Saturday, January 28, 2017

Cutler Ridge, January 27, 2017

Today we skied Cutler Basin and I was stunned at the width, breadth and vertical up there. It seems absolutely huge compared to Bountiful Ridge where I usually ski. I've skied Cutler several times before and each time it seems bigger than the last, which tells me that I need to get out of Bountiful more. Your mind is only as large as your environment.

Christian with Ben Lomand Peak straight ahead and the huge face of Cutler Basin.

Cutler Basin is huge and the vertical is much bigger than Bountiful Ridge. . . oh and no bush-whacking.

Brett and Christian and Ben Lomand

It snowed all this week setting records in many locations, and today was the first day of sunshine in over seven day. It was cold (high teens) and it was absolutely frigid in the shade, but the sunshine warmed my skin and my soul. The avalanche danger was forecast at 'considerable,' so we were cautious and didn't jump onto big, steep open faces. We did see signs of natural slides (zoom into the above picture) but overall the snow seemed very stable on the lines we skied. 

Slide activity in the basin, but where we skied, on the east-side lines below the saddle, the snow was very stable. 

Wind was raking the ridges all day, but it was mostly calm down in the basin where we skied.

Willard Peak is the north bookend of Cutler Basin.

First run tracks. Brett and I won't win any figure eight contests unless I work on my turns.

James Peak and Powder Mountain across (east) Ogden Valley.

Christian and Brett on the saddle on the south side of Ben Lomand overlooking Ogden.

Wind still whipping off Ben Lomand.

Ben Lomand Peak from the saddle. This was our high point for the day as we didn't want to risk a slide going higher on Ben Lomand, or subject ourselves to that wind. As it was, I was cold all day. 

Brett, Christian.

Heading up for another lap and the wind is picking up.

Our exit run in lower Cutler Basin.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Temple Bowl, January 21, 2017

White out and snowing hard.

Today I skied the foothills above Bountiful, specifically, a NW facing "bowl" above the Bountiful LDS Temple, which tops out at about 5,700 feet. I call it the 'Holy of Holies' (a Bible and LDS Temple thing). God has been generous with the white stuff the last few weeks and today I woke up to 15 inches of snow in my driveway so I decided to go hit the 'Holy of Holies' while I could. It is ski-able only about once or twice in an average year, at least by my lowly standards. This year it has been ski-able much more but I have not skied it in four years. And when I say ski-able, it's got to be unusually deep coverage. Eight-inches means guaranteed core-shots and hitting rocks on every turn, which is not acceptable. Today there was about 17 new inches of low density (4% or less) powder on NO base (it all melted last week during the 'January thaw'). That is, 17 inches of low density snow laying atop grass, sagebrush and rocks, so if you laid down an edge like Herman Myer on the Hannenkham, one should expect to hit solid ground and inflict big ski damage. That said, the snow was deep enough and the bowl low angle enough, like a boring 25 degrees, that laying an edge like the Hermanator was out of the question. I almost had to straight-line just to get to the base, which is a terrain trap by the way. I say terrain-trap because the snow was unstable and constantly collapsing, and if there was a base it could possibly have slid. The bottom of the bowl is a gully, a constriction formed with the adjoining hill, and if either hill slid, it could pile deep (and deadly), so I stayed away from the bottom. I skied five runs in about an hour, each run a signature of about ten, 1970's style turns. It's a tiny bowl and to get the runs to fit I kept the turns tight and efficient, like the child of the '60's and 70's that I am. If one skis like a child of the 2000's (big, fast and not much more than a straight line) one could possible make three turns. That's how small this place is, but a good choice when it's dumping and unstable elsewhere. 

It was a fun hour of skiing but it reminded why I don't ski here much: too short, too flat, too boring and not enough snow. Good in a pinch when the real skiing is too unstable and too dangerous. I hit one rock but nothing serious, no core-shots. Although, I nearly ran over my ski boots in the parking lot. It was snowing so hard I whipped of my boots, jumped into the truck, put it in gear but luckily remember - at the last second - that my boots were just behind the rear tire. I stopped just before I crushed them. It would have been a good excuse to move up the latest boots. Don't tell Kara.

