Return to Happyland

This is Happyland.

Sixteen months ago the Mountain Animals spent a week here skiing fabulously deep snow.  When we skied these pillows last year someone started calling the zone “pillow fight” but I like “Happyland,” the name the TGR crew came up with earlier this winter, too.

Despite being light and fluffy, the snow in Interior BC sticks to near-vertical surfaces.  If this rack were here in Utah the topsheets would be bare.

But, this isnt Utah and so the snow defies gravity and makes the cliffbands look like they’re made from Stay Puft products.

Remember that feeling when you were ten and as you reach the last step on the top of the high-dive you notice how far above the pool you are?  And how suddenly the decision to climb up the ladder in the first place seems like it was a bad one?

The lines are technical and with so many horizon lines it’s hard to be sure you’re standing on top of what you’d been eyeing from below.   Convincing yourself you weren’t going to be swallowed by a deep snow moat or accidentally launch fifty feet to flat were mental hangups for all of us.

Then, after  a few minutes of wrestling with those “on top of the high-dive”  thoughts  there comes a time when you stop thinking and do it.

And it is glorious.

The skiing on our first day at the hut was marginal.  It hadn’t snowed for a week and long spring days had baked the surface.  But that night clouds rolled in and on Day 2 it dumped all day then all night.

Eat your heart out, Jordan Manley

Tag-teaming trees

The lady-friend gettin’ hers

Mini-golf sequence

…with a satified look-back out the bottom

Unfortunately, stability during and after the storm was marginal above treeline.  We could hear avalanches more often than we could see them and I just happened to be taking a photo of the fresh crown lines when this one came down.  When the clouds lifted we could see that this avalanche began at the top of the same couloir that the Deeper guys rode during their week here.

During forays onto the glaciers we kept our angles low, which isn’t hard to do around this hut.  In fact, low angle glacier skipping is what the hut’s known for.

Dramatic light in a valley a few miles from the hut

First tracks OB.  Swift. Noisy. Deep.

Then time for the daily dose

R.Strong down the stairs…

…And out onto the apron,  looking highly disappointed.

Seth dropped in for a beer…

…A beer that we’d smuggled from MT to BC on the drive north.  Never have I felt less likely to be searched than crossing the border in a BMW with three cute, athletic women.

Afternoon cocktails led to sunset meadowskipping above the hut

And whipped cream for breakfast is the new homeopathic for hangovers

We explored areas  further from the hut, but sadly blue sky had baked the left half of the gully.

And put in some good ol’ steep zig zags to counteract all the flat-heel uphilling we’d been doing.

Which got us to some north-facing goods, still un-manked by sun.

Though the spring sun was quick to crustify the snow, the views didn’t suck.

We pushed high onto the glaciers, hoping for a window of good light

And saw lots of spindrift avalanches on the way

And wrapped up the trip with another lap on Happyland

After which I signed one, skinned up and sent

And dedicated a page to the place in the chalet guest book

Mountain Animals

Dawn Patrolin’

Ty, Ian and I met long before sunrise this morning, hoping to be the first to the top of Mt Superior for some powder skiing.  It doesn’t take many mornings out in Little Cottonwood to realize that there’s a whole posse of folks who ski the south face of Superior at sunup before heading into office.  It’s a testament to an early alarm clock wakeup and some good luck to actually see the face untracked below one’s ski tips in the early morning sunshine.

Ty, Ian and I had great powder turns down and were headed back down the canyon long before the ski lifts had started loading.

Neil and Ian Provo’s edit from Superior:


Foiled for the umpteenth time at skiing Timp, I settled instead for a tour through the sheep pen.  Pete and I hitched a ride from the mouth of Big Cottonwood to Alta and that alone has the potential to turn an average ski day into an adventure.  For the record Mom, my ratio of good experiences to bad while hitchhiking in Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons are about 25:1, maybe higher.  Our driver, an older gent, 2nd geared up LCC accumulating a long tail of cars, all with riders apparently anxious to be pounding laps on refrozen chunder at Alta and Snowbird.  He pulled behind Noah’s parked and empty truck to drop us off, just in case we needed further proof of our casual pace.

Gliding past a guide and client loaded with dangling snowshoes, crampons, ice axe, rope, and waterbottle swinging from carabiners my mood bouyed from good to great: how lucky we are to be skiers in a snowy and fair-weathered range!  On top of Mt Superior where there was nary a breath of wind and as soon as I put on a windbreaker over my t-shirt I was too hot.  Somehow, despite the balmy temps, the snow on north faces had stayed soft.  And where crusts had formed last night they’d now turned back into soft damp snow overlying cold dense powder.

Skier tracks on Sky Ramp:  big exposure and a double fall line

We continued to find cold and uncrusted snow, making our way from one north facing slope to the next.  By mid-afternoon we’d made a handful of laps though the empty sheep pen and coasted out the valley to Big Cottonwood Canyon road.    The one bad hitchhiking experience I’ve had involved riding in the metal bed of a 30-year-old pickup, struggling to keep from sliding into one another as we swung down the valley, passing cars two at a time over double yellows and NASCAR’ing though the s-curves before being finally delivered shaking but unharmed at the bottom.  So I was understandably leery when the driver of a pickup was the first to offer a ride.  After he vowed to drive in a safe and sane manner we jumped in back, knowing Pete was counting the minutes til he was expected at work.  Pete suggested printing up business card-sized invitations to a BBQ that one could give to every driver who gives a lift during the year and I think that’s a great idea.  Pete, lets host it at your house.