Monday, March 25, 2013

B.C. Skiing, Bountiful Ridge, 03-23-2013

March weather; clouds, sun, cold then warm.

Antelope Island, finally. Did not see it from late December through mid-February due to the SLC/Utah mank. 

Upper Rectangle Bowl, above the no-edge-hold, sloughing zone.

Skinning up for second run.

Up the ridge, headed back up Rectangle Peak.

View across upper Cescent Bowl.

Turns in upper Crescent Bowl.

Turns, lower Crescent Bowl.

Turns on The Rectangle. Skin track on the mid-right, in Rectangle Bowl through the trees. 

Almost 41 inches at Rudy's Flat, at 7,100 feet.

Almost 61 inches in Rectangle Bowl, 500 feet higher.

Lower Crescent Bowl, finally in the sun.

Back Country Skiing:  The Rectangle and Crescent Bowl, Bountiful Ridge, 03-23-2013

It was a bad day. It was one of those days when you have huge expectations for yourself and nothing goes as planned. I took off work Friday to go ski Farmington Canyon. I’ve schemed all winter about how to access Rice and Mud Bowls in Farmington Canyon, my old favorite ski hills, but now with tough access due the road closure at the 4,500 feet. The forest service or the FAA, I’m not sure which, use to plow the road up to Francis Peak, and the public was allowed access to the gate at 7,200 feet, just a hop and skip form Rice and Mud Bowls. My plan was to boot straight up the south-west ridge of Farmington Canyon, which on the map leads directly to the top of Rice and Mud Bowl, a vertical gain of around 4,200 feet. From there I planned to ski laps on the north aspects, in the upper half of the bowls. Once too exhausted to ski I’d then re-ascend to the top and ski/hike back down the ridge 4,200 feet back to my truck.

I got up early, packed my gear, loaded the truck, and all the while had a sinking feeling I needed to work. I had a lot on my plate and I was stressed on how and when I’d get caught up. Even as I write this on Sunday night I can’t help worry that I should be working and not writing about my ski day. So, Friday morning I’m all set for a big ski day and actually back out of the driveway when it hits me how deep I’m over my head with responsibility, so I pull back into the garage, go inside and change for work. Oh, another thing, it was a raging blizzard with 3 inches of fresh snow in my driveway and the long slog up the Farmington Spine Trail in the mud, the trail was bare two days ago, carrying skis on my pack and hiking in ski boots, did not sound fun. I am so weak. A fair weather skier at best. I went inside and worked all day, kind of glad it was still snowing every time I looked out. If it was sunny I would have been mad.

Saturday morning I read the avalanche report and it basically said what I feared: Friday was one of the best powder days of the year, a hard base and 8-10 inches of 5% density snow. To make matters worse, it was also the annual ‘Scouting for Food’ drive which meant I had to take the scouts around the neighborhood collecting food from doorsteps. A good cause but there was fresh snow and I missed skiing yesterday. So I met the Scouts and we went looking for food. Yeah a great cause, but basically a big waste of all our time because the publicity machine was broken. Without naming names, the word did not get out and the Ward (LDS congregation) was unaware of the event, resulting in less than 10% of the Ward participating. From my perspective it was a bust and I lost the morning, both from work and skiing.

The sun was breaking through and the Firs high on the mountains were flocked with white. I was getting more pissed by the minute due to the waste of a morning so I drop off the Scouts and headed for home. It was late (11:00AM) and I debated about the timing. In late March any sun can destroy the best snow in just a few minutes. The up side was the clouds over the mountains and the cold temperatures (20’s) would maybe preserve the snow.

I walk in the house and I see that my wife is watching Vampire Diaries or Downton Abbey, not really sure what they are but I think they are parallel stories about English Trust-Funder's in a way-too-big estate fighting family, aliens and zombies. Riveting television, but it’s her way to relax after a long, stressful week. And it’s a sign that I’m free to ski. If she is relaxing then so am I. Just to make sure, I lob a test question: “Sweetie, my Dad’s attorney called, he said we are heirs to 10,000 shares of Apple Stock - title transfers today”. Sweetie’s reply: “That’s nice honey, have fun”. GOOD TO GO.

