Sunday, March 8, 2015

Bountiful Ridge, March 6, 2015

While gearing-up at the TR, this yappy-mutt wouldn't shut-the-hell-up. 

The "Three-Nephites," a major constriction on the approach. 

What a difference a week makes. This is the 'Rocky Switchback' a quarter mile below (west) of Rudy's Flat. Last week this was nearly free of snow and I booted well past Rudy's. Today, covered with about a foot of new-ish snow.

Moose bed near Rudy's Flat.

30 inches (78cm) at Rudy's Flat.

Skinner up the head-wall above Rudy's.

Last week bare, this week a foot of snow, at the rocky choke mid-way between Dead Tree and Rectangle Peaks.

View down the ski run I call 'Scott Cutler's Yellow Coat,' named after a high school friend who, on a cold spring camp out at this spot in 1976 (when we were about 15), luxuriated in his warm. yellow coat while the rest of us FROZE. This is at the rocky choke, midway between Dead Tree and Rectangle Peaks. 

Sun, snow, shadows - beautiful! Wish the photographer could do it justice.

My first run turns down Crescent Bowl (right). Crescent Peak is the high point (left) with John Mills' turns from March 3rd  descending form the top (left).

My skin track across the top of 'Scott Cutler's Yellow Coat,' taken from near the summit of Rectangle Peak. 

First run turns. 

48-inches (123cm) at the base of Crescent Bowl

Heading up for run number 2, this is my skin track ascending Rectangle Run-North, with John Mills' turns of March 3rd descending on left to right.  

My first two runs, upper Crescent Bowl. 

My turns from Crescent Peak, view west towards the Oquirhs. 
Looking at turns.  

Getting warm and wet.

The view heading home, almost to the North Canyon-Mueller divide. 

Two days old, my tracks in Crescent Bowl (upper-middle), and my skin track up Rectangle Run-North (mid-lower-right), John Mills' tracks everywhere (fading, but visible on far left and far right)! He did eight laps on March 3rd! I need some of his mojo! 

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.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Farmington Canyon, February 6, 2015

View of Rice Bowl from the Sheriff's cabin on the Farmington Canyon road, elevation 6,825 feet.  
We were spoiled in past years with the Farmington Canyon road being plowed by the U.S. Forest Service. About four years ago the road sloughed off just above the first switchback making the road impassable for 4-wheeled vehicles, but still good for bikes and feet. The result was the closure of the canyon (gated) until repairs could be made (which turned out to be two years), which made access to upper Farmington Canyon longer and more complicated. Even with the slough, a narrow trail was navigable across the steep hillside where the road-cut once ran. Now, four years later, the road is repaired but the Forest Service does not plow due to an accounting decision to helicopter the FAA employees to the Francis Peak domes. Is flying to Francis Peak several times a week really cheaper than plowing a dirt road to over 9k feet, in the dead of winter? The short of it is there is no reason to plow the road, especially not for stinky snowmobilers or elitist back country skiers.

The road cut can be seen from the valley while driving I-15, and, with the warm weather and thin snow-pack this winter, the road in the lower canyon appeared to be free of snow. In past years after the closure I have ridden my mountain bike up the road in late winter, with skis strapped to the bike, but that ride is a tough grind. Yeah, it's only five or six miles, with only a 2,500 foot gain, which is not huge by cycling standards, but it's not so easy while wearing a pack loaded with ski boots and gear, and with skis strapped to the bike frame. I'm getting old and lazy, so this year I gave in and bought a motorcycle.

I strapped my skis to the frame of my new Yamaha and rode it 15 miles from my house, through suburbia, to the gate of Farmington Canyon. Along the way I got plenty of weird stares. When coming to a stop at one intersection, a pod of spandex-ed joggers waiting to cross the road looked me up and down, and started giggling hysterically. Mind you, they were total gym rats, completely made up and looking like the 'Stale Housewives of SLC,' and they thought I looked odd? Yeah, skis strapped to a motorcycle is not something seen everyday, but at least I wasn't wearing skin-tight spandex head to toe.

