reason for me to get ready so early and I went back to bed. I was up around 9 and then after enjoying my tea and breakfast I headed over to Spring Lake.

My plan was to do a loop around the lake which was about 4 miles and I was expecting that the trail would be similar to the one on the Jenny Lake loop so finding it wouldn’t be a issue but I was so wrong. I got to the trailhead and pulled in next to a skier. I chatted with him for a bit and he was out skiing alone, only if I had known about him earlier. He took the Ski mountaineering clinic with Exum guides and was staying in Jackson for a month. I didn’t find out about this Ski mountaineering clinic earlier otherwise I would have tried for it.

For some reason I decided not to wear my gaiters, which turned out to be a big mistake, more on that later. Initially the trail was easy to find but then after 10 minutes I saw a group of 3 on a hill, I followed their tracks and caught up to them but they were lost too. They wanted to hike into the palisade canyon, part of the trail for that was common with the one I wanted to follow. I consulted the map and it was obvious that the trail went around the lake and they still hadn’t crossed it so I didn’t follow them and decided to go along my own path. I let them know about it and it wasn’t until 15 minutes I saw them follow me.

I took a break hoping that they would soon catch up to me and then lead the path so I could easily follow in their footsteps but watching them cross the snow it soon became apparent to me that they had no idea what they were doing. They caught up to me and I advised them not to go ahead with their plan of hiking into the palisade canyon, they seemed to agree and retreated. I was left to myself and for a moment I thought that maybe I should retreat too but I had my mind set on doing the loop around the lake and I pushed on. During this break I removed some snow from my shoes and not wearing gaiters was starting to bite me in the ass.

As mentioned earlier I thought that finding the trail would be easier but turned out that I was wrong. From the map it seemed that the trail took me higher and away from the lake but I didn’t want to do that, staying closer to the shores of the lake seemed like a better idea to me so I could easily make my own trail. So with that in mind I went through the woods and after a while came across bear footprints, oh fun. I had forgotten to carry my bear spray so I panicked a little and seemed like I was following the tracks of the bear.

Making my own trail

I tried to remain calm and moved away from the tracks while banging my poles at the same time to make some noise. The last thing I wanted to do is to startle a bear without any bear spray. I hurried and tried to get to an open area to find some resemblance of trail but there was none so I stuck to my original plan of staying along the borders of the lake. As I continued along I came across what seemed like marshes and I really wanted to turn around at this point since I was for sure way too far from the trail but then turning back meant that I had to go through the bear tracks and I didn’t feel like it.

Got some nice views from Marshes

It seemed that there was a way through the marshes so I carried on trying to find the bridge, which would let me cross the lake and complete the loop. As soon as I got into an area with lot of trees I started banging my poles and make some noise. I was post holing once in a while but luckily for me it wasn’t too annoying. After almost hour and half and crossing around 5-6 small streams through the marshes I finally got to the bridge and it was a huge relief.

The Bridge

After another extended break I carried on and this time luckily I had tracks to follow and they led me right way. I was post-holing lot more on this part of the trail and at this point I was really frustrated and wanted the hike to be over so that I could get out of the snow but I still had over a mile to hike. I carried on and all of sudden came across an area where the snow was different and there was a layer of ice underneath. I had to be really cautious and tried not to posthole but unfortunately my left leg went in and there was a surge of ice cold water into my shoes. It was so annoying but I didn’t have a choice and after another half hour I finally made it back to the car. As soon as I got there I immediately changed out of my shoes. It had started to rain and I wanted to get out of the parking lot and go on the scenic route but a French couple wanted ride back to Jenny Lake since they didn’t have necessary stuff to hike in the rain. My car was fully packed so I couldn’t give ride to both of them so one of them came with me and I dropped her at their car at Jenny lake.

