Got out this morning for a quick lap on Argenta with Charlie. Snow was pretty good overall, a bit dense in spots from wind and a little sun effected on west aspects nearer the bottom, but fun nonetheless. This was my first time skiing Argenta and it is a quick objective from the sense you get right into the business from the car—no wasting time on flat ground. Unfortunately, the skinner is in typical Wasatch shape going nearly straight up in many spots, particularly on the first third or so.
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.
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.
In November 2016 I headed to Chamonix, France to feel out a seemingly unbelievable opportunity. That trip was my first to Chamonix and I didn’t get a peek at the riches that the area has for mountain scenery and fun. The clouds hung low for the duration of that trip and snow fell frequently. Since that date things have accelerated significantly and at the beginning of May it was time to return for a longer and more productive trip to solidify the gel that has started setting. In short the opportunity was to work with Blue Ice, a small Chamonix based climbing company. I would go along with Bill Belcourt to discuss opening an additional office in Salt Lake City. We would head the hardgoods design effort here in SLC and softgoods would continue out of Chamonix. Six months after the project kicked off we are six strong in Salt Lake and augmenting the team of 13 in Chamonix. Stay tuned to see what we’re working on…
As for the trip. Adam and I headed out at the beginning of May just as one of the team from France was leaving a visit to the US. The itinerary was to visit a number of suppliers, climb, ski, and live in France for the bulk of May. Check, check, check, and check.
In Nov. ’16 I didn’t get to witness the scale since the place was socked in and we didn’t get out for any climbing. This time however, our ride in from Geneva left us with a clear view of the magnitude of topography that is Chamonix. The elevation at the cable car, téléphérique as it’s called, in town is 3,379′ (1030 m). The top of the Aiguille du Midi which the téléphérique brings you to is 12,604′ (3,842 m). Mont Blanc, the highest point in Europe, is 15,774′ (4,808 m) and only 3.4 mi (5.4km) away. I thought that Salt Lake City had some of the best relief in the world and it is only half of that of Chamonix. The scale is mind blowing. Looking up at the peaks from the center of town almost hurts your neck in how high you have to look.
While there was quite a bit of working on the trip we were able to get out and do some fun in the hills and mountains.