Sunday, March 1, 2015

Bountiful Ridge, February 24, 2015

Dead Tree, the namesake of Dead Tree Peak, Ridge and Bowl. This thing has been dead longer than I've been alive. My first memory of it was when I was 7 or 8 (early '70's), my Dad wasting a roll of Kodachrome 64 on this thing. Each time up Bountiful Ridge I wonder if it'll still be standing. It perseveres. 

Peak Number Seven is the crème de la crème of Bountiful Ridge. A long, continuous, steep fall-line on an open face; dropping nearly 2k feet at a consistent 37 degrees. Much like God’s Lawn Mower off of Big Cottonwood's Kessler Peak, but without the crowds and moguls. I ski it only once or twice a year because it’s a long way in and the run dead-ends into a gamble oak hell that stretches for miles and miles. I’ve found the easiest way out is to re-ascend what you’ve skied and descend back down Bountiful Ridge. There is just no easy way in, or out. So today I’m aiming to ski Peak Number Seven, down the open face, on a run I call Big Drop #12. I make fairly quick work of the North Canyon approach and once on Bountiful Ridge proper, I hear distant howling and barking. There are coyotes across the drainage on a ridge about half mile away. They don’t shut up for the hour I ascended my ridge, who knows why, perhaps playing in the sun after the cold night, or maybe lunching on deer. 

But let’s back up. I've been working too much and the stress has made me sick. I haven't skied in the last two weeks, but apparently I haven’t missed too much, it hasn’t snowed for over a month. I coughed all night and had that achy, sick feeling that prevents rest. At 5AM I got up and called my boss to let him know I wouldn’t be in, half expecting him to answer, just because he does that. He works all hours of the day, a big reason why he’s in management and I’m stuck, chronically, in the trenches. In my defense, I have a life beyond the cubicle.

So I call-in-sick and tried to sleep, but by 10AM I was wide awake, worrying about work and the future of my pension. Feeling guilty, I showered, aiming for work, but as I was walking out the door I received a higher call, an inspiration of sorts to bag it and just go skiing. The political damage was already done (calling in sick) so why not? Plus, I reasoned, I’d feel like shit at work, or at home lying in bed, or skiing, so why not get out in the sun and fresh air? I’d take it easy, go slow, and listen to my body and go home if it got bad, so I grabbed my gear hiked up B-Ridge.

All the short cuts were melted out so I booted the switchback trail. I didn't step into skis and start skinning until just below the head wall of the ridge. Once on the ridge I had to boot again because the City Creek side is totally free of snow. Once on the ridge I hear the Coyotes. I could hear them in the distance but never saw them. They sounded like squabbling teenagers fighting for the remote or cubicle rats arguing over the last dough-nut: bickering and trash talking with no sense of reason or intelligent thought, just focused on their own needs.

Hiking up Bountiful Ridge for 30 or 40 minutes, feeling exhausted, I finally just sit on a cornice under a brilliant blue sky, a warm winter sun and not a breath of wind, my soul refueling by the second. Resting in the warm sun, the whole time listening to those coyotes howling, barking, yelping, and growling, I presumed they were feeding on a mule deer. It went on and on and their numbers made me a bit nervous. I guessed there were five or six and I’m sure they could’ve gutted me faster than a skinny mule deer with its sharp hooves.

I abandoned any fantasy of skiing Peak Number 7 today, I was gasping for each breath and the sun just felt too good, and the thought of moving from my perch was worse than the thought of abandoning a big run. That said, quitting almost made me cry (seriously). It’s doubtful the snow will last long enough for another try this year as the snow gods have not cooperated and the coverage is now in total regress. Today I had no spirit to continue another mile up the ridge. I felt like crap but the sun felt good on my face, so I pulled the plug on going farther. I sat in the sun, worked on my tan, listening to those damn coyotes fighting for food, hoping they wouldn’t come this way.