My plans for the scenic drive were abandoned so I decided to do the Taggart Lake hike, which was about 3.5 miles RT and for sure seemed to be free of snow. I decided to go to windy point, have lunch while enjoying the view from there and dry my shoes at the same time. It was very relaxing and finally I got to see clear view of the Grand Tetons. I put on a fresh pair of socks and started Taggart Lake hike but 10 minutes into it I realized that I forgot my camera so I had to go back to get it.

Clear View of Grand Teton

It was a nice hike and was great to be on trail devoid of any snow. Since there was no cloud over the Grand Tetons I was hoping to take some reflection shots when I got to the lake. There was some snow on the trail as I got closer to the lake but I had faced worse throughout so this was piece of cake. As I reached the lake it was disappointing to see that the lake was still frozen, there went my idea of taking some reflection shots.

Frozen Taggart Lake

There were some really dark clouds moving in and I didn’t want to get caught in a thunderstorm even though I had all my gear with me. I decided to really hurry and almost started running on the way out, sure enough I hiked little over 1.5 miles in under 45 minutes. As soon as I got to the car it started pouring and I was so happy that I had made it back just in time. I went back to Dornan’s and decided to have pizza and beer, which was great. By the time I was done with it the storm passed by and I went back to the campground.

The Manager of campground, Suzy had invited everyone to her site for campfire so headed over there and met all the folks, which had their own stories to share. There were couple of guys backcountry skiing and I thought about joining them for their tour tomorrow. I didn’t want to impose and if some random person would ask me to join a tour it would be awkward so I didn’t bother. One of the guys there from New Zealand was hitch hiking across the states and had already got over 100 rides.

We stayed there till quiet hours talking about stuff and then it was time for bed. My plan was to spend 2 nights at Yellowstone and I thought that it would be little too much but it turned out that it was less.

I hadn’t booked any campsites in Yellowstone so my main priority was to secure a campsite but at the same time I wanted to take it easy not hurry up and get going. I left grand Tetons around 10.30 and reached Yellowstone entrance at around 1pm. I thought about going further up inside the park but decided against it and went to Madison where I managed to get campsite for two days.

It was now time to explore Yellowstone, I decided to drive north to Mammoth area and cover that. Mammoth hot springs was really awesome, the geysers and springs have some really interesting colors to them. After spending couple of hours there and taking lots of picture I drove east to Tower Falls.

Minerva Terrace at Mammoth Hot Springs

One of my Favorite pictures of the trip

On the way to the falls I came across an Elk, Pronghorn Deer and a Black bear. The place where the bear was foraging was quite busy so I didn’t stop to take pictures. I wasn’t too impressed by Tower falls and unfortunately the road to Canyon area from there was closed so I ended up driving back the same way.


I ate dinner at Mammoth but once I got to campsite I was hungry again so I made dinner before bed. My plan was to explore the rest of the park tomorrow. I wanted to get up early and get going as soon as possible since it seemed like there was lot to explore and I wasn’t wrong.

Next day I got going by 8.30 and first headed over to Norris Geyser Basin area which was nice but nothing spectacular, only if Steamboat Geyser would have erupted. It was time to go over to the Canyon area but there were quite a few trails in the area that were closed which was disappointing.

I went to the lower falls lookout and then when I went to Grand view lookout I learned about Osprey nests in the area so I started looking for them but wasn’t able to find any. I headed over to the south rim and over there the views of Lower Falls were really nice. I came across a pair of photographers who seemed to find an Osprey nest on the North side of the canyon but they weren’t sure if there were any birds in the nest. I thought to myself that I could get a closer look at the nest from the North side now that I knew exactly where to look, so I went back to the north side and sure enough there was the nest.

Osprey Nest

I saw two birds in the nest though I couldn’t make out if there were any eggs. I saw one of them take off for hunting I presume, it was an awesome sight to see. Now the only thing left on my wish list was to see a Grizzly bear and my wish was granted as I drove out to West Basin Geyser area. There was a Grizzly foraging in the meadows and a huge crowd had gathered to watch it. He was about 100 ft. away or so and it seemed like he wanted to come closer and cross the road but maybe was intimidated by the number of people.

