Friday, November 30, 2012

Three Peaks with Teague

Teague is back in town and we are psyched to have him!  We exchanged a flurry of text messages last night and decided to meet this morning at 8 to get in some up tempo skinning at Snowbird before hopefully leaving the resort and running the ridge from Hidden Peak to the AF Twins to Red Stack and on and on until we got tired.

At the patrol shack, we checked in so as to not cause a problem and were told that leaving the boundaries of the resort was definitely not allowed this time of year.  The guys were cool and since the Bird is really great at allowing up hill traffic, we didn't push the issue.  Besides, Jason was skinning up behind us, having gotten a late start after a late night at work.

Down we went to our cars and then the White Pine TH where we continued the day on our ultra light set ups (A nice package came in the mail yesterday with an eagerly awaited pair of SCARPA Aliens inside.  Luckily, they fit my race skis so I was in instant business).

We skinned the road until just under the Tri-Chutes on Red Stack and chose the longest middle chute for our second course.  The snow was variable to say the least but we dispatched the couloir proper quite quickly before stumbling through the upper wind swept talus.  After maybe 100 meters of boot scratching quartzite, we crested the summit and sat on the lee side, enjoying wasabi almonds, juicy oozers, and Powerade.
The guys skinning toward the middle chute

Still skinning, "Wasatch Style"

Happy to go skiing

Now thoroughly chilled, I asked the guys if they were ready for some bad skiing.  Teague reprimanded me saying, "There's no such thing as bad skiing, only bad skiers and bad attitudes!"  I repented instantly and from then on we uttered such phrases as:

"All skiing is good skiing!"

"It's always worth it!"

"It's all good!"

And it was.

Bringing skinny back!

Rocky choke in the middle of the middle chute

The crust/wind board was just strong enough to support us on the descent and down low, we found even a few pockets of something resembling powder before hitting the trail.  From there it was skins on for course three.  I had another run up Red Baldy in mind but this time wanted to try our luck in another chute just to the south of the one I skied on Tuesday.

The Red Baldy Chute du jour (photo from 11/26)
We tried to skin the whole thing but eventually were forced to boot and scramble over some blocky white granite near the ridge.  From there, we tagged to southern most summit and again found a nice snack bivy on the lee side of the ridge.  We shared peanut butter Snickers and a clementine before reversing our tracks and trying not to destroy our light gear (which is surprisingly strong and escaped with no dings!).
Near the ridge at the top of the Red Baldy Chute

Taking the fun way

Teague heading home in the lower section of the chute
The whole day, the skies threatened but refused to share.  As I type, a light rain is falling in the valley and my hope is that the snow line is at a reasonable level.  While nature may hit reset on this winter, the skiing this week, including four new descents for me, has been more than worth it.  

The amazing SCARPA Alien and some awesome earrings made from real cam lobes.  They are made by a friend of mine and for 20 something dollars, make a great present during the holidays.  Check out Breezy Desert Designs for more.
Stay tuned for a review of the Alien and Alien 1.0 as well as of the best ski mountaineering quiver around (fact not opinion!)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Red Baldy

I had a few free hours this afternoon, so I had to head back up the White Pine Drainage and remedy my choice to be responsible the day before.  Flying solo, I was glad to run into Layne Caldwell, who was heading out.  He agreed to turn around and hike the approach which was nice and made the time pass quickly.  Unfortunately (for me), he is a responsible husband and father and didn't want to push his curfew and sent me off near the base of Red Baldy.  

I skinned up to my desired chute, where I found pieces of the boot track the guys set yesterday.  They had said it skied well so I assumed at least part of it would be soft.  I guess if skiing "well" meant  rock hard turns then they appeared to be right.  

I tagged to southern most summit and then clicked in and started making cautious turns on the firm but smooth surface.  At the entrance to the chute, the snow was punctuated by rocks, reminding me that the coverage is marginal at best.  As I slipped around the obstacles, I stopped and pulled out my phone to measure the slope angle and was really surprised to see that it was only 42 degrees.  

My mind has gone soft.  

Perhaps the upper chute only felt steep because I was alone, early in the season with firm conditions.  I expect my perception to change throughout the year.  In any case, I enjoyed an uneventful descent and easily made it back to the trailhead under my self imposed 3 hour timeline.  

Here are a couple more pics showing the current conditions (although all will likely change with the impending rain storm).

Today's line marked in red (taken 11/27)
Gift wrapped with a booter

Red Baldy, Red Stack, and the Twins

Thin but tempting coverage on White Baldy, Box Elder, and Timp

A good look at our skiing from yesterday

It only looks rocky.  The chute actually skied quite "well".

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

November Summits: The Pfeiff and Lake Peak

I've been reluctant to head out into the high country because there just couldn't be any good skiing available.  Right? My pessimism began to dwindle last week when Tom Goth and I yo-yo'd Suicide Chute and found the turns to be better than expected.  Today, I met Adam Fabrikant, Billy Haas, and Tyler (forgot his last name) for a trip up the Pfeifferhorn.  Keeping the expectations low, I figured I wouldn't be too disappointed.  

