Sunday, February 25, 2018

Meridian Peak (Hokkaido East), February 25, 2018

Oquirh's from the North Salt Lake Bench.
I did a quick hit this morning on Meridian Peak, which tops out at 5,973 feet, a low-elevation affair with the prerequisite thin snow pack. I call it Hokkaido East, not for deep snow of course, but for the sort-of-similar flora. Hokkaido, Japan, has the deepest and lightest powder in the world and those who 'know' say it puts Alta to shame, but the vegetation of Hokkaido reminds of the foothills of the Wasatch with its deciduous Canyon Maples and Gamble Oak. So no, there is not tons of snow on Meridian Peak, but I still think it looks like Hokkaido.

This has been a strange winter. Warm and bone dry, and when I finally give up on winter it starts to snow, which it has done now almost continuously for the last two weeks. I've been too busy with real-life stuff for skiing higher elevations, where the snow is deeper but the approaches are much longer, like at least a half day commitment. The result is I haven't skied in two weeks. But there is hope when the foothills get a foot or two of snow. I saw several trip reports saying the foothills were good, so Sunday morning I went for the shorty-short-short approach hoping for deep cover. And??? Yes, it was OK, not great, but a day on skis is better than a day not on skis. Besides, why amplify expectations when you're headed to stuff barely topping out at 6,000 feet? It is what it is. Just go with it. The cover was thin, between 10 to 20 inches (drifts), and on average just barely enough to ski but still a damn fine day on skis! Admittedly, my standards this year are pretty low. I hit the ground a lot and I was glad I went with my old rock skis (eight year old Black Diamond Justices). For the descent I chose a grassy hill to minimize the damage. I knew it was grassy - with few rocks - because I often ride my mountain bike up the adjoining drainage during the summer. The skiing was fun, if slightly off-fall-line (big right turns, shallow lefts) but I received NO core shots. I almost went down once or twice when the skis abruptly hit ground, nearly causing a face plant, and I saw dirt flying once when glancing over my shoulder. It is what it is.

And BRRRRRRR! It was frigid and cloudy at the start, sunny and warm at the finish. The clouds hung over the mountains until I was about done, but when it came out the sunshine felt wonderful on my face.

Antelope Island in the sun while I'm still under clouds.

An old corral from a forgotten era on Meridian.

Antelope Island from the flanks  of Meridian Peak.

I felt bad that I made these deer run up a snow-covered hillside. Wish I was that fast.

Still a gray day when I topped out on Meridian, but the sun was bright to the west.

This was an accidental shot . . . and I hate selfies, at least of me. Just too old and haggard to be flashing my face all over the place.

No motors? No worries, on my best day I could never motor anywhere. My legs are slow. That said, when I was in high school in the late '70's these foothills were torn to shreds by four-wheeler's and it has taken four decades to begin to repair naturally, although, the old Jeep roads are still evident, even under snow. 

View south towards Radio Canyon and Radio Ridge, and Salt Lake City beyond. That drone is a huge waste of time.

West view and the Great Salt Lake looking very blue beyond the now land-locked Antelope Island (far right out of frame).

It tracks and follows extremely well, but such a waste of ski-time.

I really made more than three turns. These are the final three after skiing down the SW face of Meridian (hidden behind) and then down the drainage of Radio Canyon (Jones Canyon on some maps). Besides, that hill directly above my turns looks even more sketchy (thinner cover) than where I skied. Conditions were cold and powdery with just a hint of sun-crust  from yesterdays very brief sun (like 5 minutes). 

Meridian Peak is the high point in the middle of the picture, barely visible behind its lower sister peak, the rounded hump just above my three turns. Radio Canyon (Jones Canyon?) is the right-side drainage and Radio Ridge on the right.

Such a beautiful day when the sun came out on the new snow.

The old CCC terraces (built in the 1930's during the depression) still visible.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Beartrap Fork, BCC, February 9, 2018

A warm (50's) and windy (20-30mph on ridges) day in Big Cottonwood Canyon. I went for a look up Beartrap Fork which I have never seen from the bottom up. Previous ski days up here were from Powder Park via Mill B North, so it was high time that I saw the whole thing. The lower drainage is tight and steep-ish, which was not a big deal on the ascent but kind of tricky when descending, clipping trees and rocks. In a normal snow year I'd guess the descent is easier with more the logs and rocks covered. The skiing kind of sucked. I didn't find much "creamy powder" as I was hoping. Most of it was sloppy spring snow and grippy. Skiing the aspens in upper Beartrap nearly resulted in face- planting 24-inch diameter (40-foot tall) aspens which could've been ugly (to me, not the aspens) but luckily I pulled out the near misses. Maybe it's best not to ski tight trees alone when the snow is 6-inches of mashed potatoes? 

From lower Beartrap, view south of Reynolds Peak and Dromedary  Peak (rounded peak on left).

From mid Beartrap looking up the drainage (North). 

View east and the Beartrap Glades.

Tight skiing in sloppy wet snow.

This was the only dry-ish snow found all day, on the sub=peak of 9990 (just above Desolation Lake. But it was short lived. 30 feet down-slope it turned to mashed potatoes.

View west towards the Salt Lake valley.

Mt. Raymond and Gobblers Nob from just above Desolation Peak on West Desolation Ridge.

Desolation Lake from the small peak just south of Peak 9990.

