Sunday, July 19, 2015

Pluto has a backcountry!

Well, maybe Pluto is by definition all backcountry but this is not just any backcountry, we're talking BC with snow in it and peaks up to 11,000 feet (Think Superior or the Pfeiff). Now if that doesn't blow your mind, what would? OK, so its a bit of a treck: about 3,5 billion miles. At 36,000+ mph (or 870,000 miles per day) it took New Horizons 9 years to get there. That would make this quite the comitting trip: 18 years round trip (meaning you are missing 18 earth seasons while travelling...) plus however long you wanna ski. In addition to the time committment you have to consider getting it funded, (unless of course you are the I-am-sooo-rich Donald), custom ski suit, custom ski boots and a gravity so low that the skiing may be a bit average. Weather forcasts are not available and neither are avalanche risk assessments. So maybe this trip is not for the upcoming season but in these days of global warming and shrinking ski seasons it just is comforting to know there are alternatives out there.

Here are the pictures (no these I did not shoot myself);

Looking a lot like Greenland!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Dark Ebony 1-21-15

This was a tour with, by Wasatch standards, a longish approach. That’s because we decided to start this tour in Big Cottonwood at the Cardiff Fork trail head. A shorter alternative would be to start at Alta and go either to Holy Toledo or via Cardiff Pass. In any case we picked the scenic “Nordic ski” in.
We skinned up the old mining road a few miles past Montreal Hill and then on to the High Ivory ridgeline. From there we dropped down on the western side into Mineral Fork via “Dark Ebony”. I imagine the name is a play on names to bounce of off the sunny name in Ivory vs the other side that does not get much lite (see pictures below). I like to call that couloir the Sickle, for the reason see the pictures, but that’s just me. We were expecting pretty nice snow as this feature gets hardly any sun at all but the quality could at best b labelled “variable” snow… I guess it must be fairly wind affected, maybe some venture type deal going up that couloir but that’s all just speculation.
After that line we went up Santiago Ridge to the top and had a cool and long ski out. This snow was fantastic. We skied out to the Mineral Fork trailhead where we had cached a car.

Here are the pictures:

Towards High Ivory

Yours truly with with point 10,631 in the background,

The entrance into Dark Ebony is in the trees before you get to the couloir
a bit further down.

Looking up Santiago Ridge.

The line, Dark Ebony aka the Sickle,
 as seen from Santiago Ridge.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Cardiff Fork 1-14-15

This classic Wasatch tour took place the 14th in just as classic Wasatch conditions: Bluebird. We were, by our standards, a fairly large group of six (see below). We went up the Power Line trail from our Lady of the Snows at Alta to Cardiff Pass. From there we followed the ridge line going west and dropped in to Cardiff fork a bit before Little Superior. From there it was down to just below Cardiac Ridge for a few laps. The snow went from good to great and the difference hinged on just a hundred feet left or right from the top of Cardiac Ridge. As soon as you went even a tad bit left of the center the snow was more wind affected. If you kept to the “spiritual center” of the slope where it forms a subtle gully (under the lowest spot in the ridge line) the powder was classic "Wasatch Champagne Powder". We exited out via the center Cardiff sub ridge, back to the pass and down to Alta. The snow on the southern aspect was both wind and sun affected but still generally good.

Here are the pictures (click to enlarge):

Left to right: James, Scott, Mike, Eric and Jack

Toiling up to the Pass: James and Eric plus unknown.

At Cardiff Pass looking west and uop the ridge line.

Cardiac Ridge to the left and the Ivory Flakes to the right.

Scott and James in full transition.

Solo tracks.

Scott contemplating the work ahead.

Looking down Cardiff Fork's undisturbed snow.

Mike in action.

Cardiac Bowl.

Cardiff Pass as seen from the "backside" i.e. from within Cardiff Fork.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Brighton to Alta

Yesterday we, Mike, Nico (third tour ever), Max (first tour ever) and I, went out on a glorious bluebird tour starting at Brighton in Big Cottonwood Canyon. We actually parked our car at the 6200 S Park and Ride and Mike drove us to Brighton as he wanted to do an out and back tour. 

