Sunday, February 28, 2016

Bountiful Ridge, February 26, 2016

The 'Rock' just west of Rudy's Flat at the North Canyon divide. Bikers might recognize this. I say 'might' because without snow it stands chest high rather than knee high. Last week it was nearly covered.

Remember how I whined about how Wasatch Powder Bird Guides had tracked the hell out of the Burro Mine area, leaving me with just table scraps (see February 12th blog)? And remember how I called and called them to get beta on where they were flying so I could time my tour to avoid their dominatrix-monopoly on fresh snow, and how they refused to give specifics on where they planned to ski? And remember how I skinned all the way in to Burro Mine only to find the ham bone nearly chewed to the marrow?

Well it happened again! Only difference is this time I didn’t bother calling them beforehand.
Why should I? They don’t provide specifics anyway (kind of makes their blog a pile of shit), but I’m a gentleman and won’t use such course language unless it is truly called for. The really bothersome thing here is when I did talk to WPG, I got a clear indications that they have no clue about the locations I was talking about. To them everything north of I-80 is “The Sessions,” which if you look on Google (let alone a USGS map), Sessions is one tiny pin-prick in a huge universe.  WPG’s don’t know where Howard and Frederick Hollows are, so, evidently, that is the reason they wouldn’t – or couldn’t - tell me where they would be flying.  This point is bothersome because they could get lost without knowing the geographic names of their flight paths. If they had a client incur a serious injury (avalanche?) and they needed medical assistance, how would they direct search and rescue top their location? Just throwing it out there for conjecture.

My point? It happened again, dammit!! WPG beat me to it.

Today I headed back up to Burro Mine, without calling WPG because it’s pointless. I chanced it anyway because I still know a few hidden gems near the Burro Mine that WPG have never touched (albeit hard to get back out). Today the only saving grace is that I saw them before I fully committed to skiing Burro Mine. When I topped out on Rectangle Peak (about ¼ mile from the Burro Mine divide) I hear the thwop-thwop-thwoping of a helicopter and see it flying south form the “real” Session’s Mountain, directly towards my location. The heli gets closer and they drop over the Burro Mine ridge, out of sight, and it sounds like they fly multiple circles over the Burro Mine area, presumably to scope out the best lines (it’s been unseasonably warm so any ski lines in the sun are wet and gloppy). I can hear them but not see them, but the roar gets louder and louder so I know they are coming my way. Then I see them. They rise, gently but loudly, over the top of the ridge and land on the top of a great, sun protected run (due north aspect) I call Big Drop One. Shit!! Did I tell you I was a gentleman? Well not today! Crap! Fetch! H-E-Double-Mormon-Hockey-Sticks!!!
From my vantage I watch rich, fat, old men, and barely stem-christy-ing, botoxed-to-the max women, stumble out of the heli and fumble to put on skis. Alarmingly, the guide actually helps one client place their boot into their binding because they couldn’t do it themselves. Buenos Dio! Heaven help them!

I watch the Gumbies drop off Big Drop One and out of sight. The heli starts up, a rotor wash of snow pillowing around and above it, rises above the trees then also drop over the edge and out of sight.
I want no part of that mess, so I abort my plans for the Burro Mine and instead ski my old stand-bys: Rectangle Peak, Crescent Peak and Crescent Bowl. They are more westerly, so a bit more sun-damaged, but I still found soft, creamy old powder in the shade. I push off Rectangle Peak for a fun, machine free day.

End of February and the sun is getting stronger every day. I hate to see the snow melt and the summer trail begin to emerge, I never seem to get my fill before spring takes over, but, that reminder of a waning ski season is a kick in the butt to get after it and ski as often as possible because it doesn't last too long. That said, upon seeing the summer trail peeking through the snow  I had a brief moment of "I can't wait to get on my bike!" But I got over it. The snow-covered mountains brought me back to what is real. 

Ski tracks from last week. We need a storm!

About one-quarter mile from Rudy's Flat View west, back toward the North Canyon divide and the Moose Farm (several Moose have wintered in the Mt. Mahoganies in the middle of the picture. Last winter I was charged by a moose at this spot. Proceed with caution. 

