Sunday, December 29, 2013

Avalanche Danger is Lame

First winter summit of Lone peak. Not first geeky summit photo. 

The continued unstable snowpack and "considerable" avalanche danger persisting around the Wasatch has resulted in Mill D becoming as tracked as Alta 2 hours after a powder day. Having gotten bored with skiing Butler trees and Powder Park, we decided to hit up Lone Peak and Bighorn so we could actually summit something. The south faces of these peaks are iconic "highway" lines as some like to call them, meaning we gawk at them as we drive past them on I-15, the equivalent crashing hazard of texting or drinking for skiers. The pro's and con's of skiing south facing terrain all revolve around the sun. The lack of shelter from the blazing heat of the sun creates less snow with a crust on the surface, resulting in poor skiing conditions but also safe skiing conditions due to a stabilized snowpack. We like safe conditions 1st of all, and good snow 2nd, though we prefer both to be present if possible. We were hoping we could catch the thaw cycle around 12 pm and maybe get some soft snow after summiting the two peaks.

The start to these lines begins at the schoolhouse springs trailhead in Alpine. Good info to this trailhead can be found here. We skinned up the switchbacking dirt road that leads to the first hamongog, or meadow. The road had lots of snow in places, and not so much in others. We managed to ski most all of it on the way down with minor swearing and core shots. The road turn to singletrack, and climbs steeply up to the 2nd hamongog. From here, Heaven's Halfpipe is in full view. Coverage was a bit sparse, and quite icy most of the way. We struggled to the south summit of Lone Peak 4.5 hours after leaving the car.

We then traversed east across the Halfpipe and skinned up Bighorn. We were all tired by summit 2 having climbed about 7k'. Anytime we can ski over 5k' its a pretty sweet day. The ski out was awesome despite mostly crusty snow with countless hoppers and big wide open turns. The crux of the day was skiing down the singletrack chute to the 1st hamongog where I rolled down more than skied. Several enjoyable pole vaults across creek crossings and some testy icy skintracks brought us back to the car 7.5 hours later. I'll take this any day over tree skiing despite the less than ideal conditions.

My photos aren't nearly as good as this guys, so maybe just look at his TR and picture my face on them.
You know you are at the correct trailhead when you park next to the "no parking" sign. 

Just because there isn't snow doesn't mean you should remove your skis. 

Skinning up to Heavens Halfpipe and Bighorn

In the Halfpipe, giant uncovered rocks created a fun obstacle course. 

Nick looking stoic below Lone Peak summit

The boys traversing over to Bighorn. They look like skinny rocks

Looking back at Lone Peak from Bighorn

The tired skiers with Box Elder behind

Skiing down Bighorn spine

Its not backcountry skiing if you don't do some of this. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Aftershock from Mud

East Temple at sunset

After a delicious thanksgiving day dinner where I watched about 5 hours of football and did little more than a short hike and sit in a hot tub, Annie and I headed south for a much needed break from Salt Lake. With me being in school and traveling all over for PA school interviews, we have had less time than we'd like for fall travels south.

Friday we arrived in St George set on doing "Aftershock" 11b, the big brother to "living on the edge" down in Snow Canyon. I'm not sure why I decided to do this one, likely due to the short approach as I am not a big fan of frictioney sandy sport climbs like those in Snow Canyon. I pulled a Court and failed to bring my belay device to the top of pitch 1, requiring Annie to run the brutal 30 seconds back to the car to retrieve it, only to discover I had left it in Salt Lake, so a Gri Gri sufficed. Pitch 1-3 are pretty sporty bolting on soft, patina sandstone edges that felt pretty stiff for the grades. Nevertheless, we made it up the first 3 pitches before rappelling down after finding the 4th trad pitch to be of utmost choss and sandier than the Florida beaches. Wouldn't recommend this one to a friend honestly, but I guess it was OK.

Aftershock Wall. Our route climbs to the obvious hole in the center, then to the dark black crack above

Annie puzzling out the "10c" moves to the hole

Enjoying 5.7 Jugs after the difficult 11a crimps out of the hole on pitch 3 

We enjoyed a delicious but pricy(for us) Thai dinner and an evening temple session as part of Annie's quest to visit all the Utah temples.

Saturday we made the voyage out to Zion despite the throngs of people. Luckily we had picked what we hoped would be a relatively reclusive destination. We ended up running from the East Rim out to Cable mtn and then over to Deertrap Mtn, a casual 23 mile 3600' vert day. The only problem we found was the mud.

There are 3 kinds of mud: 1. pudding mud, 2. wet cement mud 3. quicksand mud.

About 50% of the trail was pudding mud, 20% dry, and the other 30% was wet cement. It compensated for the lack of elevation gain by wading through the thick stuff. Nevertheless we had a great time and didn't see too many people. I thought about time trialing Angels(FKT is under :30!) but was deterred by sore legs and the traffic jams.
After 5 miles from the East rim, the cutoff to Cable is left rather than right down to Weeping Rock

Great view of Angles from Cable

As much as we enjoy the National parks, we rarely follow the counsel encouraged on the signs. 

Nice view of the Patriarchs from Deertrap

Wet cement mud. The pine needles act like rebar in real cement

We ended the day by eating at Smash burger. We left hungry so we went to Smiths to get some more food since I refused to pay another $7 for a second burger. Some will criticize us for always eating at the same places over and over again, but we ate at two new places this trip, plus a new mexican place with Nate a week ago, and frankly, there is a reason why we have "old and trusty". Either you spend too much and or you leave hungry. Here are 4 places where you can spend just enough and leave satisfied.

"Old and Trusty"
-Panda Express: $15 for both of us, usually quite full
-Subway: $10 for both of us, almost always full
-Cafe Rio: $18 for our standard choices, never leave hungry
-Little Caesars: $5 baby. Hot and ready's never let you down.

Burger joints and fancy sit-downs always disappoint the hungry runner/climber.