Saturday, March 2, 2013

Cascade Peak Couloirs

It's been a great week for skiing, starting with cold temps and nice powder, and now ending with spring like conditions.  We've taken advantage of our available time and today was no different.  Trying to squeeze in another pilgrimage to the county, we set our sights on one of the couloirs on the south end of Cascade Peak.  

Jim Knight has recommended the Upper Pole Couloir but for convenience it was going to have to wait for another day as it was the farthest from our starting point at the mouth of Rock Canyon.  From the outset, we were pleased that there was still snow from the parking lot and made quick work of the approach to the base of the Grr Couloir.  With the recent warm temps and expected high in the 50s today, we were concerned about the possibility of ongoing wet activity. 

Tom and Jason approaching the Grr Couloir

Then we pulled into the mouth of the thing and saw that the warm March sun had already done it's work.  Happily, was threw our skis on our backs and hiked up the frozen debris.  

Best snow on earth

Tom, Jason, and Layne

Tom nearing the top of the couloir.  
The chute was longer than it looked from the approach at the top of Rock Canyon.  Somewhere along the way, we all guessed how much farther we had to climb.  For the record, Layne was the closest with his guess of 700 feet (out of maybe 2500 total?).

Layne near the top of the Grr
Then, as seems to happen in Utah County, Jason let his fashion sense run wild.  He pulled out these fine women's glasses, added big gloves, and took off his jacket.

JD, happy as can be in his ladies googles
Then, it deteriorated into shirtless mountain climbing.  With our unusually cold winter, I think we have become more acclimated than usual to sub freezing temperatures.  With strong sun, still air, and warm weather, we were all a little fried.

I don't know if he's scratching his brow or hanging his head in shame
At the top of the Grr, there are still maybe 500-1000 vertical feet of climbing to reach the summit ridge. We took a couple detours to avoid some rotten snow and scrambled an icy choke and pulled some high alpine boulder moves.
Jason tries not to bomb loose rock on Tom and Layne

Topping out the V0 ridge move
From there it was easy skinning to a bump on the ridge that we think was the South Summit.  We snapped some pics and came to the consensus that skiing the Grr would be a horrible idea.  Instead, we opted for the South Summit Couloir (?) and ventured into the unknown.
Tom and Jason high on Cascade

Tom Goth on the South Summit with Freedom and Provo Peaks in the background
Our main concern was of course that the our new descent plan was flawed in a major way.  There is a massive eroding cliff band that barricades much of the lower western aspect of Cascade Peak.  Some guy drew a line on a topo map that we found online so we figured it should go...

If not, our wives, children, and employers would not be happy.

Tom Goth skiing the greatest snow on earth with Mount Timpanogos in the background

A little more Tom
As we descended, the snow of the upper bowel gave way to a narrower, icier, and steeper pitch with enclosing walls of warm rock.  Jason was out front shouting something about how he wasn't sure of something.  Not waiting to find out, I skirted to the skier's left and picked my way through the cliff bands to emerge underneath his position.  Jason, Tom, and Layne persisted in a game of whippet assisted side stepping until they too were through the difficulties.  Well, Jason and Tom did.  Layne didn't have a whippet so his experience was likely more memorable, plus he was on race skis and he forgot his helmet.  I almost felt bad for him and almost lent him a whippet earlier in the day.  In the end, I was glad to have both.  

Jason emerges from the icy choke

Jason, debris, the lower South Summit Couloir, and Utah Lake

Tom finishing up

Tom, a runnel, and some very firm snow

Tom, some debris, and some very nice snow

JD heading home
Once everyone was out of the chute, we traversed hard skier's left to try and get back to the road and the trail out of Rock Canyon.  After a little bushwhacking and hiking without skins (not needed if there's no wax on your skis and the snow is warm and the slope minimal), we found ourselves skiing the foot of another debris pile back into Rock Canyon.

1500 feet of luge style skiing ensued with hopefully only a few children and BYU students getting scared.
Tom and a nice young family

I think Layne was happy to be done in time to relive his wife from the kids so she could go running with mine.
It was another great day in the county.  5500 feet of skiing, excited company, and spring weather tend to leave me quit content...for a few days at least.

