Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Superior: Good morning, bad afternoon

I hopped out of my car at the base of Mount Superior a little after 6 a.m. to check the snow. I expected to feel a hard sun crust when I pushed my hand into the snow but found it to be soft. I couldn't believe it. We suited up and quickly started up the skin track toward Flagstaff. I continued to check the snow as we climbed higher thinking there would be a crust somewhere. The soft snow and stable conditions made us rethink our destination. Josh hadn't bagged Mount Superior yet so we set our sights on the summit.

We found a good rhythm and made Cardiff Pass before the sun was on it. I knew the day was going to warm up fast so we hurried up the ridge to avoid a warming snow pack. We hit the summit a little before 9 a.m., snapped a few photos, and dropped in. We passed up some better snow to hit the summit, but it was worth it. The line was tracked but we found some good turns amongst the tracks. 

Later that day a report came in that the same line had avalanched. The slide carried a skier roughly 1,700 feet. He suffered a dislocated shoulder, bumps and bruises, not to mention lost skis. The avalanche popped around noon. The daytime warming had created instability in the snow and the unlucky skier hit the trigger.

There is always the possibility of something going wrong when you are out in the mountains. The trick to spending time in them is minimizing your risks. I don't doubt that the party that was caught in the avalanche was experienced and that they followed protocol. The problem they encountered was failing to beat the fuse that the sun had lit as soon as it hit that south facing slope. I readily admit that I was lulled into a sense of security with the amount of tracks on the line we skied. The difference for us was that we were on the right side of the clock. The snow was stable and we rode it without incident.  Springtime in the Wasatch is a touchy time. Get up early and get off it early.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Days Fork in a days work

I woke up to snow in the valley, tentative plans, and a bunch of "maybe's" from potential touring partners. Eric had the morning off and he was in for something as long as he made it back to work on time. After looking at snow totals we decided Little Cottonwood Canyon would make for the best destination. The only problem was that it was closed for avalanche control work and on a Saturday that means an hour or more wait if you get there at the wrong time. We decided to wait it out. Pancakes and a movie kept me busy until Eric showed up at my door. We missed all traffic and made it up there at the perfect time.

The entire canyon was reborn. Everything was refreshed by the storm and we were surprised to be driving up with the sun shining. We knew it was going to be deep. After hitting the skin track and making some estimations we talked about dropping back in to Days Fork. We hit the Flagstaff summit and couldn't resist.

I chopped a small cornice which fell on the slope creating a small slide. It only ran for about 30-40 feet and didn't step down into any deeper layers. The snow looked safe and Eric was the first to drop. One of the best things about riding in the backcountry is dropping in to an untouched slope. Knowing that you are the first offers some sort of mental satisfaction that I can't really explain. Eric made some big sweeping turns hootin' and hollerin' the whole way down. I dropped in and did the same.

We put in a skin track back up to the ridge and hurried back to the Flagstaff summit so Eric could get back to work. It was hard to leave. There was still plenty of untouched snow around and we had just put in a skin track which would have made the laps much shorter. Eric had to be to work so we headed back to the car. 

We dropped in from the Flagstaff summit and were practically swallowed by the deep snow. Once again we rode all the way down without crossing another track. It was my deepest day of the season so far and we hit it at just the right time. It was a good day.

I finished out the day on the river in freezing temperatures. The one fish I reeled in had me feeling content and I decided to head home, warm up, and rest. I have to say this one more time, it was a good day.

Mount Superior

Heading home
White room
Smiles and high fives

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Silver Fork

After a couple weeks of warm temps the snow was completely shot. Dawn patrols were done. Waking up early to go scrape your way down some bulletproof ice usually doesn't sound appetizing at 5 in the morning. Thankfully you can always count on some amazingly deep days in March and April. 

When we saw this storm moving in we made plans to get out for a good morning tour. Josh, Chase, and I hit the trail early and made good time. We dropped in to Silver Fork and got some really good snow. Good conversation always makes a skin track seem shorter. There really is no better way to start a day. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

First Craggin' Trip of the Year

 Eric and I made plans to climb up Little Cottonwood after work the other day. As I was about to leave work, Eric called and changed the destination to American Fork Canyon. The weather was warm and it ended up being absolutely perfect up there. I always go through a little bit of an adjustment when I start climbing outside again. The gym makes your brain lazy. I realized that this type of evening needs to happen a lot more.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Solo Mornings

I go through an inner debate a few nights every week that goes a little something like this;

"Should I dawn patrol tomorrow?"
"Will the snow be worth it?"
"Where will be good?"
"Who will come with me?"
"Am I too tired?"
"Should I just catch up on some sleep?"

All those questions and more go through my head as I try to pull together early morning plans. Sometimes I talk myself out of going even though I know I will enjoy it. Lately I have started getting better at winning that debate with myself. If I can't find anyone to go with me, I go alone. Even though this severely limits the areas which I can ride, it is worth it.

With my iPod to keep me company Monday morning, I headed up to Twin Lakes Pass. I watched the sun peak through the clouds as it crept up over the horizon. I took the time to enjoy where I was at. I sometimes get so caught up in my activities in the mountains that I forget to look around and realize how amazing they are.

Dawn Patrol is always worth it.