This is my online home for sharing some of my life's adventures, many of which include family, friends and the great outdoors. Hopefully you find it entertaining, useful and/or inspiring. Some content is meant for me and those close to me. Other content is meant to be used as a resource or inspiration for your own adventures. However you spend your time here, I hope you enjoy it.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Update: Family, Friends, Work, Fatherhood and Skiing

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Family & Friends

It has been a while since I've checked in.  I've been busy with many things since my last post, but here are some of the highlights.

I missed the big snowstorms in the western part of the country over Thanksgiving and Christmas, but I don't regret it at all.  I was spending quality time with family and friends back east, and it was wonderful.

Classic Pennsylvania day, the day after Thanksgiving.
Marilyn doing her first sledding on Thanksgiving day in PA (top)
compared to her first Thanksgiving in Colorado (bottom).

Marilyn enjoying the colorful presents and Christmas lights.
My dear friend Phil and I with the "Big Uglies." We enjoyed
the PSU bowl game at Yankee stadium.

My friend Tom (aka The Real Hiking Viking) spent about a month at our house preparing for his upcoming distance hiking season.  Tom is a childhood friend who, after returning from several tours of duty as a Marine, began distance hiking.  He finished the Appalachian Trail in 2013 and the Continental Divide Trial in 2014.  A few days ago he left to start ~500 miles on the Florida National Scenic Trail, which will be followed by hiking the entirety of the Arizona National Scenic Trail (800+ miles), which will be followed by the Pacific Crest Trail (~2600 miles).  When he finishes the Pacific Crest Trail he will have completed the "Triple Crown" of North American distance hiking.  I encourage you to follow along on his journey's through his Instagram account.

Tom being his typical goofy self while getting
some training done in Colorado.


In mid-December I did a little mountain access work for the seismic industry in the Colorado desert.  A unique place to be roaming around the wilderness.  These jobs have me working with a diverse group of people (mountain guides, migrant workers, helicopter pilots, oil industry folks, etc.) and are rather interesting.  It is especially interesting when you come across myriad ancient ruins during the day.

Typical scenes during a day of mountain access 
work in the seismic field.


Since returning from Christmas travels I've spent amazing time taking care of Marilyn during the week.  I've got memories that I'll cherish for a lifetime from the last few months with her.  She and I have a special bond that has grown deeper during this time.

Marilyn and I enjoying some of the unusually warm
February weather (this day was in the 70's F).


Oh, I almost forgot to mention...I've been doing some skiing.  I've only been on a lift one day this season and that was to spend time with my friend Aaron Howell (a Marine veteran and sit-skier) in Aspen.  Other than that, it has been all backcountry skiing and earning my turns...I love it!  Lots of skiing in Colorado and some skiing Wyoming as well.

Finding the snow when it hasn't for a while.
Backcountry skiing in the full moon = beautiful.

Spring conditions came early.

Mini couloirs.
Really got to get on some bigger lines during the draught.

More night touring.
Lovin' some Wyoming.

Got to check this aesthetic line off my list.
Earning turns.

I've made several short videos of my ski exploits this season to share with everyone.  I hope you enjoy.

I thank God for my many blessings every day.

I'm incredibly fortunate to have such an amazing wife and daughter, WITH ANOTHER DAUGHTER DUE TO ARRIVE IN A MONTH!  Add the many friends and other family members that I love and getting to experience some outdoor adventure at the same time...God has truly blessed me.  I'm very thankful.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

First Day of the 2014/2015 Ski Season

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Had a good first day of the ski season with Norm and Eric.  Really mellow terrain, but really soft snow.  Looking forward to a season filled with fatherhood and freshies!

A little snow in the face.
Norm enjoying a little soft snow.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

SKI DENALI - An Expedition to Climb Denali and Ski the Messner Couloir

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I decided to consolidate everything from the SKI DENALI expedition into one place to make it easier for people who want to use it as a resource.  And, since I've been hobbled by an injury for the past week I decided to use some of my would-be exercise time I put together a new, short, highlight video.  Here ya go.

SKI DENALI - Highlights (Summit, Messner Couloir and More) 


Part 1 (Getting to Kahiltna Base Camp)

Part 2 (Ski Hill Camp to Motorcycle Hill Camp to Camp 14)

Part 3 (Skiing Rescue Gully and West Rib/Orient Express)

Part 4 (Summit Cimb and Skiing the Messner Couloir)

Part 5 (Denali Departure and Getting Home)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

SKI DENALI - PART 5 (Departing Denali and Getting Home)

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"See 'em sit there, and as they always do for some reason after they touch the yellow gate the last time,
they just kind of, it's like you cut the strings on a - what is it that, a marionette? - they just pfft.
Someone will be there with a chair and they just sit there, and you can see this...
the extremes of joy that can come with sports, that you only get when failure was probable."
-Gary "Laz" Cantrell (race organizer for the Barkley 100)

Joyful in a harsh landscape.

Ski Denali - Part 5: Denali Departure

We had done it.  The years of planning, preparation, learning and training, the long days waiting in Denali's weather, the continual upward push with dehydrated bodies and tired legs had all paid off.  North America's highest point had been reached and descended on skis via the Messner Couloir.  The conditions were what dreams are made of.  We were blessed and we knew it, feeling truly content in what we were fortunate enough to experience.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

SKI DENALI - PART 4 (Summit Climb and Skiing the Messner Couloir)

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"Further up and further in."
-The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis

Way up and gettin' into it!

