Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Bountiful Ridge, Backcountry Skiing, April 21, 2013.

Mud and snow, but that doesn't stop seasonally-confused bikers. Don't they know it's still ski season? Even the best bike (or rider) can't handle snow and mud with much aplomb - but you have fun cleaning that grit from your $500 calipers! I'd suggest the $100, disposable 'Huffy', until it's dry.

Finally some green after a long, cold winter (to quote my wife), but for me I wish the skiing would last a little longer.

'North Canyon' overlook, which was about as far as any bikers have made it thus far (tire tracks lower middle). They  have certainly tried, but didn't get much beyond here as the snow is almost continuous to Rudy's Flat, about a mile further up the trail.

View NE, towards Rudy's Flat (just beyond the low pass), from the North Canyon overlook. 

Rudy's Flat and the snow is going fast. Between 1 to 2 feet remaining. A month ago the snow was over four feet deep  and the scrub was covered. 

The namesake of "Dead Tree" Peak, Bowl and Ridge - great ski runs off Bountiful Ridge. I have about a thousand photos of this thing, dating back to the mid-seventies - and none of them any good. My Dad has three or  four photos of this old snag, all in black and white, and all much more provocative than my thousand. He had a great eye behind the lens. The first time I saw this thing I was six or seven, chasing behind my Dad and five older brothers, in 1968 or so.

As for the tree,  I'm surprised some nut hasn't yet cut it down, or set it afire. (I shouldn't plant any ideas.)

Like I said, when I was a little kid my Dad would hike me up there with my brothers several times each summer (no skiing until the mid-seventies) and they didn't hold back just because I was six. I had to run to keep up or else I'd get left behind (and lost). They got away from me once, and I started to cry thinking I'd never get home, but they found me on their descent.  The ridicule I received for crying was worse than being lost. I learned to move fast and I never got left behind again. 

View North from "Dead Tree Peak".  Rectangle Ridge is the shadowed line, mid-right. Rectangle Peak is on the right edge of photo. I skied from this point to get home for church. It rained in the valley and snowed up here all day yesterday (per the Utah Avalanche Center forecast, but all I found was punchy, crusted, semi-supportable snow, making for challenging turns. Not the creamy, day-old powder I was hoping for. 
Transitioning to ski Dead Tree Ridge. Rectangle Peak, my most frequented ski destination along Bountiful Ridge, is the sunny peak visible just left of my knees.   

Looking back towards Bountiful Ridge, Rudy's Flat just out of view around the scrubby knob. Sad to see winter end. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Grandview Peak via City Creek Canyon, Bike and Ski, April 12, 2013

Six and half miles on the bike up City Creek Canyon. My timing wasn't too bad as only the last 200 yards of pavement was still snow covered.

Bridge number one (of three) about a quarter mile from the end of the pavement, near where I hid the bike in the trees.

Skis on, skis off. Near the entrance to Cottonwood Gulch (C.G.), which is the south side approach to Grandview Peak, about a mile up-canyon from the end of the road (and the bike). The snow was maddeningly intermittent. I initially by-passed the entrance to Cottonwood Gulch, and went to the next drainage because it looked too small compared to the view of the upper basin as seen from SLC. On the map C.G. appears to be the main drainage of upper City Creek so I expected to find a major stream flowing out of C.G., but no water was flowing from the drainage. And there was no trail heading up the gulch. With the mining activity in the late 1800's and early 1900's, I expected at least a resemblance of an old road, but nothing was found. Maybe covered in snow?  

Most of the gully's off the south side (north aspects) of City Creek Canyon were choked with avalanche debris.

A good sign, finally on the right track. After and added a mile and an hour looking, I back-tracked and headed up the first drainage, the one I by-passed as too insignificant for Cottonwood Gulch.  This is the old bull-wheel from the Hidden Treasure Box Mine located near the entrance to C.G. For scale, it's about four  feet in diameter. 

A bit further and Grandview Peak finally comes into view. I followed the gully for over a mile, all the way to upper Cottonwood Gulch. This is the longest natural half-pipe I've ever seen and it provides a clean route through the brush in lower approach. 

View SW. Lots of steep lines falling off the east side of the Burro Mine area east of Bountiful. Wish I had the time and energy to explore all those lines, but I keep taking the easy (er) access stuff on the western (Bountiful) side of the ridge. 

I'm not one to manufacture religious experiences, but if you look real hard you'll see the patron saint of  back country skiing. Shortly after snapping this photo I clearly heard a female voice, "Ski more, work less". Maybe there is something to all this religion stuff after all?

Getting to the upper basin. The tracks are mine, from leapfrogging while getting video of  myself while skinning. 

Last year's Chickadee nursery?

I should charge BD for advertising.

