January 11, 2015

The Alpine Triangle- Chipman Peak- Pfiefferhorn-Box Elder Peak

The "Alpine Triangle." While traversing in a veil of dense fog/clouds yesterday morning and unable to see 10 feet in front of us, Jared called this the triangle. What the heck,  the "Alpine Triangle" sounds pretty good. See video below

At 6 AM, under kind of clear skies, a partial moon and upper elevation temps in the low 20s, Jared and I left his car at the Box Elder peak trail head in Alpine, UT.  The trail overall was good. A few small log/river crossings and we reached our junction where we then moved into the intriguing south faces of the Little Cottonwood ridge. The early sun put on a show against the firm, shining snow. While steep in various sections, the ski crampons performed well taking us to a granitic knife ridge. The exposure was intriguing as we followed the tracks of one of the ghosts of the Wasatch along the ridge.
Box Elder and a moody dawn

Jared in the morning alpenglow

Big Horn and the amazing south drainage

The expanse of the greater south faces was glorious as the deep blue sky of the morning showed the emotions of the weather that were quickly brewing. Reaching the top of Chipman Peak, the low clouds greeted us, chasing away the beautiful views of other familiar peaks. 

Jared heading towards Chimpan Peak

Sky changing and South Thunder upper left

Unnamed Peak and Pfiefferhorn beginning to vanish

The consuming doom
Jared and Chipman
We pointed east along the ridge to Unnamed Peak. The snow was super firm on the south as cold breezes kept the snow surface in a deep freeze.  We skied down into the high drainage and then skinned back up to Unnamed. At the summit, nothing could be seen. Hogum's walls became shrouded by the white veil by which we were now engulfed.  Photo opportunities became completely limited.

The Pfiefferhorn, was not visible, but it was our next objective. The west-ridge was nearly all exposed granite, with patches of firm snow clinging as best it could. We reached the top, literally with maybe 20 feet of visibility. We ran into a girl that was working on freeing her stuck rope at the top of the ramp, as she and her partner were descending down into the NW Couloir.  She too was bummed by the visibility. 

Jared and I hunkered down for something to eat, coats were donned. We knew our ski off the East Face of Pfieff would be a bit unnerving on light race skis, as the snow was super hard and we had to go by memory due to the snow blinding conditions. Winds were in full force and the temps had dropped, freezing our hair and eyelids. The descent consisted of survival turns on the slide for life snow, with only our ski tips as visible markers. Making it down the face we then moved into the massive south drainage once more.
Top of Pfiefferhorn and a cold Samurai
Completely disoriented by the clouds, each turn felt like a swing at the pinata with a blindfold. It seemed to take us forever to get down. Motion sickness became real for both of us. Finally, we reached the floor as the visibility drastically improved as our next objective came into full view.

We moved up Box Elder Peak, in hopes of tackling some soft north facing snow. With fingers crossed the veil of clouds would depart. Our line of ascent was the north ridge. Conditions seemed to be in our favor and we found an old skinner already set. We followed it until in petered out.  On the upper north ridge, the second round of clouds and wind set in, becoming our constant enemy. Skinning on rocks added to the fun, along with a scary cornice which overhung the eastern brinks keeping us on our toes.  Visibility was every bit as bad as the Pfiefferhorn. At the top the box and cairn were all we had to tell us we were there. We hiked and ski descended back down the north ridge to where skis could permanently be mounted. Just west of the ridge, soft tacky powder welcomed us into the trees for a remotely nice descent.

Top of Box Elder

Jared taking advantage of the lower Box Elder
A hateful exit brought Jared and I back to his car, just in time to be chased by an Alaskan Malamute and to see some guy walking around in the muddy parking lot carrying a strange water bucket. Overall, an amazing day, really cool link up and another incredible adventure. 

Elevation gain- 9,400 feet
Summits - 4

Here's a video of the day from Jared


  1. Nice post Chad! Sounds like quite the adventure.

  2. You never cease to impress! Cool link-up in hateful conditions.