Tuesday, March 13, 2012

South Lone and Bighorn...Again

This winter has sucked.  I haven't cared to look at the numbers but the snowpack has been shallow and dangerous.  Too many people have been hurt or worse.  I'm still feeling upset and disheartened that one of my skiing inspirations, Steve Romeo, was killed last week in a large avalanche in the Tetons.  I hope his friends and family are finding solace in the knowledge that Steve was an inspiration to the entire community as has been evidenced by the outpouring of emotion and kind words in virtually every backcountry internet outlet.  

That said, like Steve, I find myself "living to ski" amongst a couple other pursuits.  So today, I donned my TetonAT visor, picked up the ever sanguine Jon Swain, and went looking for snow.  We wanted to stand on a summit and ski something "big".  Mr. Swain had never been up Lone Peak so the car found it's way to Alpine after an alpine start, leaving my warm bed at 5:15 AM.  

We hiked up the dirt road by headlamp until the clouds were splashed pink above Box Elder Peak.  Finding snow after an hour of hiking, we moved steadily and efficiently in skis over the firm textured surface.  Jon stopped once to choke down a hard Powerbar, but pretty quickly we found ourselves chilled to the bone by 50 mph winds as we stood on the ridge looking into Bell's Canyon.  We sought shelter on the leeward side and debated our next move.

Jon skinning along a firm side hill, high above Utah Valley
Bighorn in the immediate background, Timp beyond
It was readily apparent that with the high clouds and nuking winds, we wouldn't be enjoying any corn any time soon.  Too bad.  But, we both agreed that boilerplate is better than breakable and we still had a summit to stand on.  Reluctantly leaving our hiding spot, we descended with skins until we could circumnavigate a bump on the ridge line and gain the South Summit of Lone Peak.  We snapped a few photos and chewed some food with frozen jaws before descending our ascent path down the popular "Heaven's Halfpipe".  
Nearing the ridge between Alpine and Bell's Canyon
Jon Swain stylin' while escaping the wind.  Note the goggles, snorkel, and headlamp.
Lone Peak Cirque from the South Summit
JS on the South Summit
JS, Question Mark Wall, Utah Valley, and the Oquirrhs

Near the bottom, Jon decided to rally for one more summit and we turned it around and headed up Bighorn's South Ridge.  Again, the wind limited our summit stay and after some more bone jarring boilerplate skiing, we found ourselves trying to avoid scrub oak as the snow turned isothermic below the Second Hammongog.  A few minutes later and we were back at our shoes sharing a Snickers bar while Jon was commenting on how great it is to ski something new (this was a repeat day for me but traded out the other guys for Swain).  A few more minutes of hiking brought us to the only car at the trailhead.  And, since it was lunch time, we then made a stop at Fong's Chinese Restaurant in American Fork.  It's housed in an old American style diner but the food was top notch American style Chinese!  You can never go wrong with rice.  Check it out!
From the summit of Bighorn Peak


  1. Andy,
    Do you happen to have a GPX of your route up there? Was looking to shoot up to Lone Peak but haven't been up there before so any beta would be much appreciated? What do you think a CTC would take up there (looking to get up and back before work this week)? We are a relatively fast party.

  2. Arthur,

    One can start from the church on Wasatch Blvd by Big Willow and take the western approach. It's 6,000ft of gain, descend Bells or the way you came. Or link it up with Crow's Foot, or ski out to White Pine since it's such a low snow year.

    Andy, I feel the same way. In times like these, at least standing on top of something sort of makes up for such a marginal year with so many tragedies.

  3. Hey Andy, you can have some of our snow, Mt Baker: 94" in last five days bringing their total to 654", Snoqualmie Pass, where I live: over four feet in last week, more to come. Just got done shoveling my roof on my 2 story house, as the snow level is above roof line now!

  4. Hey Arthur, I started from the town of Alpine at the standard summer hiking trailhead that takes one through the Hammongogs (meadows). The trail starts on a jeep road that switch back up a couple miles before hitting the snow line. Once on snow and through the first meadow, the trail narrows and steepens. Follow it until you see tracks heading up or until you decide to shoot straight up through brush along the path of least resistance. After another 30 min to hour of skinning, the whole South Face of Lone Peak and Big Horn will come into view. From there, choose your ascent path. Round trip for us with a little bit of screwing around and eating took right around 6 hours at a moderate pace, tagging both summits. Have fun and let me know how it goes!

    Derek, Yep. Any summit helps.

    Brandon, send it our way! I'll get back to you soon regarding the race series.