Sunday, January 25, 2015

Backcountry Skiing, Bountiful Ridge, January 18, 2015

It was Sunday and I should have been at church, but I couldn't resist the pull of the sun, snow and mountains. Sometimes life wears you down and it gets tough to pull yourself up. I hate turning to pills to alter my state of mind, and I have found that hard, physical work and some solitary time in the mountains brings peace. By far the best medicine for the blues. Doing so never fails to lighten my burdens. I head to hills and the stress of life melts away. Yeah it was Sunday, but sometimes the inner voice says it’s okay to get away for a few hours. When I hear that message I go, and don’t look back. So I went skiing today, and came home with a smile.

Today's ski tracks (l) and skin track (r). Notice the roller balls shadowing my turns. Too warm!
The skinning and trail breaking was easy as there has been no storms for weeks. Skinning consisted of various surfaces, mostly supportable: spring slop, hoar frost, hard sun/wind crusts and some old creamy powder. Easy going, although, when I got to the steep faces of Rectangle Bowl, my edges starting slipping out from under me (like last week). I almost put on my ski crampons, they offer absolute grip on a hard, icy slope, but instead I flattened the angle of the skin track and that did the trick; no more slipping. The skiing was sometimes great and sometimes hell: three turns in creamy powder then five turns in semi-unsupportable, grabby crust. Even with my fat skis (BD Justices) it was a game of staying upright when punching through the crust, often nearly causing a face plant. Reminded me me of my tele days.

North Canyons double track. I boot this road from the end of the pavement because I've seen too many 4X4's get stuck. Besides, driving it only saves a wee bit over a mile of walking. Today, on my way out, I came across a guy stuck in a Jeep Cherokee, spinning his wheels in vain. I started pushing and he seemed pissed off, but I kept at it. I was trying to help and in doing so offered suggestions, like: "turn your wheels and gun it" or "rock it by pulsing the throttle." I kept pushing and the more suggestions I offered, the more testy he got. Screw that. With no gratitude I stopped pushing, wished him luck, and hiked out. By the time I left, his Jeep was over-heating and spilling antifreeze onto the snow. What dweeb! All that because he's too lazy to walk a mile.   

This is the end of the double track and a favorite campsite for boy scouts. What is with boy scouts and burning pallets? Then leaving their mess? So much for 'no trace camping.' 

The goods: Bountiful Ridge as seen from the top of 'Kara's Pot Farm' (exit run down into North Canyon).

28 inches at Rudy's Flat. Bad snow year continues.

24 inches in mid Rectangle Bowl (a SW aspect). The only upside to the thin snow pack is the low avalanche risk. The slope angle is 36 degrees, so prime to slide, but the SW aspect provides ample sun exposure. Combined with the thin snow pack there is little layering and few weaknesses in the snow pack.  I've skied here a lot and never seen this one slide........yet. The other side, Crescent Bowl (a NW aspect), does slide. About five years I skied one run down Crescent Bowl in perfect powder and went back up for another run. I did another ski cut and the upper bowl slid, taking out my first run tracks. Scary!! And humbling.    

View from the skin track, across Rectangle Bowl towards Dead Tree Ridge (in shade).

Mt. Mahogany's at 8,000 feet.

Antelope Island and Bountiful City from Rectangle Bowl.

Antelope Island, skin track view.

Wind sculpting on Rectangle Ridge, looking towards Black's Peak (far left),  Crescent Peak (mid-left) and Crescent Bowl (right of Crescent Peak).

Headed back up for run two. View overlooking Rectangle Bowl, Dead Tree Ridge and SLC on the far right (both politically and location). 

Roller balls. Red flag for possible wet slides. 

Sun, SLC and Dead Tree Ridge, the shadowed hill running downward-right, through the glades of Douglas Firs.

Skinning for another run. 

Sessions' Mountain (named for Peregrine Sessions, founder of Bountiful City in 1847). The big bowl in the middle is Rocky Basin. 

