Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Triangle Couloir

Finally, after eyeing the Triangle for three years, Jason and I were able to see it for ourselves.  Well, anyone can see if from the road up Little Cottonwood Canyon, but we really got to see it, with eyes wide open.

The Triangle from the road

Busy with meetings all morning, we sorted through gear and ate lunch on the way to the Y pull out.  There, we sorted some more gear, loaded up unusually heavy packs, and skinned right to the base of the couloir.  The snow was soft and seemed stable.  This was going to be good.

I haven't really climbed anything of note for a few years (not that I was a noteworthy climber before, but I climbed a lot).  Taking the first lead felt awkward but was still strangely familiar.  Luckily, this pitch was just a couple easy ice bulges which I dispatched comfortably by over gripping my tools and developing wooden hands.

I brought Jason up for what appeared to be another easy short pitch.  Appearances are deceiving though as he grunted up a short slot with smooth granite to his left, thin ice underneath, a couple feet of clearance overhead, and a some miserable skis and poles on his back.  It was like fighting a haul bag, but worse.

My turn wasn't much prettier as I humped my way through this section to join him at the belay.  Now above the technical difficulties, I imposed a deadline to turn our circus around.  I had to pick up my one-year-old son and was feeling guiltier by the minute.  Fortunately, Jason and I work well together and as he coiled ropes, I took off post holing up the smooth knee deep powder above.  He caught me after a few hundred vertical feet, where it makes sense to start skinning.  From there we each took a couple pulls out front, racing the clock instead of each other.

Pulling up on the ridge and feeling the sun on our faces we had beaten the turn around time by 4 minutes.  HA!  It was now time to ski what Chris Cawley refers to as, "The Goods".  Undisturbed other than our uptrack, the snow was priceless.  I would have loved to ski with wild abandon but the thought of that one hundred meter cliff just wouldn't leave the forefront of my mind.  Damn.

I noodled.

Back at the rappel station, we again worked together to ready the ropes and then I tested the anchor by backing over the ice flow while Jason watched to see if the scraggly tree would hold.  I'm a couple pounds lighter this year so everything went well.  Jason followed and after one more double rope rappel, we were clicking in to our Maestros and enjoying the feeling of sneaking in another brilliant adventure just minutes from a million people.

It only looks like it's a dead end (photo by JD)

Cameras.  Well mine did.  It's not as steep as it looks.

Jason starting up pitch two

Throw your triangles up

JD in the upper chute


JD rapping

AD rapping (photo by JD)

Jason's first turn of the lower chute

Andy's first turn of the lower chute (photo by JD)

The great snow picked up where it left off above

More JD

 Gear list:
Scarpa Alien 1.0 boots
Ski Trab Maestro skis and Race helmet
Outdoor Research Cirque pants and Radiant Hybrid Hoody
CAMP X3 600 pack
Petzl Dart crampons
Grivel Quantum Tech tools

...and a bunch of other extra heavy stuff

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wasatch Skimo Series Finale

Yesterday, we held our ninth and final race of the season and I must admit, I never thought they would be so fun.  This season was an overwhelming success because of the infectious enthusiasm of every single person who came out and raced.  We also could not have done this without the support of Brighton, Brandon Dodge, and Max McNeal.  Those guys are psyched for all things skiing and are awesome.  Further, I could not have anticipated the support from the local outdoor industry as we have had an outpouring of prizes donated throughout the year.  In the beginning, I questioned my judgement as I gave away a "lightly used" jacket as a prize.  Now we have had donations from The Sport Loft, Voile, Gear Thirty,, La Sportiva, Momentum, Powerbar, CAMP, the Powderwhores, Scarpa, and Ski Trab (please let me know if there is anyone I missed).    And thank you as well to all of you who helped set the courses, pull pin flags, brought pies, or helped in any other way, including just showing up.  So with that longwinded speech out of the way, here's a recap from last night.

Over 70 people came out to race by head lamps and moonlight and I hope enjoyed the most technical course of the year.  Jared and I set the course in the waning afternoon light and wondered if we were a little too ambitious with the technical skinning and a steep and very tight choke on the descent.