15 to 17 inches

I took my rock skis in anticipation of damage, but I only hit one rock with little damage. 

The apex of Temple Bowl. If you can make tight, 1970-ish style turns (left side out of picture) you can  squeeze in maybe 10 turns. 

Strava Killed Adventure, January 14, 2017

Beautiful day above the fog and inversion.

When I was 12 my Dad took our family to Disneyland for summer vacation. It was my first vacation that did not require sleeping on the ground in a ratty sleeping bag. My Dad was well-off, and we could've vacationed anywhere, but my Dad loved southern Utah and exploring canyons without anyone else around. All of our vacations required bouncing down sketchy 4X4 roads to get as far away from humanity as possible. That day at Disneyland was wonderful for a 12-year-old kid but it also drilled home a lesson. We got there before the gates opened and we were the first through the turnstile. There were no lines at first, so we pretty much walked onto every ride, that is until we went to Pirates of the Caribbean. It had a huge line and we went for it, shuffling through the maze with all the other followers. Over an hour later we finally rode Pirates. When we finished the ride my Dad told us we were leaving, he wasn't going to wait in anymore lines, so we walked out. We were stunned and disappointed, but I have to admit, that day at Disneyland struck a nerve with me. I've hated big crowds and congestion ever since.  

When I started back-country skiing in the mid-1970's there was one very vague guide book covering the whole Wasatch Range. It intentionally left out most details of access and that vagueness ensured that adventure was not lost. Those seeking to ski the high bowls and peaks of the Wasatch had to be smart, intuitive and work. Some days you got skunked but you always learned from your failures, and over time we learned the tricks and subtleties of access when the summer trails were deeply buried in snow. Another benefit, that vagueness filtered the riff-raff and helped keep the back country pristine for days and weeks after a storm. You had to be serious to get very deep into the Wasatch. The causal players would quickly burn-out and go away. Before this year Bountiful Ridge was free of the humanity found in the Central Wasatch but those days are gone. 

Strava is great for cycling and trail running. It motivates one to go bigger, longer and harder, but I don't like it when it comes to back-country skiing. Strava has introduced a 'spoon-fed' mentality which kills the spirit of adventure and discovery. It is a wonderful feeling to cross new boundaries and wonder if you are the first to ski those slopes? Maybe that is just me daydreaming but when you don't seen another ski track anywhere it's fun to entertain that fantasy. Conversely, when you are following anothers bread-crumb, that wonder is lost. I rarely ski in the central Wasatch anymore because of the crowds. Last year I skied off the top of Superior into Cardiac Bowl and I was mogul hopping down the Superior summit couloir. Moguls off Superior! What the hell! Crowding is a blow to adventure so I choose to ski places that offer a bit of solitude. 

So, our once private sanctuary of Bountiful Ridge has been discovered. Even last year the 'regular' skiers numbered just three or four people. This year the traffic has quadrupled and the reason is Strava. Bountiful Ridge is no secret, it is visible from anywhere in southern Davis County and it it clearly visible even from the Interstate. What was a secret (until this year) was the short cut which provides easy access without the hell of thick Gamble Oak.

The runs on Bountiful Ridge are notorious for being short, brushy (especially in bad snow years) and dual-fall-lines, but it generally holds great skiing if one is willing to explore the varied aspects and drainages. One aspect will be wet and sloppy a or crusted, but change the compass slightly, hiking a bit farther and you'll find soft dry snow. Plus I've never seen moguls up there. Strava is notorious for a "followers" mentality, evident with the new people now skiing B-ridge. One person follows a bread-crumb track, they share it and their friends who then follow the same bread crumb, as do their friends. And on and on. Traffic explodes overnight! 

Further, a weird, but funny, side-bar to the situation is the competition for the King of the Mountain trophy so well known to Strava. Claiming a KOM on back country skis is like claiming Lance Armstrong didn't cheat. Unlike cycling or running, where conditions are not nearly as variable, it is pointless to compare one day to the next while hiking on skis. Breaking trail in deep fresh snow is completely different than skinning the same route when the base is supportable. It would be like comparing Donald Trump to Albert Einstein, they're both well known but for entirely different reasons. Any KOM trophy should have a huge asterisk next to it for the conditions.

