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Hakuba 2010/11

Discussion in 'Japan' started by TJ, Dec 24, 2010.

  1. TJ

    TJ One of Us

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    Had some great turns at the back of Happo yesterday. Lots of small slides down low. Huge variance in conditions from boot deep pow to solid ice. Stunning weather conditions to be out exploring.
     
  2. damian

    damian A Local

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    Way over behind Norikura in the protected groves - there be powder of sorts there.

    Skied from few inches below the summit of Karamatsu today = no powder, just soft snow and lots of variable grabby. Coming back down through the river, Happo north bowls look like a European ski area after 1 week with no snow. They are in very bad shape. Almost moguls in Oshi. yuck.

    Managed to make karamatsu in 2.5 hours today. Not a soul to be seen.
     
    #302 damian, Feb 23, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 18, 2013
  3. TJ

    TJ One of Us

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    [​IMG]
     
    #303 TJ, Feb 24, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 11, 2013
  4. damian

    damian A Local

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    What??! Seriously, what are the roll-eyes about??!! I agreed with FT and added my observations.

    Everyone else, enjoy a photo. [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    #304 damian, Feb 24, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 11, 2013
  5. damian

    damian A Local

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    Hey TJ, I'm waiting.... why did you roll your eyes?

    I have read my post over a few time. If you are rolling-eyes at this:

    Then consider that a person who we both know picked me up from the power station and said "wow, I have never seen so many tracks". He skis there a lot, call him and ask for his opinion. The place is smashed to bits and skiing really badly... and so what? Ask anyone who skis there a lot and they will agree. I was so amazed at the extent of the traffic that I stopped to stare up Oshi for a few minutes. I'm surprised that I didn't take a photo. Jesus, even the big triangle is half hacked to bits, so to are some 'hidden' gems in the wider zone. Little Triangle is mostly untouched, as it always is, but has almost unskiable snow for most of us mere mortals considering the terrain hits, shape, and steepness.

    Mume is also close to unskiable from a fun perspective unless you are a hardened European. Since the skier triggered avalanches there last Saturday, it has only gotten worse from a snow quality perspective.
     
    #305 damian, Feb 24, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 18, 2013
  6. sli1

    sli1 One of Us

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    roll eyes probably because you gave a view contrary to "everything is awesome right now" or "you can still find powder in the secret stashes"
     
  7. fattwins

    fattwins One of Us

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    Unless you are willing to hike behind and above Tsugaike (Norikura Peak) I dont think that you will find any powder. Happo may have been able to hold good snow on the north faces above 2200meters but the wind destroyed that last week. My guests though have been having a ball skiing the south lines all week. Done by 12:30 or so and actually really enjoying themselves. Most gave up on the powder search on Monday as the south was better skiing. Timing though is everything dont go too early and dont stay too long.
     
  8. damian

    damian A Local

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    Went with Patrick and others a few days ago. Yes, south side corn skiing has been good during the sunny week below 2000m and before lunch.

    Emphasis: if it is sunny and warm in the valley, do not ski steep south aspects below 2100m after lunch, or even after 11am. You will get a wet loose snow avalanche, almost assured.

    When spring hits, the combo of Aspect, Elevation and Incline really starts to matter.
     
    #308 damian, Feb 24, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 26, 2013
  9. fattwins

    fattwins One of Us

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    Also the park rats have been having a blast. I just wish J-moguls were nicer and not so zipper line. I miss good spring moguls, hopping, skipping and smashing through. I used to get more faceshots ripping moguls.
     
  10. damian

    damian A Local

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    I accidentally hit some moguls on my Dynafits the other day. Lost a ski very fast and was wasted. Kind of hurt. I didn't know they were over that roll. That's Happo I guess.
     
  11. TJ

    TJ One of Us

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    Today is not pretty in Hakuba. You should go to Matsumoto Castle, eat sushi and drink sake. Tomorrow should cool down and then it's back on later in the week.
     
  12. dopestylesss

    dopestylesss Hard Yards

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    #312 dopestylesss, Feb 28, 2011
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  13. andrew7

    andrew7 Hard Yards

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    Good advice TJ- though had a surprisingly good day on Happo yesterday- today a relaxing day in Matsumoto topped off by dinner tonight at Emu. Ready for snow tomorrow pm..

