Sunday, April 10, 2011

April Ice/Skiing Misadventures

Fresh back from Cali, we were bummed to find that the storm had followed us and that all we'd be able to do for a while is boring powder skiing.  Hermanito Sam had other plans in mind.  We drove to a to-be-revealed corner of Utah, skinned up a few thousand feet, and stumbled upon some mysterious alpine ice.  

Unfortunately, Sam was the only one with tools and crampons so we played around for a while before getting repelled by a few ice bulges. 

Lots of interesting side trips in this area.
We gained a few thousand feet before encountering a couple fun ice steps that were manageable with whippets and crampons.  Lacking the spikes, I wallowed in the near waist deep pow.
Sam taking the fun way 
Then, suddenly we turned the corner and found this 30 meter flow of what looked like AI 4.  We weren't sure how good the ice would be given the time of year, but I think the pics show how good the skiing might be.

A few pitches of alpine ice sandwiched between thousands of feet of great skiing?
Balls deep and excited!

 Lacking the necessary tools, we turned it around, vowing to come back the next day.
Uncle Roman finding boring powder on the way out

Well, we came back.  This time, uncle Roman and Sam were replaced by Samurai Jared and baby brother Aaron.  Knowing full well we wanted to investigate the larger ice flow from the day before, we jumped right on.  
JD on lead 
While JD was climbing, the sun made a brief appearance and the mountain began to fall down.  Small rocks were showering down around the belay but we didn't pay much attention because the forecast was for cold cloudy conditions.  I should have been jolted to my senses when a bowling ball sized rock bashed into my shoulder leaving me feeling weak and nauseous for a few minutes.  Rather than do the sensible thing and bail... we heeded our rallying cry of ONWARD AND UPWARDS!  

I joined JD at his ice axe/screw belay and we waited for Jared to join us.
Looking up from the top of the pitch.  

Jared pulling over the steepness
With the three of us at the belay, we yelled down for Aaron to come on up.  About that time, the sun came out again - full force.  Maybe five minutes later, with Aaron well on his way, this happened:

Untitled from andy dorais on Vimeo.

The video only captures the tail end of the wet sluff that pummeled Aaron as he was hanging on to his tools for dear life.  Five minutes later, the sun was gone, Aaron had down climbed to a safe spot, and we finally agreed to get the hell out of there.  

Chossy rock and aerated suspicious ice conspired against us, making finding a suitable anchor for the rappel difficult.  We had brought a tree branch for a deadman but it was down with Aaron.  We made a V thread, but no one really wanted to commit to it fully so it was backed up with a shovel buried as a deadman (to be retrieved in the spring).  
Jared eyeing the V thread 
Lucky to be making it down with only a bruised shoulder some sheepish grins on our faces, we now realize that we're going to have to wait until Dec/Jan or some actual cold weather to suss out these lines. 
JD retreating

The ski out wasn't bad
It's a bummer we weren't able to explore further as it appeared that the gully continued with fun low angle ice for some distance.  Couple that with great skiing, and you've got all the makings of a classic ski mountaineering adventure.  If you recognize the pics...shhhhhhh!  We're gonna keep this one a secret for a while.


  1. In the words of yoda, lucky boys you are. The 1 pm temp spike yesterday was sending some big ones off all aspects of Elk Point. Lost Canyon is an amazing but fickle place with multiple drainages into it. Glad you are all alive. The best time for ice in that area is earlier with wet storms (like this year) followed by a week or more of no snow coupled with a temperature inversion. Melt high, freeze low.

  2. Agreed. We were off by 11:00 after trying to get an early start but that wasn't enough. Any sun at all made it a death zone. We should talk more about that area. Lots of interesting options...

  3. Not to mention UDOT lobs a few 105 mm shells up there now and again.

  4. Is that in Butler Fork?

    How about april 24th/25th-whenever for another stab at the Sierra?