Monday, May 30, 2016

Bountiful Peak, May 22, 2016

Winter ended in February this year. It stopped snowing by the end of January and the temperatures were a full month ahead of schedule. To add insult to the situation, the temps remained warm into April and only then did we get some real precipitation. For the last month (mid-April on) it has rained every other day below 8,000 feet, with nice powder above. I say 'insult to the situation' because my usual ski haunts are low elevation, the winter snow pack mostly gone, and I'm just too damn lazy to drive up the Cottonwoods. OK, that's not entirely true. The reality is I was busy working on those powder days, and timing is everything when searching for powder in the spring.

Yesterday it rained most the day in the valley. I was outside helping a neighbor lady clean her yard and I got soaked. My old NF Goretex jacket even soaked through, and I was as cold in that rain as I had been all winter. When the clouds parted I could see a dusting of snow on the upper 500 feet of Bountiful Peak. Huh, maybe an inch of powder tomorrow morning?

I got up early and drove up the now open Farmington Canyon road, early enough to get home in time for church. The upper gates at the Francis Peak/Bountiful Peak junction are still locked so that's where I started booting. There were patches of snow in the shady spots but it wasn't continuous until I reached Farmington Lakes, about a mile up the road and sitting at 8,040 feet. I started skinning there and, using crampons, climbed straight up the fall line to the  rock outcrop on the ridge just north of the summit of Bountiful Peak. That was my apex. My first turn set of a respectable slough, maybe big enough to knock me off me feet, so I stopped and watched it flow, primarily to avoid a larger slide in the event of propagation and a wet slide. The slope was 40 degrees and my slough did slide to the bottom (500~vertical), but it didn't kick off anthing larger, a good indicator that the slope was safe. I skied without hesitation to stay ahead of more sloughing and the snow was idiot proof; solid but very carvable. Yesterdays powder had turned to 'porn' (refrozen new snow that had turned to mush before cooling in the night). Powder-to-corn is porn. A stupid name, but that is skiing for you.

So, two quick runs off the north should of Boubntiful Peak and then a quick exit for home. The Farmington Canyon road is as smooth as I've ever seen it and I drove the upper section at almost 50 mph, and yes, I made it to church on time, one minute to spare.

Lonely parking lot at the Farncis/Bountiful Peaks junction on a Sunday morning. In the good days, when the snow fell deep and when the road was plowed, that gate was completely covered with snow. 

Bountiful Peak from the road near the campground. 

More bad weather on the way, but makes for nice clouds? 

Aspens, just leafing out, and the last of the winter's snow.

The morning sun and cumulus clouds make for idiot proof photography.

Farmington Lakes with Mud Peak above (half covered in snow).

Skin track. Firm snow, skins and ski crampons allows for straight up skinning. It doesn't look steep but this is about 38 degree slope.

Francis Peak from the north shoulder of Bountiful Peak.

Bountiful Peak offers some steep couloirs, over 50 degrees.

Wind-downed tree? Every thing nearby was standing, so apparently this wasn't the result of an avalanche.

This was a sizable cornice a month ago, about 15-20 feet high, but now melting into the hill.

Clouds enveloping Francis Peak. 

My turns are barely visible in the old snow. My first turn started a slough that ran about 500 vertical, but it didn't propagate so, after watching it run I committed to the hill and skied quickly to stay ahead of my slough. The snow  was wet and heavy enough that if caught by my slough, it probably would've knocked me off my feet.

Selfies, always better without faces.

Walking out down the road, I've never seen so many dead worms. 

Bountiful Peak Road, just below the Bountiful Peak Campground. I have a lot of great memories skinning up and skiing down this road. Kind of sad to see it free of snow, soon to be a cloud dust by the ATV's that take over during the summer/ 

Rice Bowl as seen from the road. 

The switchbacks of lower Farmington Canyon. It almost looks like Ireland. In another month it'll look brown like Utah.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Mt. Van Cott and Pyramid Peak, Spring 2016:

Mt. Van Cott, May 3, 2016

Arrowleaf Balsamroot

Evening Primrose

Longleaf Phlox

Mt. Van Cott, May 11, 2016

Blue sky and Arrowleaf Balsamroot.

Gobbler's Knob (open face, leftish), Mt. Raymond (pointy, treed peak mid-right), Wildcat Ridge (far right) with Red Butte ridge line in the foreground.