Near Rudy's Flat, the trail is melting out by the minute.

Just say no to Helicopters! Some guy lands on Rudy's every week and by doing so he scares the Moose into full flight, which is highly stressful to a large animal during the winter. They can't afford to run through deep snow when food is so scare, the effort burns what little reserves they have left. Moose go into a quasi-hibernation to conserve fuel, and the helicopter pilot is ignorant to this fact. He obviously likes to watch them run.  

Rudy's Flat under 94cm (37in) of snow. Not the biggest winter up here. In comparison to last year, which was a disaster snow-wise, the current snow depth is about equal. Yes we had a big January but the storms have dried up and blown away. We need a storm or two.

Wind damage from last week's wind event, evidenced by this downed tree blocking the summer trail from Rudy's Flat to Bountiful Ridge. 

Three inches of soft snow on a hard crust necessitated ski crampons. My skins kept skating on the hard base.

View SW from Rectangle Peak.

Wasatch Powder Bird Guides Helicopter on top of a great ski run I call Big Drop One. Damn! That was my run and they beat me to it!! The run drops off the other side, toward the Burro Mine, into Howard Hollow.

Small cornice on Bountiful Ridge, on the lower edge of Rectangle Bowl.

"All the seeds beneath the snow, start to grow, start to grow.
All the seeds that lie below, deep in the heart of what we know." - Ruth Moody

First run's ski track on upper Rectangle Run.

Second run's track on Crescent Peak.

Tracks on Crescent Peak heading into Crescent Bowl.


Small cat on the summer trail heading back towards Rudy's Flat. For my exit run I skied the fall line through the forest down from Rectangle Peak to the summer trail, then skinned back to Rudy's Flat.

When is Greg and Art going to take out this stump? It blew over during a wind storm in December of 2010, blocking the trail which now diverts around it.

The bridges before Rudy's Flat, almost emerging through the snow.

Big cat on trail near Rudy's Flat.

Ski track on the Rectangle from my first run.

Summer trail from Mueller Park is showing more and more.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Bountiful Ridge, February 19, 2016

Since last week the weather has been all over the place: hot, cold, rain and snow and high winds. The valley has seen the season's first 60 degree day and some ski areas have seen a few non-freezing nights, which means spring is almost here. Today on Bountiful Ridge the temperatures were in the 40's at 8,000 feet, with strong winds on the high points. Snow conditions ranged from wet, melting glop to re-crystallized powder on the north aspects. The best turning was found on a SW aspect (ski run I call Rectangle Bowl) with quasi corn/wet powder on a firm base.  This photo is at Rudy's Flat, under 40 inches.

Skin track up Rectangle Bowl.

View SW over Rectangle Bowl towards Dead Tree Ridge. The snow seen in the shade (NE aspect of Dead Tree Ridge) was dry-ish, recrystallized powder.

Drifting along Rectangle Ridge looking towards Rectangle Peak.

View NW down Rectangle Ridge towards Bountiful.

From Rectangle Peak, view NE across Crescent Bowl towards Sessions Mountain. 

Bountiful Ridge figure eight contest? Only two showed up so I guess that makes Brett the champ!

Top of Rectangle Peak for run number three, as the sun sets.
For our exit run we skied the fall line from Rectangle Bowl down to the Mueller Park summer trail (instead of traversing back to Rudy's Flat), then skinned back to Rudy's Flat along the trail. This is at the bridges, about a quarter mile north of Rudy's Flat. I ride this trail (mt. bike) almost every Sunday morning during the summer and it's soooo much more fun on skis. What can I say? I like winter and the solitude of the forest under snow. 

Sunset shots from the trail just north of Rudy's. I love descending in the dark. The forest is peaceful and calm at night, and when it's dark, and if you're lucky, you sometimes hear the hoot-hoot-hoot of a great horned owl. The voices of wildlife speak to me and fill me with a calm I don't find elsewhere. The voices of nature bring me joy.  

Just below Rudy's Flat heading towards North Canyon, view of Bountiful, Antelope Island and the Great Salt Lake.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Burro Mine Table Scraps, February 12, 2016. Bountiful is down there somewhere.