Desolation Lake and Powder Park beyond, from West Desolation Ridge (view north).

Thin snow pack made the descent kind of tricky. This was as wide open as it got.

My truck parked on the Big Cottonwood Highway. 

Sunday, January 28, 2018

New Boots, Broken Binding and Thin Cover

Kara's Pot Farm, 13-inches of snow, 48-inches of Gamble Oak, at 6.5k elevation.

One cut, a drop in the bucket in a bad snow year.

Snow stake tells a grim story.

18-inches at Rudy's Flat. . . 

 . . . and about 30 in mid-Rectangle Bowl.

Upper Rectangle Bowl.

First day in my new Scarpa F1's, and they feel pretty good right out of the box, no pro-fitting, no heat-molding and zero manipulation other than wearing socks. I've owned a lot of ski boots since I started skiing in 1972 (10 years old) and I've had the best success just letting my ski boots mold themselves through hard use. Yes, be totally OCD when selecting the size, and try on hundreds of boots before your decide, but once purchased, just ski them to see where they need some tweaking. 

I bought new boots this years because I've been miserable the last four years in Dynafit TLT6s, losing multiple toe nails, perpetual blisters on the tips of my toes, and just plain bloody toes for the last four years. But I was too proud to give them up after paying full price and having them professionally fitted. Never again will I let anyone tell me how to fit my ski boots. I bought the Dynafits at the Black Diamond Store in SLC and "professional boot fitting" was included "free" with the purchase. My inclination was to fit them myself, which I've done numerous times with good success, but four years ago I thought what the hell, why not get free, pro fitting? But hell it was!! The fitter was younger in years than the number of ski boots I've owned! The young age of the fitter was no problem, the problem was this: she didn't listen to me through-out the fitting session and basically told me I was full of shit every time I offered input. She acted like some wizened "boot-whisperer" and had an answer for every suggestion I made. She was condescending, and told me I was 'man-splaining' when I was describing how the boots felt. Can one really 'man-splain' when describing how a ski-boot feels? I'm no chauvinist, but in this case the term was misused and not understood by a young lady who really shouldn't be in the business of boot-fitting. She was  looking for a fight when all I wanted was a ski boot that fit. So, lesson learned, this time I'm doing it my way, and so far so good. 
But new boots don't help when your binding explodes at the top of your first (and only) run. This is the plastic bolt-sink that anchors the binding for sole length. It broke when I tried to lock in my left heal for my first ski run. When it broke the binding slid backward an inch or so, which meant there was no way to lock down. I tried to reset the length but to no avail, so I finally "skinned" back down the trail. It was just too awkward to ski with one foot locked and the other not, so I left my skins on to help control my speed. Plus it's not a good idea to 'tele' on tech-bindings and AT boots. I love to tele, that's the only way to ski groomers when one skis at a resort, otherwise groomers get boring incredibly fast. But tele boots are flexible at the ball of the foot whereas AT boot are stiff from toe to heal and they can rip the toe binding out of the ski without much torque. So, I 'skinned' downhill from the top of a beautiful, steep mountainside of Utah powder, and was feeling really sorry for myself, but then realized how pathetic it was to feel shame when in it was such a beautiful day and such a beautiful environment. It just didn't matter. 
This picture shows the difference in length and how my left binding was way too long with the broken plastic base plate. Oh well, they are eight-years old, nothing lasts forever.

Binding removed from ski, showing the small missing plastic which made all the difference for locking down the heal. 

Monday, January 1, 2018

Cutler Ridge, Friday, December 29, 2017

Cutler Ridge, on the east side of Mount Ben Lomand, is the 'snowiest place in Utah' as per Wasatch Weather Weenies, but not this year. The skiing still sucks because, like  Wednesday (12/27/17), we  were on maybe even less snow than Bountiful Ridge (15inches or so) and constantly hooking ski tips. In fact, I got tossed into cartwheel face-plant falls - TWICE - upon hooking a ski tip on the descent. We went up to the 'Dead Tree' just above the Cutler snotel, then called it a day due to the lack of snow. The immense landscape of exposed rock and brush was just completely demoralizing, at least ski wise. The upside is that any day on a snowy, sunlit mountain feels like heaven!! Much better than sitting at home and binge watching "The Crown" on Netflicks. Yes, I've kind of morphed into a 'Royal' aficionado, if only to lust after their totally self-absorbed, indulgent "do whatever-the-hell-I-want-whenever-the-hell-I-want" lifestyles. Hell, they go ski the Swiss Alps and whine about the Vodka Service. I'd be pickled to ski anywhere east of of Evanston and drink tap-water. We can only dream . . . 

Is this someone's idea of Utah-entrepreneurialship? Buying ice when it's like 10-degrees F? I'm guessing it'll be a multi-level marketing set-up...  

A year ago we skied the lower left-side bowl which, as you can see, is currently all brush. 

Jonah, and the dead tree.

Brett (l) dead tree and Jonah (r). No snow but that sun felt glorious on my face.

Brett and Jonah overlooking Cutler Bowl with the mighty Mount Ben Lomand overhead. 

and Willard Peak, the cliffy face seen just above Brett and Jonah.

Despite no snow, I did manage to link four turns without hooking a tip.

Then the madness started (hooking tips) as we started down the approach trail. I fell hard -  twice -  but Brett and Jonah are better skiers than I and never went down.