Saturday, March 10, 2012

Bountiful Ridge 03-09-2012

City Creek and Gotham.

Aged powder in the shade.

Wet "powder" in the sun.

What you smiling at?? Tough skin track!

Red zone!

Skied Bountiful Ridge again on Friday, March 9, 2012.
I got away from work way late and didn’t hit the trail until 1:45. Should have known, it’s almost impossible to get away once chained to the desk, better to just take the whole day.
As it was, I barely had time to skin up and make a couple of runs. The sun was setting on the second run and fully dark during the hike out. But I’m weird, I like nighttime descents. I have a positive association with nighttime hiking: early morning summit bids and evening ski exits are some of my fondest and most rewarding moments of life. After a good day on skis the dark of night is an inexplicable comfort; the feeling is of peace, calmness and contentment. There was no wind nor weather, the only sound was the crunch of boots on frozen snow, and when I stopped to listen, the reward was the soft, subtle call of a screech owl. I haven’t heard one since last winter during a similar descent. It’s good to be on familiar ground.
The feeling was the complete opposite 6 hours earlier when leaving work. In the bc ski world, trust, respect and cool-headedness under fire are paramount. Those ideals don't always translate to the real world, especially the business world. Backcountry skiing is an escape, a world where I call the shots, where I am in control.
I booted up North Canyon and again scouted my new route up the North Fork of North Canyon, trying to make it work. The traditional route up the main drainage of North Canyon is a rat’s-nest of thick willows and tight oak-brush. Made worse under a thin snow-pack like we’ve seen this winter. For the last few years I’ve eyed the pine covered ridge of the North Fork and wondered that maybe it’d mean less brush. So this winter I started exploring. The first two tries were NOT any better because I hugged the ridge too closely and fought oak brush almost all the way up. Today was a victory – I now have the new route dialed! - as I found a passage with little bush-whacking (a relative term for North Canyon). The secret was to stay low and stick to the Douglas Fir. The route is a winner, although tons of downed trees from last January wind event meant hurdling sizable logs and branches. Like I said, it is North Canyon. Adventure skinning for sure.  Overall the new route is a big improvement over the main drainage, maybe a wee bit longer, like a tenth of a mile, but now my preferred route.   
The snow was mostly wet and sun baked, but in the trees, on the true northern aspects, creamy aged powder was found, making for excellent turning conditions. The sunbaked snow was not bad either. With a solid supportable base it was almost the consistency of corn, just looser and not quite as forgiving, but still fun. The down side, when the sun set the wet snow immediately froze into grabby crusts, making the turns trippy and just a lot of hard work. When I reached the mountain bike trail I opted to boot out, skis on pack. Those icy 4X4 ruts torn in the lower canyon road are not my idea fun. I’d rather walk.
I skied two runs off Rectangle Peak (my title). I set two different skin tracks to the top, primarily to see new ground and check conditions on another hill. The trail-breaking effort was negligible so setting a new track on the second ascent didn’t cross my mind.  The original plan was to hike a mile beyond the Rectangle Peak (my name) and ski a steep northerly shot off Burro Mine, a thin cut through the trees (75 feet wide, 900 ft. vert.) I call “Burro Mine – Big Drop One” or “Big Drop One” for short, named out of respect for Cataract Canyon and my river-running Dad/Bros/Nephew’s. The Burro Mine 'Big Drops' (One through Twelve skied so far) are big lines with steep angles and northern aspects making for great skiing. Unfortunately, Wasatch Powderbird Guides (WPBG) caught wind of this and now fly rich clients to ski my lines (3 times so far this year). Nothing is sacred. Due to the late start I had to stop short and fit in my two measly runs down the Rectangle (37 degree slope, NW aspect, 700 ft. vert.,  7,650- 8,350.). Still a great day skiing. Next week it’ll be Big Drop One.  
Miles - 7.5
Vert. - 3,700. Low 5,550 ft., High 8,500 ft.; 2 runs X 700 ft. vert. off high point (Rectangle Peak).
Snow - Rudy’s Flat (7,150 feet):  49 inches.
            Rectangle Bowl (7,713 feet): 69 inches.
Slope angles - 25-38degrees.
Slope Aspect -  North to North-West to West
Weather - 100% sun, calm, temperatures: mid 40's to low 50's.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Bountiful Ridge 03-03-2012

The season is winding down, or at least transitioning from powder to corn. March can mean the end of winter (2007, 2008), or a bonus month of cold and snow. I’m hoping for another month of winter. That said, there are always powder days in April, May and even early June, but one must hit it as the snow is falling.

This winter has been frustrating at best. Not the endless powder days of 2010-11. 2011-12 has shown all conditions: no snow, sugar snow, sketchy avalanche conditions, too many work days and partners with alternative objectives (i.e. low-bar objectives), resulting in numerous missed opportunities. I miss the days of hard charging for multiple laps on perfect powder slopes.

Today we went up Bountiful Ridge, a local hill that I’ve skied since the mid-70’s. It’s a challenging objective for its grunge features: longish approach, oak brush and relatively low elevation (5,500 to 8,500 ft – laps on the top 1,000). Today it didn’t disappoint, the oak is still thick, the trail still long, but the snow was stable, soft and deep. And the turning was sublime (who the hell uses that word?).

I skied with a neighbor (Byron) who was on AT gear for the first time - ever. New boots, new skis, new skins, everything so shiny. Other than a few learning-curve-quirks, he did great. It’s good to find new, young, fit partners. Hope I didn’t scare him off with the hellish pace through the oak-brush. Hey, it was a ‘powder-no-friends-day’.

52-inches of stable snow at 7,200 feet.

The goods, after the trials of the approach, many great ski options.