Shadows and surface hoar on K's Pot Farm.

Burro Mine Table Scraps, February 12, 2016
Monday, 2/8/16, scoping the Burro Mine area of Bountiful Ridge with binoculars, I see that about a third of the visible terrain (half is hidden by ridge-lets) has been skied, presumably, by Wasatch Powderbird Guides, the local helicopter ski guides. I say 'presumably’ because very few folks are game enough to hike that far for short (1000 ft. vert.), brushy runs, and I could see 20-30 ski tracks. No way did the Bountiful 32nd Ward Boy Scouts hike that far.  

The plan was to ski Burro Mine later in the week (if I can get off work). To avoid disappoint (mine), and resentment of folks I've never met, I try to get some beta out of Powderbirds. I call them Monday evening and ask if they are planning any more flights this week to the Burro Mine. I don’t want to hike all that way if it'll be skied out. Mind you, in their blog Powderbirds describes everything in Davis County as “the Sessions,” which is a total misnomer because Sessions is just one Mountain out of thousands.  It’s a total generalization and a discredit of their attempt to “communication” with back country skiers. It’s like telling your wife you’re going to the market to buy milk and eggs when you’re actually headed to Wendover for a night of gambling and whoring.

A guide answers my call and tells me he doesn’t know where they’ll fly, but they will fly anywhere they can to find cold snow (we’re currently under high pressure and warm temps). I ask them why they aren’t more specific in their blog and tell them that “Sessions” is just bad information because the Burro Mine is actually across a major canyon from the real Sessions Mountain. He replies that “Sessions” is as specific as they can get in describing their flight plans.

Tuesday, 2/9/16, I scope the Burro Mine again and see that Powderbirds has tracked out another third of the area, leaving the last third and worst third still open (worst because its brushy and sun exposed). But I'm still game so Tuesday evening I call Powderbirds, again, and ask them, again, are you going to ski the Burro Mine area again this week? This time the “girl” won’t connect me to an actual guide but repeats the line I was told yesterday, “we’ll ski where we can find any cold snow.”

The rest of the week I work late and it's dark before I can scope the Burro.

Friday, 2/12/16, I actually get a day off work and start early (10AM is early for me) for the Burro Mine. The valley is cold and totally socked in with fog, but less than half mile from the trail head I break out of the fog to clear, blue skies and sunshine. A brilliant, beautiful day in the mountains. It’s a long way in to the Burro Mine area of Bountiful Ridge, about six miles from the trail head, and, because the skiing is on the opposite side of the mountain which you are ascending, you can’t see ANY of the ski runs until you are literally standing at the top. Can you see my dilemma? One must hike for several hours not knowing if Powderbirds has tracked the place to hell. Worse, the weather has been hot which has further ‘manked’ the possibilities.  

But it’s a beautiful day and I’m committed to ski the Burro. Surprisingly, North Canyon and Kara’s Pot Farm still hold dry, re-crystallized snow so I’m hopeful I’ll find good skiing and not re-frozen, trippy sun-crusts. Above Rudy’s Flat, I follow John’s skinner from last week and it’s so steep and so refrozen that I was kicking myself for not bringing my crampons. The steep head wall climb would have been much easier with crampons. I HATE when the skins lose purchase and my edges skate. Plus, John is all business when it comes to maximizing his return on skin track investment. The steeper the better to to access the goods. At least that is the implied theory, based on the angle.

Once on the ridge, the Burro Mine area is just a hop-skip-jump from the top of Rectangle Peak, my usual choice for lapping Pow (who the hell talks like that?) and I’m excited to ski the Big Drops, the names I’ve given to the lines in the amphitheater above the Burro Mine (Big Drops 1 through 13 working south to north towards Grand View Peak from Bountiful Ridge). The first run encountered, on the south end of the bowl, is Big Drop 1, and that is my first choice for the day, assuming Powderbirds didn’t take it. It is steep and narrow through the trees, and I assume that Powderbirds will leave it alone because it’s just too narrow for a group of eight (or more) skiers. I assume Powderbirds can’t justify an expensive helicopter ride for rich clients to such meager offerings, or else they may get some flak from said rich clients.