Tom and some big ass skis in Suicide Chute last week
The higher we traveled, the more psyched I got as the weather was perfect, the company good, and the snow coverage just enough.  Following an unorthodox skin track likely put in by mountaineers, we landed on the knife edge ridge that leads to the standard East Face ascent.  We pulled a few fun rock moves on cool granite and then followed the boot track to the summit.  The booter was in but there were no turns coming down, further supporting the thought that our cousins, the mountaineers, had laid the way.  
Adam and Tyler near the summit of the Pfeiff

We lounged in the sun for a few minutes before I watched an aggressive display of confidence as Adam, Tyler, and Billy skied this steep line quite hard.  I've been up the Pfeiff likely a dozen times and skied four other lines on the classic Wasatch peak, but today was my first time skiing the standard ascent route.  Often overshadowed by the NW and NE Couloirs/Face, I though the East Face was a delightful moderately steep descent, particularly when linked with the flanking headwall into Maybird Gulch.  

Adam dropping off the summit
More Fabby with Box Elder and Timp Looming the in the background
Billy and the moderately steep East Face

The plan was to bounce over and ski the North Couloir but the coverage was laughable so we climbed back up and skied down to Upper Red Pine Lake.  A second or maybe third lunch ensued before making a quick skin to the summit of Lake Peak.  The East Couloir beckoned and being suckers for wind board, breakable crust, and pockets of powder, we couldn't resist. 

Dropping into Maybird

Who cares that the skiing is variable and the coverage poor?  This guys is psyched!

Cool features abound during this low coverage state

Tyler climbing out of Maybird

Tyler skinning along the shore of Upper Red Pine Lake 

East Couloir, Lake Peak

Fabrikant getting rad on a little wind spine

Next, the three young guns bid me adieu while they sought out more variable turns across the drainage, and I made an ill advised bush whacking descent out White Pine before finally finding the trail and my sanity.  

Back at the car, I was stunned by how fun the day ended up.  We didn't see another soul, skied great lines off classic summits, lounged in the warm autumn sun, and had a care free day in the mountains.  I'm mildly regretting having to miss the fun on their last climb but I think I'll just have to remedy that tomorrow afternoon!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Skin the Turkey Recap

Our first "race" of the year was a great success thanks to the 35 or so people that showed up to put in a little holiday work so as to enjoy the holiday feast a little more.  We warmed up together to the designated starting line for the short course that Tom, Garrett, Adam, Jason, and I put in the day before.  Our ascent route consisted of a drag strip across the flats, "technical" skinning through the woods on an icy track, a strip of groomer, and more icy kick turns to the top of the course.  The descent was more straightforward with a traverse to the corduroy followed by high speed GS turns back to the start line.  I lamented the inability to route everyone through more inspiring skiing but today it was "all about the up!"

The format was the social "vert style" for one hour.  Whoever put in the most laps during that time would be crowned the victor by being handed a Pumpkin Pie. We had many new faces and a whole division of split boarders sporting cutting edge set ups with SCARPA Aliens and Dynafit TLTs.  We also has many familiar faces turn out and it was great to reconnect with friends from winters past.  Also making the season debut was the Wasatch Skimo skin suit.  Last year, Jared put together a custom order and about 20 of us are proud owners of either mostly white or mostly black skin suits that bear the name "Wasatch Skimo" down the leg/arm (BTW, if you still owe Jared $, you can give it to me and I'll pass it along...)

Joking around before the start
The hour played out predictably.  Tom went out hard.  Jared and I and the rest of the field gave chase.  Jared had a gear malfunction and I never quite reeled in Tom.  Gemma gave everyone else a run for their money.  Travis put it in low gear in the heavy metal division and burled his way up with probably 20 pounds on each foot. The split boarders were much faster than expected and it seemed like everyone had a good time.
Some of the speedsters transitioning at the top of the first lap (Gemma in the center is handing it to the boys)
Afterward, we gathered in the parking lot for some cider and awards.  The winners took home pumpkin pies to share with their families and we tossed out some jackets and hats to some other lucky folks.  The Utah Avalanche Center also donated a new Wasatch Backcountry Skiing Map that I'm sure will now be put to good use.

So thanks again to all that participated.  It's fun because you all come and are excited to get faster and support each other.

Happy Thanksgiving and see you all at the next one!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Wasatch Ski Mountaineering Thanksgiving Race

We are kicking off another season of evening and holiday races this Thursday (Thanksgiving morning) at 8:00 AM at Brighton.  This will be the first of 10 races that comprise the Wasatch Citizen Series (ski mountaineering not the nordork skiing) throughout the winter that all lead up to the Wasatch Powder Keg.  Those of you who participated last year know what to expect.  There will be an hour of suffering on the up and hopefully some sheltered powder on the down.  We will chase each other, gain fitness, and earn our turkey dinners!  Afterwards, as usual, there will be pies as prizes and a few other skiing related items to be given out.

Everyone is invited regardless of gear, fitness, or skill level.  Last year we had every variety of gear from full carbon to full iron.

