Monday, April 21, 2014

Mt. Shasta climb and ski descent via Avalanche Gulch

Mt Shasta -14,179 ft.
Ski mountaineering via Avalanche Gulch - April 19, 2014
12 hours roundtrip 

12 hours condensed into ~6 minutes of pure joy accompanied by very undramatic music

Mt. Shasta is an enormous, dormant volcano in the southern Cascades and is part of the same volcanic arc that includes Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and many others.  The mountain is a striking natural landmark in northern California with a prominence of over 9,000 ft.  With a 3-day window, Luke, Trish and myself, made the 12-hour drive from SLC to northern California to climb and ski the mountain in a days time; a feat usually done in 2-3 days.     

We left SLC on Friday morning and found ourselves at Bunny Flat trailhead that evening. The summit is approximately 5 miles and 7,000 vertical feet away from the trailhead parking lot where we slept that night. Fortunately, enough snow still lingers at the trailhead so we could use our skis directly from our car.

Mt. Shasta 

We left the trailhead at 3 am on Saturday morning with our skis and skins on our feet and a day pack on our back with food, water, avalanche gear, ice axe, and crampons.  The snow was frozen solid, which made skinning fairly challenging. Nevertheless, we climbed with our skis and skins for over 5,000 vertical feet past Helen Lake to the base of the Red Banks face.  At this point, we packed our skis on our backs and put on our crampons to tackle the steep, icy slope. We slowed down considerably and the wind picked up dramatically.  The blustery wind caught our packs with the erected skis like a kite and made us swagger up the crusted slope like drunkards. We debated on our strategy; make zigzags across, or beeline up the 40 degree slope. We decided to charge it. 10 steps forward, rest. 8 steps forward, stare at the elusive ridge line and wonder how it could still be so far away.

Boot packing it up Avalanche Gulch

Looking down Avalanche Gulch from the Red Banks face
In the midst of turmoil, out of nowhere a team of elitists marched past us in tight lycra with minimalist cutting edge gear and legs like a Apollo Ono. We gawked in admiration and confusion. Turned out they were Team Nike. No joke.

Finally, we reached the saddle, putting us at the top of a key landmark; the Red Banks. We took brief respite from the wind in a rocky nook. Ate, hydrated, and dehydrated. We continued to chat with Team Nike, who turned out to be pretty cool, and genuine, despite their streamlined appearance and one sexist remark, which we enjoyed: a new verb, to chick: when a chick out performs you, and you don't expect it, or like it. It's becoming a fast favorite in our vocabulary.

At this point we had nearly reached 13,000 ft. With the terrain ahead of us and the hammering wind, we opted to ditch our skis in the rocky nook and pick them up on our way back. With conditions as they were, we didn't expect to miss out on any epic turns between the summit and the Red Banks.

The combination of gale force winds (60-80 mph) and the high elevation made the going slow above the Red Banks.  The wind literally blew us over several times onto the hard, icy surface on our way up Misery Hill.  We realized we made a good decision about leaving the skis behind.  Once we reached the top of the aptly named Misery Hill, we questioned whether it was safe to continue onto the exposed and rocky summit block.  After a couple minutes of cowering in a ditch from the smothering wind, I left my pack, stood up and started walking towards the summit.  The decision had been made; Luke and Trish promptly followed.

The true summit of Mt. Shasta at 14,179 ft. and 60 mph winds
We reached the summit around 1 pm without any extraordinary occurrences. While on the true summit, we held onto the rocks so the wind wouldn't blow us off the exposed peak.  Without delay, we made the descent back to our skis at  the top of the Red Banks in a little less than an hour.

The descent from the summit back to our skis was delightful compared to the torturous struggle it was to climb at altitude in the unrelenting wind. The snow began to soften ever so slightly, giving cushion to our tired joints. We adjusted to individual speeds, enjoying the expansive view, the solitude, the elated feeling of accomplishment, and the knowledge that the trial was behind us with some unforgettable skiing about to ensue.

With the wind still blowing hard, the snow near the Red Banks hadn't softened up, despite the abundant sunshine. We skied down the steep crust, which quickly transitioned to variable crust and perfect corn. We skied 6,000 vertical feet to our car in about 45 minutes and enjoyed the entire ride.  A 12-hour adventure and another mountain in the books.

