For quite a few of the years I’ve been in Utah I’ve traveled to Ouray for President’s Day. The holiday is one I never got off prior to moving to Utah, but is considerably better as a winter holiday than Easter, given it is earlier and subject to much less variability in when it falls. This year Carly and I rented a hotel room right in downtown Ouray with its own hot springs. This was quite a good idea and I would like to try to come back to this place again as the accommodations were pleasant, price reasonable, OK continental breakfast, and two on premises hot springs, one being adults only and open 24 hours.
This winter has been spectacular in Utah, currently sitting at around 144% of median. Colorado is also doing quite well. This made for some great conditions in Ouray. Plenty of snow around to make it look like winter and small amounts of precip while we were there so it wasn’t too difficult to get around. The drive down did have a bit of a long stretch with snow, which was less than ideal and added at least an hour to the drive.
Climbing was good overall. I was able to get back on and complete a climb that I’d backed off of in 2017. Unfortunately the last pitch had a large crack at mid height which I down climbed off of.
Carly was able to lead some pitches as well. A snow slog on Camp Bird Rd as well as P2 and P3 of Horsetail Falls. With the weather and how good the ice near Ouray was, we never got over to Silverton/Eureka. Perhaps another time.
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.
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.
Carly and I took a ski trip to British Columbia at the end of January. This trip was organized by one of Carly’s MBA friends. Dave usually plans a big trip up to BC every year and this year we were able to join in. We drove up to Nakusp, BC over two days from SLC. We opted to sleep in the van which turned out to be great for this type of trip. The 8 hours of driving per day went by reasonably well. We did have a little bit of a scare at the end of the first day when the van was making a funny noise. I suspected a wheel bearing and we opted to try and get it fixed ASAP the morning of the second day before getting into the middle of nowhere BC. Luckily a Chevy dealer in Missoula, our chosen rest stop for the first day, had the parts and was able to push us through in just a few hours. We made it to Nakusp in good time and weren’t even the last ones to arrive at the meeting spot.
The lodge is in the backcountry and accessible only via helicopter in the winter. I’ve only flown on a helicopter one other time so I was looking forward to the ride in. Despite it snowing pretty hard we had no trouble getting into the lodge. The visibility was pretty low for the ride in and the pilot stayed a 100-200′ off the trees for visual reference.
The accommodations at Snowfall were great. Despite being in the first year of operation it was quite plush. Full kitchen, in-door pee toilet, comfortably heated, electricity, drying room, the works. Backpacking will be rough change of pace in the future.
Skiing was amazing. The snow in BC falls at a warmer temperature than here in the Wasatch and it forms these pillows on terrain features. These features would be something to avoid at home because you probably would hit whatever was under the snow. In BC these pillows were usually many feet thick and soft. It snowed on average 6″ per day for the trip. This was good and bad. It created some poor visibility and unstable snow. This kept any of the 16 of us from getting on any big lines. It did however refill the few areas were were able to access.
We got a few hours of clear weather about mid-week. This afforded some amazing views of the terrain around us. It reminded me of my previous trip to BC with Christina and Drew. The experience was quite good and I’m hoping I can make this an annual occurrence.
I closed out the year with some climbing in Cody, WY. I had the week between Christmas and New Year’s and was able to join my friend Doug and new friend Chris for some stellar climbing in Cody. While the town’s temperatures were frigid most days, the climbing areas had a bit better temperatures. Though most of the days it was either very windy or snowing. Luckily the temps were mild enough to make things comfortable, enough for ice climbing anyway. We were able to get some good routes done on some fresh ice. I’ve forgotten how difficult non-picked out ice can be. While the drive is quite long from Salt Lake City, I was able to redeem some air miles and fly up. Which was great on the way in, on the way out I wasn’t sure if I’d get out of town. There are only 3 flights that land in Cody this time of year. The mid-day one that I was on Saturday was delayed because of wicked snow conditions. Luckily the plane eventually made it in and we were able to make it back to SLC.
I gotta get back soon while the ice is so good and tick off more of the classics!
After a skipped year in 2016 I was back this year to the Bozeman Icefest. This time around I had a couple crusher colleagues from France in town to show us out to climb. In addition we had the whole Blue Ice North America crew junking it up. Luckily there wasn’t in much in the way of official company duty so climbing and drinking in spades were had. I’m glad to have swung the tools since I’m not sure when there might be ice around Salt Lake to get into.
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.
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.
Just a quick post to share some images from a recent ski/climbing trip to the desert. Yup, the desert for climbing and skiing. Outside Moab, UT are the La Sal Mountains, with many peaks topping 12,000′ they are even higher than the Wasatch outside our front door. We gambled on the weather and got some fresh snow in the La Sals and enjoyed ourselves exploring a new area. That day after skiing we camped in Moab and enjoyed a desert sunset. Awesome place this UT.
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.
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.