I didn't realize how much and how high I lift my ski with each step.  Lets see, 15 miles, 27,000 steps at 7 pounds per foot (carry the one), 189,000 pounds!  

East side of Cottonwood Gulch.

Upper Cottonwood basin, view south towards the central Wasatch.

Upper basin, view SW.

On the Cottonwood/Millcreek (Mueller Canyon) divide. View north with smoker tracks coming from Bountiful's Skyline Drive. A snowmobiler died in an avalanche on this slope about 5 years ago. On that day I was skiing the Burro Mine area when Lifeflight flew right over head, followed by the KSL-TV chopper, then, 20 minutes later, Lifeflight flew back out. When I topped the ridge I looked down and saw about 30 snowmobilers milling about in that open meadow. Sad day.

Final ridge to Grandview Peak.

View SW. That ridge with all the skiable lines is the east side of the Burro Mine area above Bountiful. I ski the west side all the time (too much?), which I call Bountiful Ridge in previous posts. So much great skiing to be had, with endless lines, few people, but long, brushy approaches. 

Grandview Peak.

East bowl off Granview. Another great line. The snow was wet in south aspect of Cottonwood Gulch, but the east and North aspects were dry and creamy today. 

I'm such a nerd. The Suunto is for skiing, the Garmin for biking. I'm just lucky I'm not flying an F-16 over Afghanistan with these things, the actual elevation of Grandview is 9,416 feet.  If I had to choose, I'd take the Suunto over the Garmin. A barometer calculates vertical gain/loss with greater accuracy than a GPS.  At the end of the day the Sunnto registered 5,700 feet gain while the Garmin showed over 8,700 feet. A quick look at a USGS map shows the Suunto was quite accurate - there is NO way the incidental ups and downs added 3,000 vertical feet.  That said, my biking friends love their Garmins, with the over-measured gains everyone is a hero on Strava. 

View north.

Just when you think it's safe to ski Grandview (a known snowmobiler hangout), these three smokers show up. 

My skin track in upper Cottonwood Gulch from the summit.

Antelope Island from Grandview.

Turns, upper basin. 

Tired after a long day (and 189,000 lbs. lifted), but not done yet, still a 6 mile coast down the canyon to the truck. And what's with my hat? In every picture my hat, any hat, is always crooked. Or is it just my sloper head? That might explain my weird hobbies.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Farmington Canyon, Bike and Ski, March 30, 2013

Sunrise from about 2 miles up the canyon.

Brett and antelope island at sunrise.

Gear adjustment and a rest. Brett and John. 

Layne's skin track from last week.

John and Brett on the divide between Rice and Mud Bowls.

Getting there. Views opening of upper Mud and Rice Bowls.

John and Brett with Mud Bowl above. A quiet year up Farmington Canyon in terms of both people (road closed) and wind. I've seen 15-20 foot cornices on that ridge. 

Antelope Island.

Brett and first run ski tracks in upper Rice.

Owen and John. (B. Fuller photo)

Owen upper Rice Bowl (B. Fuller photo)

John skiing upper Rice Bowl. (B. Fuller photo)

Owen and John, skinning up for lap #2. Brett was sandbagging all day, but I was chasing him up the hill for another.  He stopping briefly for this photo. (B. Fuller photo)

John topping out on the Rice Bowl. (B. Fuller photo)

Brett's skis ready for #2, upper Rice Bowl. (B. Fuller photo)

Brett, upper Rice. (J. Mills photo)

Brett, upper Rice. (J. Mills photo)

Owen, upper Rice. John should be a ski photographer, makes even a hack like me look good. (J. Mills photo)

(J. Mills photo)

Brett, run #2 in upper Rice Bowl. (J. Mills Photo)

Brett, run #2 in upper Rice Bowl. (J. Mills Photo)

Owen, run #2 in upper Rice Bowl. (J. Mills  photo)
John, upper Rice. (b. Fuller photo)

John. (B. Fuller photo)

John, upper Rice. (B. Fuller photo)

John and Brett.

First run tracks, upper Rice Bowl.

View NW from upper Rice. HAFB runways at mid-right.

Bountiful Peak. 

Brett and John.

Ski tracks from the beaver ponds, almost down to the bikes.

Tracks from the bike cache. 

Farmington Canyon Bike and Ski, Saturday, March 30, 2013

Saturday Brett, John and I ride our mountain bikes up Farmington Canyon to go ski some corn. The road is closed to winter traffic but I heard that it had been plowed for cabin owners, making it passable on bikes (gate still locked to the public). We strap skis to bikes, or a pack in John’s case, and start riding before it’s light. The ride consists of about 7 miles and 2,500 feet vertical gain on a gravel road just to get into position to skin another 2,000 vertical to ski the Rice Bowl. The first two or three miles are steep, too steep to be riding a bike with ski gear.

