Monday, November 29, 2010

Day 23: The Underrated Nature of November Powder

Ok. I repent for calling powder overrated. It's actually underrated. The only things that are overrated on a day like today are my POS skinny skis. I'm not an advocate for 120mm under foot, but 90 or so would have been nice.

AO enjoying the Hallway:

We had a nice tour this afternoon, skinning up Flagstaff, taking two runs into Days, up and then down the Hallway Couloir, laying a skinner up out of Cardiff, and then scoring ridiculous powder from the ridge between Cardiff Peak and the Black Knob down to road.

Although, about 2/3 of the way down, our gully was joined by one below the Black Knob, which appeared to have been flushed in its entirety. From what I can tell, it turns out these guys (whose creative work and backcountry work I have admired for years) were nearly the victims. Having been on that ridge a few times over the last weeks, the trigger zone went from rocks with frost to dangerous wind loaded slab in a matter of days. However, the area we skied was of a slightly different aspect, not as high on the ridge, and had a better base prior to the recent storm. None of which played into our decision to ski that line. The snow all afternoon was stable, and I wouldn't have thought twice had I not seen the debris and the above linked post. Humble Pie indeed.

Regardless, John said today was his best day skiing...ever. He lived in Crested Butte for years. Take that Colorado.

Here's another budget film with some highlights:

The Underrated Nature of November Powder from andy dorais on Vimeo.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Day 21: Little Pine Chute - Powder's Overrated

Went out with JS today looking for something fun to ski. I know there's probably a ton of nice consolidated powder in tree sheltered areas. I also know there is absolutely none in Little Pine Chute. I knew that going into the day, but often I find myself in search of type B fun, which my brother describes as only fun after the fact. Maybe this didn't qualify since I had fun the whole time anyway in spite of, or maybe because of all the breakable crust, roller balls, wet slide debris, and rocks. A run into Mineral Fork revealed that it is pretty trashed by wind right now too.

Don't believe me? Watch the budget video to see for yourself.

Little Pine - Powder's Overrated from andy dorais on Vimeo.

Going to the Selkirks up in Canada next week - anyone have any ideas for stuff to ski up there?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful...Thanksgiving Time Trial and Superior South Face Now Open

Day 20 was a good one. It was bitter cold and painfully clear this morning after days of stormy skies. Jared, Bart, Layne and I met at Snowbird for a turkey day time trial. It was going to be 3,000 ft of discomfort. Who could tolerate the most? Layne may have suffered the most in his Garmont Megarides, having the heaviest set up, but that also limited his competitiveness. I thought I was done when Jared and Bart put a 30+ meter gap on me on the first major climb, but was able to keep them within striking distance until high above the Gadzoom lift on the steep groomed run, Regulator. Then, Jared (always prone to bail on skinning) switched to booting straight up the groomer. Bart followed suit and I skinned by them both. They had some difficulty getting back in their skis and when I looked back, it was done.

52 min to the top from Gad Valley. Jared says that's a good time so I'm happy. As for the win*, there's an asterisk because while ahead, patrol stopped them for about 20 seconds while I was making up ground. I stopped as well, but for only about 10 seconds. That didn't make a real difference though. I was just able to take advantage of their tactical error. And, the finish would have been totally different if we actually skied down too.

Then, with Jared short on time, we were going to try to rally up Superior to score first tracks down the south face. He made it about half way along the ridge before bailing to the south to make it to his family feast on time. It's too bad too, since on top, we were staring at 3,000 feet of untouched goodness.

A couple from the way up:

Bart leading up the Black Knob:

Periods of high wind disturbed the otherwise beautiful day.

Bart toting around his Surface skis, which he says are turning out to be pretty fun.

There are a number of rocks still lurking so we cautiously dropped in from the summit. With some trepidation, we made numerous ski cuts, and finding things satisfactorily stable, dropped into the chute on the skier's left of the upper face.

It was as good as it gets until this happened:

I was skiing the chute until it went from concave to convex over a small subridge. Moving right to pull over at an island of safety, the slope cracked at my feet and as I pulled to a stop, I watched the slide run the full length of the gully and out onto the apron. It was small (crown 12") and didn't seem to entrain a deadly amount of snow but probably would have been pretty uncomfortable to get washed over some rocks on the way down. Strangely wind loaded on the pre storm crust...there's pockets of considerable for you.

Hard to see, but the slide path was down through the choke in the middle of the pic onto the apron.

Bart, graciously letting loose the hang fire: (I was really more off to the side than it may appear)

The rest of the descent was blissful and uneventful...except Layne blowing out an edge, poor guy.

Now I'm sitting at my parent's where my cute little mom is making a FEAST...thankful

Superior with our tracks...thankful!