Myself, Trish, and Luke on Mt. Shasta

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Dutch Canyon Trail Running

Dutch Canyon, just a mile from my parents home in Midway, UT, has a great network of single-track trails.  These trails are designed primarily for mountain bikers but are also great for trail running.  Today I ran some variation of the Burnt Ridge Trail today with my dog and it was a perfect combination of easy, dirt trail running and technical rocky trail running where every step counts.  ~3.5 miles

Coming down Burnt Ridge, Dutch Canyon trail system, Midway, UT

Friday, April 11, 2014

2014 Rock Climbing Log

March 21 - Hollow Man (5.9 sport, 1 pitch) Challenge Buttress, BCC
                  On a Whim (5.8- trad, 1 pitch) Challenge Buttress, BCC
Luke leading "On a whim" 

April 11 - Steorts Ridge (5.6 trad, 3 pitches) Dead Snag, BCC
                 Outside Corner (5.7 trad, 3 pitches) JHCOB, BCC
Kayte on the third pitch of Steort's Ridge
Kayte on the 2nd pitch of Outside Corner

April 14 - Five Fingers (5.6 trad, 1 pitch) Five Fingers Area, Gate Buttress, LCC
Brian on top rope on Five Fingers

April 16 - Satan's Corner (5.8+ trad, 2 pitches), Dihedrals Area, Gate Buttress, LCC
                           Lisa's Shoulder (5.9 R top rope, 1 pitch), Dihedrals Area, Gate Buttress, LCC
                           Half-A-Finger (5.9+ trad, 1 pitch), Dihedrals Area, Gate Buttress, LCC
First pitch of Satan's Corner
Trish leading the 2nd pitch of Satan's Corner
Top-roping Lisa's Shoulder after climbing Satan's Corner

Monday, April 7, 2014

"Trail" Running the Middle Provo River

The middle section of the Provo River extends from Jordanelle Dam through the Heber Valley until it empties into Deer Creek Reservoir.  I recently began a project to scout out the trails along the Provo River in this section to see if I could get some trail running in while the snow lingers in the mountains. My scouting report indicates that trail running is possible, though not straightforward.

I have run most of the Middle Provo trail in sections and I brought my little mini Labradoodle with me each time.  The trails are mostly fisherman trails and therefore are not maintained.  And since fisherman usually where waders, the trail will suddenly disappear and reappear on the opposite side of the river or go around (via the river) thick brush or beaver dams or whatever and sometimes it just disappears entirely.  Fortunately, for me and my dog, we thrive on adventures.  Route-finding, bushwhacking, river-fording, debris-hopping, swamp-sinking, boulder-stepping, and occasionally aesthetic trail running makes for a good physical and mental workout.  This type of running is more adventure running than trail running and I like it.  

Our next goal, dog included, is to link up the entire middle Provo into one long adventure run, from the Jordanelle Dam to the Deer Creek Reservoir.  I estimate it's about 12 miles in length.    

Lots of obstacles along the Provo River
Some great sections of trail
Some sections of no trail at all

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Backcountry Skiing in Mill D

March 28, 2014

It snowed 10-16" in the cottonwoods so we went to the backcountry.  Billie and I ski toured (literally) the Mill D drainage in Big Cottonwood Canyon yesterday.  We skied the powder park area a couple times and then made our way around and skied the Little Water Peak meadows area a couple times before skiing out.

Powder Park
Billie breaking trail near Little Water Peak
Little Water meadows
Views of the Cottonwood Ridge from the top of Mill D drainage

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Skiing the East face of Mount Raymond, Utah

With a free Saturday, the only thing Luke and I had decided on by the time we went to bed Friday night was that we wanted to ski...something.  I didn't feel particularly ambitious after a long day of skiing powder park in Mill D North Fork canyon in the morning, playing full-court b-ball at noon, and rock climbing all afternoon.  So we slept in and drove up big cottonwood canyon, looking for appealing lines to ski.  We made it all the way up to the top of the canyon and we still couldn't decide on what to ski.  We turned around and drove down the canyon, when Mount Raymond came into view.  That was it, we decided to ski the east face of Mount Raymond.  

We started skinning up the icy and dicey Butler Fork around 10 am and made our way up and into Mill A Basin where we got a great view of Mount Raymond.  The snow looked good and the sun was out. We made our way up to the saddle between Mt. Raymond and Gobblers Knob and boot packed it up the ridge to the summit. 

We choose a steep line on the east face just south of the summit and went for it.  The skiing up top was challenging, steep, and crusty.  Once the couloir opened up a bit, the snow was softer and the skiing was sweet and sustained.  We skied down and back up and over into Butler Fork, where the snow was powdery and deep.  We were back at the car by 3:30 pm.  Another solid outing in the Wasatch.  

