Sunday, March 29, 2015

Prospectors Mountain Triple - V-Notch, Apocalypse, Son of the Apocalypse

After being shut down on Mount St. John we stopped by Zahan's and picked his brain for some north facing lines that might stay skiable later into the day.  Off the top of his head he recommended we ski a handful of lines on Prospector Mountain.  Having never been there before it seemed like it'd be worth checking out.

This time we got a 5AM start from the trailhead and were across Phelps lake before first light.  The night before, Z ran through Google Earth with us and described the approach perfectly.  It's amazing how helpful trustworthy beta is.  With the only difficulty being the trailbreaking, we made it up near the entrance of the Apocalypse without a hitch.  From there you can look south at Prospectors and see the V-Notch.  
Andy just above Phelps Lake.  
We traversed over, skinned the apron and then booted firm bed surface to the crux choke.  Not wanting to pull packs off and rope up I made a few weak attempts to boulder through the ice bulge.  It was short and off vertical but brittle ice had me backing off and asking for a belay.
The entrance to V-Notch
Andy mid crux
Once through the ice bulge we booted up through 6"to 1' wind slabs to the summit ridge where we got pounded by wind.  Rumor has it the summit is closed for the protection of Bighorn Sheep so once we hit the ridge we flipped it and headed back. A few belayed ski cuts yielded no results so off we went.
Hard to tell how fast wind is moving in a picture but it was birsk

Just off rappel and past the crux
Lowerd down
Even lower
 Once out of the V-Notch it's a gradual uphill traverse to the top of the Apocalypse.  Z told us the night before that the terrain always leads you directly to the entrance.  Turns out he was right.  Three 30 meter raps had us sitting in a little cave at the begining of the usual start to the skiing.  Once again we ski cut on belay with no results so away we went.  We were worried about daytime heating as there is a huge east facing slope (The Four Horsemen) hanging over the bottom of the chute but clouds blew in and everything seemed to cool off a bit as we decided to start skiing.
Andy entering the Apocalypse
High in the chute, photo by Andy
Turning the corner under the Four Horsemen
 Our other worry was the lower portion of the chute which on many occasions can be cover in ice from Prospector Falls.  I skied to just above the ice and found an anchor.  It looked like there was a fair amount of ice mid chute so I was about to pull the rope out when Andy came up to me and said no.  Fine with me, I just made hime go first.  There were a couple spots where ice flowed across the chute but they were quite small and luckily were always followed by soft snow.
Andy nearing the ice 
Sending the ice
Once out we sat for a second and discussed the possibilty of booting up The Son of Apocalypse.  Since it was still cloudly and windy we decided to head up.  How long could 2400' take anyway? Turns out thigh deep wollowing can take a LONG time!  As with the other two lines of the day, the Son did not disappiont.  It was long, sustained and still dry.  As we skinned back to the car we looked around and saw another handful of lines that, if we had more time and energy, we could have added.  The possibilities are endless!

Andy in the upper Son of Apocalypse
Lower, photo by Andy

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Mount St John

Last week Andy and I left SLC at 5:30AM and for some reason thought we'd be able to climb and ski an east facing line on Mount St. John.  Turns out we were about 6 hours too late.  About 1000' into the climb we were about to trigger wet activity at will and with thousands of feet of snow above us we figured that was a bad sign.  At least we were able to see a new part of the park and add another half dozen or so lines to our ever increasing to-do list.  
Andy and Nate Brown on Jenny Lake
The gents with Teewinot in the background
Photo by Andy

Monday, March 23, 2015

Capitol Reef - a few photos

Still happy eventhough Amanda REALLY wanted to snuggle a sedated bear
We went down to Bryce to follow around a bear biologist as he tracked bears with hopes of tranquilizing them and tacking a few measurements.  We had two bear dens to check out but unfortunately we found no sleeping bears.  Only one that was awake and running from us.  No matter, walking around the high plataues of Bryce Canyon was enjoyable with or without the bears.  

The next day we decided to swing through Capitol Reef on the way home.  We drove the Cathedral Valley Loop and I'm happy to say it lived up to its reputation.  A few photos...
Amanda and the Temple of the Sun
Temple of the Sun
Temple of the Moon
Looking for rocks
Lizard tracks 

From the Upper Cathedral Valley Overlook
Benonite Hills

Saturday, March 14, 2015

South Teton - Amora Vida

We returned to SLC after the Trifecta at about 8PM on Wednesday.  I think it's safe to say we were all pretty blown after staying up all night to ski icy lines in the dark.  I had work off until Sunday and was looking forward to sleeping in for the next couple days, eating too much, and going to a couple matinees.  The only thing keeping me from a few days of leisure was an mental image of a faint set of tracks heading south off the summit of the South Teton.  Tuesday evening we were on the South in nice evening light and these tracks were beautiful.  You could barely see them but we assumed they were heading to the Amora Vida, a line that I've held in high esteem ever since reading about Steve Romeo's adventures in it.