    Coming over to the House for a beer one après Damian?
     
  14. damian

    damian A Local

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    Hi Andrew, I may get around to HH Tuesday evening [​IMG]
     
    #314 damian, Mar 1, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 11, 2013
  15. TJ

    TJ One of Us

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    Pow today. Looking at some big lines for tomorrow. Photo shoot day with bluebird conditions on the cards
     
  16. damian

    damian A Local

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    What are you talking about??!!

    If nothing else you exemplify the problems with:

    1- trying to sound core in front of an audience.
    2- powder hunger
    3- clear blue sky weather immediately after a storm
    4- taking risk for the camera

    All what we call 'Human Factors' that lead to avalanche fatalities.

    But more importantly, and the reason why I am coming back at your post so strongly, here is some reality to counter your hype:

    We were guiding today over a large range of terrain and saw many (many!) avalanches behind behind Tsugaike and across on Happo that had occurred both naturally and triggered by skiers/boarders. Some avalanches big enough to destroy a small building, most big enough to injure, bury or kill a person. Some we saw triggered in front of us by absolute punters with no idea about the current stability nor snow nor terrain. I know of 3 skier triggered large avalanches from today and saw one that should have ended in a near death, but he got very lucky. We had our skins on and were steaming at full energy across a few hundred meters to help them in a burial rescue that looked to be going very badly. Turned out they were just looking for a lost ski in a big slide path full of debris.

    These avalanches are between 1700m and 2200m on N, E and S aspects.

    Anyone with snow sense and the common sense to operate in dangerous places with a large safety buffer is staying off big lines and well away from convex rolls. They are also staying away from wind loaded areas near ridges and cornices and avoiding south aspects after 11am as it warms up. Hell, I saw one avalanche in a place that most people would never expect one.

    We anticipated some instability, were digging pits as we went further, and it quickly became obvious that we had a very twitchy avalanche problem at the moment. Right now is the worst stability we have seen for the entire season.

    The strongest positive right now is that the best skiing, with good soft snow/'powder' is at slightly lower elevations in wind protected tree areas, not the big alpine lines.
     
    #316 damian, Mar 5, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 18, 2013
  17. damian

    damian A Local

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    Of all the wider terrain that is out of shot, this line gets the most sun, gets wind loaded from the top and gets wind loaded from the side. It is, by far, the silliest place to ski out of all the excellent steep terrain right next to it. And, today, the totally expected happened. Anyone trained to read terrain and snow avoids this line like the plague.
    [​IMG]

    Very small convex slopes were producing very small avalanches. So what?[​IMG]

    ...no surprises at all, very big convex slopes with the same aspect were producing very big avalanches
    [​IMG]
     
    #317 damian, Mar 5, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 11, 2013
  18. damian

    damian A Local

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    #318 damian, Mar 5, 2011
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  19. TJ

    TJ One of Us

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    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    #319 TJ, Mar 6, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 14, 2013
  20. damian

    damian A Local

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    That looks fun and safe with good snow quality. And that so where you should stay. Real things are happening right now and your sleezy promo campaign is belittling and dangerous.
     
  21. TJ

    TJ One of Us

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    [​IMG]
     
    #321 TJ, Mar 6, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 11, 2013
  22. fattwins

    fattwins One of Us

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    I slapped Paedde and Paedde slapped me yesterday. Over the passed 2 days we had some of the best skiing of the season. But we made 2 stupid judgments. We traveled to another resort outside of Hakuba and got unreal tree skiing conditions.

    Mistake number 1 going stupidly down the first run of the day with no one partnered up and I got myself caught in a rare Japanese tree well, twice. Rolled out of one into another then trapped hanging upside down. Was able to get my ski off but barely. Very scared at the time and happy to have a radio.