Boot packing it up the summit ridge of Mt. Raymond
Luke sporting the long johns on the summit of Mt. Raymond
Luke about to drop in and ski the east face of Mt. Raymond
Mt. Raymond, Wasatch Range, Utah.  You can see our tracks down the east face.  We skied the snow field just left of the summit and then dropped into the couloir.  


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Mt. Timpanogos climb and ski descent - March 14, 2014

"A Cold Bowl of Corn Chowder" 
Mt. Timpanogos (11,778 ft.)
Southwest face via Dry Canyon
Ski mountaineering

Despite taking work off on Thursday due to a case of the stomach flu, I made my way up Mt. Timpanogos with Luke the very next day.  My symptoms are common among those fighting food poisoning, yet the cure is hard to come by; a bowl of corn chowder.

Bowl (or cirque) - a semi-circular steep and expansive depression common on mountains and commonly filled in snow in the winter.  

Corn - coarse and granular damp snow, freshly softened after being frozen all night; great for spring skiing.

Chowder - a new term for soft snow to substitute old fashioned, obnoxious, and over-used lingo such as "pow, pow," and "gnar, gnar."  

We started at the Dry Canyon trailhead at 8:30 am and made our way up the front side of Timp (the side you can see from all of Utah Valley).  We hauled our skis and boot packed up the trail until about 8,000 ft. elevation where there was enough snow cover to start skinning up.  Despite feeling weak and stopping more than usual on my behalf, we made our way up the mountain at a decent pace.  By 2 pm, we were still a little shy of the summit but the solid, frozen snow we hiked/skinned up all morning finally morphed into perfect CORN.  If we had pushed for the summit, the snow would have become more dangerous and less enjoyable, so we decided to ski down.  

We skied down the Dry Canyon drainage until the snow ran out in about 10 minutes.  A 45-minute hike down the trail and we were back to the trailhead.     

This is where we put our skins on.  We skied the drainage on the left in the shadow.

Skinning up.

Booting it up the steep sections

Time to ski down.

Utah Valley from above.  

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Wheeler Peak, Nevada - Ski Mountaineering

Date: Saturday March 8, 2013
RT distance: ~16 miles
Elevation gain: ~5,300 ft.

Wheeler Peak (13,065 ft.) is the centerpiece of Great Basin National Park located in eastern Nevada, near the Utah-Nevada border and is the 2nd highest point in the state of Nevada.  The mountain is the 12th most prominent mountain in the contiguous United States, which rises up over 7,500 ft. from the adjacent desert valley floor.  Wheeler Peak, and everything around it, is part of the Basin and Range geologic province, which stretches from the Sierra Nevada Range in the west to the Wasatch Range in the east.

Trip Report:
Luke and I have talked about doing Wheeler Peak for a couple years now so we made it happen this weekend.  Instead of outdoing ourselves and trying an alpine rock ascent of Mt. Whitney in the winter, we decided for a more mellow climb and ski descent down Wheeler - plus we could pull off the entire trip from SLC in 24 hours.  I couldn't find any trip reports of people skiing the mountain but it certainly seemed doable, based off the terrain and some time on Google Earth.  I mapped our route and it looked like it would be about 15 miles roundtrip with winter road closures, but the trip down on skis would take very little time - so a very doable day trip.

We made the 3.5 hour drive out to Great Basin National Park and parked at the trailhead, which is at Upper Lehman Campground during the winter months.  We got there around midnight and slept in the parking lot.

We got up at 5:30 am and were on the trail at 6:30.  We quickly learned that there wasn't enough snow cover to skin up the trail so we hauled our skis on our back for a couple miles until there was enough snow. The trail essentially followed the Lehman Creek drainage up to the base of the mountain.  We followed footsteps and ski tracks that we could faintly see in the snow through aspen groves, pine forests, and open meadows until we reached the Wheeler Peak campground.  This was the only point, where we saw signs of other people in the area - 3 empty tents and a stranded barking dog.  We didn't see a single person the whole day!

Our choice to blindly follow old ski tracks eventually led us astray but we quickly realized our mistake and forged our own path up the mountain. We climbed up Mt. Wheeler's northeast "gully," which is directly above Stella Lake.  I call it a gully because it's not steep or narrow enough to call it a couloir. This gully provided a super direct path to the summit ridge. Once on top of the gully and on the summit ridge, we dropped our skis and booted it to the top.  The summit ridge was wind-blown, icy, and rocky - not worth skiing.  Our fatigue and the high elevation caught up to us on the summit ridge, but we pushed through.  All we could think about was the skiing down!