Ski Denali - Part 4: Denali Summit Climb

This was it - summit day.  We had been on the mountain for 18 days and most of those were spent waiting in storms.  So far, all the clear weather windows had been short, and today's was no exception.  After talking with Joel Gratz (meteorologist for OpenSnow.com) the evening before, it looked like we had a weather window of roughly 18 hours before another series of storms was set to blast the mountain.  It was now or never if we hoped to reach the summit.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

SKI DENALI - PART 3 (Skiing Rescue Gully and West Rib/Orient Express)

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Be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea,
you're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So...get on your way!"
-Oh The Places You'll Go, Dr. Seuss

On my mountain.
On my mountain.

Ski Denali - Part 3: Camp 14

Planning and patience - key elements for a successful ski-mountaineering expedition.  Up to this point, our entire time climbing Denali had involved storms with short windows of clear weather.  This pattern only continued upon our arrival at Camp 14.  The storminess was a double edged sword.  It simultaneously made the lines we wanted to ski both skiable and un-skiable.  The lines needed snow to cover the glacial ice, but we could not ski the lines (or get to them) while it was snowing.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

SKI DENALI - PART 2 (Ski Hill Camp to Motorcycle Hill Camp to Camp 14)

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Ski Denali - Part 2

Ski Hill Camp - Motorcycle Hill Camp - Camp 14

"The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge:
but fools despise wisdom and instruction."
-Proverbs 1:7

The imposing massif of Denali standing more than 12,000' above Ski Hill Camp.
The imposing massif of Denali standing more than 12,000' above Ski Hill Camp.

Ski Denali - Part 2: Ski Hill Camp

Paradoxically, in order to climb the peak with the largest vertical rise in the world (from base to summit that is entirely above sea level) we had to start by going down.  The brisk descent of Heartbreak Hill, roughly 500 vertical feet that separates the main Kahiltna Glacier from Kahiltna Base Camp, was a pleasant way to begin the day.  Finishing the short descent put us at the lowest point of our climb, roughly 6650'.  As we turned north and began skinning up the Kahiltna Glacier we were on the expedition's opening battle against gravity.

This was our first opportunity to test our set-ups and truly feel the weight of all our gear.  Fortunately, from the bottom of Heartbreak Hill to Ski Hill Camp the terrain climbs for ~5 miles at a very mellow and consistent angle.  The heavy loads, although significant, were not a torturous burden.  We made great time as we skinned past those walking in guided groups.  Hooray for skis!

The scale and grandeur of the mountains really set in as we moved up the Kahiltna.  We were surrounded on all sides by enormous crevasses, seracs, cornices, cliff bands and ice-falls.  God's fingerprint is uniquely stamped on this dramatic, severe, no-nonsense landscape.  Listening to what it is telling you, learning from it and acting accordingly is of the utmost importance.

This place will humble you...if you're arrogant you are dead.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

SKI DENALI - PART 1 (Getting to Kahiltna Base Camp)

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DIA - ANC - TLK - Kahiltna Base Camp

"May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand."
-Traditional Gaelic Prayer

The Alaska Range rising up to meet us.
The Alaska Range

Ski Denali - Part 1: DIA

Saying goodbye at DIA
Saying goodbye at DIA.
I was ready to go.  This was the moment I had long been anticipating.  I had prepared for years, sorting out the details of what it took and what I needed to climb and ski from North America's highest point.  

It was something that my grandfather had told me about as a youngster. 

It was a life goal I had written down as a Cub Scout.   

I had stared at pictures, read stories and dreamt about it since my childhood.

I had long prepared physically and mentally for the challenges of such an expedition.

I wanted to do it to continue a family legacy and do something that my children can be proud of.

I had an inexplicable feeling that it was something I needed to do.

So why wasn't I thrilled to get started?  The departure is usually when my heart starts to race and I imagine the fantastic adventure that lies ahead.  But, I didn't have that usual feeling of exhilaration as I stepped out of the car at DIA's massive circus-tentesque terminal.

Waiting for the flight...thinking.
Waiting for the flight...thinking.
Perhaps my lack of excitement upon departure was because this trip was different from the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of other mountain adventures I've been on.  For starters, I was now a father and I was about to leave my wife and nearly 9-month old daughter for an unknown amount of time.  Would I be gone a couple weeks?  A month?  Longer...?  I already missed them as the security guard ushered them towards the terminal exit.  Not knowing when I would see them again seemed to amplify that feeling.  Additionally, I had invested so much into planning and preparing for this trip that starting it made me nervous.  What if things didn't go well?  Would I feel like I had wasted all that effort?  Would I feel like a failure?  Would I ever get to attempt this lifelong dream again?  Would my family be disappointed if I wasn't successful?  Would my family be proud of me even if I was successful?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Skiing Denali - Gear and Packing

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The time is upon me.  I get on Denali in less than 24 hours and I have a mountain of gear packed up and ready to go.  It was not an easy process accumulating all the necessary gear, nor was it easy to get it all packed.  Here's what we've go going up the mountain with us.

I hope you enjoy my "MTV Cribs" version of showing you some gear.

Denali Gear Packing from Joel Bettner on Vimeo.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Skiing North Maroon Peak - Perseverance Pays Off on the North Face

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North Maroon Peak - North Face Ski Descent from Joel Bettner on Vimeo.

I've been trying to ski the North Face of North Maroon Peak for several years now.  North Maroon Peak, which is one of the "Maroon Bells," is without a doubt the most iconic peak in Colorado.  It shows up everywhere.  It seemed to taunt me every time I saw it in an ad campaign, movie, website or even on my grocery store card.  Previously, each time I've tried to ski it there have either been issues with my ski partners or I've been turned around by conditions (like in this trip report from last year).  This year things were different.

5/23/14: Getting to Aspen

I picked up Nick Braun from his home in Edwards, CO at around 5:30 pm on Friday evening and we made our way to Aspen and the Maroon Lake TH.  On our drive we encountered a large, relatively