Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Holiday Ski Mo Racing and Brighton's New Uphill Traffic Policy

Everyone's smiling!
Pre-race briefing by Brighton Patroller Dodge
We've gathered 3 times since Thanksgiving to tour with/race against each other. These "races" have covered roughly 5000' vertical feet and typically last 2-3 hours. There's been a pretty good turnout with a wide variety of racers ranging from the serious in full body spandex suits and carbon fiber boots to the recreational on big split borads and sledding pants. Regardless of race ambitions, everyone's had a good time and become a little fitter.  Fitness is the goal after all, right?  These types of efforts are great preparation for many longer days in the near future. Since there's been a good turn out, we're going to try and keep the low key races going for the rest of the winter.  A twice monthly series is in the works.  Be in touch if you want a text or email with details.  Here's a short video Andy made from Matt Pittman's footage of the "Wasatch vert 120."

Everyone psyched for the "Skin the Turkey"
Also, big thanks to Brighton for being truly skier friendly and allowing us get in a little exercise at their resort. They have recently published their up hill skiing policy here. Thanks guys!

Friday, December 23, 2011

12-23-2011 Pre-race conditions

We went out to scope a course for tomorrow's “race.” Our hopes of taking the race through parts of Wolverine Cirque were dashed when we found conditions to be less than ideal.  Wind scoured and firm at the top of Huge Chute with a slabby apron down low.  

Jared scoping the course
No matter, the chosen course will still be the best yet!  All are welcome to come, meet at the base of the Milly lift tomorrow (12/24) at 7:30 sharp.  Be there.  Once again, Andy will provide pies to the winners!  Leave me a message or leave Andy one here if you want more details.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

12-22-2011 First day of winter, first bail of winter - Suicide Chute

Andy and I decided to get out on this first day of winter.  We figured Suicide Chute might be a reasonably safe place to be so we headed up to check it out.  The apron, as expected, was still rocky.  As we turned the corner and made it into the chute proper we were greeted with interesting conditions.  It was cold, the winds were ripping, and the snow was varied.  The snowpack was more or less as follows:
    1. 3-5" of wind slab
    2. 5-6" of new snow
    3. 1-3" of hard slab
    4. 4-5" of rotten sugar
    5. Rocks, lots of them 

We also noted minor cracking on these new isolated wind drifts. To quote this morning's avy report, 

As always, avoid all slopes approaching 35 degrees or steeper with recent wind deposits. They will usually look smooth and rounded and they will crack or collapse under your weight. Many of these avalanches will gouge down to the ground so it will be a nasty, rocky ride. This bumps the consequences up far higher than you would expect with a similar sized avalanche with a deeper snowpack.

Not wanting to go for a "nasty rock ride" we bailed, only to find ourselves skinning for exercise in a ski resort again.  Oh well, patience is the name of the game for now. 
Andy entering Suicide Chute

Monday, December 19, 2011

12-19-2011 South Summit, Mt Timpanogos - FRESH AIR!!!

Aaron and Isaac Inouye heading up Primrose Cirque 
 While the valley floors were covered in pollution, Aaron, Isaac and I hiked to the South Summit of Timp in search of a little fresh air.  Starting at Aspen Grove under clear starry skys we quickly made it up Primrose.  Once it was light enough to turn headlamps off we noticed a hugely obvious inversion.  It felt pretty good knowing we weren't down there breathing it all in.  From there on it was one of the prettiest trips I've made up Timp.  I'm not sure why, maybe it's because this year most my skiing has been "training (uphill laps at a resort)" and not "touring," maybe it was the inversion, maybe it was the fantastic morning light, maybe it was knowing how bad the air was down low. Whatever it was, this morning was spectacular. A few pictures to prove it...
Clear morning skys and the moon above Timp 
Aaron and Isaac towards the top of the snowfield
The boys at the saddle
 Once we hit the saddle it was obvious there wasn't going to be any skiing going on to the West.  Since the South Summit is so close and Aaron already said  "today feels like a summit day" we felt the need to go stand on it. Tiring loose rock led to more scenic views...
Just leaving the saddle
Inouyes summiting

 From the summit we walked back down the loose rock and started skiing from the saddle.  Conditions ranged from breakable to supportable to week old powder.  Over all not too bad.  There were, of course, a few lurking shark fins.