The summit offered a great 360 degree panorama of the unique Basin and Range topography.  We refueled on the summit and made our way back to our skis.  We skied down the gully and into the trees on nice afternoon corn snow.  We skied as far as the snow lasted and hiked out the last bit to our car. The skiing was short but fun.  Luke summed up our descent with a question; "Why would you ever ski in a resort again?"    

Roundtrip time: 10 hours    
Upper Lehman Creek Campground (winter trailhead)
Northeast gully, Mt. Wheeler 
Jimmy riggin' my skins
Luke coming up the summit ridge (looking west)
Mt. Wheeler summit ridge (looking east)
Mt. Wheeler, Nevada summit  
Luke defending his allegiance to Larabars
Frozen Teresa Lake, Mt. Wheeler up top

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Cedar City adventures

Feb 14-17, 2014

Last weekend I spent time with my sister, her husband (John), and my nephew in and around Cedar City, Utah.  We were able to get outside, go on some hikes, and do quite a bit of climbing.


Latency Peak via the Coffee Route (5.10c trad/sport - 2 pitches)
Latency "peak" is more of a pinnacle or tower than a peak, as it stands lower than much of the surrounding mountains and plateaus in Cedar Canyon.  The pinnacle is also hard to spot from the highway because it blends in well with the adjacent cliffs.  The approach required some bushwhacking and route-finding but eventually we made it up to the base of the pinnacle and the Coffee Route, which starts on it's south side.

Pitch 1:  I led this pitch up a big crack, which leads into a cave.  I think I used 2 cams and slung two chockstones.  I belayed John up from the "cave".  50 ft.

Pitch 2: From the cave, we shimmied up on top of the cave to a nice platform and set up a belay for pitch 2.  John led this pitch, which was much more difficult than it looks but probably still not a 10c - more like a 9+ or 10a.  The entire pitch is bolted.

Once on top, I decided it was VERY important (mostly funny) to reach the true summit.  So, I scaled the flimsy 7-foot pine tree at the top....
A couple things to note in this picture: 1) the broken tree branch near my feet, 2) the chalk on my back from my chalkbag getting smashed on ground 3) my position (showing signs of pain and the air knocked out of me), 4) john took a picture
Somehow this was the result.  

We rappelled off pre-established rappel stations (bolts and slings) to the base of the climb and hiked out. This was my first "tower" and it was quite a bit of fun.  I think it only took 2.5 hours car-to-car and that includes the approach and route-finding.
The approach
Belaying from the "cave"
The tough second pitch on Latency Peak 
Rappelling off Latency Peak

The Roller Rink and Shinobe crags- Parowan conglomerate rock climbing
These conglomerate cliffs outcrop about 5 miles west of Parowan, UT, which is fairly close to Cedar City.  So after a munch break and a performance by the Southern Utah Symphony, we went back out for some more climbing.  We climbed three routes ranging from 5.8, 5.10b. and 5.11d.  The 11d (called the winds of change) may have been pushing it for us, as we couldn't clip the last bolt - it was super pumpy! Luckily John was willing to spare a crappy quickdraw to leave behind for the next climber.   

Sandstone strata beneath the conglomerate cliffs above 
John on the 10b conglomerate route (the stoning)


Kanarra Creek slot canyon hike
The whole family (plus me) went on a little hike up Kanarra Creek, just outside of Kanarraville, Utah.  It was well marked trail and was fairly pleasant, minus a few areas that required walking in the bitter cold water.  The slot sections were the most interesting and beautiful; it was a fun outing. It took about 3 hours.

Upper Kanarra Creek Falls
sunlit sandstone in Kanarra Creek Canyon
The nephew 
Me and my pregnant sister in Kanarra Creek Canyon


Snow Canyon State Park rock climbing - Leopard Skin (5.7 trad/sport - 3 pitches)
This was a fun route on a perfect February day in St. George, UT.  We hiked up to the base of the route and alternated leads.  I led the first pitch up a 5.7 crack.  John led the second pitch across an exposed traverse on solid desert varnish pockets.  I led the final pitch up the face, which had plenty of bolts and plenty of juggy desert varnish holds.  Very fun sandstone crack and face climb.

Island in the Sky Buttress in Snow Canyon State Park 
First pitch follows the arcuate flake to a large ledge 
John traversing 2nd pitch of Leopard Skin
Belay station 2 on Leopard Skin 
On top of Island in the Sky via Leopard Skin route