    Come back to Hakuba read all the reports about the stability problems and decide to go tree skiing above 47. We got a bit rushed at the start, had planned to dig a pit but one person in the group had fired off down a ridge. We had no intention of going there but now we weren't digging our planned pit. skied unreal snow, so nice and met up with our friend and skied out.
    BUT
    Got a call from a friend who saw us up there. They tried to ski a steeper aspect into the same line. That aspect slid. They climbed back out to try our line. They ski cut the line below a convex that I had cut before and the whole thing went. They called to make sure we were ok and climbed back out. Very real mistakes made by people that know or should know better. We just wanted to enjoy a couple of last turns together. Maybe we got lucky because of 20 minutes of better timing or maybe that first slide made the upper portion of our line unstable (unsupported?). I I00% know that if I dug a pit I would been skiing back down the ridge. (again other friends dug pits on the same aspect on antoher ridge and the results are/were scary) I was also told many people skied back down the 47 goryu ridge after that back to the resort. But that other people also still kept skiing into areas just beside the slide. Real mistakes with only luck on our side only.

    To conclude Hakuba pulled a lucky card out of its ass this weekend. Too many people making too many mistakes. Big slides in the 2 most popular bowls at happo all human triggered. TsugaikeBC seems to have had more than its fair share of human triggered errors. A very lucky weekend though very lucky.
     
  23. rangerider

    rangerider A Local

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    Geezus FT sounds pretty sketchy up there. Glad no bad stuff went down.
     
  24. fattwins

    fattwins One of Us

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    Oh bad stuff went down we just got lucky. Just trying to put the reality into what damain was talking about.
     
  25. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    Yikes FT [​IMG]

    Where did you travel to outside of Hakuba?
     
    #325 Sandy, Mar 7, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 18, 2013
  26. TJ

    TJ One of Us

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    Glad to hear everyone is safe FT. We were dropping Goryu side. We set off some small slides. The north facing aspects had some great pow. Hiked up to some pillow lines which held nicely. This next lot of snow will be sketchy.
     
  27. fattwins

    fattwins One of Us

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    We went to Nozawa Onsen for a day trip. Followed the snow basically.
     
  28. Toto Warmlet

    Toto Warmlet One of Us

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    FT a pic from inside that tree well may have been the pic of the year (or your life!).
     
  29. multiple_sarcasm

    multiple_sarcasm Hard Yards

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    I'm heading to Japan for the first time on the 10th, but I'm not experienced enough to start charging off into the backcountry, so aside from a guided BC tour I'll be sticking to marked trails.

    So, what is the avalanche danger like on piste around Hakuba at the moment?

    Do the resorts do avy control? I imagine those pistes prone to slides would be signed / roped off?

    Any info would be much appreciated.
     
  30. fattwins

    fattwins One of Us

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    i wasnt inside the well it collapsed and locked me up downhill. The short pitch after the well was steep about 50 degrees or more. half in the well and really stuck with me ski wedged between 2 trees.
     
  31. Donza

    Donza Pool Room

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    Jesus FT... and when the mum in law comes to visit as well..

    good to know youre ok mate

    Damien scary shit those photos... that large avie would make a dent in the Great wall of China
     
  32. damian

    damian A Local

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    Fattwins - that is some reality. Good on your for mentioning it. Another topic, but don't put too much meaning into pits. Terrain and managing Human Factors is the key.

    I read J's post on PN. A big problem is that Hakuba (in fact, Japan) fools people into not thinking about stability and the impact that slope steepness, aspect and elevation has on stability. In Hakuba we are very lucky to have great expert terrain with easy access, and great backcountry terrain for everyone that requires more bc travel craft. And we get pretty good stability to let everyone play freely and often. And then it suddenly stops, and everyone starts tripping over avalanches. This last weekend a lot of people got very lucky.

    As for this:

    My reply: in addition to the skier triggered large avalanches on the north aspect of Goryu on Sunday, sadly it turns out an American snowboarder triggered another large avalanche on what you would have considered a 'big line'. The avalanche took her 500m down slope and broke some bones. She was found with beacon, probe and shovel and was very lucky to still be alive. Helicopter evacuation was required. That happened the morning after you posted your stupid [​IMG] image in response to my calling you out for talking cheap promo bullshit with zero knowledge of what was actually happening ion the real mountains with real people involved.
     