I think Andy must have had the same mental image because we both started talking about going back.  I wanted to spend time with my wife and I'm sure he wanted to spend time with his family so we tried to come up with a plan that would only have us gone for a morning (and maybe an afternoon).  We knew the skinner and booter were in most of the way and on Tuesday it had taken us three and a half hours to summit. We figured this time we could move the same speed if not a little quicker.  4 1/2 hour drive, 3 hours up, 2 hours down, 4 1/2 hour drive back, it'd be easy.  We'd leave at 3AM and be home by dinner.

Amazingly, our day worked out almost exactly as planned.  The 3AM start was pushed back to 3:45 and the drive to and from the park took a touch longer than expected. Other than that, our timeline was perfect.  We summited around noon and the upper south face was still dry.  As we worked our way down the snow became progressively wetter but not too wet.  We swapped leads and enjoyed the  sun, the good snow, and most of all, the effortless decision making that comes from years of skiing and climbing together.   It seems like more often than not a day in the mountains doesn't end up exactly as expected, but when it does...

Entering the South Fork
Summit Ridge
Posing on the summit
First turns from the summit.  The old tracks we had seen were covered by an inch of new snows. 
Contemplating the steep entrance to the hanging South Face.  Photo AD
Entering the South Face.  Photo AD
The upper hanging South Face
Andy skiing to the entrance of the Amora VIda

The upper chute proper seemed a little thin so we swung to the skier right for a couple hundred feet before rejoining the couloir.
More of Andy staying right before heading directly under the overhanging east side of the Amora
In the Amora
Photo by AD
Photo by AD
Andy's boy showing his tough face

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Teton Trifecta - by A. Dorais

Andy, Tom, Teague and I were lucky enough to have a little bit of time off and decided to go visit the Tetons.  I'm feeling too lazy to write about it and Andy's a better writer than I am so I've copied his report here.  What a place!

The Teton Trifecta

Five or six years ago, I was doing a rotation on the OB/GYN service while a third medical student.  In between assisting deliveries, I was receiving text messages with photos of my brother and Brian Harder.  The first was of them on the summit of the Grand Teton.  The second was of them on the summit of the Middle Teton.  The third and final was of them on the summit of the South Teton.  They had skied the ultra classic "Trifecta" and nailed it in powdery conditions.  I was more than a little envious as I was spending 80 hours a week in the hospital and they fulfilled a life long dream.  I thought it was so inspiring, I copied and pasted Jason's original photos and trip report onto these pages.  

On Tuesday afternoon, I finally got my chance to follow in little brother's footsteps and ski tracks.  Joining Jason and I were Tom Goth and Teague Holmes, two of our regular Wasatch partners who also can't get enough of the Tetons.  We left my house mid morning due to work and family constraints, drove straight to the Tetons making record time, and immediately started up Garnet Canyon.  The timing wasn't ideal but our window was small.  A storm was forecast for Wednesday evening and we hoped to be done and headed home to Salt Lake before that.  

With heavy packs, we worked our way up the highly traveled skin track into the South Fork of Garnet. It was blue bird and calm and we were stripped down to short sleeves.  Suddenly, we were on the summit of the South Teton, seemingly having been transported there without any effort.  It was a spot I'd been to some years ago with the merry Graham Kolb, but had never been in winter.  We took in the sweeping views before making a scratchy descent of the Northwest Couloir as our first choice, the East Ridge, appeared to be mostly rock.  

The traverse over to the Middle Teton was smooth and fast and soon we were booting up the Southwest Couloir, hoping to make the summit before dark.  This was the first line I'd ever skied in the Tetons and it's amazing how those bumbling days brought so much psych (for the record, I'm still bumbling around and still just as psyched!).  We took turns pace lining the booter and topped out with plenty of sun left to shoot photos and ogle the Grand.  What we should have been doing was working our way down the rocky section from the summit toward more skiable snow on the Glacier route.  Instead we waited until it was dark, making route finding a little onerous even though I'd even skied it once before with the mirthful Chad Ambrose.  That day the coverage was much better and we were able to ski from very near the summit.  Oh, and the sun was up so that made it easier too.  