Aaron on top of the snowfield

Someone got caught by a shark
As everyone already knows, new snow will lead to dangerous conditions.  I'm glad I got up the Utah County classic before things get worse.  Maybe you should too.

Friday, December 9, 2011

12-5-2011 Roberts Horn Climb/Ski

Sam's beta photo
Sam and Aaron have been scouting Roberts Horn recently and kept talking about some ice flow that appeared to be coming in.  After hunting ice earlier this year I thought a big flow was unlikely, It wasn't until Sam's photo was passed around that I started to believe.

Jared on the approach
I picked Jared up at 6:15 and we reluctantly headed down to the County knowing that ridge tops would be hovering around 0 degrees.  The idea was to climb the ice on the East Face Roberts Horn with skis on our packs and then ski off the shoulder down into Primrose.  Parking at 7:30 we thought the cold would be the only hard part of the day. We geared up (Purposely leaving 2 headlamps in my car, no need right? We thought we'd be fast.) and skinned off to find the ice.  A few wrong turns and a short bushwhack had us reaching the base of the climb just as the sun started hitting it.  I won the draw of the first lead and was surprised with how much steeper the climbing felt than it looked.  Placing screws proved to be challenging all day. I'm not sure if it was due to my lack of skill, my cold hands, or Jared's unfamiliar screws, probably just my punterness. 
East Face of Roberts Horn, Photo by Jared Inouye 
Pitch 1, Photo by Jared Inouye
Pitch 2 is described by Mountainproject as a very thin ice smear rated WI? or a rock face rated 5.8.  We found nothing to match that, instead there was a slightly hollow flow that was vertical with a short band of thin ice on 75 degree rock.  Lucky for me it was Jared's lead.  I only heard a few curses as he unexpectedly came across the thinly covered rock section. It sounds like there was a bit of sketchiness/tools popping off as he pulled through the rock, good lead.
Jared sending pitch 2
Pitch 3 is described by MP as a low angle ice ramp.  Once again we encountered something completely different.  Pretty steep ice lead to a long snow ramp which led to another roped pitch (4) of vertical ice.  Pitch 4 proved to be hard for our skimo trained arms.  Both Jared and I were pumped out of our minds as we tried to protect it.  I ended up shamefully hanging to placed a screw after trying to start it for 5 minutes.  Oh the shame.
Pitch 3
After that, we figured the roped climbing was over and we'd just slog our way to the top.  Once again we were wrong.  Route finding was a little tricky as we had to snake around impassable (for us) features.  We pitched out or simul-climbed multiple sections.  Turns out this took a LONG time.  Every rock band we pulled over was followed by more rock/thin ice/punchy slabby snow.  Not knowing what was around every corner left us with doubt as to wether or not we'd be able to top out.  Luckily we did, hours later, just as the sun was setting.
Thin ice over limestone slab, fun?
Sunset on Robert's Horn
Our fun ski out turned into a moonlit survival ski session.  For some reason we found ourselves on top of several rather large cliffs when we tried to enter the top of Primrose.  Two phone calls later we were in the right spot (thanks Sam).  A few thousand feet of clickity clack and multiple core shots later we were at the car taking our first drinks of the day.  Not exactly how I saw the day going but all in all it was a good time.

P.S. We're having a friendly little Skimo Race tomorrow (12/10) at Brighton, 9AM.  It's going to be in the format of the Canadian Vert 180 race.  I think we'll make it a Vert 120 though.  See for details.  Be there.