Mt. Olympus (left) with Thunder Mountain peeking over Oly's shoulder through the clouds and the open bowl in the middle is upper Bells Canyon with Lone Peak looming above. 

Arrowleaf Balsamroot on the summit of Mt. Van Cott, with Red Butte Peak, Mt. Wire (far left) and the Central Wasatch beyond.

Pyramid Peak (Cave Peak), May 15, 2016

Pyramid Peak, or Cave Peak if you believe the USGS top maps. I grew up listening to my Dad and older brothers and all their friends call it Pyramid Peak, presumably for the shape, so Pyramid it is. 

Indian Paintbrush on the summit of Pyramid Peak.

On a misty mountain run, this is the view from Pyramid Peak towards Bountiful Ridge, where I've largely spent my whole ski career (career?) skiing untouched powder. Hard the believe I skied it just three weeks earlier.

I've got a fever for Arrowleaf Balsamroot.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Farmington Canyon, April 22, 2016

End of the road, at the Sheriff's Cabin. I rode all the way to the "parking lot" at the Francis Peak - Bountiful Peak junction (FPBPJct), another mile beyond this spot. The road from the Sheriff's gate to the FPBPJct was mostly clear with just a few sections still snow-covered, but rideable with a narrow strip of bare dirt along the lip of the road.   
My Farmington Canyon streak is still alive! I have skied Mudd and Rice Bowl at least once a year ever since I started to drive (1978), but that became much more difficult five years ago when the Farmington Canyon road was closed due to a small land slide (just above the second switchback). Once the road was repaired the National Forest Service opted out of winter-plowing due to the cost. Until the closure five years ago, the road was plowed to provide winter access to the Francis Peak radar facility for FAA employees. Evidently it is now less expensive to fly employees to the peak rather than plow the road.

The gate at the mouth of the canyon is now locked each winter. To ski upper Farmington canyon without vehicle access meant waiting for the road to melt off, which in dry/warm years can be early February, then ride a mountain bike up the road. And it seems like the winters are getting warmer and dryer. When I was in high school  (35 years ago) the snow came deeper and stayed longer in the Wasatch. That's not politics, just the plain, cold facts of our world. The canyon is still accessible by riding around the locked gate, limiting one to your feet or any vehicle less than the width of the trail around the gate, which is roughly three feet wide. At first I considered buying a snowmobile, but that idea died in its infancy when I realized how expensive snowmobile ownership is. It is way too rich for me. Snowmobiling is one of the most elitist, high-income hobbies on earth. It rivals boating, flying (airplanes not para-sails) and auto racing in terms of income as a barrier to entry.  Between the snowmobile(s), trailer and a huge truck to tow it all, it quickly adds up to tens of thousands of dollars, and easily totals over $100K, and I don't even like snowmobiling. It was just too pricey for mere ski access. In comparison, skiing is a poor man's sport, especially back country skiing when no lift ticket is required.

The first few years with the canyon closed my access was via a bicycle. I strapped skis to my mountain bike and pedaled up the road, which is about eight miles and a 2,000 foot vertical gain. By itself, a fairly minor cycling effort, but add in a full ski-rig strapped to the bike and a pack loaded with ski boots and clothing, the effort becomes much tougher. Since the road closure I've managed three to four ski days up there per year via bicycle. It wasn't easy but it kept my Farmington Canyon ski streak alive. The big downside is the ride up required a big aerobic effort which cut in to my skiing. Rather than four or five runs in the upper bowls (4-5K vertical), which was an average day when the canyon was drive-able, I'd be exhausted after just one or two runs. What can I say? I'm Old, I'm bald and numerous body parts are falling off.

How could I make the access easier? I considered renting snowmobiles but ultimately realized that with the southern aspect of the road the lower canyon is often snow free. I hear riding a snowmobile several miles on dirt is not good for the machinery, thus another reason not to buy a snowmachine. Extreme times require extreme measures so last year I did something desperate; I bought a dual-sport motorcycle (Yamaha WR250R), legal both on and off road. Yeah, my Yamaha is kind of weak in the horsepower department, I wanted a KTM-EXC 500, but since I'm kind of cheap, I found the KTM's to be way too expensive ($11K out the door), so I settled for a medium priced, underpowered Yamaha, but it works great! I can ride from my house up to Farmington, ride around the locked gate, then up the closed road. All with my skis strapped to my seat. From home that requires about ten miles on pavement, and as you can guess, I get a lot of stunned looks.  