77,600 ft for the year.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pic of the Day

I did some laps at Brighton today and was rewarded for putting the skins back on and pointing 'em back up hill one last time. Got in 7,000 for the day, but other than Thanksgiving, the rest of the week looks grim.

Speaking of Thanksgiving...

Anyone want to get together for a turkey ski trot? I'm thinking of an informal race on a course we all agree on, with a handicap for those with heavy gear...something like a head start for extra ounces?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Day 17: First 10K Day of the Year

Friday was my day off for the week so I figured I better get out and make the most of it. I had all kinds of ideas swirling around, but the low snow pack on south facing slopes and a couple partners with limited time led me to...

South facing slopes (Pinball Alley descends from the summit ridge on the looker's left before connecting with the upper apron.)

Well, some east and southeast facing.

JS met me up Little and we took a run down Suicide Chute. It was Jon's first couloir. He normally chases powder. Says he moved to Utah for it. Doesn't he know the best skiing is crusty and rocky?

Some actually decent snow near the mouth of Suicide:

From there, a bomb crater marking the mouth of Pinball Alley high on Superior was all too beckoning to resist. We skinned the upper apron, found passage into the couloir, alternated between booting and skinning, and found ourselves topping out the ridge to make a descent neither of us had done before. Pretty cool where a little early season exploration will take you.

JS dropping into Pinball Alley:

A couple icy narrow chokes kept things interesting (JS slipping through a 180 cm wide section on 186 cm skis)

The meat of the couloir:

We skied down to the road where I traded Jon for Jared and my 170 cm in length, 78mm waisted powder skis in for my 160 cm in length, 64 mm waisted kid skis. We rolled up pole line and toward Superior from the east before taking a short shot into Cardiff. Sure to be late to work, Jared made the responsible decision to skin back up to the Black Knob to make a terrifying, rocky, crusty, south facing descent (visible in top pic) back to the LCC road.

Now 5800 feet into the day and gunning for more, I was solo and the weather was turning to crap. I decided to play it safe and took a lap up Patsy Marly and then an extremely tiring lap up Hidden Peak just to eek out some vertical and claim 10,000 feet for the day.

After being cooped up at work since Sat morning, things sure look differently out there.

20,300 ft for the week

62,800 ft for the year

Monday, November 15, 2010

Day 14: Lucky in Wolverine

Originally I just wanted to hike around a bit on mellow terrain since some evening intervals in the dark last night left me feeling slightly flat today. But, the allure of steep, rocky chutes was too much to resist. We poked around just about all of Wolverine Cirque, and Granny's was the only chute with even a marginal amount of snow at the entrance.

AO navigating the rocky choke.

Lower down, the snow felt terribly slabby, but we proceded with caution and found a fun wind feature to play with.

Then, while traversing out of the cirque, we saw fresh natural slide debris on the far northern end. It was about 70 ft wide and ran a couple hundred feet and likely failed when the graupel layer became overly wind loaded. Sobering. On the way down toward Twin Lakes, there was also evidence of cracking and audible settling of the snow pack. So while the day was fun and educational, I wish I had the discipline to choose more wisely. I need to learn to be more patient.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Day 12: From Toledo to Superior

I met some new guys this morning to go exploring into Cardiff. RP had never toured before so we skinned up Pole Line, skied into Cardiff, put in a skin track up Holy Toledo, Skied back down, skinned out of Cardiff, and then tried to avoid death on the south facing crap back to the car.

VK and RP skinning up Holy Toledo with Superior looking sexy beyond.

Holy Toledo, gift wrapped with a skin track.

At the car, Adam was waiting for round two. This was the destination.

We skied into Cardiff to enjoy a little chute and then skinned to the summit except the mandatory boot across the catwalk.

On top, we found LCC to be beautifully undercast.

Things are a bit boney right off the summit but it gets good in a hurry.

The second time down the south facing slopes into Alta, we caught the summer trail and gave our skis a break. 4000 ft of really good and 2000 ft of really really bad. Choose wisely.

That's the way it is for Nov 12, 2010.

6K for the day.
42.5K for the season.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Day 10, Suicide/Homicide?

Today it was time to start escaping the confines of the resorts and look for new terrain to "ski". Suicide Chute often fills early and had been looking like it might go earlier in the week. With all the new snow to soften up the scree on the Superior apron, we decided to make an attempt. There was a booter from the road so we were clinging to optimism, in spite of seeing all the rocks and bushes poking through the obviously thin dusting. Pretty early on, after skinning over rock after rock, it became apparent the skiing the apron was not a good idea. Since that wasn't the goal, we pushed ahead and forced our way into the chute.