We took the Millicent Express on a single ride ticket, at $15 each, up to the Millicent eastern shoulder at 9,960’.  From there, after signing in with the Ski Patrol, we followed the boot pack up to the summit at 10,452, got our skis on and skied down to the saddle between Mt Millicent and Mt Wolverine at about 10,200. Here we transitioned for the skin up to the summit of Mt Wolverine at 10,795. From the summit we skied down Wolverine Bowl and then further below, down Hidden Bowl. Here, at 10,000, we transitioned again. This time to skin halfway up the Wolverine ridgeline to Stupid Chute. We had to scrape by the first third or so of the chute as the rocks were jumping up at us… The snow cover was just not sufficient on top but we skied the rest all the way to Twin Lakes, at 9380’, on great snow. There we established “Lunch Camp” and after lunch embarked on the last skin, this time up to Twin Lakes Pass at 9,800’. This was the last skin and this is where Mike turned around back towards Brighton. For the rest of us and from here on it was all downhill. From the pass we skied down through Michigan City (the old mine), then through Grizzly Gulch and at the end of Grizzly, on account of a sharp left, we ended on the Alta slopes at Albion Basin and skied on to the base of Collins Gulch to end at our objective: The Goldminer’s Daughter. After beer and nachos it was on to the bus back to the 6200 S Park and Ride.

Here are the pictures (click to enlarge):
Max, Nico and Mike transitioning at the saddle between
Millicent and Wolverine.

Mike, Nico and Max approaching the summit of Wolverine at 10,795'.

Hidden Bowl

Nico and Max skinning out of Hidden Bowl.

Max almost on top and Nico center right avoiding the rocks
on top of Stupide Chute. (photo credit: Mike)

"Lunch Camp" on Twin Lakes.

Into the wild...

On the way up to Twin Lakes Pass...

...still on the way up to Twin Lakes Pass...

Max and Nico in "Michigan City" with Mt Superior in the
background and Alta at the bottom of it.

Winter art by Mike.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Big Freeze

At -5 degrees F the skinning was not overwhelmingly hot but the ski down, especially in the shade, was outright brisk. After the storm, and this was a good one, we got the big freeze so all is finally well and December did deliver albeit a bit on the late side. 
I went out on a minor conditioning tour, with Skadi, from my house and up Woodside Gulch past the old and abandonned Silver King Mine. I ended up on top of Walker and Webster Gulch overlooking part of PCMR. The powder was about a foot deep at 7,300 and about a foot and a half at 9,000. The snow was cold enough that the skis didn’t glide all that well but the sun was out and there was no wind so it could have been a lot worse. Here are the pictures of the day (click to enlarge):
Going up Woodside Gulch with Skadi on the way to lapping me again.

To the right Johns 99 trail coming from PCMR...

...crossing one of many service roads..

...and back to Johns 99, now going towards Deer Valley.

Jupiter in the distance with McConkey's bowl,
then Lady Morgan to the left. 

Close up of Jupiter that yet has to open to the public.

Skadi with her favorite hotel, the Montage at Deer Valley, in the background
(she gets exceptional service over there whenever she runs away from me).

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Upper Silver Fork – East Bowl

East Bowl is best accessed through Grizzly Gulch going up the West side of the gully and then up Michigan City.

Trail head:                           Grizzly Gulch at Alta (Little Cottonwood)
Trail head elevation:           8,560
“Summit”:                             Hanging Bone
“Summit” elevation:            10,080
The line:                               From the Hanging Bone (or a bit below) ski down the west facing bowl.