Today the road was mostly clear and  I rode all the way up to the Francis/Bountiful Peak Junction, which was our old launching point back when the road was plowed, but today, in order to hasten my exit to get to work, I retreated a mile back down the road to the Sheriff's Cabin. From there I skinned the Van Fleet/Mudd/Rice Divides and skied down Rice Creek back to the Sheriff's cabin. The night was warm, like upper forties at 8,000, so the snow was wet and soft and not the corn I was hoping for. So wet and so soft that my skins and crampons often failed and my skis would skate when the angle got too steep. The crux of the day was crossing the stream, both on the up and the down. The stream is small but it is raging, and on the up I crossed using a log about an eighth mile above the cabin. Coming out I was running late for work and I had a fleeting thought to just straightline the final pitch (still snow covered) to the creek and skim it with my skis on. The big unknown was: could I get across without sinking? If I couldn't, could I get out of skis before I drowned? Ultimately I chickened out, tossed my skis over and waded the creek in my ski boots. Wading the creek was tough. It was deep and swift and I realized I made the correct choice. The water so strong it nearly took me down, and, at mid-thigh-depth, skimming it could have been a disaster. Although, the thought of the looks on the faces of the Davis County Sheriff's crew, pulling my dead body from Farmington Creek clad n ski gear, made me chuckle. Who would be so stupid?
As you can see, the south aspects are mostly free of snow. This is the gate at the Sheriff's cabin, at about 6,850 feet.

An old car dumped in Farmington Creek, decades ago. Trashy folks are abundant in every generation. The question is, are you trash are or are you  cream?

Old outhouse near the Sheriff's cabin.

Aspens in the melting snow. 

I'm in the 'don't-give-a-shit, too-lazy-to-take-them-off" phase of ski ownership. 

Layne's skin track from last week. He caught it with dryish powder. Today it was all wet, no re-freeze, temps in the 60's and a hot south wind blowing all day. 

A Douglas Fir cone. You can tell by the 'legs' protruding from each scale of the cone. I love Doug Firs! Beautiful trees!  

Bountiful Peak from about half way up the Mudd/Rice divide (view south). I call the open slop on the left "Memorial Day Bowl" because I've skied it way too many times on Memorial Day. It's an easy approach from Bountiful via Skyline Drive by then.

The balcony, the rocky point on the Mudd/Rice divide.

Upper Mudd Bowl with Rice on the right.

Spring snow. My skins were surprisingly muddy when I transitioned to ski. 

Zoomed view of Francis Peak (9,487 feet) from the Mudd/Rice divide.

Cornice above Mudd Bowl.

Selfie. What a fat-ass!

Top of Rice Bowl (elev. 8,730 feet), view NW. Rice Bowl on right, Francis Peak far right and Antelope Island on the left (just above my head).

View south towards Bountiful Peak (high point above my head).

Skiing Rice Bowl.

Francis Peak (9,487 feet) from the top of Rice Bowl. 

Bountiful Peak (9,262 feet) from the top of Rice Bowl.

Antelope Island from the top of Rice Bowl.

View SW from the top of Rice. Oquirrh Mountains across the valley, with the Stansbury Mountains (11,028 foot Deseret Peak) barely seen two valleys away. 

While skiing down Rice Creek, I could hear the creek raging under the snow and I was scared I'd punch though and drown. As you can see, not enough water to fear.

Beaver pond in lower Rice Creek drainage.

Beaver Pond with upper Rice Bowl above. 

There are about ten beaver ponds within a quarter mile of the Sheriff's Cabin.

Like I said, too lazy to take them off. Besides. the grass is so soft there was little or no damage.

Sheriff's cabin and the the stream crossing, which turned out to be the crux of the day. I was in a a hurry to get to work and instead of walking 1/8 mile up canyon to the log, I tossed my skis over  then waded the creek in my ski boots. It is deeper than I expected, about mid-thigh, and the force nearly took me down. Before wading I had a fleeting thought to straight-line the snow and "pond-skim" the creek, but in hindsight I could've been in trouble if I'd sunk with my skis on.  

No parking zone.

I'm too short for a dirt-bike, especially when straddling skis. Actually, it's just hard to get on and off, or put a foot down while at a red light. It's no problem while riding.

Drying out from wading Farmington Creek. The rocks are to keep  my stockings from blowing away in the south wind. Don't laugh, I've never had a blister while wearing knee-highs nylons under my socks.