Sunday, January 26, 2014

Ben Lomond via Cutler Ridge, January 27, 2014

Ben Lomond from the east, half way up Cutler Ridge. About five years ago we skied 6-inches of powder the first week of June in the trough down the face (lookers right of the tree-line descending from the summit). 

James Peak (aka Powder Mountain). The timbered slopes to the left of James Peak is private property, leased to the local helicopter outfit, which is extremely defensive if you're thinking of poaching a line or two. The State of Utah wants to privatize all the federal land within its borders, which means I'll be an outlaw if I ski (or hike or bike) anything that I currently ski (or hike or bike). My vote is to leave our public lands under federal ownership and keep it open to the public, otherwise I guess I'll become an outlaw. In my lifetime I've seen many, many trails along the Wasatch Front closed to public due to encroaching development, wherein trophy homes are built high on the Wasatch foothills and traditional trail heads are gated.      

The snow may suck but the sun feels good on your face. We haven't had a storm in three weeks and the snow we do have is about 50% of average depth. 

What? How many skin tracks do we need? You'd almost think this was in the Cottonwoods. That is Ben Lomond straight ahead, with a spiders-web of skin-tracks heading to every skiable line.   

More skin tracks.

SE face of Willard Peak from midway up Cutler. 

The Sheik of Araby pointing out ski lines taken in bigger snow years. 

Cutler Basin and Willard Peak.

Brett topping out on the ridge, looking SW toward Ogden. This is the last 'flat' before starting up the head wall to the summit of Ben Lomond. See that smog out there? Really strange, but it stopped along the Weber-Davis County line. Antelope Island is peeking out, barely seen on the right, just above the steep, treed ridge, and with the Stansbury Mountains (Deseret Peak) just above Antelope Island. The Oquirh Mountains are to the left of the Stansbury's, just right of Brett's head. Davis and Salt Lake Counties should give up their smokes. 

Brett pointing out more ski lines.

Ben Lomond's summit in the sun on the right. We booted up this face, the snow was too hard to skin (no purchase) and too soft to support our weight, punching through about every third step. Should've brought the ski crampons.

Brett putting skis on pack, the other dude putting crampons on skis. We met 'Crampon Dude' at the saddle.

'Crampon Dude' cruising.

 'Crampon Dude' did much better ascending this steep face than us 'Boot Dudes'. This spot was supportable, but every few steps we'd punch through to over our knees.  (photo by Brett F.)

Sastrugi!! Ski conditions were not the best, but you can't expect much when it snows once every three weeks. (photo by Brett F.)
Brett booting the ridge, Ogden Valley below (Eden, Hunstville, Pineview).

Brett nearing the summit of Ben Lomond, Willard Peak on the right.

Near the summit, the south face of Ben Lomond, seen so prominently from
Ogden, is on my left (lookers right). (photo by Brett F.)

View NE from the summit of Ben Lomond. Willard Bay, middle left, promontory Mountains, upper left, Willard Peak on the right and 'Crampon Dude' getting ready to ski. My Dad grew up on the edges of the Great Salt Lake, seen to the north of Willard Bay. As a depression era farm-boy, he carved his own ice-skates, strapped them to his boots and skated for miles and miles along the edges of those frozen marshlands.  

View west from the summit of Ben Lomond.

View North. While in the wind the skis on my pack acted like a sail and tossed me a bit while hiking the summit ridge.
This photo makes me cringe. I like my new Black Diamond 'Dawn Patrol' pants, until I see myself in print. B.D. sizes them with an 'athletic' cut (their terminology, not mine), which meant I had to size up the waist two inches (34 rather than a 32) in order for them to fit my ass. For the most part they do the job, but the 'Cowboy in Wranglers' look doesn't really work with my large ass and 'rugby-type' lower body. I've never claimed, or even fantasized, that I was some super athlete, but does one really need to be anorexic-thin (the body of a pre-pubescent teenage girl) to be an athlete?      

View south, City of Ogden below.

Bad, thin, old, old snow, but some of the protected, north aspects still offered fun, creamy turns. 


  1. Great day to be in the mountains. The traffic on Cutler has exponentially increase the three years. Advances in gear and people willing to spend the money are driving forces. Same thing has happened in diving, resort powder skiing, ice climbing, four wheeling and most other endeavors. Today you have to go further and farther to find paths less traveled - unless they are really unpleasant paths, take some of the quartzite climbs above North Ogden for example... So if you seek the less traveled paths you will enjoy sunny days in the mountains and share the summit with only a few other like minded people.

    1. It was a great day. You just can’t go wrong when skiing up and down a classic Wasatch peak. Athough the crowds are a tough concept to process, I should get on board. I should embrace the fact that we now have moguls in some areas that, even five years ago, held my tracks for days or weeks. The new popularity is tough to stomach because I remember ski days not too long ago when I'd never run into another soul, even in the mass-migration locals of Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons. But why expect anything different while living on the Wasatch Front with its 2 million population? The 'SkiMo' craze is both good and bad, mostly bad. It has caused manufactures to put out reliable, feather light gear, but the sport has evolved into a trendy, gym-rat mentality. I know it’s bad when my ‘Barbie-Doll’ neighbor, who spent more on plastic surgery than I did on my house, complains about the ski resorts that do not allow uphill travel. I mean no disrespect to serious back-country skiers, and you know who you are, but the sport is losing some luster by going mainstream. Plus the name Ski Mountaineering (SkiMo) is a bit of a lie. Since when did skinning up groomers at the local ski area qualify as 'Mountaineering'? I know folks who do nothing more than skin up Mary at Brighton, and fully equipped with beacon, shovel, and probe. When asked why they don't ski something a bit more interesting they say it's too dangerous. And don't get me started on the Alta-Mountaineer's (Alt-Mo's), who won’t even skin up the groomers, they ride lifts, while carrying full back country gear (skins, beacon, probe, shovel), and ski nothing but groomers. At least they could retain some respectability and traverse over to Gunsight once during the day, but no, they’d get tossed around on those steep moguls with their lightweight skinny skis (their words, not mine). I shouldn't make fun; they're leaving more stuff for the rest of us.