2018-05-04 Mount Shasta

View of the mountain the day before we did it. The route we took goes up the drainage below the pointy rock left of center.
View of the mountain the day before we did it. The route we took goes up the drainage below the pointy rock left of center.

May 4, 2018

With the demise of my spring alpine climbing objective, Carly introduced the idea of skiing Mount Shasta.  It is a relatively moderate climb and ski, but entails about 7300′ of ascent.  This was a good swap since the total time involved is minimal.  It is an 11 hour drive away and the route is doable in a day.  This compares well to an Alaska trip which would take about a week or more.  We kept training through April and kept an eye on the weather for conditions.

Unfortunately our first potential weekend opportunity had poor weather.  Especially unfortunate because the conditions the preceding week were amazing.  Between the NWS weather forecast and the mountain webcam, we had pretty good information on the conditions so there was no need to start driving unless the conditions were good.  With my approaching work trip, we decided on a late week day.  The weather looked good and we both could spare the 2 days out of the office.

The trailhead was pretty nice in that we didn’t have to worry about sleeping in the van.  At some areas like the Tetons this is not completely allowed and the change was nice.   We started at about 5:15am under clear skies.  “Good” conditions for spring skiing are clear days and nights.  The clear days melt the snow a little and help it consolidate.  The clear nights allow the snow to refreeze and be supportable.  We got the clear night, but as the morning went on and we climbed up Avalanche Gulch, there were some high clouds that kept the snow from starting to soften and allow quicker travel.

Working through the lower gully we got clear of the trees and saw the route.  The route is straightforward in that it just follows a drainage to a ridge then cuts left and to the summit.  We skinned to Helen Lake, a bit less than halfway.  From there we decided to boot with the skis on our backs.  This proved to be about the same speed but a little less work.  

The terrain is pretty moderate, but the section from Helen Lake to Thumb Rock is the steepest, though still pretty easy walking.  Carly was much faster than me on the way up.  I think I had not hydrated the previous day and as a result my legs were a constant battle to stave off cramps.  Once we reached Thumb Rock it was pretty clear we were well behind our expected schedule.  Later in the year when thunderstorms would be a concern this would have been an issue.  After eating lunch and resting up we made for Misery Hill, named since it is slog which isn’t actually the summit, which is out of view still.  The snow conditions here were very firm and didn’t seem like there was a hope of softening at all.  Once at the top of the hill it is 1/10th of a mile or so along a moderately flat ridge to the summit block.  The summit itself is about 100 vertical feet up from a nice broad flat spot which is good for resting.

I didn't take a panoramic from the top, but the general scale of the other "mountains" around is pretty well shown here. Shasta is considerably higher than anything even close to it.

The summit is relatively small and we enjoyed the views with just a bit of wind.  The view from the summit shows just how prominent that Shasta really is.  There are a couple sub-peaks and another reasonably tall volcano to the south, but everything else is just a tiny hill in comparison.

After summiting the fun began!  Well, not quite yet.  The ski from the summit to Thumb Rock was not very good and a bit dangerous in spots.  Because of the altitude, wind, and temps the snow up here wouldn’t soften.  This resulted in an icy careful descent to Thumb Rock.  This was not one of Carly’s favorite moments, nor me.  From Thumb Rock we booted down a little way until the snow got better and swapped back into skis.  For the next 4000′ it was the best corn skiing I’ve done.  The terrain is moderate and enormous so you can ski as fast as you want, anywhere you want.  This was the highlight for sure.  Doubly the highlight as the weekend streams of climbers and skiers were slogging uphill in the corn as we were carving smooth turns.

The last 1000′ or so feet of skiing when to slop, again this is expected.  While not hard it wasn’t as fun as the previous section so it just meant keeping some speed on the flats.  Luckily the snow extends to all but the last 100 or so feet to the trailhead so we were able to ski all the way.  For being our first volcano it was quite an experience, not one I would repeat without the amazing corn skiing in the middle.  The sentiment is shared by Carly.

2017-06-04 Uintas Skiing to Escape the Heat

Shimbob taking a look at the approach.
Shimbob taking a look at the approach.

June 4, 2017

Today Carly and a couple of her friends from her MBA program escaped the heat of the valley–currently sitting at approximately 93°F here in SLC–for a morning of spring skiing in the Uintas.  I haven’t done much spring skiing so Carly and I were potentially under prepared without crampons or a piolet.  However the snow was forgiving enough that it didn’t become a problem.  We skinned and booted up Bald Mountain in the Uintas.  As we neared the top the snow was getting less supportable so we switched over a few hundred vertical feet from the summit unfortunately and skied down.  The turns were better than expected though and perhaps we should have gone to the top.