I hike up North Canyon and the road was dusted with only the latest storm snow, nothing more, last week’s hot temps have killed the base. It means I’ll be booting out rather than skiing out. I hike to nearly 6,200 feet before there is a solid base, that isn’t rock or dirt, and I step into skis at the start of my shortcut at the mouth of North’s North (north fork of North Canyon). In the drainage of North’s North, the stream is open in spots, a gurgling brook, where it was a natural half-pipe of sorts just a two weeks ago. It’ll still go, just not the usual fast descent.

The skin up was easy in the low-density snow, until the angle steepened and I start traversing. Basically, lasts week hot temps and this week’s cold have made a bullet-hard (almost) base and the 8 inches of fluff does not hold. My edges don’t cut and I’m continually sloughing off the new snow and sliding down the hill. It is knee twisting and curse-inducing skinning, much more cursing now than a few hours earlier when collecting cans of Dinty More with Scouts.      

Oh but the skiing! It was perfect! One of the best days of the year, for sure. March-defying-powder, cold temps and intermittent sun and clouds combined to preserve the snow all day. I made multiple runs all by myself, although, I did not feel alone as I was leap-frogging my friend John’s tacks from yesterday, all day. John and I are pretty much the only ‘regulars’ up here. I can recognize his tracks for his preference for skin and descents routes. I don’t know him well, but I sense a kindred soul. We both seem to aspire to lonely locals, and we both keep coming back in spite of the long, brushy approach and ‘tour-ish’ feeling of the area. “Tour-ish’ because the access is a function of both distance and vertical rather than pure vertical. For some reason we both feel at home here.

I ski multiple laps on several aspects and I go home exhausted and feeling much better about my weekend. I can sleep tonight feeling satisfied. If I had gone to work today, after futzing around with Scouts gathering sparse offerings of food, I would have been an ornery, old man. Instead, I’m all smiles.          

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Mt. Wire Lunch Run, 03-19-2013

'No talking Zone' trail, the south side of Mt. Wire (north side of Emigration Canyon). Last week the snow was continuous from 400 feet below this point, starting at 6,200 feet.

Highest drive-in theatre in Utah, but the parking sucks! Mt. Wire summit (tower) is an 1/8 mile and 200 feet higher than the movie screens (microwave relays), on the right.

Almost to the easy part.

Who's the gasping, bald freak? Hide your women and children. March means bare-chested running weather.

Central Wasatch from the microwave beater-boards - and my camera bag strap - Ansel Adams I am NOT. I don't know who that squatting fellow is. He followed me up 'No Talking Zone' and stopped for a rest.  

Gobblers knob, site of the cabin run, a back country ski run, and Mt. Raymond. Gobblers is the open white slope, Raymond is the dark point to the right of Gobblers. 

Lunch over, now back to work! I've spent 20 years in that glassy, tiered, cruise ship looking building in profile, south of the U. of U. medical center. The mouth of Georges Hollow, and the trail to the 'furniture', is directly below.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Bad Knee 03-09-2013

The Voile 18-inch ski strap offers multiple uses. Anything shorter is limited.
I've skied all winter without a hitch, but last week, during a benign Mt. Wire lunch run, I buggered-up my left knee when I slip on the ice. The trail was either slush (sunny aspects) or ice (shade) and I was pushing hard to get back to work for a meeting. After topping out on Mt. Wire I'm running down the trail as fast as I can go when I slip on an icy spot. I should have just let the fall happen, but I fought it, and during the twisting, gyrating and body-contortions to save the fall, I tweak the knee. Nothing serious, but I need to take care of it up front so I can get back to skiing this week. Hopefully not two weeks. That said, knees are like avalanches, don't push the limits until conditions are stable. If it doesn't feel right, turn around and go home, but when it feels right, go with confidence and center punch that hill (or knee)!

Look closely and you'll notice there are NO surgical scars on my 51-year-old knees, something I plan to continue (no scars) through death. I've never met anyone who is happy with knee surgery (scoping, replacement (that sounds so old), etc). Recovery from even the least invasive surgery takes at least a year and then their knees are no better than before the surgery. So why do it? To underwrite the surgeons next European vacation or his kids college education? No thanks. Alternatives work. My choice is to take a week off from skiing, ice it, rest it, and plan on big ski days this spring.