    #332 damian, Mar 7, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 18, 2013
  33. damian

    damian A Local

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    Pistes are groomed runs. They have no avalanche risk.

    Besides a little bit at Cortina, resorts do no avalanche control to make off-piste safe. They simply fence off the off-piste and put signs saying keep out. And give announcements in english telling people to stay on-piste. There is some ski-cutting done by ski patrol to try and trigger avalanches, but that is not to make the area safe for you to ride. Those areas are permanently shut.

    If it snows, go to Cortina to enjoy off-piste. Alternatively, explore around Happo to see what they have.
     
    #333 damian, Mar 8, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 18, 2013
  34. inky

    inky Hard Yards

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    We went for a little walk early today to have a look at the Happo ridge to see what's happening. A guy on a chairlift points to my pack says "Yeah, I used to carry all that sorta stuff too, but me and me mates reckon shovels and shit are useless coz, like how are you gonna dig yourself out if you're buried anyway?"

    I thought he was taking the piss, but he really wasn't. I didn't know what else to say to him.
     
  35. TJ

    TJ One of Us

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    It's just so scary to even live here. I can hardlly believe that I can even survive in such an area.
    So spooky. How can I escape
     
  36. damian

    damian A Local

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    There is not much you can do. Briefly point out that they are unaware and taking risks that they don't understand, and that they pose a threat to others. After that... totally ignore them.
     
    #336 damian, Mar 8, 2011
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  37. fattwins

    fattwins One of Us

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    To each his own but dont drop on me if you dont have gear.

    I am usally pretty good at managing terrain. Considering the results from the previous days I shouldve at least looked at the snow.
     
  38. damian

    damian A Local

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    I don't expect everyone heading into avalanche terrain to read my blog, but I do make an effort to provide some info on what I saw the previous day, usually by 7am, and if I am going to bother it would be nice to know that it helps people (because I could do with an extra 15 minutes sleep and one less admin task when I get up before 6am each day). Unfortunately, I can't quite understand why so many people went into big terrain when the red lights had been flashing brighter and faster for a few days leading into the weekend. It is their choice to take the risk, but judging by their surprise at what happened, I doubt they even knew the risks that day. Here is what I wrote day-by-day. Read them in sequence and you will get the picture:

    http://steepdeepjapan.com/diary/hakuba-weather-data-20110303
    http://steepdeepjapan.com/diary/hakuba-weather-data-20110304
    http://steepdeepjapan.com/diary/hakuba-weather-data-20110305
    http://steepdeepjapan.com/diary/hakuba-weather-data-20110306

    From the last day, Saturday the 6th I wrote this... "There are still avalanches out there waiting for a skier to trigger them and for now I am not going to assume that stability will rapidly improve."

    ...and then Sunday arrived and big slab avalanches were being triggered across the valley in steep complex terrain. Locals with acute snow sense could see it building and the spider senses were pinging pretty sharply out there and steep complex terrain was being avoided, without question. But you do not have to be a local to know. The info was available to those who do not live locally, or who do not go into the snow every day. We cancelled a 4-5 day camping trip based on the conditions, our clients flew all the way from Canada for it and it had been in planning for some time now. That is just the way it goes - we did great safe day trips instead. Yet weekenders and holiday makers can't seem to gather the basic local data and modify their plans based on conditions? I don't get it.

    Yes. As I mentioned in Paedde's thread - people who carry no avalanche gear almost always have no idea about what is going on and are very likely to be a thoughtless/selfish risk to others who do have an idea what is going on. Though carrying avalanche gear is not a sign that you respect the safety of others:

    On Saturday we were moving as a group of 4 through a narrow gully that exposes you to the run out of a large avalanche path. We had seen several avalanches that day and were very careful. One at a time we traversed 200m across an exposed run-out to what we call 'the gun barrel' due to the avalanches that blast down that gully. Just as one of the group was going across the very hot zone, three little heads appeared next to the cornice on the ridge 400m above us. They were kicking the cornice and we were wide-eyed and on the radio whilst moving from island of safety to island of safety. They disappeared and re-appeared 100m along the ridge, thankfully no longer messing with the avalanche start zone that we were momentarily exposed to. As we re-grouped at our safe spot, they triggered a big fast dry slab avalanche and one guy went for a ride.
     