Grizzly Bear

My Yellowstone mammal wish list was complete and I was super happy. I headed over to the West Basin Geyser area and some of the springs were really colorful, there was one in particular where I wasn’t happy with the pictures I took because of the angle of the sun. I thought about returning next day but I didn’t. Now the only thing left was Old Faithful area.

As soon as I got to Old Faithful there was a crowd of people gathered so I found a good spot and set up my camera. The geyser didn’t erupt for another half an hour but when it did, it surely put on a show. I then went around checking out the area and I hadn’t realized that there would be so much to look at. There were couple of Bison just relaxing in the basin area and they let us get really close to them. I didn’t try my luck and maintained my distance however there was a guy with his tripod who only few feet away from it. I had my camera on them since I was certain that the Bison was going to charge but luckily for everyone it just crossed the walkway and carried on.

Old Faithful

Bison close to people

No Harm done but could have been Ugly

I moved to other part of the basin and sure enough one of the geysers where I was earlier erupted, I didn’t get chance to catch it up close. It seemed like I wasn’t going to be able cover the entire area since it was getting pretty late and I was hungry too. So I went around for a bit taking pictures and then waited around Castle Geyser in hope that it would erupt. It had already erupted twice in the day so I didn’t linger for long and then after having Dinner at the cafe it was time to head back to camp.

Castle Geyser

My plan next day was to visit couple of more Geyser areas and then drive back to Jackson and spend the night there. I wanted to do some photography passing through the towns and Bear Lake, which I planned to do it on Saturday. I was hoping to reach LA on Sunday night after some gambling in Vegas but as with this trip nothing worked according to the plan.

I thought about spending another night at Yellowstone but seemed like getting a campsite would be a problem and it was started to get crowded so I wanted to get away from it. I wrapped up my campsite and visited Midway Geyser Basin, which was awesome, specially the chromatic pool. It was awesome to see the different colored mist rising from the pool. I then went over to Black Sand basin, which was going to be my final stop in the park, and I would be on my way.

Chromatic Pool

As I got there, in the distance I saw what seemed like Osprey hunting some birds, I tried to switch to my zoom lens but it flew away before I could. After going around the basin area, I decided to wait for a bit to see if the Osprey came back and sure enough it did. I thought it would go for the birds but they were nowhere to be seen so the Osprey was over the river. I wanted to move closer to it but as I was moving the Osprey made a dive for it and plucked out a fish. It was once in a lifetime experience and it circled over us for few minutes with fish still in its claw and then flew away. I was completely thrilled and it felt so good to see the hunt in action.

Osprey with Fish

Osprey Flyover

On the way to Grand Tetons there was a brief stop over to watch a Mama Grizzly bear with two cubs but they were way to far from road so I didn’t linger for long. I got back to Jackson around 3pm and thought that it didn’t make sense spending the night there so I carried on and thought maybe Logan might be a better option. As I got to Logan it seemed that I could go further and I ended up spending the night at Fillmore in my car, which was the same place as way up. Saturday I stopped over in Vegas to play some poker and then reached LA Saturday night.

Mama Grizzly and cubs

It was an awesome trip even though it didn’t go according to plan. I wanted to backpack Teton Crest trail but couldn’t and enjoyed Yellowstone more which was going to be an after thought on this trip. I took over 600 pictures on this trip, most of them were in Yellowstone and it took me better part of Saturday and Sunday to process them all.

Next time I go to Yellowstone I want to spend at least a week photographing everything and regarding Teton Crest Trail I am considering of going back in Mid September and hiking it.

1 person, 2 national parks, 6 state lines, 9 days , 12+ mammal species, 25+ miles of hiking, 600+ pictures, 2400+ miles and a lifetime of memories. Road trips are so much fun.

