Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Timpanogos, North Shoulder, April 21, 2012

Bright ideas.

Grunge Couloir.

Bear Grylls?

Cold Fusion on the right with too many rollers. Ski conditions were less than steller.

Cold Fusion Couloir.

North face of Timp.

Lower Forked Tongue Couloir. Biskets anyone?

Bare ground on NW shoulder.

Cold Fusion Couloir on left, Forked Tongue center, our ski tracks on right.

Mount Timpanogos – North Shoulder, Saturday April 21, 2012

After five miles of following their tracks, we round a bend in the road, just below Cold Fusion, and there they are.  “They” are two climbers who have just climbed the Cold Fusion Couloir, a 3,000 vertical foot avalanche path running NW off the North Peak of Timp.

Anyone driving south out of Salt Lake City on I-15 has seen it, assuming they have a passing interest in the Wasatch. When under snow, the ski potential of Cold Fusion is palpable, as viewed when driving past the Utah State Pen, it just begs to be skied. Those damn convicts must go nuts when they have yard time, staring up at the mother of all Utah ski runs for its length and drop.

Our plan (Brett Fuller, me) was to ride mountain bikes, skis strapped to frame, from the Timpanogas overlook along the Timpenooke road to the base of the Cold Fusion Couloir, hike up the heart of the couloir to the North Peak of Timpenogas, then ski the Cold Fusion back to our bikes. About 8 miles one way and about 4,660 foot elevation gain. We had a great plan, but the execution was bad. From the parking lot, about half mile above Mutual Dell Campground in American Fork Canyon, and where the road is gated during the winter months, we rode the bikes less than two miles before hitting continuous snow. Basically, the road was impassable about half mile below Timpenooke Campground, so we  dump bikes at the campground (chained to a tree) and started booting Timpenooke Road, about 4 miles to the base of Cold Fusion.

We got away late due to poor planning on my part. The forecast was for hot temperatures overnight, and without a solid re-freeze even at mountain locations, and instead of heeding centuries-old mountain wisdom of “go early-leave early”, my weird logic led to sleeping late. I mean, why rush it with an Alpine start? If no freeze, might as well go well rested, right? The smart thing, given the recent dump of snow and the sudden heat wave,  would have been to NOT go at all. The lesser smart thing would be a 2AM start to take advantage of the tepid cold temperatures that we did have. The stupid thing would be to sleep in and wait for the snow to turn to total mush before we start.

So, bikes chained to a tree at Timpenooke Campground, we start booting up the road. By 9AM, and a mile of post-holing later, we finally don skis to provide some float. We skin the road for five miles, below the impressive, Canadian-esque, North Face of Timp and it’s Grunge Couloir and the Pinball Alleys of the north face. Along the way we find very fresh bear tracks, fresher then the boot tracks of the climbers we're tracking. The Ursa tracks are about the size of my hand with fingers outstretched. Ironically, we cross those tracks in the exact sport where a young boy was killed by a hungry black bear several years earlier.

Now, six miles later, we come face to face with the two climbers we’ve been trailing all morning. They ask where we’re headed. I say, “we’re gonna ski Cold Fusion”. The shorter, cockier one, about age 25, smirks and tells me we should have started way earlier. What’s with young know-it-all climbers? I climbed that thing back when he was still in Pampers and playing with Power Rangers. Admittedly, he is right, but the lack of re-freeze makes him practically as stupid as I. If he were so enlightened, why would he pick the hottest day of the year to climb a steep and serious avalanche chute, just two days after a 24-inch dump of wet spring snow? “Stupid is and stupid does sir”, to paraphrase my mentor and hero, Forrest L. Gump of Greenbo Alabama.

Anyway, they tell us the fall line of the couloir is choked with avalanche debris and virtually un-skiable. “Climber Sensei” offends again: looking first at me, then down at my skis, then back to me, and says, “I’m sure glad I didn’t carry my skis all this way to ski avalanche boulders”.  When on the defense I can only communicate as allowed by the superior breeding of a Reeder: grunting, shrugging, mumbling, and maybe gesturing with my hands a bit, but never getting a coherent word out. Brett, coming to the rescue, jumps into the fray and says, “we’ll find something nice to ski”. With that, pleasantries over, we bid each other good-day and we continue on. Senei and his sidekick post-hole down the snow covered road just wishing they had our skis.

Brett and I round the last corner to finally see Cold Fusion, and yes, it is choked with debris from about 8,000 feet up to nearly 10,000 feet. Simply put, it looked like nasty skiing.  We both agree to not hike it but go explore for better offerings. We can see smooth, steep snow in the forest glades on the north shoulder that look promising. We skin up and over towards the Forked Tongue Couloir, the sister chute of Cold Fusion, only to find it also choked with avalanche debris. It's full of washing machine size boulders of snow, from wet slides, stacked and jumbled for 1,500 feet above us in the narrow gully. What to do?

We continue skinning upward and south-westward towards the north shoulder of Timp hoping we’ll find a steep  chute filled with perfect spring corn snow. As we traverse to the west side we find a very thin to non-existent snowpack. Lots of rocks and sage brush, but nothing great to ski. So, in a steep scree slope, sitting on sun-warmed rocks, we eat out lunch, and decide we’ll just ski the glades of the North Shoulder.

Skins off, we ski about 1,300 vertical feet of very fun, albeit slightly overcooked corn, all the way back down to the Timpenooke Road. Fun skiing, although we’re both disappointed for failing to climb to the North Peak of Timp. Back on the road we need no skins; poling, kicking and gliding carry us quickly along those six miles of rolling terrain back to our bikes.

Along the way back, we see the post-hole tracks of Sensei and Sidekick and we ridicule them for what pathetic TOOLS they truly are for NOT bringing skis. We figure we covered that distance in a fraction of the time they did post-holing. Back at the bikes we load up and head out. A good day even if we started late, totally miscalculated the snow, brought bikes for nothing and didn’t climb or ski our main objective.  Tired, disappointed, but smiling. A good day indeed.

And for the record, that is NOT a gut! Yes, my ass is huge (my Grandpa was a genetically superior Australian rugby player, with an uncanny low-center of balance) but that is NO gut. It's an optical allusion: baggy shirt, tight belt loop and maybe some trick photography on the part of Brett Fuller . . .   


  1. I love the "high-breeding of a Reeder communication" I can see it in my head and it warms my heart. Those climbers sound like douche tools!! It sounds like the day was still fun regardless. I love the pictures! I hope there is a video to follow soon

  2. True BC skier. New skis on dirt! Just being out in spectacular country was worth the entire day. Maybe the season has one more outing? Ostler Peak in the Uintas...