...a couple more housekeeping items:

The price is free but helmets and courtesy to Brighton's paying customers, cat drivers and patrollers are mandatory.  

Park by the church on the Milly side, not in front of the Milly Chalet.  We will warm up together to the start of the course (location TBA).

So forget flag football or turkey trot 5Ks and come out to the 2nd annual "Skin the Turkey" ski mountaineering race!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Best Kind of Commute

I've been working a lot of overnight shifts lately and have had to divide the daylight hours between sleeping, eeking in some skiing, and family time.  So while the snow lingers in the valley, the foot hills make for a much more efficient use of time.

Leaving work
One of the best is Mount Van Cott, which is accessed from the same parking lot that I use to access my workplace.  Holding just enough snow,  my commute this morning took a small detour.

I walked from work to my car, changed to skis to the summit, descended back to my car and then drove home.  So in the time it took my friend to drive in to work this morning (fighting terrible traffic in Denver), I was able to ski 1200 feet of dense powder, breakable crust, bushes, and rocks, and still make it to sleep before he punched in.

Today makes the third day in a row that I've been out and haven't seen a single person on skis.  We really must be going to some stupid spots!

Jason fighting breakable crust, avoiding rock and bushes...all in a good morning's commute 
Jason doing his Gangnam impression

The workplace

Monday, November 12, 2012

Chasing Grandeur

This weekend we rejoiced.  Most chased the storm up the canyons, but short on time, Jason and I attempted to ski one of the more elusive mountains in the Wasatch.  Grandeur Peak is small at 8299 feet, but it rises 3300 feet directly out of the eastern Millcreek neighborhood.  We could hear traffic on the belt loop but found ourselves alone on the mountain save for a lone hunter post-holing ahead.  Unfortunately, it remains on the tick list as we turned around only about half way up due to "extreme bushiness".  If only Salt Lake were on average 10 degrees colder.  Then we could ski from the city regularly and how cool would that be?
Descending into Salt Lake City

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Timp: The Everest Ridge "Run"

This glorious Indian summer has made for spectacular running with most of the early storm snow now only adding some flavor to the trails.  We have managed to put in a solid block of training over the last 10 days with my monotonous but effective log looking something like:

Total miles: 95
Time: ~ 24 hrs
Vertical ~42K

Grandeur x 7.33
Wire x 4
Sugarhouse runs x 2
Timp x 1

While not putting in numbers like this guy, my goal has been to build volume and try to put in a couple hard efforts each week.  Over this stretch, I managed to set my PR on Mount Wire (28:56 for the Strava Segment) and on Grandeur Peak (45:32, Jason went 42:38 on the same day).  As can be plainly seen, we've lacked imagination in our route selection, although this is also out of convenience with busy work and family schedules.

Today however, after 9 days of monotony, enough was enough and we needed to get out of the foothills and onto something bigger.  Timp was calling and we settled on one of our favorite games of trying to summit the Sleeping Maiden from our parent's house (5000) in Pleasant Grove.  After a tempting invitation from our sisters to skip the run and get some breakfast, we shouldered our packs (conspicuously short on rations), and took off jogging down the pavement toward Battle Creek Canyon.

Both of us felt rather flat but we took a short detour to summit of Big Baldy (~8800) where Jason started to feel revived and I started to crater (I blame this on poor sleep, high volume, and eating Pho last night).  This continued as we bushwhacked our way onto the Everest Ridge and fought the decaying talus toward the summit ridge.  Easily the slowest I've moved in the mountains, I probably should have turned around early but the thought of descending the scree back into the scrub oak prompted me onward.

During the ascent I ate everything I had, including one gel, a pack of sport beans, and a Little Debbie cookie and drank the last of some stupid zero calorie sports drink that Jason had handed me on the way out the door.  Relying on snow for the remainder of the day I landed on the summit to find Jason celebrating election day with a bona fide American Flag.  

Now stuck 11,749 feet, I couldn't think of a good way down.  The scree sounded horrible as did the standard trail to the Timpanooke TH followed by a long traverse back around the mountain and out Grove Creek Canyon and back to our parent's house.  We opted for the standard trail.  Even though I was bonking my way through mile after mile I actually found the snow packed trails quite peaceful until I came upon Jason spying a moose blocking our path.  After a little yelling and a couple false starts, we made it passed the gangly thing and on to the trail head.  Here, we faced another decision and opted for the easy way out.  

Hitchhiking out of American Fork Canyon to the closest restaurant, we then guzzled Coke and ate delicious overpriced "express gourmet" food and waited for our sister to bail us out with a ride and some money.  

Jason nearing the summit of Big Baldy with Timp and the Everest Ridge in the background

See, he really is American!

With a couple days of fine weather remaining I'm sure we'll be back up Wire and Grandeur a few more times before conditions take a drastic change for the better (hopefully we'll be skiing again this weekend!)

Timp Run:
17.5 miles
~7000 vertical
One moose
One goat
A skiff of snow
Some bushwhacking
And a lot of scree