    #338 damian, Mar 8, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 18, 2013
  39. fattwins

    fattwins One of Us

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    Your blog is read by most of my long term guests so i would expect that they would be disapointed if you stopped.
    One of the most dangerous parts about BC skiing in Hakuba is the other group. You dont kick off a cornice if others are on or near a slope. The warning signs were there the plan was to ski higher trees somehow the plan changed in the end no one took a lead role. As humans we make mistakes it is one to learn from and move forward.
     
  40. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    What the go with the Tsugaike Ropeway?? It opens in spring, but does it service any terrain, or is it mainly use for access to hiking areas in summer?
     
  41. damian

    damian A Local

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    Opens in a few weeks, sadly.

    It serves a groomed cat track with resort run markers on it. That is the official purpose for the resort. Utterly pointless.

    It also cuts out about 200m vertical climbing over 1.5km's if you are going into other areas. There are many other areas from the ropeway that require short to long hikes. There is good simple backcountry near the ropeway, but backcountry skiers do not use the ropeway to access this terrain (they wouldn't be backcountry skiers if they did)

    It's primary purpose is to service the throngs of summer tourists that visit the nature park at 1900m.
     
  42. K@os

    K@os A Local

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    There looked like some nice cruisy runs down from the ropeway. Whats the deal with the heli-ski operation there? It looked super cheap
     
  43. damian

    damian A Local

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    Isn't actually heli skiing as the rest of the world knows it.

    It is a 10,000 yen 3 minute joy ride to 2200m, where you walk for about 700m across the flats to ski down 300m in a nice bowls that by then are usually hacked to moguls, then onto a cat track for 1.5km back to resort. THere is a patroller at the top of the bowl telling you where to ski. They put big flags up and ropes in places to direct the traffic. There are two machines flying the loop almost non-stop with 100's of punters taking the ride.

    It isn't backcountry, there are no guides, no backpacks, no avalanche gear. I have seen plenty of knock-kneed Japanese city girls with makeup and funny hats and those 2 foot long mini-skis getting out of the helicopters. It is 300m of ungroomed 30 degree slope resort skiing with a helicopter. The worlds most expensive one ride lift ticket.

    It is truly a joy ride, nothing more. And a spring-time extension of the resort. Plenty of fun for plenty of people. Horrible for the local backcountry skiers.
     
    #343 damian, Mar 10, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 26, 2013
  44. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    [​IMG]

    Do those Shibuya girls use the eyelash curlers while riding the heli up to the top?? [​IMG]
     
    #344 Sandy, Mar 10, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 26, 2013
  45. K@os

    K@os A Local

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    yeah I thought for that price it wouldnt be anything special.....sounds even worse that I'd imagined.

    Man we saw some dolled up girls at Tsugaike, as you say; full makeup, immaculately dressed, not doing much skiing [​IMG]
     
    #345 K@os, Mar 10, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 11, 2013
  46. damian

    damian A Local

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    From a "backcountry" or heli-skiing perspective, it is probably worse than you imagined.

    From a helicopter joy ride bit of expensive fun, it is very popular and I can understand why, though I wish it would just go away. As it turns a nice area into a seething noisy sign posted ski resort.

    It is what it is, but a spade is also a spade.
     
    #346 damian, Mar 10, 2011
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  47. fattwins

    fattwins One of Us

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    The tram serves it`s purpose. I do wish it wouldve gone to the top of tengupara though. It doesnt cut off much hiking time but in spring sometimes 30 minutes really does help with timing. The heli is noise and it is what it is. There is almost no one using it to do actual hikes beyond Norikura.
     
  48. Donza

    Donza Pool Room

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    I love the noise of Helis...
    whop whop whop
    what sort is it up there?
    used to be a dirty old 212 - but not anymore hey?
     
  49. fattwins

    fattwins One of Us

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    No idea I have no interest in helis
     
  50. Donza

    Donza Pool Room

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    hahahahahahahahahaa
    yeah right

    unless they are 1/12 scale and able to land on speaker stacks
     
    #350 Donza, Mar 10, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 18, 2013