At the Milly base, I yelled out some informal instructions and pleaded with everyone to be careful on the descent...there was only room for one at a time.  Shortly thereafter, we were sprinting, 70 strong across the parking lot toward the southeast corner of the resort.  The nerds in spandex would complete three laps on the 800 foot course and the gluttons for punishment with the heavy gear would do two.

We booted a rocky outcrop, made kick turns up a couple steep slopes, traversed a ridge, and landed above Lake Mary at the top of the course.  From here, a short traverse along the plateau led to the mini chute, then a track through the trees, and onto the lower section of groomer, which brought everyone back to the booter.

By the time I made it to the steep choke, it was obvious that the very limited amount of snow still left wouldn't withstand the onslaught of 70 people for another two laps.  In fact, a handful of racers were stymied by what now appeared to be a mandatory air onto very firm snow with a rock or two thrown in for excitement.

Jared and I hurried to find an alternate passage and luckily another choke into the trees served just fine. Our system was then for Jared to block the first option and wave people towards me, where I directed them through the detour.  This seemed to work well and I think everyone was happy to have the course refreshed for their next laps.

In the end, Eric Bunce edged out the PowderKeg master, Chad Brackelsburg for the win and Marta (hailing from Spain) edged out Gemma (also from Spain but adopted by the Wasatch) for the women's victory.

To celebrate their performances, as has been our tradition, we gathered at Molly Green's en masse and overwhelmed the staff.  Beer, nachos, and pizza were everywhere.  We handed out pies as prizes and then turned to a proper raffle to hand out a Voile shovel and probe (thanks Voile), an Arva shovel and probe (thanks, some CAMP shirts (thanks CAMP), Momentum climbing passes (thanks Momentum), many many boxes of Powerbars and gels (thanks Christian Knight, who is a rep for Powerbar), a CAMP Speed helmet and Comp gloves (thanks Gear Thirty), and some La Sportiva GTR skis (thanks Jared and Sportiva).

Paul Diegle was the big winner of the skis and I think we were all big winners for coming out throughout the winter in the dark, rain, and snow.  We got fitter, made new relationships and improved old ones.  Many people learned about light gear and moving more efficiently in the mountains.  Others just lugged heavy stuff cause they are tougher than us weight weanies.  So many folks won prizes or pies throughout the season and it was cool to see some of that gear in action.  It was also cool to see people sitting around at Molly Green's sharing their victor's pie and exchanging stories with other racers.

Also, I'd like to wish Courtney Phillips and Robby Babbit (sp?) a speedy and complete recovery from their injuries.  Both have been regulars at these races and have always been happy and encouraging to others.  They represent everything good in the backcountry skiing community and I can't wait to have em back!  See you soon guys!

So to finish off, thank you again to all of you for an exciting season.  Don't forget about the real racing coming up this weekend with the Powderkeg and hopefully, we'll pick up on Thanksgiving morning right where we left off...

Jared, Chad, Paul, Andy and Andy setting the course

Unknown racer


Eric and Marta with their victory pies

Part of the crowd at Molly Green's

Spanish Fork Peak Video: GTGT Training

We are going to be racing the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse from Crested Butte to Aspen, Colorado again this year. Hopefully we'll get the wrinkles ironed out from last years attempt (at least we'll know where we are going!) There are always mistakes and areas to improve, which makes these long races really fun from an intellectual approach.

Jason and I will be racing as one of the "featured" teams and as such will be making a few videos touching on our training, gear, clothing, etc. This is the first of the series and is pretty amateur and the hiking/skiing was so much more fun and beautiful than depicted.
720p from andy dorais on Vimeo.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Spanish Fork Peak and Some Things I Love

Special announcement: Our last Wasatch Skimo Citizen's Race will be tomorrow night at Brighton.  Be ready to go at 7 PM and make sure to fill out the below survey (at the bottom of the post) for a chance to win the grand prize which will again be a pair of La Sportiva skis.  Bring everyone out and let's make this last race the biggest craziest one yet!

