For a week each of the last 14 or so years, my dad, Jeff Harris, and I take a backpacking trip together. Usually we wait until the last minute to decide on an exact destination, following favorable weather. This year the forecast in Utah called for snow in the mountains and rain in the desert. It was a big enough storm that we’d have to spend a full day driving north or south to avoid it. Rather than do that, we packed rain gear and headed to one of Utah’s many wild deserts. Continue reading →
My dad and I parked the car at the north end of Capitol Reef National Park and began heading south, unsure if our hypothetical route would work. We had a few hangups where vertical canyon walls forced us to backtrack and a few other places where I think my dad was surprised to find himself climbing 5th class terrain, but we found a route through nonetheless. At the end of the week a retired couple in a luxury sedan give us a lift back to our car.
First, I want to give a huge thanks to Doug at Iceaxe.tv and SuperG at Smith Optics. Thanks so much guys!
The term “trip of a lifetime” gets thrown around a lot with a jaunt like this and while the phrase hints at how special the trip is, I don’t like it because it insinuates that I might never go back. It was hard to get pulled away from a lifetime-worth of aesthetic alpine lines after only a handful of days. Shoot, a lifetime wouldn’t be near enough time to ski all the best lines on the Antarctic Peninsula. Doug Stoup clearly feels the same because he has already begun organizing the 2013 trip. Continue reading →
While riding in the Uintas this week we came across an aspen tree with “The Trails End” carved into the bark. The graffiti was dated 1936. That spot is no longer the trail’s end (apostrophies having been less popular 75 years ago) and we continued the grind up to the ridge.
For more photos…
Summer is in it’s death spasms here and the trees’ chlorophyll has gone south leaving the leaves to their annual pyrotechnics. The maples have a clear jump on the transformation with the aspens trailing a week or two behind. Still, in the high country, aspens are far enough along to prompt Frank to reitterate the phrase “lemon-lime” about a dozen times on yesterday’s ride. Here’s photos from a few recent rides.
Tomorrow night is the Utah Avalanche Center’s Fall Party at Black Diamond. Admission covers burritos and Uinta Brewing beer and your dollars go to a great cause – keeping the UAC’s forecasts rolling through the winter. As the UAC’s federal and state funding get chipped away with each new legislative season, fundraisers like this one have become essential for the UAC’s operation.
Along with music, food, and drink, there’ll be a live auction with tons of gear, services, and art donated by the SLC community.
Here’s a woodcut of mine that’ll be up for grabs in the silent auction:
I had an interview with Camp4 Collective earlier this week. The content that C4C produces is excellent, but I was also impressed when Tim Kemple explained their ideal-driven management strategies. Emphasis on pursuing continued education, plus the team’s collaborative decision-making had me intrigued. Seems like a pragmatic company. The interview was inspiring enough that I made a time-lapse “thank you” that afternoon.
We scampered up Alta this morning to make some August turns. It was a quicker hike than I expected – just over an hour to the top. Little patches of snow in the shade were frozen hard on the way up, but the chute catches the sun early and was pleasantly soft by 8am.
Allison and I had last skied the chute about a month ago, when we were able to ski all the way to the parking lot. Not so today. It’s just about a 2500′ climb and we were able to ski down 1000′ of that before we hit the road.
Grom stopped to watch us ski the apron then let us hop in the truck for a ride back to the base, making the “Alta Ski Lifts Company” name truthful even in August.
Davide and I headed out earlyish today, hoping we’d beat the forecasted storms. We didn’t.
About an hour in it began raining lightly. We posted up under thick trees and wondered if we should keep climbing. When it began raining a little harder, then a little harder still, we decided to pull the plug and head downhill.
My glasses were fogging when it was still dry due to a steamy first day of August. Then they were totally hosed once it got even wetter. Slithering downhill looked like footage from Monet’s helmet cam. I achieved a level of soaked-muddiness where the first thing I did when I got home was go to the backyard and hose off my sopping shoes, socks and shorts while still in them. Minutes later trail-colored water was swirling around the bottom of the shower.
Allison and I shuttled up Guardsman’s Pass around 6am today for a pre-work Crest Trail ride. It’d rained hard last night and tire tracks from previous riders had been replaced by smooth singletrack dimpled with texture from the torrential thunderstorm. Only a few minutes into the ride we ran into an F250-sized bull moose grazing from the trail. Waving and yelling did little to relocate the unflappable moose so we backtracked and pedaled the old trail over Scotts Hill.
For those who don’t mountain bike, just-barely-damp trails (aka tacky) are about as good as it gets for maximum traction. Even my tired old tires pull around corners like they are mounted to roller-coaster rails. A week ago I could feel both tires drifting sideways across some of the dustier, higher speed turns. Not today. For trails like the Crest that have few bermed turns, riding on a morning like today allows you to pull about as many G’s around the corners as you’ll ever will.
Ian wasn’t scheduled to fly in to SLC until 10pm and Neil wanted to run the idea by him first before committing. I’d proposed an early, early start so that we could ski down the East Face of Lone peak at sunrise, guessing that a 1:30am start would get us there around 7am. I also figured that Ian, just returning from a surf trip to the California coast, wouldn’t be interested in a stupid early start and I’d be off the hook for my dumb plan. Well, I was wrong.
At 11pm Neil called to say that he and Ian were game and we agreed to meet in at the mouth of Bells Canyon at 1am. After charging camera batteries and packing my kit, it hardly seemed worth it to bother with 45 minutes of sleep, so I puttered around listening to the ipod at high volume, waiting until it was time to leave the house.
The hike up Big Willow was on dirt for the first few miles, then supportable snow. As we got higher though, the refreeze crust got thinner and Ian and I would take a step, shift weight onto it and feel it give support until I lifted my other foot whereupon it would suddenly give, sending me thigh-deep into the mushy snow below. In soft snowboard boots, Neil was able to levitate up the crust a ways further before he too began the hip-deep wallow. I eventually submitted to the alpine crawl and then when the crust got thinner still, to skis, skins, and ski crampons.
We topped out on Lone Peak, 6200 feet above the car, just after sunrise. It had been a warm night without much of a refreeze so we didn’t have to wait long to ski carveable corn down the NE Couloir of Lone Peak. Given the tremendous snowpack in the Wasatch this year, the couloir skied more like a face than a chute and the rock band at the bottom was so buried it was easily straightlined.
We skied down the rolling terrain of upper Bells Canyon for a mile or two before the snow became patchy. On principle, I linked patches of snow, skiing over shrubs and logs in the process, until the dirt sections were longer than the snow. Spring runoff was filling the trail at about 10cfs and we sloshed down the path disguised as a creek. A few miles of dirt stomping later and we’d walked back down into summer, where everyone was wearing shorts and giving our skis and snowboard funny looks.
The Provo’s put together a great edit of the adventure.