Saturday, January 19, 2013

Shotgun No Battle!

View from Box Elder

 Oh the classic childhood sibling dilemma. Who gets to sit in front?  In order to claim your prize, you must first call out your desire, the "Shotgun". Then you must simultaneously insist no one else can fight you for this deserved and coveted car position, "no battle". I'm not exactly sure what the "battle" might consist of. Maybe a punch to the shoulder like slugbug.

The usual ski clan set off on our own quest for shotgun status by heading up the dry creek trailhead outside alpine to ski the shotgun chutes off Box Elder Peak. The approach is a bit lengthy, but what hasn't been this year? Its apparently in the 4 mile range. We did not get an alpine start due the late momentum session the previous night had by most of us, so after waking up at the allotted meeting time I found myself skinning up the trail around 9 or so with Nick, Court, and Stevo. Nick's car tires are totally balled so Steve had to sit on the hood for additional weight while Nick gunned it up the gentle icy slope to the trailhead. We skinned in the fresh air while debating the appropriate times to wear or not wear garments. It took quite awhile to gain the base of the chutes, but it was enjoyable skinning with many short log balancy river crossings, where unfortunately no funny mishaps occured. 

Our route from Alpine

The Shotguns as seen from LCC ridge

A tricky river crossing

We skinned up the north ridge of Box Elder through some pretty tight and steep switchbacks using many tree assists before gaining the saddle about 1:15 pm above the chutes. Some wanted to press on to the summit(likely another hour), but most decided we were ready to ski. The snow wasn't bad, and got better once we got to lower elevations as it was super crusty and hard on the initial drop in. We chose the skiers left chute, and after launching off a small roller I landed completely lacking any cerebellum function and ate it quite hard as I crashed like homeboy in his shiny lifted truck who we saw 180 after nailing the cement barrier on I-15 while driving to the trailhead that morning. (There was a cop nearby so we didn't stop). Fortunately I came out much better than that guy's truck did and enjoyed more fun skiing till we hit the skintrack. 

My view of the Chutes

The boys skinning up with Chipman Peak behind.

Steep skinning up the ridge

My standard, "glad to not be down there" picture

Steve getting his pow on

Nick shredding on the skinny skis

From then on out, it was Jamaican Bobsled time, doing pizza pie on my long Zealots down pretty narrow and steep terrain in what I call, "coma inducing tree crash speed". Steve almost landed in the river once while attempting to cross the log with his skis on, but managed to clear the water by falling near the end on solid ground.  We all made is safely down for Barbacoa lunch and a political debate regarding gay marriage and Utah liquor laws over Dr Pepper and burritos.

Sunday, January 6, 2013


Hogum Fork

There are 3 layers to the skin: the epidermis, the dermis, and the hypodermis, or subcutaneous tissue. Each layer has its own function. A hypodermic needle is used for a variety of reasons, mainly to inject or pull fluids from the body via the circulation system which resides in the dermis. I often use these needles in phlebotomy at work to extract blood from patients for testing with possible infections, high metal levels, or to check basic metabolic function. The needles are usually 21 gauge, (fairly large) and many people(almost 10% according to Wiki) are afraid of needles, a fear known as "trypanophobia". I think I have overcome my fear of one kind of needle after our experience yesterday, though luckily there was no blood involved.

Court's next victim on the hit list of skiable terrain in the wasatch was the "hypodermic needle", a thin rocky chute located on the east side of the thunder mountain massif, opposite the coalpit headwall. Since we had such a wonderful time last time hiking up coalpit last time, we opted for a change and hiked up from white pine trailhead to attempt this line. This involves skinning up into Maybird, up and over Small Pass into Hogum, then up the Thunder Mountain east headwall.

The Hypodermic Needle

Nick, Steve, Court and I started about 7 am from White Pine where we comfortably, easily, and enjoyably skinned very pleasant terrain up the Maybird drainage(not like last week). We passed by the Pfief, admiring the brave souls who had skied the NW couloir and coveting the lines of
 the northeast sides.

Nick in a very picturesque setting

Glad not to be down there

Enjoying upper Maybird, below the Pfief, and heading for Small Pass

The boys skiing down Hogum towards the Needle

We hiked up and over Small Pass and skied some pretty fun terrain down into Hogum. We chose our line that would best get us up to the Needle, via the apron and northeast ridge. We each took turns breaking trail up the steep wall in short sleeves, rationing our 1 liter of water and Gu's we each brought, before the terrain forced us to wallow a bit via booting till we could hook up with the ridge.
It was gorgeous up on top of the Thunder Ridgeline, a bluebird day with no wind and no regret of leaving the putrid air below in the valley. We finally made it up to the top of the Needle but not before Nick fell into a massive hole he likened to Narnia in its depth and possible transport ability into the bowels of thunder mountain. We all just laughed while he was unable to remove himself from the hole, all while he was cursing Court's name for making him skin up such ridiculous terrain.

Booting up the top towards the ridge
Nick looking for Narnia

Looking back at where we came from

 We found the Needle to be in very poor shape, boney as can be with only parts of the couloir with enough snow to be skiable terrain. Court skied all of the parts he could, while Steve and I downbooted it and Nick bailed back to our ascent route. There were some fairly scary granite slabs with minimal snow coverage we had to navigate. After quite a bit of downclimbing and no skiing, we came to a 10 foot drop. We couldn't downclimb it very easily in ski boots, didn't have a rope, didn't want to reclimb the couloir, and there weren't many bailing options to get out. So Court solved our problem, and jumped it. It was frightening, but we all survived by landing in a nice blanket of powder. Steve then donned his skis, ate it, undonned his skis by yardsaling, and rolled most of the way down the gully with Court yelling, "stop steve, stop!". We thought he was going to go the whole way down into Hogum. We got his skis back to him, then he dropped a glove and it rolled halfway down the apron(500 feet) before our skin track finally stopped it. What a day.
Finally into some skiable terrain after the bony upper Needle

We got some great turns in on the way down on the apron, then managed to escape out Hogum with minimal pain and suffering onto the LCC trail via a tenuous river crossing and rode it back to our cars at the Park and Ride, before shuttling back up to White Pine. A 12 hour day. Less miserable than Coalpit, but I felt way more tired.