Stuff I used...
Scarpa Alien 1.0 boots
Ski Trab Maestro skis, Race Helmet, Nordic Race Gloves and Sport Evo Jacket
BD Whippets
Outdoor Research Radiant Hybrid Hoody


  1. Nice work. I've hiked by that thing on the way to Provo Peak, looks fun!

  2. South Summit chute was likely the first big line I ever skied. I was in high school, not sure what grade, booted up it with my dad and brother who did not bother to bring skis. I was on old light leather tele garbage but the chute was blower pow so it did not matter. My dad and brother had nearly as much fun sliding down behind me. Home sweet home...

    1. Yeah BG! That would have been crazy in high school. Bet you've had some good times down there. We'll have to talk about some of your other secret places.

  3. Today was a tad warm for that line. Glad you got out safe & sound. The west sides are going off. I had epics myself about a mile east of you. Well done fellas.

    1. Agreed. Fortunately, most of the mountain had fallen down the day before and we were out of there by noon. I saw a photo of you with your dog and some nice aspens...a mile east...hmmm?

  4. Well maybe it was a west Texas mile. You picked a tough time and year to do those lines. There's no easy self-powered approach to Cascade. Way to giv'r!

  5. Andy,

    I'm interested in those Trab race skis if they are still available. I assume they are drilled for Dynafit, so I should be able to put TLT Speed Radicals on them? Since the heel is adjustable it ought to be able to work with my TLT5, size 28. Do you agree? If so, contact me at and we can figure out shipping. I would guess $300 including shipping ought to cover it?

    Thanks! Eric in Seattle

    1. Eric, thanks for the interest but another person claimed them first. I'll keep you in mind though if his check bounces...

  6. Hello,

    You seem to be the only person on the internet writing about the Maestro (certainly the only one in North America). It is almost like these skis don't exist. Here in Bend, Oregon, all of our Volcanoes have long tedious approaches. In the depths of winter it is hard not to have some fat heavy(ish) skis because the snow is so deep (and it's macho, like the guys with ridiculously large trucks they don't need). However, for spring and summer (there are lines that can be skied in big snow years all year round)and one doesn't need (or want) a triple-digit waisted ski. I would like something very light. There are good deals to be had on the Maestro if one orders from Europe at the moment. I would like to hear more about them. Obviously they are great on the up and look good on the technical portion of the descent, but once you are on faster open ground say 1500 feet of 35-40 degree terrain are you fairly stable at speed? Would you recommend another lightweight ski instead for spring ice/corn/slop that is going to involve some technical skiing and some very fast non technical skiing? Finally, any tips regarding sizing would be helpful, if you'll indulge me. Thanks, Daniel

    1. Hey Daniel,

      Based on your description above I think the Maestro would be a pretty good fit. Ours are 171 cm and on consistent surfaces they do fairly well at speed (I'm 6'1" and weigh around 170). They should do great in spring corn but I haven't tested this yet. However, we like to ski fast in spring conditions on race skis so these should be an improvement. You're right that the weight makes these skis amazing for long approaches but how easily they are deflected in manky conditions is something you'd have to probably get used to. Also they are just slightly softer than I prefer.

      For me, a slight decrease in performance as gauged by how fast I can blast through anything is a good trade off for being able to get to ski more, farther, and overall faster. I have also paired them the lightest boots, bindings, and mohair skins so my overall package is pushing the lightweight spectrum.

      What boots would you use?

      Other options by Trab are the Free Rando Light (1200 gms) or the Sintesi (1100 ish). Also FYI, next year, they are making a ski called the Magico that will be 82 underfoot and in a 171 weight just over 1000 grams and will be the big brother to the Maestro. All of these would probably be more stable and ski a little better but obviously weigh more. And, it's not just the weight of the ski you have to consider but the increased surface area of the skins and snow on the topsheets. It's funny but I can really notice a difference from those two factors. All the more reason to use mohair skins...

      Anyway, I'm curious what you end up with. Fire away with more questions if I haven't answered adequately.



  7. Thank you for the detailed response. The site I was considering ordering from in Europe actually was having a website malfunction and caused the Maestro to both appear (they are out of stock) and to be listed at a lower price than what they would sell for had they had the ski in stock. The Magico sounds intriguing. On another note, I see that you have a couple of Trab's for sale, I assume they have already been sold? Thanks again for taking the time out to respond, Daniel