Riding the pavement was not a big deal, but once past the gate and on dirt, I felt shaky. I'm not use to riding a motorcycle on the road and certainly not on the dirt, The road was mostly snow-free up to the Sunset Campground, with a few small drifts that I walked my bike through (no confidence in the snow), and at the campground I locked my bike to a tree, paranoid perhaps, but thinking if a truck came up (cabin owners have keys to the gate), two people (man or spandex-clad women) could easily lift it into the bed and drive away, leaving me with just skis and five miles of dirt road.  

Yeah, looks weird, but it rides quite well. Couldn't even tell they were there. The tips nest very well against the curve of the bike frame. My big concern was the engine heat could damage to skis. I wrapped the skis with 'Shamwows,' to shield the heat and protected the bike from sharp ski edges, but it turned out the heat was minimal.      
The temps were hot, 50's with a nasty south wind, which made it tee-shirt weather while skinning, but that made for wet sloppy snow, at least down low. When about half way up the Mud/Rice divide a small storm-front blew through and it looked like it would rain. I had no desire to ride that motorcycle down a muddy road in the rain, so I decided to abort and head down before the rain. I got one skin off and reached for the other when my conscience got the best of me: I just couldn't give up now, especially after getting laughed at by a pod of killer-whales.

I re-skinned and started back up the ridge and I was soon rewarded. Strangely, in the space of just a few hundred vertical feet, the snow quickly changed from wet slop to creamy, dry-ish powder. I topped out in a gusty, hard-driving wind, but once off the ridge the wind was now hardly noticeable. It never rained, and the skiing? It was awesome! At least in the upper half of the bowl. So good I made multiple runs in the upper half, and wishing for more time. Sadly, I had to get down before dark (I have a learners permit for the bike) and, to be honest, I was nervous about riding that new bike down the dirt road. My confidence was lagging on the dirt. That said, on the way down I had an epiphany of sorts; the thought came to just ride it like my mountain bike (pedals not petrol), which I have done a lot in recent years. So I relaxed and it felt natural, even hitting the gas on the straights. I made it home without any problems; and no heckling from the spandex-ed crowd laughing at my weirdness.      

I tied myself in a know climbing over the gate (to the cabin) with skis on. 

Should I cross? 

The bridge held.

Midway up the Rice/Mud divide and the snow is thin in spots, grass showing.  

Unitah Mountains from the upper Rice/Mud divide. 

Mud Bowl is still brushy In a normal most of those Aspen saplings are covered by February 6th . . . 

 . . .and the south aspect (north side) of Farmington Canyon below Francis Peak is getting bare, about a month ahead of  a normal winter. 

36 inches in upper Rice Bowl (about 8,300 feet). Good thing I bought the longest probe (320cm)  made by black diamond. Wishful thinking on my part.  

Skin track emerging from the Mud/Rice divide into upper Rice Bowl.

Mud Peak (l), Rice Bowl (r).

Skin track view.

Wind sculpting at the ridge-top of Rice Bowl, roughly 8,715 feet and 1,900 vertical feet above the Sheriff's Cabin. 

In a good year there's a 15-foot cornice guarding Rice Bowl.

Small (very small) cornice drop, with Antelope Island, Farmington and Kaysville below.

Bountiful Peak from the top of Rice Bowl.

First run turns in upper Rice Bowl. Sun coming in and out of the clouds, but mostly in.

Almost back to my skin track, heading up for run #2.

First run ski tracks from the top of Rice Bowl. The Sheriff's cabin is on the road 1500 feet below  (center).

Upper Rice Bowl.
Beaver pond on lower Rice Creek, just above the Sheriff's cabin.

Zoomed view of my turns from the Sheriff's cabin.

The infamous Sheriff's cabin, just off the Farmington Canyon Road. There are No-trespassing/Keep Out signs everywhere. The cabin is old and beat up. It looks like an old Boy Scout Lodge, reason enough to keep my distance.

Coyote food storage? I think I scared it off when I skied down the lower drainage of Rice Bowl, the tracks looked fresh. At first I was worried I'd stumbled upon a Mountain Lion den (the hole bottomed into darkness) and I'd get charged by a  cat feeling cornered. But the tracks were definitely canine, not feline. And, not sure, but I don't think Mountain Lions live in the ground.