As the coyotes quieted and moved away, I clicked in and skied down my old favorite run, The Rectangle, but the skiing sucked. Hard, icy, semi-supportable; with just a dusting of new snow from the weekend. A big disappointment.

Unless the weather makes a huge about-face, I doubt B-ridge will be ski-able again this winter.

The 'rocky switchback' of the North Canyon trail, 1/4 mile below (west) of Rudy's Flat. In late December there was three feet of snow here and I spooked, or they spooked me, two moose bedded down in this spot.

Rudy's Flat, re-emerging after an all-to-short winter. The deepest it got here this winter was 39 inches. As you can see the snow is going fast. In the shady spots it's now 15-20 inches deep . . . 

. . . but on the summer trail from Rudy's to the ridge it is bare about 50% of the way, mainly in the forest.  

The snow is still sort of deep (25 inches) on the head wall above Rudy's Flat. Normally it's too early for ski crampons (February), but a necessity today with the hard, crusty snow.

Always interesting, the signs of wildlife everywhere. 

Bountiful Ridge is not in the same league as the NW Couloir of the Pfieiferhorn or the Dresden Face (Hogum Fork), but the slope angles off Bountiful Ridge are still respectable. A 40-degree slope is a prime avalanche angle.  On average, the angle of Bountiful Ridge is not so steep, in the mid 30s, but still slide-able.

Bare slopes up to 9K feet on the west aspects above Bountiful, Centerville and Farmington. I'm at 7.5K feet here, but it's a NW aspect and holds the snow.  

West view towards the Oquirhs and the Great Salt Lake.

Antelope Island.

Nearly topping out on B-Ridge.

This the Mountain Mahogany where the summer trail tops out on Bountiful Ridge, Session's Mountain on the left. 

Mt. Mahogany: I placed the rock there about 10 years ago.  

If you can figure this out I'll buy you a Slurpee.

Dead Tree.

Dead tree and view SW.
View of Rectangle peak from Dead Tree Peak, snow going fast, and it's only late February.

The 'gateway'. Summer trail through a rocky choke about mid-way between Dead Tree Peak and Rectangle Peak. In an average winter this would be buried ten feet deep.

My ski tracks from a month ago still visible on upper Rectangle Ridge.

Antelope Island from Rectangle Peak.

View SW, from the top of Rectangle Bowl.

More dead trees on the north edge of Crescent Bowl, overlooking the ski runs I call 'Mark's Ghost.'

Upper Rectangle Ridge.

A sure sign of a bad winter is when there is foot traffic coming from Mueller Park to Rudy's Flat. Look close and you can see a mountain bikes tire track. I've skied up here since the late '70's and have never seen signs of mountain bikers this high in late February. Today I skied from Rectangle Peak down to the Mueller Park Trail then booted the trail a half mile SW to Rudy's Flat then booted the North Canyon Trail back to my truck. 

Tough to see my tracks in the hard crust, but today I skied Rectangle Run (the continuous opening on left). My skin track up is on the far right, on ski runs I call 'John and Shara's.' Rudy's Flat is at the boundary of the brown scrub and the Douglas Firs (mid-lower right).

What is a bearing tree? This is in North Canyon, near the upper end of the double track.


  1. Grim season. I watched your videos. Looks like the last dump made for a nice outing on Friday (6 Mar). Steph and I were driving around the park on the North end of Bonaire. We made a couple of dives from the shore. Kind of a strange place. The park red dirt roads with cactus - kind of like Souther Utah, or Arizona, except for the ocean... At any rate, looks like you spent a couple of good days in the mountains. I am looking to get back into the mountains this week.

    1. Brett, you made the right choice, ocean over skiing that is. Last week's storm (16 inches on March 2-3) certainly helped, but by Friday (3-6) it was getting heavy. I'm sure it's now total cement or crusts.
      That said, we should ski together at least once this season and I'm betting the Farmington gate will be unlocked soon.
      Sounds like you had some nice dives. Post some pics.