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