The other thing: use them or lose them. My knees hurt much worse from inactivity than from hard use. If they hurt without any known cause, like a slip on an icy Mt. Wire, the best cure it go hammer them. When I feel pain, I'll go skiing or run a trail and my knees always feel better afterward. Even running down hill, a big taboo in many minds, but absolute folklore in mine, will not injure a healthy knee. I've been doing it for 30+ years and my knees are strong and relatively pain-free. In fact, downhill running will build and maintain the quad strength required for skiing, like no other activity - other than skiing. Trail running, with much elevation gain/loss, is the best conditioner for back country skiing. Like I said, use it or lose it.

Oh my legs? I'm built like a Rugby player which is not the best body type for BC skiing, running or cycling, at least if one is racing, but I do OK speed-wise for my heavy body type (5'8", 163 lbs.). I recently read that Black Diamond Equipment is getting into the back country ski outerwear game, but will ONLY offer lean sizes, otherwise know as  the teenage-french-girl body type. That is great if you fit the mold of a world class SkiMo racer or cyclist, but what about us stocky types? It seems like a marketing blunder on the part of BD Equipment? What can I say? I feel violated. My body fat is barely above 10%, yet my waist size is larger than my in-seam due to huge glutes (large ass muscles). While I am muscular, I am NOT overweight. I don't do any body building, I lift weights only to maintain strength and balance, nothing more. Yeah, it is possible that I could lose 10 or even 20 lbs on a starvation diet, but why? Hell, I don't even wax my legs, which is required if you want to enter the realm of bad-ass cyclist. In short, I have the body God gave me and I take care of it.  Black Diamond is nuts to think there is only one body type that will buy their products. I own 5 pairs of their skis, which I love, but maybe it's time to move on? Loyalty is double-sided.
Also, Dynafit boots are all the rage right now for their light weight and great performance, but I can't wear them for one major design flaw: the walk/ski control is coupled with the top buckle. My calves are of inhuman girth, therefore I get much pinching and reduced blood circulation without first modifying the upper buckles on all my ski boots. With the Dynafits I can't see how that can be accomplished without compromising the walk/ski mechanism. Scarpas and Garmonts (now Scott) will remain my boots of choice.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

BC Skiing - Crescent Bowl, Bountiful Ridge 03-01-2013

Crescent Bowl. It was a hot day skiing, I drank the 2 quarts of water I had and still needed more. Winter never lasts long enough! During the skin up, the snow was wet and heavy but on the northern aspects it was still fun turning. As the sun set and temps dropped, the snow re-crystalized into creamy powder. The descent into North Canyon, in the dark, was a mix of breakable crust and icey wheel ruts. Who drives that canyon anyway?

Rudy's Flat, 42 inches of snow (that's the top of my ski pole). As far as I could tell no one has been there since my ski day a week ago, yet in the middle of Rudy's Flat I see these odd parallel tracks, with NO footprints leading too or from them. Closer inspection shows they are the touch-and-go landings (four touches) of a helicopter, with roller-balls from the rotor wash. Almost every time I ski up there a small helicopter flies low over Rudy's Flat then down City Creek Canyon.  A training route?  

City Creek Canyon from Rectangle Peak.

Brett, transitioning to ski Crescent Bowl (just north of Rectangle Peak).

Antelope Island, Stansbury Island and Pilot Peak (Nevada) on the horizon. 

Terminus of ski run in lower Cescent Bowl.

Heading back up for run #2. Wet snow on the skin track (west aspect).

Crossing the Rectangle (my favorite run off Bountiful Ridge). We skied Crescent Bowl, on the north-west aspect, due to the wet-heavy-crusted conditions on the Rectangle, which is on a westerly aspect.

Steep "Wasatch" skin track. All those years and I still haven't learned to set a low-angle. 

The first run was under cloudy "green-house" skies, but, while skinning up for run #2, the clouds started giving way to blue sky.

Ready for run #2.
Second run turns in lower Crescent Bowl.

Tracks from our first run in the alpenglow of the setting sun. 

Racing the sun for run #3.

We raced the sun, trying to catch the final sunset rays to video while skiing the re-crystallized snow on the Rectangle, but missed it by about five minutes. So we finished the ascent at a leisurely pace to the top of Rectangle Peak. We then skied run #3, just below (N) of the Rectangle Ridge, just inside Crescent Bowl, and found superb recrystallized powder. It was the last good snow of the day as the descent down North Canyon was rough: crusty, icy and brushy.