Adam scrambling over the slab/waterfall that guards the entrance to the chute.

Once in the chute proper, we found remnants of a booter and multiple ski tracks. Surprising, because I didn't think there'd be that many people as intrepid/foolish as us to hike through the rocks for a relatively short descent, that once out of the chute was bound to be ski scraping dicey.

Putting the exit out of our minds, the chute certainly looked appetizing.

Adam topping out.

A quick ski down found us transitioning to boot back up for a second lap. Once at the saddle that divides Suicide from Homicide Chute, we were just too tempted to make it a murder/suicide.

Homicide Chute early season

I made about 10 cautious turns down the west facing chute and grazed rocks with every one. We decided to save it for another day and climbed back out for another run down the east facing Suicide.

Adam had fun.

Until he had heard enough of the dreadful sound of edges over rocks and decided to walk down the apron.

Adam smartly walking about half way down the poorly covered Superior apron.

I kept skiing but stayed far skier's left amongst the bushes and grass to mitigate the chances of putting a core shot in my brother's skis or worse, taking a rock to the knee or face. Don't worry JD. A couple scratches are no big deal (my boots are still broken because Wasatch Touring is a horrible establishment that leaves me frustrated every time I enter the store and therefore I'm on my brother's F1's and 164 Trabs - think not that fun).

Anyway, it was enjoyable to get out of the conga line at Alta, even if it was just across the street. Probably should have looked for something at a higher elevation and either north or northeast facing. I'll think about that for tomorrow.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Days 8 and 9: From Famine to Feast

Our pure landscape was looking muddily polluted by the weekend. High temps and continuous sun had left the Wasatch pretty boney, even on the northerly aspects. Sure, there were pockets of "powder" here and there, but coverage was getting slim. You know I didn't really care though. After a nice ski down Main Chute, Adam and I went up to the top of Sugarloaf to see what we could find.

Didn't really find much snow but this ridge descent was a blast. It was a game of trying not to take off our skis. Here's AO picking his way though the rocks.

A shot toward the Castle, trying not to fall off to the left. (Photo credit: AO)

End of the road. (Photo credit: AO)

Followed by a fun run with good snow into Albion Basin toward Cecret Lake. (Photo credit: AO)

Then, today, I woke up at 5 to ride my bike to work and to my surprise, it was raining. You'd think I'd be bummed, but rain in the valley means snow in the mountains. The weather guys were predicting up to 13 inches today. Not sure what the resorts are reporting but it had to be pretty close.

The weather vane on Baldy's summit going crazy.

It was windy, cold, flat light, and fun.

Until we dropped into Perla's and found the snow to be unstable as evidenced by widespread cracking and a 12" crown that Adam ripped out. I don't think the whole bowl would pull, but it was a good reminder to take it easy early season. Being respecters of the Lanche, we promptly booted back out.

Adam wallowing

Our exit turned out to be this little east facing number.

By then it was getting dark and my crappy googles had fogged up so I took snow flakes to the eye balls all the way home.

Our world has been rejuvenated, with more to come. Be careful out there.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Week That Was: Oct 31st to Nov 6th

The theme of this week was suffering...and not the good kind. I worked 80 hours this week, 60 of it coming in two thirty hour sleepless shifts. Nevertheless, I was able to get out and go through the motions, attempting to get some training in.

Sun: Worked on Halloween

Mon: Got off early afternoon and hurried up to Alta and got in 2x12 min and 1x6min. Then down Main Chute and home for an easy 4 miles with Jessie.

Tues: Work from 6am to midnight

Wed: Continue working from midnight to noon. Then sleep. Then grogginess. Then more sleep.

Thurs: Day off. Met Jared for intervals in the dark. I still felt incredibly fatigued from the prior two days and was utterly wasted by the second 4 min interval. I went through the motions for four more and mostly watched the Samurai blow by me (I was sneaking head starts), and then leave me for dead. And, since there's no time to screw a bolt into my boot when doing intervals, I skied in walk mode. Horrible morning. Went home for a nap and then went up again with Adam. We did more Main Chute Laps for a total of ~7,500 ft for the day.

Here's a pic of me trying not to fall down on my race skis. (photo by Adam)

Fri: Work 5:30 am to midnight.

Sat: Work midnight to 10:00am. Then home to sleep for a couple hours. Then to Wasatch Touring to get my D.N.As fixed. Dynafit finally came through with the warranty buckle so hopefully I can quit bolting and destroying my boots. Then, I met up with Tanner for a nice easy run up Lamb's Canyon to the Millcreek pass.

It's gonna be like this all month. I think as much low intensity volume as I can find the time and motivation for will be the key.

Total Vertical for the season: 27,500 ft. Watch out Greg Hill.