Saturday, April 18, 2015

Farmington Canyon, April 16, 2015


The Farmington Canyon gate was unlocked for the summer season last week and, sure enough, we get hit with a major winter storm, one of few during the infamously bad winter of 2014-15. The problem is a foot of snow is tough to drive with all-season radials. Someone had driven almost to the Sheriffs Cabin and set a nice wheel track for us, and we drove as far as they did. It appeared they had chains and big, knobby tires, because once their tire track gave out my truck quickly got stuck. We dug out (20 minutes) and backed-down a hundred feet and parked at the pull-out by the bridge half-mile down-canyon (west) of the Sheriff's Cabin. Incidentally, that cabin kind of freaks me out every time I skin past the thing: very old, few windows (all boarded up) and it smells (seriously, it really smells), like an old, dilapidated boy scout camp lodge. And, I swear, three weeks ago I heard footstep inside that thing and my tracks were the only ones in the snow for miles and miles.  Hmmmmm?

Parking spot. We tried driving higher but got stuck just around the bend, beyond the bridge. 
 Sorry, I digress. It was April 16, 2015, tax-day-plus-one, and there was 12-inches of fresh Utah powder waiting to be skied after a long winter of scant storms, warm temps and thin snow pack. I've always been attracted to ratty skiing, seeking weird locations to avoid crowds, which often means hiking/skinning long, low-elevation approaches, through sagebrush and gamble oak and Gore-tex ripping shit. It's a choice I gladly make to avoid the lemming-track of the popular trail heads all too common in Wasangeles or Jackxeco City.

So Brett and I head up Farmington Canyon, a dirt road covered by 12 inches of slippery Wasatch powder, on bad tires, no chains, no tow strap, and just two, pathetically small and weak avalanche shovels, in the event we got stuck. And we ended up needing them, we gave them a work-out to free my truck after getting stuck when I tried forging the tire track through uncut snow after the first guy(girl) gave up. I made it only 100 feet beyond their turn-around and I floundered into the barrow pit on the side of the road. All I can say, avalanche shovels totally SUCK on dirt and rock, and they are pathetically bad at moving even small volumes of anything. I pity anyone who's life is dependent upon on these things. They don't move snow very well so if you're buried very deep, don't expect to live. Avoidance is the best medicine when it comes to an avalanche. Plus, cheap aluminium shovels get totally chewed by rocks and road base, and, after freeing my truck, I found the blade of my shovel had a serrated edge due to the abrasiveness of the rocky road base. In a best case scenario, freeing someone from a full burial with one of these Barbie-doll sized shovels would be spotty at best.    

Avalanche shovel on road base, freed the truck (on left, partially hidden by tree), but bad on avy shovel. Those things are way too soft for dirt and rock.

Early in the morning the snow was classic Utah powder: cold, low-density blower. But the wind was having its way and up high we could see that the new snow being ripped along the peak and ridges, revealing the SNURT (snow-dirt) layer laid down during Tuesday's (4-14-15) dust storm. But first things first, a bad snow year means a tough stream crossing then a terrible bush-whack to access the open bowls of Rice and Mud Creek. In a normal snow year we ski across that stream with hardly thought, and then skin straight up open slope and forests without a hint of brush. Today it was brush hell and too often I'd get one ski above a snag and one below, creating a straight-jacket affect on my feet. Worse, several times a branch would unlock my toe and I'd step out of my bindings. ARRRCGH!

We skinned as high as the new snow was still soft which meant we never topped out on the Ride Bowl ridge because the new snow was stripped clean the upper 50-100 feet, leaving a hard re-frozen crust, covered in the brown dust blown in from the Rio Tinto waste dump duing Tuesday's dust storm. We skied four runs in in the upper half of Rice Bowl, in the glades of Douglas Fir and Aspens that are perfectly spaced for skiing. The first two runs we skied perfect Utah powder, but then as the clouds started to part and the air temperature started to rise, with an almost audible change, the snow turned to Wasatch Cement. Our next two runs were in dense cement that made the turns work. Still fun, just not floating on air  and I felt a loss as we weren't free-falling like we were just moments before.  What can I say? The winter of 2014-15 has turned me into a total whiner.  


Farmington Creek, normally a walk-over in April but today a bit too wide to step across.

Brett made it across with only one wet foot. I opted to jump and a narrow spot and lucked out with no wet feet. 

Blue sky early but quickly gave way to wind and overcast skies.

SNURT revealing itself along the peaks and ridges, high winds blowing away yesterdays 12-inches of Utah Powder. This photo taken on the Rice Mud divide with the head of Mud Bowl above, now a nasty brown.

Rice Bowl hidden in fog, wind and Rio Tinto copper mine dust. I wonder what the percentage of copper is to tonnage in the SNURT now blanketing the snow pack of the Wasatch Mountains? 

Mud Bowl, snurt high, brush low.


Better view of the snurt line. Mud Peak (literally, when the snow start to melt). 

Mud Bowl, brush normally eight feet deep in April. We found great skiing to the right, in the glades of Rice Bowl

The trees were glazed with icy dust and the wind dropped these chocolate shavings everywhere.

Upper Rice/Mud Divide. Clouds parting once in awhile would spike the air temperature and the snow would instantly lose its loft, gaining more and more density. By 11:00AM is was cement.

Wind destroying what's left of the powder.