The point is this: where is the adventure in following anothers route on your phone? Yeah, Bountiful Ridge is no secret, but in the past it required work to ski it. It is clearly be seen from the valley and anyone can follow that summer trail to find the goods -  this is not rocket science - but following that summer trail takes time, it's twice as long as the "short cut" and that extra time and effort ultimately cuts in to ones powder skiing.

Years ago a few of us got off the summer trail started scouting short cuts, which were mostly choked by gamble oak and willows. Skinning up was painful and coming down was worse. I'd often come home with my face scratched and bloody and my pants shredded. Wearing sunglasses during the descent was mandatory to avoid losing an eye, but we persisted in finding a route that shortened the approach and was free of brush because shortening and simplifying the approach provided more skiing. It took years of work, blood, sweat and tears by a few who were committed to the area. This year the crowds have arrived. The area is not huge compared to the drainages in the central Wasatch, and some argue there is plenty of room, but if the traffic quadruples every year this will become just another Powder Park or Grizzly Gulch. Can you see the problem with sharing the access to the electronic world? The secrets are spreading at an exponential rate merely by sharing your conquest to a few acquaintances.  

It's a free country and Utah is great because it holds enormous tracts of open-access public land, available to all who are willing to get out and explore. All I ask is go small and don't broadcast the route to the world. Don't forget who is saving that $1K Arc'Teryx fashion-statement from certain ruin due to extremely tight gamble oak. That oak-brush-hell is now avoidable thanks to those who endured it for years and years before finding the way. There is a history that is now lost on many who are following their iPhones up the mountain.. 

Lower down, three logs I left in the drainage. One day I may do some trimming.

KPF and hardly a sapling to be seen. This route took years of bushwhack-scouting to dial, not to mention torn GorTex, bloody eyes, cheeks and and neck, and then weeks of "trimming" to make it ski-able, as seen today. One post on Strava and the route is now taken for granted by the new generation of skiers. I guess that's evolution?

Sessions' Mountain from the top of KPF (as in Peregrine Sessions, the original settler of Bountiful in 1847).

100 centimeters (39 inches) at Rudy's Flat .

139 centimeters (54 inches) in lower Rectangle Bowl.

Antelope Island barely above the fog.

John breaking trail and I still couldn't keep up. I took yesterday off work to ski, but was down with the flu or something and ended up sleeping all day. Today, still feeling sick, I figured I'd feel like shit whether I lay in bed or skied. As you can see I chose skis over a sick bed. But I'm just making excuses. I can't keep up with John on my best day, on steroids, after blood doping and after drinking a six pack of Red Bull. John is fast and strong.  

Upper Rectangle Bowl. The skin track is on a ski run I call "Scott Cutler's Yellow Coat." 

Oquirhs on the left horizon, rising above the smog.

City Creek Canyon and fog.

Antelope Island, now hidden, came and went all day in the fog. 

John on top of Rectangle Peak, Cescent Peak is the next high point and Sessions' is across the canyon. Burro Mine is just over the ridge on the far right side.

Ski tracks in Rectangle Bowl. John is the dot at the top next to the Mahogany on the sky-line

The Mueller Park trail about 1/2 mile north of Rudy's Flat.

Fog coming and going.

The last bridge before reaching Rudy's Flat. The bridge is often wet in the summer and when riding a mountain bike the rear tire often spins causing problems for the inexperienced. Like skiing, go with some momentum and you'll roll right over. 

I'm not a Grinch, but Christmas was so last month. Besides, humans are such lemmings that one person leaves a mark and everyone then feels a need to out do it. Before you know it that poor Douglas Fir would be covered with bras. beads and panties, so I cleaned up the mess before it got out of hand. 

The 'snow-stake' rock nearly buried. It's over four-feet high in the summer.

North, towards Bountiful Peak and Francis Peak.

Ski tracks: Rectangle and Rectangle Bowl

Ski tracks and skin track in Recatangle Bowl.

Ski tracks agin, Rectangle Run.

Downed tree on the North Canyon road. We need a scout in need of an eagle project.