December 27, 2014

Santa delivered

Christmas in the Wasatch can be unpredictable. Some years we feel that Santa may have left us hanging, while other years, like this one, he comes through just in time. Prior to last weekend, we wondered if a White Christmas was in the cards. The past few days resolved that doubt. With a couple major dumpings, Christmas night's was special, dropping 16-20" of extremely water deprived snow.

Day 1- December 26th 
Sticking to lines of caution and in cold temperatures, Justin W. and I enjoyed low-angle deep skiing at one of our favorite spots. While sticking to the same area, each lap produced it's own version of holiday cheer.  The skiing was, well, remarkable.

Day 2- December 27th (today)
Things had stabilized more. With limited time, at 7 AM and while exiting our car, Justin W. and I noticed headlamps near the top of pole line. It seemed like everyone wanted Superior, as there was a stack of groups making their voyage to the top. We did too. Amazing morning light filled our vision. We were fortunate to be the first two in the mainline from the top.  After checking stability, we gorged on deep untracked powder, that at the time was perfect. The snow quantity and pitch made for some sluffing near the top.

Gear note- Camp Magic Jacket greatly complimented our travels. Even though temps were nearing zero, we used them both up and down.

Day 1
Justin showing the way

Justin pushing off. 

One of those days

Enjoying our own highway 
Day 2
DF and dawn

Justin moving up

Justin, faceshot
Me just below top couloir
Me skiing through our sluff from the top

Justin middle apron

December 21, 2014

Upper Little Cottonwood in Bony Conditions

The Wasatch continues to suffer from delayed winters. This year is no different, in fact worse than I can remember. That said, corduroy has been a constant. 

Yesterday morning Lars and I headed into upper Little Cottonwood.  We experienced it all, fun rocky scrambling moves to the top of Superior, heavy westerly winds, more rocks, some good snow down South Superior, motion sickness from poor visibility, and a ride at the bottom from Jay Burke, Park City P2P race director who must have succumbed to Lars' grin and hitch-hiker thumb. Then to finish out our morning, perfect conditions up and down Toledo.

Lars rocking the morning

Me with a foggy dawn breaking

December 13, 2014

Winter's Dawn 2014/15

While being confined to date to artificial snow, certain treasures have been had. Time with important friends and family, solitude in the darkness and mornings such as these remind me why I love the mountains.

May 3, 2014

Winter that keeps giving

Jared sent me and some of the folks a text Monday evening (April 28, 2014), asking who was up for a Tuesday morning tour, following 20+ inches of cold spring snow. I knew I had a conference call right at 8am that I had to be on, so with limited time, I put the fly on the water, a 530 AM start and graciously Jared bit. The morning was magically cold, with a stillness in the air as we joined Alta local and Wasatch luminary Chris Cawley heading up pole line. With the same destination, we became a threesome along a trackless ridge line.  Up high we were met by an icy northwest wind. We continued up into a clear blue morning, accompanied by a firey red movie screen of a mountain around us.  We welcomed dawn as we descended into the trackless Turkey Chute of Superior.  The skiing was too good to stop for pictures.

Chris breaking- Courtesy SLC Samurai

April 11, 2014

Dromedary and White Pine Couloir

This morning Jared, Louie (a writer and photographer) and I had an excellent steep tour along a couple sections of the Cottonwood Ridge.

We aimed for an ascent of Dromedary via Tanners, then to ski from the summit down the east face and over to Little Pine Couloir. Everything went as planned, semi early start, firm conditions along the south face of Dromedary and a really nice ski off the top of Dromedary. In working our way from upper Blanche area to Little Pine, we found things warming quickly. We reached the ridge and ended up skiing down the White Pine Couloir instead of Little. It was packed with avy debris, but luckily we could hang on the east headwall most the way down. It was good to get off the mountains early as conditions were obviously quickly deteriorating.

A side note- I had previously lost my pair of ski crampons. Jason, who recently started Skimo Co had just the crampons I needed. It is exciting to see a local business like this starting out strong and supplying exactly what we need. Keep at it Jason!

Approaching summit via exposed ridgeline
Jared, top of Dromedary, beautiful morning
Jared coming off of the East Face of Dromedary Summit

Jared ripping the East Face

Jared working towards White Pine Couloir

April 6, 2014

Winter's Reign- Y Couloir

As Spring works to take over the Salt Lake Valley, Winter is still the king in the mountains. Yesterday, Scott and I got in an early morning tour up and down the Y Couloir.  He had never been up this great line and yesterday seemed like a good time to do it. While conditions varied, the upper couloir yielded soft snow.  However, crossing over a day or two old avalanche debris, the lower sections skied marginally at best. Regardless, the time in the steep Little Cottonwood Canyon environment was wonderful. It was a great way to kick off General Conference weekend.
Scott, topping out the Y amidst falling snow

March 29, 2014

White Baldy and Lake Peak

As life passes ever so quickly, day to day activities become the essence of our existence. However, far too often our senses and emotions become dulled from the stresses of life. The occasional entry into an environment that is far greater than ourselves provides a unique perspective on life.

I was able to get work off yesterday afternoon. Amidst lots of new snow, shrouded blue skies and an electricity in the mountains you could grab a hold of, Scott and I skinned up Red Pine to the lake then up to the ridge of Great White Baldy (GWB). We found the west,  rocky exposed traverse to be splendid all the way to the top with a few winds and moments of low visibility. Reaching the summit, the sun ripped open the sky and magnified the environment where we sat. We skied off the Northwest face of GWB, in knee deep heaven all the way down to the upper lake.