Fortunately, as I skied off into the black abyss, I suddenly had a very distinct recollection of the route and navigated through the correct rock band.  Teague joined me next and led the way down to the chute like terrain below the main face.  We regrouped and laughed our way down to the Moraine.  Looking up as the guys skied down to me, the stars were brilliant and dense and light from the headlamps was dancing on the steep rock walls much in the way light shimmers off a body of water onto surrounding features.  It was the highlight of the trip. 

Since our timing was so weird, we stopped at the Moraine to rest, melt snow, and cook.  It was a huge departure from our normal style, but it was rejuvenating and tremendously fun.  Our hope was that we would burn some darkness, summit the Grand, and ski in the dawn light.  It almost went as planned.  

While laying on ropes and our packs, Tom dutifully tended to the stove and melted liters of snow and cooked Ramen and Mountain House meals for us.  We've been tormenting him, saying that he only wears black and ruins our photos and that he never carries a camera to contribute.  He said that by being the cook that we are now even.  Sipping the salty hot beef broth, I completely agreed with him. 

Trying to stay warm, I almost fell asleep as Jason and I pseudo spooned, but when I started to shiver, I declared it time to go.  It was one o'clock.  

Psyched to be on the Grand again, we made good time up the rock solid Teepee Glacier, following a frozen boot track from warmer times.  With a group of four, the ice bulges in the Chevy took a little longer than normal but Jason led the way and we followed with one tool each and a variety of crampons.  In the Ford, I started to feel a little dizzy as I followed the orb of light in front of me.  We reached the alcove just below the summit sometime before 5 AM and realized our timing was again a little weird.  Either we ski the GFT in the dark, or we would have to sit around waiting in the dark.  Mercifully, it was calm and relatively warm.  We lied down and even fell asleep for a few minutes.  We spooned again for warmth (all but Tom), but were again prompted to action by shivers.  

Tagging the summit, we walked off to the east a few feet to gain shelter from a sudden westerly wind.  There, we readied ourselves for the harrowing descent of steep dark ice.  Jason set off from the summit block and made a turn through the rocks.  He joked that that one turn was going to be the only one.  Back at the alcove, I led out down the East Face toward the Ford Couloir.  It was firm but my edges were sharp and I felt secure.  It was a supreme feeling to be skiing the Grand by the light of the stars and moon.  

That feeling was lost rather suddenly when we entered the Ford as it was steeper, more firm, and much less secure.  We timidly made our way down to a steep roll over and called it quits.  To ski the Grand requires some aid and this day we chose to aid a little more of it.  We down climbed to the standard rappel station at the top of the Chevy.  A couple raps later, the mountains were glowing red and the long night was over.  

With much surprise, we found a strip of soft snow sheltered by the Teepee Pillar itself but that didn't last long.  Bullet proof snow was the name of the game and in this less intimidating setting, it was actually pretty fun.  Wanting just a little more, we continued down the Dike Couloir and made the sweeping traverse past Delta Lake around to Bradley and back to the car.  

Up next came an unhealthy amount of food followed by the hardest part of the whole endeavor.  The red eyed drive home was the crux but with that in the rear view, all that remains are fond memories of a day that I've dreamed about since sitting in the hospital when my phone kept buzzing with those damn pictures.  

Speaking of, here are a few from this version of the Trifecta:

Heading up the NW Couloir on the South Teton (photo by JD)

Nearing the summit of the South (photo by JD)

Tom Goth with Wister and Buck in the background

Tom skiing a firm ribbon of snow that is supposed to be the NW Couloir of the South

The boys heading to the Middle Teton

Jason and Big Teague racing the sun up the Southwest Couloir of the Middle Teton

photo by JD

Big Teague nearing the summit of the Middle Teton

photo by JD


Looking down the Glacier route from the summit of the Middle (photo by JD)

There was a pesky rock band from the summit of the Middle that required a rap before we could ski into the night.  
Tom and Teague coiling ropes and getting set to ski a sick line by the starlight and head lamps.  Photo by JD

Jason told me to look scared. 

Just below the summit of the Grand Teton.  I was tired and a little dizzy.  A gel fixed that but Jason couldn't resist taking a photo of me looking like death. 

The firm conditions weren't as scary when I couldn't see the exposure.  Photo by JD of me skiing just below the summit of the Grand. 

Rapping the ice bulges in the Chevy (photo by Teague)

Last rappel (photo by JD)

Photo by JD

Another portrait of Tom.  Photo by JD

Photo by JD

Skiing the upper Teepee

Jason skiing the Teepee at dawn

Tom heading toward the Dike Couloir and then home after a crazy afternoon and night in the Tetons