Thursday, March 14, 2013

Timp From the Top

A few years ago Jason and I ticked a lifetime goal by skiing the West Face of Mount Timpanogos.  Plainly visible from anywhere along the I-15 corridor throughout Utah County, the peak has over 7000 feet of prominence and is often confused as the highest peak in the Wasatch.  Our parents live on its western flank and although we have departed from their house numerous times to ski the North Summit, we haven't climbed and skied the true summit from the west.  

Had we been a little more awake (or maybe if Jason had woken up on time), we might have insisted on hiking from their doorstep, but we cheated a bit and started a mile down the road at the mouth of Battle Creek Canyon.   Eschewing our ski boots in favor of running shoes, we hiked a couple miles on dirt intermixed with lingering ice and snow until it was clear we could skin continuously; hopefully all the way to the summit.  

The morning dawned sharp and colorful as we ascended above the western foothills.  The snow was firm and the rising sun portended good things to come.  We switched between skinning and booting as dictated by the slope angle and degree of iciness.  Unfortunately, the conditions were perfect for ski crampons.  Those would be very firm while skinning but with an icy crust just weak enough to punch through while booting.  With ski crampons tucked away in the garage, we endured intermittent icy skinning admixed with some breakable, spiteful shin bashing crust, and every now and then firm perfect booting.  

Quickly enough and feeling surprisingly fresh after very little sleep, Noah, Jason, and I made ourselves at home in the summit hut.  Jason shoveled some snow against the openings to create a wind block, and we settled in to let the rising sun do its work. 

Maybe an hour later, shivering in the warm March sun (are we really already accustomed to 60 degree weather?), we impatiently cast off.  For those unaware, Timp is huge.  From afar, its slopes look nearly vertical but while on the face, the angle lessons (maybe high 30s with a tad of low 40s at some crux chokes) and everything appears quite easy.  

And it should be.  Except today it was glistening with the sheen of yesterday's melt/freeze.  We wanted to ski fast but were reduced to a turn at a time accompanied by the deafening roar of metal on "ice".  I don't love this.  I used to, but the reality of a blown turn on big terrain is more real now.  I have a rad little boy, a darling wife, a good job, and a lot more than I deserve.  It's just something I think about more often now.  

Anyway, soon enough, the combination of decreasing elevation, warmer temperatures, and shelter from the wind worked together to produce a nice layer of corn for a couple thousand feet of the descent.  We grew up in Indiana and ate more corn than was intended for humans.  Now the only varieties I enjoy are popped and under my skis.  Now carefree and thoroughly enjoying the spring weather, we gang skied until the snow turned isothermic and then yielded to dirt.  

With pants rolled up and flip flops on our feet, we then drove directly to Fong's Chinese Diner in American Fork for some of the best Pon Pon and General's Chicken in the region.  

Nice morning colors
Approaching a rotten rock band with rotten snow that we avoided on the descent

Good step, good step...Crater...

More spiteful crust terrorizing my thighs (photo by Jason Dorais)

Photo by JD

One crater even tried to swallow Noah

Jason was on mohair skins and Noah on nylon.  Jason preferred kick turns but Noah plowed straight ahead.  On problem for Jason was that his skins were too narrow but with really light gear where a faster cadence is easier, I think kick turns are probably more efficient. 

Nearing the summit hut

Last few meters to the top (photo by JD)

Looking down toward Aspen Grove (photo by JD)

The view to the south

Noah being greeted by some nice conditions 

Getting a little better (photo by JD)

Jason didn't care that it was icy and variable

More JD with the Oquirrhs in the background

Noah and a rapidly thawing Utah Lake

The exit tube...

...was a little dry in places

Then it pinched down...

....and spit us out on dirt

The umbrella at Fongs was broken so we found another use for Voile straps

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