Not many shadows today, but I love it when the sun creates contrast in the snow, aspens and firs.





Lower Rice Bowl, the snow is wet and heavy, the brush ready to grab skis, pants, jackets. 


Twenty minutes of scraping snow away from my tires and my avy-shovel is toast.

(The yellowed Matterhorn Poster used as a backdrop? A gift from my Dad more than thirty years ago. He bought that thing in Gornergrat Switzerland  in 1975. Appropriate here because the yellow matches the color of the snurt now covering the Wasatch Mountains.) 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

B.C. Skiing, Farmington Canyon, March 27, 2015

The Farmington Canyon gate is still closed but the road is clear of snow to about half  mile above the Sheriff's Cabin and, due to hard pack snow, would be driveable (by a 4X4 ) to the parking lot. USFS, open that gate! The lower two miles of the road was recently bladed and is tough to ride on a two-wheeler due to the resulting 4-inches of loose, sharp rocks. Like riding through freshly poured concrete, it kept grabbing my front tire and trying to drop me. My arms ached for the next two days due to over-gripping the handled bars (which had nothing to do with being a total satchel-ass during tax-season).

I'm really not that fat. The gut is my camera (mostly) under my jacket. Seriously. 

Entrance to the Sheriff's Cabin. Think I'll get towed?? No worries, I didn't see another soul all day except for one surly mountain biker (glared at me) at the first switchback on my way out, .


Lower Snotel site in Farmington Canyon (elevation 6,750 feet), reporting eight inches of snow today.

In an average year there is eight feet of snow here in late March.

Bountiful Peak from the Rice-Mud divide, taken at about 8,000 feet. 

Almost to the top of Rice Bowl for run #2. I was hoping for perfect corn but, as you can see, I got mushy wind pillows. Still fun skiing, but a bit grabby and inconsistent and my bad choice of wax didn't help. I'm dumping Dakine and going back to SWIX or TOKO. You get what you pay for.

North view, Frances Peak and Rice Bowl on right.

View west from the top of Rice Bowl. Antelope Island (right) Oquirhs and Stansbury Mountains (left-ish)

I love Rice Bowl. Easy skiing and it usually holds good snow long after the sun comes out. The slope angle is moderate (30-35 degrees) but still very slide-able. Today, on the uphill side of the highest large Douglas Fir in the bowl (just out of view on right)  the avy debris was piled deep by a recent slide. 

My first two runs. Wet, sloppy, old powder, not the corn I was hoping to graze. 

I recently read that people who take a lot of selfies are 100-times more likely to commit a mass-murder than those who don't. What the hell?? Sounds like the hypothesis of one dropped on their head as an infant. No offense to anyone, just been around too many self-titled 'intellectuals' who dream up some really weird shit. 

My first two runs and another selfie . . . be very frightened. 

View south-east and Bountiful Peak from the top of Rice Bowl.

Did I tell you how much I love skiing Farmington Canyon? Fun glades and open bowls at a consistent 34 degree slope, and rarely another skier, but I had to buy a motorcycle to make this happen.

One of many beaver dams on Rice Creek, emerging from a pathetic winter snow-pack. A month ago I skied across that dam.

Photo from the Sheriff's cabin, 1,700 feet from the top. My turns are sooooo sloppy, and I wasn't even on tele-gear! My only excuse is wet wind pillows and bad wax. Hot-knife-through-butter - NOT!










Sunday, March 8, 2015

Bountiful Ridge, March 6, 2015

While gearing-up at the TR, this yappy-mutt wouldn't shut-the-hell-up. 

The "Three-Nephites," a major constriction on the approach. 

What a difference a week makes. This is the 'Rocky Switchback' a quarter mile below (west) of Rudy's Flat. Last week this was nearly free of snow and I booted well past Rudy's. Today, covered with about a foot of new-ish snow.

Moose bed near Rudy's Flat.

30 inches (78cm) at Rudy's Flat.


Skinner up the head-wall above Rudy's.

Last week bare, this week a foot of snow, at the rocky choke mid-way between Dead Tree and Rectangle Peaks.

View down the ski run I call 'Scott Cutler's Yellow Coat,' named after a high school friend who, on a cold spring camp out at this spot in 1976 (when we were about 15), luxuriated in his warm. yellow coat while the rest of us FROZE. This is at the rocky choke, midway between Dead Tree and Rectangle Peaks. 


Sun, snow, shadows - beautiful! Wish the photographer could do it justice.


My first run turns down Crescent Bowl (right). Crescent Peak is the high point (left) with John Mills' turns from March 3rd  descending form the top (left).

My skin track across the top of 'Scott Cutler's Yellow Coat,' taken from near the summit of Rectangle Peak. 

First run turns. 

48-inches (123cm) at the base of Crescent Bowl

Heading up for run number 2, this is my skin track ascending Rectangle Run-North, with John Mills' turns of March 3rd descending on left to right.  

My first two runs, upper Crescent Bowl. 

My turns from Crescent Peak, view west towards the Oquirhs. 
Looking at turns.  

Getting warm and wet.

The view heading home, almost to the North Canyon-Mueller divide. 

Two days old, my tracks in Crescent Bowl (upper-middle), and my skin track up Rectangle Run-North (mid-lower-right), John Mills' tracks everywhere (fading, but visible on far left and far right)! He did eight laps on March 3rd! I need some of his mojo!