Today, Jason and I experienced a beautiful morning on Spanish Fork Peak replete with fine snow, great light, and everything else that is good.  To borrow a hippy phrase, it was all time.  

Not quite as outwardly impressive as its neighbors to the north or south, Spanish Fork Peak does sport massive relief from the valley floor, measured by my watch today at 5600 gain.  

I enjoyed it so much, this post will be about everything that I love about skiing a line like this one.  But to start, thanks to Mark Hammond for putting up some pictures of this peak on Facebook recently.  I've always overlooked this peak, but at the sight of an old burn in one of his photos, I was hooked.  

I love skiing through burned forests.  With Jared, Bart, and Jason, we skied one in Glacier National Park a few years ago and it was such a unique experience that I've been seeking the contrast of powder and charred trees since.  We found it today.  

I love this winter.  I don't really care about record snowfall or constant refresher storms, but the unusually cold temperatures have resulted in a proper winter even in the valleys.  This makes for "out the door" skiing and lengthens these descents and eliminates any dirt walking.  

I love the mountains of Utah County.

I love long climbs followed by long descents.  This was was over 5500 one shot!

I love light gear that makes such climbs easy and enjoyable.  Efficiency is addicting.  Without trying too hard, we were able to go car-to-care in under four hours, while breaking trail the entire way.  Yeah, we have some baseline fitness because we ski a lot, but that would not be possible without the advances in boots and skis over the past few years.  

I love powder.  I often joke that I like the conditions to be firm since that typically means less avalanche risk and gives the green light to roam the mountains.  But truth be told, I love powder.  

I love rime ice.  I can't stop taking pictures of it while skinning up.  Maybe that's because rime ice is such a transient phenomenon.  Whatever.  I love it.  

I love old wizened trees.  There were plenty along the climb today.

I love bluebird days without any pollution building up in the valley (dang, the cold winter isn't all good).  They seem so rare this year that I really take notice when the air is clear.  Today seemed crystal.  

I love Diet Coke.  It's really weird but it tastes good.  Without planning, Jason and I both carried one to the summit today. 

And what I really love is moving through the mountains on skis.  Everything above was just a huge bonus today!

Here are a few photos from my Cannon S100 and Jason's big Rebel T2i...

Maybe 2000 feet above the valley floor, still hiding in the shade

Jason, I think...we were wearing the exact same thing down to the boots and skis and packs. No wonder people get us confused at work.

Jason getting higher

Looking SW from higher on the ridge
Jason taking a pull out front 
Stunning massive rime

More rime

There was seriously a foot of plaster on these upper elevation trees

Heading over to the true summit with is to the left


Diet Coke sponsorship?

Looking south through the summit paraphernalia

Photo by Jason Dorais
The view to the northwest 

Jason skiing down the ridge to the burn

Fantastic snow, trees, and light

It was one of the best runs...ever
Photo by Jason Dorais

Photo by Jason Dorais

I screwed this picture up but still kinda like it after taking out the color

Maybe 2500 feet left of nice powder turns...

The very unassuming but fantastic Spanish Fork Peak
Super happy after skiing all the way back to the car

Also, we will be making a short video of the day, mainly as an intro to our preparation to the Gore Tex Grand Traverse (formerly the Elk Mountain GT).  While we will blab on a bit about training and stuff, hopefully there will be some scenic shots too.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Fun Skiing?

Tom and I went looking for some skiing that we would classify as fun yesterday before the storm relegated us to boring powder skiing.  Fun entails steep skiing, an ultra scenic setting, a challenge of sorts, or perhaps exploring new terrain.  Actually, who am I kidding?  It's all fun!

Here are a couple pics from our trip up the Apollo Couloir on Mount Olympus.

(All pics of the guy in orange are by Tom Goth)

A sneaky passage to avoid crappy wind slabs

Our cold winter has kept the valley nice and white

Tom in true 4x4 mode

Tom in the deep 

How many of those people that live in the cove realize that they could ski out their door?