East bowl, just like West Bowl, is a reasonably safe alternative when the snowpack is not all too reliable. From Alta, there is a 1,600’ skin up to the Hanging Bone.
Skin into Grizzly Gulch and up Michigan City using a combination of whatever skin tracks you can find (this is a high traffic area) and the service road (Michigan City rd.) that meanders up that side of the hill. The Hanging Bone is the highest point directly East of Davenport Hill and the beginning of the ridge line between Honeycomb Cliffs and Silver Fork. Shoot for the summit or a little below it to the West of it. Ski down the west facing bowl. The laps in that bowl are 700’ – 900’ for each descent depending on how far down you transition. This tour can be an out and back with ski out on the Alta side or a bi-canyonal tour with a ski out down Silver Fork to Solitude Ski resort in Big Cottonwood.

This tour was organized by the Wasatch Mountain Club and the group being large, it was split up. Our group consisted of Bob, Craig, Gibby (on a split board) and myself, here they are:

Bob, Craig and Libby on the uptrack in Michigan City

The tour took place yesterday and the snow conditions were absolutely fantastic (except for the occasional rock). We had a foot plus of good powder in the bowl and on the south facing ski out back down to Alta via Grizzly. There it was a bit over a foot of the very light, fast and fun stuff. There were no signs of instabilities in the bowl, however the weak layers in the snowpack were present everywhere you decided to plant your pole a bit deeper.

Here are some more pictures (click to enlarge):
View down Little Cottonwood with the most prominent peaks being from
left to right: Mt Baldy, Pfeifferhorn (the pyramid in the distance) and to the
right of the road Mt Superior. Picture taken from Michigan City.

Close up of Mt Baldy. Notice to the left of the peak, just before the shoulder
drops, Great Baldy chute.

Devil's Castel, Sugarloaf and Greely's in Alta.

The Pfeifferorn with Snowbird slopes in the foreground. 

Trees in East Bowl.

West Bowl seen from East Bowl.

Summit Lift top under Fantasy Ridge. At level with Summit Lift and behind
Fantasy Ridge starts a straight track (Highway to Heaven) taking you to Twin
Lakes Pass.

View of some of the Honycomb Cliffs.

Gibby boarding in East Bowl...

...and Bob skiing it.

Beyond the Meadows is Mt Raymond to the left and to the right
Gobblers Knob.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Upper Silver Fork – West Bowl

There are several ways to access West Bowl but here we are only looking at what we believe to be the most efficient fully human powered ones:

Trail head:                           Emma Tunnel at Alta (Little Cottonwood)
Trail head elevation:            8,560
“Summit”:                            The highest point between False Flagstaff and Davenport
“Summit” elevation:             10,240  
The line:                               From point 10,240 ski down the east facing bowl

West Bowl is a reasonably safe alternative when the snowpack is not all too reliable. From Alta, there is a 1,600’ skin up to the summit between Davenport and False Flagstaff. Once on the ridge line take a right (East) till you are on point 10,240 and ski down the east facing bowl. The laps in that bowl are 700’ for each descent. This tour can be an out and back with ski out on the Alta side or a bi-canyonal tour with a ski out down Silver Fork to Solitude Ski resort in Big Cottonwood.

Today the snow conditions were absolutely exceptional with a foot plus in the bowl and even more on the south facing ski out back down to Alta. There it was a bit over knee deep of the very light, fast and fun stuff. There were no signs of instabilities in the bowl however, given the avalanche report of the day, we did away from the prominent roll over in the bowl and way clear of Silver Fork headwall.

Here are some pictures (click to enlarge):

James making it to the ridge line a 100 feet or so from point 10,240.

Mike making it to the same point.

Mike and James on the ridgeline between Little Cottonwood and Days Fork
just above Jaws in Days Fork (Big Cottonwood).

View back down towards Albion  Basin in Alta. All tha snow for 1600 feet
down was knee deep plus of blower...

View of the entrance to Jaws. In the center between the trees you can see the
tracks of the guy that got caught in an avalanche here on Xmas Eve... 

He took a ride all the way down and got lucky to get away with a double
fracture of his tibia and fibula.

View of Main Days - a great Wasatch line.

The bowl held a bit over a foot of really
fun and fast powder.