Quick Spring Powder Day

April 9, 2017

This weekend we got a quick hitting dual cold front.  The second of which dropped 12-18″ of right-side up blower powder.  Hope you got out there this morning because the sun came out this afternoon and it’s gone now.  

Return of Winter 2017

Carly making some turns on a bluebird day.
Carly making some turns on a bluebird day.

February 23 & 26, 2017

For almost two weeks in mid-February I was a bit worried that our stellar skiing winter had come to an end.  Luckily the warm weather seeing temperatures up to the high 50’s and 60’s in the valley, and rain up to 9,000′ came to an end last Tuesday/Wednesday.  Winter returned and returned with a vengeance.  A storm dropped between 3-4′ of blower powder Wednesday thru Friday.  I was able to get out Thursday and ski the deepest powder I’d ever experienced.  Because of the amount of light snow it was tough at times to keep the tips up and it was an exhausting day, but it was so good we did a triple lap at Short Swing.  I wished I had something wider than 105mm skis.  We were in the white room much of the day with the blower pow.  :-)

While Carly and I headed out yesterday, Saturday, and the conditions were quite good, both of us were feeling off and on top of that it was cold so we only did a single lap at USA Bowl.  Today the weather broke and the sun came out making for a stellar bluebird day for some powder skiing.  We headed to Silver Fork, a zone we haven’t been to before.  The views were gorgeous and the snow was great.  The amount and lightness of the snow from late in the week has settled quite a bit and the powder was much more bouncy.

Grizzly Gulch Skiing

Carly roostertailing in Wolverine Bowl.
Carly roostertailing in Wolverine Bowl.

January 14-15, 2017

Got a chance to get out skiing over the weekend with some pretty awesome conditions.  It stormed Wednesday-Friday and there wasn’t much wind for Saturday and Sunday.  This lead to the great conditions we found in the backcountry over the weekend.  Almost no wind at 10,000′, plenty of sun and fresh powder to be found.  Saturday just Carly and I got out in Grizzly Gulch and East Bowl.  Sunday we went out with Della and Kevin and had a pretty long day.  We scoped out Wolverine Cirque but passed on it for the bowl off the top of Mt. Wolverine.  Perhaps one day I’ll feel good about dropping into a steep chute in Wolverine Cirque.

In other news I’ve got two new cameras, to some degree anyway.  I’m planning to get rid of my SLR and my high-end compact in favor of a more all around solution.  The SLR (Canon 50D) takes great photos and I’ve got a great line-up of lenses for it.  However it is too big and bulky to bring around most of the time on skiing or climbing trips.  It is also over 8 years old so the focusing and low light performance can’t measure up even close to newer stuff.  My compact (Canon G12) is 6 years old and has a really small sensor.  While small, light, and taking some great photos of mine over the years, it doesn’t have the flexibility of interchangeable lenses.  It can’t match up to the newer cameras out there either in focusing, frames per second or responsiveness.  All that said I’ve been very happy with both of these cameras.  They have been on countless trips and taken some amazing shots I will remember for many, many years.

Technology moves along and today there are a lot of options out there for taking pictures.  My iPhone 7 takes some amazingly good shots now that the OS allows RAW image storage.  Obviously these are on a tiny sensor, fixed lens, and limited control over the settings.  Nevertheless my phone takes some really nice shots and the bonus is I rarely do not have it on my person.  SLR, compact and the hybrid of them, mirrorless 4/3s take some amazingly high quality photos.  I’m pointing my attention to mirrorless cameras because they offer a bit of both worlds, interchangeable lenses but still small size.  

The two contenders I’ve got at my disposal right now are a Fuji X-T1 on loan from Ben with an 18-55mm f/2.8 lens.  The other is a Sony a6000 with the kit lenses, 16-50mm f3.5-5.6 and 55-210mm f/4.5/6.3, which I found for a good price on KSL.  My intent is to give these two cameras some field time to see how they work for my needs.  My first field days with these cameras are below.  I took one each on the two skiing days.  I won’t spoil which is which.  Try and guess without looking at the EXIF data.

Saturday

Sunday

Skiing in December 2016 and Early January 2017

Sunlight through the aspens on some great snow.

Various days

Carly and I have been out skiing basically every weekend the last few weeks of December and the first couple of January.  The snow in the Wasatch has been fabulous this year.  While not every storm has been cold smoke, many of them have and they have been coming through between 5-7 days between each.  This has kept the snow awesome in the backcountry with constant refreshes of even the most popular areas.  We also had one ski day in Red Mountain Pass Colorado on our New Year’s trip to Ouray.  While the snow sucked at the top of Mt. McMillan the views were good and the wind blown hard snow of CO made us appreciate the Wasatch a little more.