A mile up we are all gassed. Brett is a strong skier and is always the last to say ‘enough’ after a long day on the skin track. He skied yesterday (3-29-13) in Cutler Basin so he’s not well rested, like me. John is just plain strong. In early January I followed him while he broke trail up a steep mountainside, through 20 inches of bottomless powder. I couldn't keep up.  Today, if I had any advantage, it was my super-low gearing. I had at least three extra teeth on my lowest gear. They are grinding like Jan Ullrich, whereas I'm spinning like Lance while climbing Alpe d'Huez.

At the first switchback, where the pavement ends, Brett intimated that this was a bad idea. I’ve never heard him ever suggest defeat. I’m always the one to bail with tail between my legs. I figured he was just toying with me as I was staggering drunk on way too few “O’s”. I told him this was NO race, that we’d go slow and see how it goes. I learned in my youth to never compete with your peers. All it does is suck the fun out of anything.          

In 1972 I was 10 years old. It was the year I started skiing and it was the year I came to realize I was quite average. I was undersized and scrawny as a fourth grader, and, compared to my class-mates, I was physically pathetic. I was picked last for every team - including the girls – and I realized there will always be someone bigger, stronger, faster and better.  No matter how good one gets, there is always someone better.

In 1972 Pat Nixon, the wife of Richard Nixon, our 37th President and our first and only President to quit for larceny, was pushing the new Presidential Physical Fitness Award. The “Prezy” was an award given to grade-schooler's for achieving 90th percentile for such events as the ½ mile run, the softball throw, push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups. I was a pathetic troll in every event except for pull-ups, in which I ruled the world at Valley View Elementary. For some reason I could do pull-ups.

If a small, wiry body had any advantage it was only in lifting one’s body. No one could touch me. Remember those peg-boards where one would climb a vertically mounted board, drilled with holes, using two inch-diameter dowels clenched in each fist? Yes, that same peg board that is now banned by Mothers Against Stupid Sports (MASS), PETA and probably the Eagle Forum (for encouraging provocative, suggestive actions by school children). Yes, I could ascend and descend that thing with ease, doing laps for as long as I wanted, only stopping when the teacher needed a smoke. In everything else I was obliterated by the class jocks, who incidentally, by senior year would look like Gerard Butler, women swooning left and right, but by the 30th class reunion would be just shadows of their former selves, transformed into flabby, busted-down old men, hair long gone and toes just a myth, hidden by their ample bellies, unless sitting in a bathtub. To be fair I should also admit that as a fourth grader dreaming of athletic gold, I was also obliterated by the tall, leggy, puberty-superior girls of the class. Now those were real women, who, by our 30th reunion, were still lean, fit and beautiful. What happened to the men? Sadly, I even lost to most of those stout, gamey girls, the masculine type who would go on to high school and fail home-economics yet excel in wood shop and auto-shop. I’m not judging, just observing. Have you ever lost an arm wrestle to the class tom-boy? It is NOT a good feeling.

My best friend had the highest combined score for the “Prezy” for the entire fourth grade. He was a natural athlete whereas I was not. I was lazy and gave up too easily. I didn’t like to walk, let alone run.  Weird considering that running, hiking and BC skiing now bring much joy and satisfaction. I can only surmise that, with 40 years of hind-site, I was just saving myself for adult-hood. 

That same year I watched the Sapporo Winter Olympics on our round-screen, Motorola, B&W television, and I was captivated with the skiing. Bernard Russi won the Olympic Downhill and I was smitten. Who needed to throw a softball when there was skiing?

By high school I was a decent, but not great, skier. I raced independently (no club or coach) and did okay. When I was a junior, I raced in the preliminary rounds of the Utah High School Ski Championships and finished 9th in my heat. Good enough to qualify for the finals the following week, wherein the top 20 from the preliminaries competed for the state championship. At the finals I saw four of my classmates from high school, who had also qualified. Our high school was loaded, with 5 of the top 20 hailing from BHS. I panicked; they were real athletes and had raced for Park City since before weaning from their mommas. I told myself I could never win, and I proved myself a prophet, finishing almost dead last, 19th out of 20 to be exact. My classmates dominated, all four finished in the top five, including first place by a large margin. Three of those four were my age and would be returning to race the following year.

As a senior I worked hard to improve my technique. I actually learned to turn like a racer (head out, hips in, hands forward, ankles rolled in and cutting),  instead of like a Gumby  (head back, hands further back and wide, knees even wider, eyes wide and shocky).  On the day of the race (the Knudson Cup) I was ready, and I drew a great start position, something like 20th out of 80 or 90 racers. My school chums were there with all their pomp and circumstance: skin-suits, Rossi-S7’s and parents clanging cow-bells. They had it all. I had no entourage, I was there alone just to race. Based on last year’s results my school team was totally stacked. Personally I was never close to my teammates, they were from the rich side of the hill and ran with different friends, but we were cordial to one another. During warm-ups we skied some laps and I kept over-hearing them talk about some sophomore girl from our school who was good. Not just good but really, REALLY good. I blew it off as just talk. She was just a girl, and a sophomore girl at that. No threat.    