My ski tracks from run number one, midway down the Rectangle Run. One week later I could still see these tracks from Smith's Marketplace in Bountiful. A sign of a bad winter is when your tracks last more than a week.  

33 inches at the lower end of the Rectangle Run, 7,400 feet in elevation.

Ski tracks (l) and skin track (r) as seen from the top of 'Kara's Pot Farm' (the ski run into North Canyon when exiting for home).

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Solitude, January 17, 2015

Kara ducking the ropes, headed towards Twin Lakes Pass at the head of Grizzly Gulch above Alta,
 We skied Solitude today and I had to check out the Ski Utah Interconnect Tour where it connects Solitude Ski Resort to Grizzly Gulch and thus Alta. Word on the street is Alta will shortly (summer 2015?) construct a lift up Grizzly Gulch to provide lift access to Solitude and Solitude is planning a small tram from Honeycomb Canyon to the top of Honeycomb Ridge (similar to the Snowbasin Men's Downhill tram) to allow easy return to Alta. All I can say, the hiking between the resorts is currently so minuscule that installing connecting lifts would be like using a jackhammer to clean your teeth.

This the Highway to Heaven (named by the Ski Utah Interconnect Tour folks) which is the traverse from Solitude to Twin Lakes Pass (just over Kara's left shoulder). The location of this photo is about a 1 minute climb from the top of Solitude's Summit lift. Twin Lakes Pass is at the head of Grizzly Gulch, which is a two minute ski descent to the Albion Base area of Alta ski resort. Solitude and Alta are so close I find it puzzling that anyone would think of adding lift to make it easier to connect the resorts. Anyone who "works out" could handle this 1/16 mile traverse without breaking a sweat. 

Kara's smile at the summit of Solitude, view towards Twin Lakes Pass, Patsy Marley (the shadowed, non-timbered peak) and Wolverine Cirque,.

A steep skiing smorgasbord in Wolverine Cirque.

Twin Lakes Dam, between Brighton and Solitude.

Twin Lakes and Brighton from the summit of Solitude.

Lunch Run up Mt. Wire, January 16, 2015

View from just above the saddle at the head of Georges Hollow, about half mile from Mt. Wire. This is looking WSW, overlooking Red Butte Peak and ridge line. SLC is drowned in the smog below, and those are the Oquirh Mountains on the horizon.
I try to run Mt. Wire a couple of times each week. If short on time Mt. Van Cott is my second choice (1,000 feet lower, one mile shorter). In my 26 years with the Williams Cos., I've tagged both summits over a thousand times. That is not a brag, those mountains are not huge by any stretch, the real pride comes from not consuming 26 years worth of burgers and fries. I dream big. That said, my career has likely suffered for not lunching with the boss each day, but, frankly, I'm a bit OCD for fresh air, and avoiding hot air. Plus, I've never graduated from the recess mentality of third grade. I just feel better when I get outside and up on a mountain, if only for an hour. It's good for body, mind and soul. After a long career with pretty damn average performance reviews (i.e. few promotions) and still working in the trenches, I'm happy with my choice. I've had a blessed career of beautiful lunch runs. And I'm extremely lucky to work at the edge of the Wasatch Mountains. All those lunch runs are a formula for health success like no other: doTerra, vitamins, shot of whiskey - they're snake oil and don't even begin to compare. If you get the heart pounding for just an hour a day it'll blow out the cobwebs, re-set your attitude and energizing you for hours and hours behind a desk. It works, and it's free.

This is the first false summit (of two ) of Mt. Wire above Georges Hollow. 

Hoar frost on weeds.

Mt. Wire summit at 7,140 feet. Mt. Wire is the peak on the north side above Emigration Canyon, above (east) of the University of Utah's Research Park, and NE of Hogle Zoo. This tower is an old flight beacon for planes flying east over the Wasatch Mountains at night. I have no idea when it was disabled. In my 52 years I've never seen it in use, but my Mom said she could see it flash on and off all night from their apartment at the old Stadium Village (where the Fine Arts Building now stands) when my Dad was attending medical school at the University. Before my time.   

