This year has left my soul withered up in lost dreams of skiing steep lines with stable powder. Racing has filled part of the void by spending time with friends and developing fitness that we plan to apply to the mountains in the spring. But, with the snowpack now sufficient to allow passage through most areas, Jason and I decided to go out and find the joy of moving efficiently through the backcountry.
The plan was to start at the beginning of the Millcreek road, skin the 4-5 miles to the Big Water TH, make our way up to Dog Lake, ski out into BCC, head up Cardiff, find a way into LCC, skin up the Bird, and then somehow make it out into American Fork Canyon where we conned our little sister into waiting for us at the Tibble Fork Reservoir.
We were handicapped by the fact that I worked late the night before and was unwilling to start before 8AM. I also had to work that evening so I set a strict finishing time of 2:30PM. If it looked like that wasn't going to be feasible, we would bail on the full tour and hitch hike/beg for a ride from friends back to our car.
|5 miles of Millcreek road|
Since we were on a timeline, both of us were using race skis (skinny and short) and had on various amounts of spandex. The quizzical looks from others in the backcountry are funny to me. Different agendas warrant different equipment.
Jason kept track our or progress on his cheap Timex watch (both of us forgot any sort of altimeter, GPS, HR monitor, or other technology). We ticked off the first 5ish miles in around an hour. Following a skin track through the conifers and aspens, we found ourselves above Dog Lake in an 1:30...ahead of schedule. We skied a mix of luge track and breakable crust to the BCC road and walked over to the snow park where skis went back on. Again, the cadence was fast and we felt powerful as we ticked off the miles, moving fast while admiring the terrain above us along the Benson and Hedges ridge.
Passing under the exit of the Hallway Couloir, we found a perfect skin track that took us up the sub ridge and to the Superior ridge line. Peering into LCC, we realized we would now be skiing a couple thousand feet of breakable crust on 64 mm underfoot skis. A few ugly minutes later, we strode down the Bypass Road and started up Chip's. The legs grew heavy, but we were still able to maintain a respectable pace to Hidden Peak.
|LAME! Nice speedsuit.|
En route, some baggy pants monkey making noodley turns on a groomer noodled his way past and shouted, "LAAAAAMME!" That was probably the best comment I've heard all year. Jason and I laughed out loud as I was in full spandex and we were hiking up hill with kid skis through all the radness. Most folks, however, were actually encouraging.
We knocked on the Patrol door at Hidden Peak and the guys were super cool when we asked about how to get to AF Canyon. It was still before 1 PM and the guys made it sound easy. Committing, we dropped into Mineral and called our sister, telling her to meet us in an hour. We rallied out a packed snow mobile track before the path mellowed leading to a long skate through a beautiful serene drainage. And then we were there. The Tibble Fork Reservoir appeared around a turn and we were done. 5:52 after leaving the car in Millcreek. After constant motion, it felt odd to sit down feel stillness. Not more than 5 minutes later, Aimee pulled into the parking lot and we were off in search of burgers and fries.
|Really serene terrain heading into AF|
Having done a few long traverses in the past, I can say that it is fully addicting. Light gear + fitness + an inspiring line/traverse/enchainment = more skiing and more fun. While this quad canyon tour purposefully followed mostly mellow terrain and for convenience passed through the resort, so many variations exist. Add Raymond, Kessler, Superior, the Pheiff, Box Elder.... Think about it.
Oh, and BTW, it was awesome to skin up dry powder and ski breakable crust! South to North would be recommended.
Distance: Estimated at 30 miles on Google Earth
Vertical: Estimated at 8000 feet ascended by the altimeter in my head
Time: 5 hrs 52 min 37 seconds
Gear: Sportiva Stratos boots and RSR skis, Plum 145 bindings, Dynafit Speedsuit and Manaslu pack, 140 cm $20 Swix poles
Food: EFS gel x 1, Power Gel x 1, Einstein's Bagel, Diet Coke, 2L Gatorade
Partner: One mini me named Jason