But when I top out on Big Drop 1, after more than two hours of skinning, I’m horrified at the site: urine tracks all over the ridge, a landing-zone wind marker and, worst, moguls down the gut of Big Drop 1! Holy Hell! How many skiers did they fly up here? The place is tracked out like Big Emma at Snowbird!

I re-group, count to three, take a deep breath and hike a bit further to the top of Big Drop 2. Thanks Heavenly Father, it is not tacked out. Any paying client would be nuts to settle for Big Drop 2. It’s a steep tree shot and looks mostly unskiable from the top, but once through the first trees it opens, revealing a beautiful, gladed pitch on a direct north aspect. So that was my first run. The snow was perfect, cold re-crystallized powder and I felt like a hero. About 600 vertical feet down I came upon the Powderbirds landing zone for pickup. Really? Those fat client pay $1200++ for 600 vert ski runs? Stupid or what?
But who am I to talk, I just hiked up here. To my credit I didn’t settle for a mere 600 feet, I skied down to the bottom of the drainage, another 900 vertical, total ski run of about 1,500 vert. The problem was I was now on the wrong side of the mountain and had to re-ascend my run to get back home. I didn’t mind though. I love skiing the Burro Mine. It is a watered down, poor-man’s Alaska in the sense that it seems remote and otherworldly, yet so close to the Wasatch Front. Despite Powderbirds activity this week, it is still rarely visited, especially in the winter. I feel a thousand miles from humanity when I’m back there. A perfect antidote to an unfriendly, pushy world. When skiing back there I can actually hear my own thoughts and dump the negative voices I hear continually in the real world.   


Moose bed and morning purge. Lots of signs of moose toady, but I never saw it/them.

Rudy's Flat under 99cm (39 inches) of snow.

Someone dug a snow pit last week. Good idea, but I sometimes question why? A pit provides one tiny snapshot out of a huge universe of data. Does your pit really represent what you'll ski? With the "Christmas Ribbon" profile of Bountiful Ridge, with its constantly changing aspects (NE-NW-SW-WW), one snowpit can reveal entirely different results than another just 100 feet away, which could give a false-positive (true-negative?) for the slope 100 yards distant. Plus, I've seen many folks dig pits only to ignore the data and ski whatever the hell they want to anyway. They have a clear agenda from the outset and won't bend even if the data suggests otherwise. Me? I put more weight in the big picture: listen to the snow, listen for collapsing, watch for cracking, watch the drifts, look for natural slides, then be brave enough to say NO if conditions are wrong.      

Mid Rectangle Bowl under 135cm (53 inches).

Holy crap that's a steep skinner! (Steeper than the photo suggests.)

Coyote poached the skin track.

SLC under fog, Oquirhs to the west.

View down City Creek Canyon.

From Rectangle Peak, Black's Peak is the pointy open peak. Big Drops 1 and 2 (ski runs) are on the tree-lined ridge just to the right, recessed back a bit, which is just above the Burro Mine. The ski runs drop down the opposite side of the ridge about 1200 feet, so anything skied must be re-ascended to get back home.

Wastach Powderbird Guides landing zone marker at the top of Big Drop 1. Damn! Hoping it would be untracked!

Peak Number 7 and Big Drop 12, tracked out by Powderbirds. Grand View Peak is barely seen on the right.

View down Big Drop 1. Would you pay $1200 per day to ski this?
At the top of Big Drop 2, over looking the Burro Mine area with Peak Number 7 and all the Big Drops (ski runs) .

Skinning back up from a 1200 foot run down Big Drop 2, looking towards Peak Number 7. The real Sessions Mountain is in the sun on the left, across the canyon from the Burro Mine area of Bountiful Ridge.

Almost back to the top for more skiing down Crescent Bowl.

Crescent Peak, and my skin track from mny ascent earlier in the day.

Bountiful is down there somwhere.

Antelope Island.

Powderbird's LZ marker at the top of Big Drop 1.


Midway up from the bottom of Howard Hollow.

Sessions Mountain from mid-Howard Hollow.

Antelope Island, like a battleship on a white, Sargasso sea.