The hoar frost formed on the fence swung away like a drapery, but was stout enough not to fall apart. 

Central Wasatch from Mt. Wire Summit. Emigration Canyon at my toes, filling with smog overflowing from the Slat Lake Valley. I feel so good when above this crap! 

Only 12 inches of snow at 7,000. Fourth year in a row of a thin snow pack.

View SW toward the Oquirh Mountains.

Lone Peak is the high point. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

B.C. Skiing, Bountiful Ridge, January 7, 2015

Sunrise on the Davis County Wasatch.
A sunny morning on a snowy mountain is a religious experience. Even with bad snow it rewards one with a spiritual high.

I skied Bountiful Ridge early this morning before work. And what a difference a week makes. Last Monday I skied the best powder I've had in years, but today the conditions were as challenging as it gets. The bad spectrum was covered on all fronts: wet-unsupportable-slop, hard-impenetrable wind pillows, punchy, trippy (not trippy as in dreamy, but trippy as in breaking crusts that stopped you in your tracks, thus face planting). Not fun skiing. I skied a well protected NW aspect bowl (Crescent Bowl) that usually holds creamy powder when everything else sucks, and I did link about three turns in soft snow, but for the most part it really sucked. On top of that I forgot my crampons, which meant I kept losing my edge on the skin-up, and would start sliding backwards. The only remedy was to sit down to self arrest. New skin-track maneuver: the butt arrest? Overall it was a character building day ski-wise - a ski-day best to forget - but that beautiful sun on snow makes me believe in God.

Smog! This is at 6.8K feet and I'm just reaching clean air. the photo taken on 'Kara's Pot Farm' (ski run), which had 10 more inches last week. Wind and settling have taken a toll.  

Antelope Island and the waning moon. 

Sunrise over Rudy's Flat.

24 inches at Rudy's Flat today, losing 14 inches in a week due to a major wind event and settling. 

I placed this rock here about five years ago and thought it'd get swallowed by the oak long ago. 

View west from Rudy's Flat at sunrise .

Chikadee handiwork?

Antelope Island peeking out of the smog.

39 inches in mid Rectangle Bowl, at about 8,000 feet, losing six or seven inches this week. 

Almost in the sun, approaching the ridge near the top of Dead Tree Ridge.

Snow and sun lifts the soul.

Rectangle Peak from the junction of Bountiful Ridge and Dead Tree Ridge. 

My turns from last week, which were in above-knee powder, are now a reverse negative. In the last week 20 inches of feathery snow has blown away.

The central Wasatch from Bountiful Ridge. Dromedary, Sunrise and Broads Fork Twins are the highest peaks (L-R, mid-right).

We need snow!

Bad snow today but I did find a few creamy turns in the protected area of lower Crescent Bowl.

Long story. In short, I've removed this sign from the trunk of an old Doulgas Fir at Rudy's Flat at least once a year for the last three years, each time hucking it as far as I could into the brush. Today I took it out for good. The 'Trash Creep' is becoming epidemic at Rudy's Flat. That is, one innocent sign begats more signs (and trash) from the rest of humanity. Humans are sheep and if it's OK for one to leave their mark, it's OK for all, and often that means garbage. I'm no 'pot-hugging-tree-smoker,' but I like my mountains just the way God made them. This is the work of an ego, so I took it out. If the Winder's have a sincere, life altering reason for posting this sign, by all means, I will personally reattach this sign to the old Douglas Fir.    

Selfie along the wind-scoured ridge line while approaching Rectangle Peak.

A moose used my skin track from last week . . . 

as did a Mountain Lion . . . 

and a Coyote . . . 

and a snow-shoer. No disrespect, but snow-shoes ruin the skin-track.