The trip pictures can be viewed and bought at

Utah Ski Trip Report

I saw Shawna, from Uber Mammoth meetup group post this trip sometime in november and i jumped right on it. This season i had made it a goal to travel to different ski resorts across the country and that is why i decided to buy Mammoth MVP premium pass which gives 50% off at all mountain collective resorts.

We were going to spend 4 days in Park City and i didn’t really think about where i was planning to ski until the trip got closer which was weekend of 2/28/14. As i was asking different people and reading about different resorts it was clear that i wanted to spend at least 2 days at snowbird/alta. In the end i ended up spending a day each at Park City, Alta, Snowbird and Canyons.

My only worry was the roads to snowbird might get closed because of the storm and we might not be able to make it but fortunately that wasn’t the case.

I want to focus this post only on what i thought about each of those resorts. Please do keep in mind that i am not an expert by any means but just someone who is passionate about skiing and considers himself a snow snob. Every individual has their own style/preference when it comes to skiing and this post is all about what worked for me.

I have been skiing only for 6 years but having taken lot of lessons, i have progressed fairly quickly (i think) and i can ski down most of the runs on any mountain. I enjoy varied steep terrain, tree skiing and wide open bowls.

Park City Mountain Resort

I wasn’t too keen on PCMR to begin with but we were staying walking distance from the resort and everyone in the group was going to ride there so i decided to go along with it.

Jupiter lift has the most advanced terrain so the plan was to get there as quickly as possible but from Silver star lift it took us a good half hour to get there and it was already packed. There weren’t many fresh tracks to be had.

There is little bit of traversing and hiking involved if you want to get to some of the runs and my snowboarding buddies found the traverse to be quite tricky. They dropped in a steep tree line which i wouldn’t have, the snow was great everywhere so it didn’t matter.

After talking to locals the hike to Scott’s bowl was supposed to be good so we decided to go for it. It had a nice 5ft drop so it was a perfect opportunity for me to take the camera out and do some action photography.

Scotts Bowl

I decided to go in first and then wait for others so that i could shoot them. I had put my boots in walk mode and unfortunately i forgot to tighten my left boot and put it back in the ski mode. Ofcourse i found this out after i crashed and lost my ski which decided to go 40-50 ft down the hill and into the trees. Luckily we found it quickly, lesson learnt.

I took my BC setup on this trip since i had read about being able to hike in utah resorts and it was only my 3rd time using it. So it was a very good learning experience for me and i hope not to repeat the same mistake again in BC where the consequences of such a mistake could be far greater.

We had enough of this lift at this point and decided to check out other lifts but it seemed like in terms of advanced terrain our options were limited. We headed over to Mcconkey’s and did the bowl run but the snow was terrible. It was few inches of fresh powder on top but it was crusty underneath and it wasn’t fun at all.

It was time for a lunch break and after that we headed up Mcconkeys again and this time we decided to explore the trees. The first run we dropped into some really tight trees and it was little scary. I wasn’t really linking any turns and it was mainly survival skiing so for the next run i decided to go into area with trees more spaced apart and it was more fun. This area is known as glading in black forest, not sure if i would rate it as double black.

The best part was the lower run which was almost like a natural half pipes with lots of whoops and small jumps and it was the best run of the day for me. Personally i felt like PCMR redeemed itself for me with this run, i did it couple more times and then it was time to figure out way to head back.

Heading back it was the worst snow of the day on the last run and me being lazy/tired i fell couple more times but didn’t loose my ski so that was good.

It was good day at PCMR but i was looking forward to snowbird lot more the next day specially since it had got some fresh snow and was going to snow during the day as well.


The road was closed but it was expected to open at 8am so we left as early as possible and we got to snowbird just before the lifts opened. It was still snowing and when we got there none of the lifts were running.

When i bought my pass i had to buy the snowbird/alta combined pass because of the MVP premium discount and given the fact that none of the lifts were running at bird i decided to take the shuttle to Alta and check that out instead. I didn’t really want to wait in line and deal with the crowds at snowbird.