Have you ever wanted something so bad you could taste it? Well, in this case that taste was pure bile, or at least it should have been. My run was a disaster. The course ran from the top of the Millicent Chair (Brighton Ski Area) to the base, covering the steepest roll-overs and blind corners that Brighton can throw at a skier. Within the first 100 feet of the start gate, upon setting a hard edge, my right ski pre-released and my day was over before it had begun. I was in shock, "this can't be happening", but with nothing to lose I quickly retrieved the ski and clip back in, then started down the course. I'm not sure why I continued, I was out of contention, but I just wanted to finish. I was reeling with disappointment and anger. If there is a God he certainly worked a mystery that day. About half way down the course, now skiing with zero passion, a spectator unexpectedly skied onto the course right in front of me. I had to hockey-stop to avoid a collision. Now the situation was just stupid, but I continued down the course anyway, totally pissed knowing my time would be dead last. My name would show just above the real Gumbies who yarded and quit, taking an embarrassing DNF. At least I didn't quit.

I crossed the finish line and hucked my goggles at the nearest cow-bell-clanging-parent and started cursing like a sailor without a mother. Whom, by the way, was not there, so my words were a total freebie. As I was screaming the worst words known to man or beast, the race director came running over, radio in hand, and through my ranting tells me I've been awarded me a “re-do” because of the interference by the spectator. I stop swearing. I might have even smiled. I politely asked that cow-bell-clanging parent for my goggles back.

I got back on that ancient, slow lift and by the time I arrive at the start gate all racers were done, I was the only one left. The race crew is staring, looking at me then to their watches then back to me, wanting to call it a day. I was racing dead last after 80 or 90 racers. The course is now rut heaven, the worst conditions of the day. Before sliding into the start gate I took off both skis and cranked the DIN setting up to elephant weight, all the while the start crew looking annoyed for the delay. My skis would not be coming off this time. Now into the gate and the start judge impatiently counts down: “Racer ready! 3-2-1-GO’! I was on course and raced for my life. The ruts were hip-deep but my skis held and no spectators crossed my line. I finished without a hitch, if starting dead-last is not a hitch.

I did not win but I finished strong. The time-keeper tallied the times for the team competition and we finished first. Individually our team dominated the top ten, our boys finishing second, third, sixth (me) and seventh. Our girls finished first and tenth. Good enough for the state championship.

Oh, that sophomore girl on our team who was no threat my manhood? She finished in first place, first overall including boys, the girls, and an errant spectator or two. She won with a margin of over two seconds, a huge margin by skiing standards. She beat me by three. I was stunned to be beaten so badly by a girl two years younger. The fourth grade "Prezy" had taught me nothing. I was still young, stupid and a chauvinist.

The next year, my freshman year in college, she was racing for the US Ski Team on the world cup circuit. She had a long career and went on to race in three Olympics. Like I said, there is always someone bigger, stronger and faster. Much faster.

Back to Saturday, Brett, John and I ride up Farmington Canyon, being passed at mile seven by a friendly jogger, and after much effort finally reach the base of the Rice Bowl. While we transition to skis a cabin owner drives up and stops and we talk. He says he’d gladly give us a ride up next time. We should have pulled the Alta-skin-track shuffle (waiting for another group to break trail - only fools break trail out of Alta), in this case, wait for a ride rather than bike.

We cross the stream on a snow-bridge and skin up the ridge dividing Rice and Mud creek drainages and the snow is mostly hard and frozen.  As we climb, the sun is strengthening and it softens the snow the higher we climb. At the top, 2,000 feet higher than our abandoned bikes, 4,500 feet higher than our trucks, Brett says he’s going to ski one run then work on his tan while John and I ski laps, but this time he’s smiling that familiar, bull-shit smile I've seen so often. We ski great corn down about a thousand feet and Brett says he’s going home, but all the while re-skinning. Yeah, I’ve heard his talk before, he never goes anywhere for just one run. John is game for anything and seems totally fresh. Oh to be young again.

Brett is a hundred yards up the hill before I realize we’re actually going to ski another lap. I quickly re-skin and start up. This is no race; we’re there only for a good time. There's always someone bigger, stronger, faster. . .                     

The only casualty all day was Brett's flat front tire with about 2 miles to go. He rode down on a flat after the CO2 refill attempt (operator error on my part) blew out the seat.