We then moved up the backside of Lake Peak to the top and after cutting a cornice, entered an untouched East Couloir.  Best turns of the year for me; deep, light and consistent.
Scott, West Ridge GWB

Scott enjoying the granite and verglass
Me moving along upper part of GW Baldy Ridge
Winter in the Wasatch! Below summit of GWB
Scott ripping around the sharks from summit GWB

Me wrapping up the afternoon in Lake's East Couloir
Scott and Lake's East Couloir

February 1, 2014

New Snow, Superior and Toledo

Last week's blue bird days are gone, at least for now and for good reason. 20" or so, right side up snow fell this week in the high mountains.  This morning Lars and I headed for Superior with low visibility and blackness all around. We ran into a group friends led by Scott W as they were heading with great plans for Days Fork.

Our plan was to top out on Superior then travel further west on the ridge for other options, however strong winds, poor visibility and loading proved limiting factors so we halted on top of Superior. We were happy to run into fellow ski compatriots Chad T. and Arie, both having just arrived too and were freezing like us. That's what makes having skied all my life in the Wasatch so great, the regular smiling faces of acquaintances and friends.

We skied the south face in knee deep powder all the way to the car. I then went up Toledo and skied great snow in the main chute, while Lars met up with Tom G. for other longer plans.  For me, today was the best quality skiing of the year, and the company made it even better.
The Viking enjoying icy winds and a narrow sidewalk
Lars, top of Superior beginning the descent into the fog
Arie fore and Chad T aft, watching Lars like two bird dogs on a pheasant
Arie on the upper apron, suffering in the deep

January 25, 2014

Lake Peak and Red Baldy - Touring or Racing?

Jared called last night and asked if I was in for a ski in the morning with some of the guys.  Arriving at the White Pine trail head a few minutes after 6 am the vehicles started rolling in.  Tom G, Andy D, Jason D, Teague H, Luke N, the Samurai, the Viking and myself made up the militia. After hearing the phrases "race skins" and "are you really going to carry that?", I was glad I brought my race stuff as the "back up plan."  This is a special group of guys. Each with his own passion for the mountains and ways of traveling in them, none of which includes going slow.

Out the gate it was full speed under a waning moon as we raced up to the base of Lake Peak.  Jared, who had been faking sick the last couple weeks was fresh and he and Tom were dropping the hammer. We were pushing it, all the while pretending to not be hurting as we gasped between short incomplete sentences. As we arrived at the base and chose our line of ascent (the NE face), we eased off the gas  and spread out observing conditions and safer travel as we all moved up.  Tom set a nice skinner and we then booted to the top of Lake Peak to be awarded by another spectacular dawn in the high mountains. The Pfief was lit up like a candle in the night, with a crystal clear sky engulfing the summit. Some decided to ski the East Couloir and others the line of ascent.  Tom, Jared and I took the later and it skied nice as did the East Couloir apparently.

We then moved over to Red Baldy, setting a steady tempo to the top, and pulled off the skis and did a quick boot shuffle to the summit with outstanding views all around us. It is obvious we need some serious storms to rest upon these mountains.  We then ended up choosing different lines from which to ski. The conditions ranged from powder, wind board and bullet proof ice.  It was a fantastic morning for sure, punctuated by the company of great friends.

Cold dawn over White Pine District-Shoulder of Lake Peak
Andy D

Jason D and a glowing Cottonwood Ridge
Tom G getting after it on the NE face of Lake Peak

Luke N and Lars top of Red Baldy

Jason, Jared, Tom and in the sun Andy, eye a descent off Red Baldy

January 20, 2014

Lake Peak

I had the day off today, so did Scott W.  With limited time, crystal clear skies and a full moon, Scott and I set out towards White Pine at 530 this morning. The temperatures were nice with a full range of snow conditions underfoot as we skinned towards Lake Peak (LP).  Headlamps were doused as the moon shone our way up a skinner that had been set days ago.  With nothing but the trees, stars, and the towering peaks of granite surrounding us, our spirits were lifted high as we reached the base of the peak. We evaluated things and decided to move up the East Couloir as the conditions at the time seemed reasonable and the absence of a significant cornice provided additional comfort. Upon reaching the top of LP, several emeralds of the Wasatch were awaiting on the other side, highlighted by a deep orange rim of a breaking dawn.

I was raised in the Wasatch and each and every morning that I am up high in the range I am filled with gratitude as my senses are enlivened to what my eyes and soul are beholding.  I love my home. Surprised that after waiting for things to mellow over several days, the east aspect skied quite well.  Our biggest concern was at the top of the couloir, where a thin hard slab seemed to be forming. Our exit was a mixed assortment as we skied powder, rime crust and wind board. We finished our morning at 830 AM with big smiles.

Scott moving up

Wasatch emeralds at dawn

A quick booter to the top

Scott and the awakening White Baldy
Me on the way home in good snow- Courtesy Scott W.

January 12, 2014

Winter 2014-Taking what we can get

It has been a tough season this year. Similar to recent years past, the Wasatch has been painfully subsisting on a low snow diet. With limited coverage, this past week's storm cycle was like rain in a desert. Knowing of the persistent weak layers deep in the structure, yesterday morning we sought very low angle powder.  Upon nearing our destination, our hopes of soft deep turns were dashed by a 1" rime crust.  Regardless, we made the most of it, finding improved conditions amidst the tight trees.
Justin W.  after several laps enjoys the morning's first rays of sun

Justin wishing this was really powder