When i got to Alta there was a big line for Collins lift so i decided to jump on the wildcat lift instead and it was great. I had to be careful since the visibility wasn’t great but there were fresh tracks to be made everywhere.

After couple of laps i decided to check out Collins and brave the long lines, it was about 10 mins in the singles but totally worth it. Some people were talking about sugarloaf being open so i decided to head over there from collins and ended up spending most of my day there.

It was definitely the best chair of the day, there were times when the visibility was absolutely none but since i was doing laps on the same chair i was getting more comfortable and it didn’t matter. I was having a blast.

I was told the best terrain is off the supreme lift but i was apprehensive about trying to get on more advanced unknown terrain specially when there was limited visibility.

Limited Visibility at Alta

The plan was to do some turns together with a friend of mine who was skiing at snowbird so i decided to head out there but all the gates were closed except for Blackjack traverse and it was an adventure.

Earlier in the day i had seen sign for snowbird from the Wildcat lift and i asked the lifties whether it was open or not and it was open. I followed the sign and it seemed like a traverse through the trees but after a while i was completely lost on where to go.

I wasn’t sure whether i had to stay high up or descend and the path down was quite steep in the trees with me being uncertain whether i was over some cliffs or not. I was little scared at this point but luckily for me there was some guy who came and he was heading in the same direction. He said that i had to follow orange markings on the trees and that was the only sign, it was sketchy but after a while i got out of the trees. This time i could see avalanche danger signs at bird, i got out of the area as soon as possible and even got some fresh powder.

I would not recommend this traverse to anyone who isn’t an advanced skier or familiar with the terrain, if it wasn’t for that guy i would have probably gotten lost in the trees and ended up somewhere in middle between snowbird and alta.

Once i got back to snowbird i decided to ride the peruvian express since we had already decided to be back at the car at 3.30. I headed down from the lift without paying much attention to the signs and it made for some good mogul skiing. I was tired so was stopping after every few turns and after 3 runs on the chair i decided to call it a day.


Since yesterday i missed out on skiing snowbird and everyone was raving about mineral basin area, i wanted to head over there first thing in the morning. It seemed like tram would be a slow way to get to mineral basin since i could take peruvian express and then go through the tunnel but i wanted to experience the tram so i waited and rode it. When we got to the top mineral basin was still closed so i decided to do a lap on little cloud and it was super nice.

I loved the groomed wide bowl of regulator johnson, it had few inches of fresh and made for great skiing. When i took the lift back up, mineral basin had opened up so it was time to head there. After i did lap or two there, i saw the powder paradise had opened up and even though it was mostly lapped up i decided to go there and was able to get my own fresh tracks it was nice.

I was eyeing road to provo from little cloud express and had decided to be one of the first ones to be there when it opened up. So i was just doing laps around that area, ski patrol was still doing avy work and when it seemed that they were getting closer i decided to wait for it.

I waited half an hour for it and when it was about to open the line was at least 100 people long and it was a mad dash for it. I was probably among the first 15 people to go through the gate and instead of going farther into the traverse i just dropped in as soon as i could and it was awesome. I have no words to describe the feeling and it was great to be part of the crowd since it felt that everyone was feeding off each others energy. There were plenty of loud happy shouts and high fives once we got back to the chair lift. It was a huge adrenaline rush and i did couple more laps though of course they weren’t as great as the first one. It was all tracked out in matter of minutes.

Waiting for Road to Provo

After lunch i did a lap on gad zoom but the snow wasn’t that great and it was time to head back to the other side. Early in the day i had thought about dropping into a chute at top of mineral basin but i chickened out so i wanted to hit it and redeem myself. I dropped in and managed to ski fine, the snow would have been lot better early in the morning though. I decided to go through the tunnel for the heck of it and then call it a day.


Some folks in the group had bought 2 day tickets for PCMR but since i wasn’t too impressed by it on the first day, i decided to go check out Canyons instead.

I knew Ninety-Nine 90 was the lift for advanced terrain and i wanted to get there first thing but i was disappointed by the snow. It was fairly crusty and not fun at all, plus me being tired from 3 days of skiing wasn’t helping too. The hike to the nearby peaks to go off boundary was really tempting but since i was by myself i didn’t want to risk it.

The quicker way to get to Ninety-Nine 90 was to take Orange Bubble express to thunder mountain express instead of red gondola to thunder mountain express.

From top of 9990, i headed over to red pine chutes so that i could get to a wide open bowl which promised some fresh tracks but unfortunately as i traversed over there it was closed. I dropped into red pine chutes and snow was better than the previous run but i had to be careful to avoid some cliffs. I wanted to traverse over to one side but was unsure if it involved any jumps or not so i took the safer visible path down.

Looking down Red Pine Chutes, Canyons Resort

I was planning on doing the mountain tour offered but it was full so i talked to one of the hosts and he suggested that i head over to dreamcatcher and dreamscape lifts for best chance of good quality snow and some advanced/intermediate runs. I took his advice and wasn’t disappointed. It made for some really fun tree skiing with fresh snow on the ground. It wasn’t as crusty underneath and i did few laps on both the chairs.

After lunch i was tempted to go back on Ninety Nine 90 but that didn’t seem like a good idea since i was tired so after couple of runs i decided to call it a day. It was time to get to the airport and head back home.

Overall it was a great trip and for me the preference of resorts would be Snowbird/Alta, Canyons and then park city. On my next trip to SLC i would prefer staying closer to snowbird instead of park city and then just ski there. Canyons would be a great option if they had some fresh snow, the backcountry seems so easily accessible from the resort. PCMR, i have no intentions of going there again, Canyons is way better option in park city.

My Mammoth Story

This blog post is inspired by a mini site created by Mammoth Mountain and here is my Mammoth story.

This year will be my 5th season at Mammoth and in the past three years i have skied close to 100 days on the mountain, i consider it to be my home away from home though technically it is my third home since i grew up in Mumbai, India.

I caught Skiing bug in 08 and did few trips to local LA resorts, took some lessons but i wasn’t satisfied. I wanted to get better and the only way to do it would be to go often and slowly push my limits. I had heard about MM being one of the best places to ski and luckily Mammoth that year offered their season pass (MVP) to new members. So without ever visiting Mammoth, not knowing anyone who skies regularly i decided to buy the pass. The rationale being that if i bought the pass i would force myself to go to mammoth often and get better at skiing.

The pass was bought in april and as the season arrived i found out about different meetup groups hosting regular trips to Mammoth on the weekends and it was easy for me to join those and make some new friends.

During my first visit to Mammoth for the entire day i only got on Discovery chair (Beginner). I was doing laps on the same two runs and it didn’t matter, I was enjoying myself and having a great time. One of the guys mentioned that the group was going to meet at Mccoy at 10am and then ride together/take pictures and i looked at him blankly. I had no clue what he was talking about and had no intentions of getting on harder runs. I wanted to take it slow and just enjoy being on the slopes.

In first season i never went to the top since i didn’t have confidence in my skiing to be able to make it down in one piece. I met lot of new folks, made new friends who were willing to be patient with me, help me out with my skiing. For the most part i was skiing alone doing my own thing and progressing slowly at the same time. At the end of the season i got in about 15-20 days and considered myself an intermediate skier.

This is how my journey began and now 4 seasons later, 3 of them taking season long lessons, I am finally comfortable skiing most of the slopes on the mountain. I have met so many new people, made awesome friends, it has been a life changing experience for me and i plan to enjoy it for the rest of life.

As i plan to venture into Backcountry skiing and exploring other resorts around the country, Mammoth will always be the best for me and I can’t imagine a life without my home away from home.

My Mammoth