Sunset Boulevard

Kicking off this long weekend, the Avett Brothers concert turned out to be a rowdy, high-impact type of night.  On Saturday morning Allison and were moving half-speed.

Rather than motivate to head out for a long ride we drank agua by the liter and tinkered with bikes.

Finally we rallied for a night ride on the Wasatch Crest Trail.  The sunset was fiery and as the light faded we turned on bike lights and rolled into the dark.  One might think this is an unusual way to spend a Saturday night but on the ride down we ran into Ian, who also seemed to think riding in the dark is a worthwhile use of weekend.  In fact, it was an excellent use of a Saturday night.

Sunrise Ride

The last couple days in Park City have felt like fall. Yesterday morning started off with a literal bang as thunder boomed over the ridgeline so we postponed our plans for a sunrise ride. Today we were out the before sunup and had the trails to ourselves.   After yesterday’s rain and snow, the trails were smooth, tacky, and fast.

Wasatch Perverse Traverse

“Ha! You’ve got to be kidding me!” was Noah’s email response to a note I’d sent asking if he wanted to link up Mt Olympus with Twin Peaks. He attached a map with a red line he’d just then been drawing that connected Olympus to Twin Peaks to Lone Peak. My first thought when I saw Noah’s map was “That’s huge!” my second thought was “…well maybe.”

Yesterday morning we left the car at 4:30am and started up Mt Olympus. It was a muggy warm night with a bright moon. I didn’t need my headlamp for light; rocks and trees were illuminated in colorless moonlight. I left the headlamp on my head however. The elastic band helped redirect the sweat that was already dripping down my forehead. It was going to be a long, hot day.


We were past Mt. Olympus when the sun first glinted on the peaks nearby. The ridgeline beyond Olympus is narrow and rocky and we ducked through bushes and scrambled along the ridgeline fins. Noah called out about a ground hornet nest I’d just passed, oblivious, when he was immediately stung. A rolling talus chunk bopped me on the knob of my ankle, leaving it feeling wooden and tender the rest of the day. As we ‘shwacked down towards Storm Mountain Amphitheater we heard a startling buzz.  Noah had stepped over a rattlesnake.

Mountain mahogany and gamble oak intertwine into an inflexible, woody understory and when we no longer found routes around the thickets we began plowing though. Despite temperatures that were climbing through the 80’s, I wished for a Carhartt one-piece. Even having long pants might’ve added some significant speed to our descent. Finally we reached the bottom of Big Cottonwood Canyon where we dunked our heads and soaked our feet before lacing up and beginning the next leg of the traverse.

That beard really helps him blend with the foliage


Climbing up Stairs gulch, a trail begins at the pavement but soon disappears among scree, slab, and briers. The sun was baking the dark rock under our feet and polished slab still thousands of feet above looked wet in the glimmering heat. High-stepping up divots in slab, I understood that Stairs Gulch was literally named.

Up up and away


On top of the ridge, Noah’s altimeter had recorded 10,000 feet of climbing and we were slowing down. The final 1300 feet  along the ridgeline to the summit of Twin Peaks took us a full hour, far slower than the pace we’d held earlier. But finally we were looking a vertical mile down into Little Cottonwood. Sandwiches and cold drinks were waiting for us at the bottom. We just had to navigate down Lisa Falls to get there.


For the record, I’d like to say that I knew Lisa Falls had waterfalls – it’s right there in the name – what I didn’t realize is that over the course of it’s 5000′ run there are hundreds of waterfalls. Noah and I discovered this as we slid and handjammed down the couloir. We also discovered that, despite facing due south, there were some pretty big snow patches hidden in the recesses of the chute. The meltwater ran down the white granite, leaving the center of the gully mossy slick and limiting where we could downclimb.


We moved steadily downhill, stopping only once during the four hour descent.  Earlier we’d handed hiking poles over 4th and 5th class ledges, but now we’d begun hucking poles before climbing down to retrieve them. Then repeat. Again. And again. And props to Black Diamond’s poles. Despite the abuse they’re still fully functional, though they gained a few scrapes.  When my poles landed neatly paired without bouncing too far or clattering too much Noah nodded approval. Even after 14 hours on the hoof, Noah’s sense of humor is still sharp.


Finally, as alpenglow faded on the Y-couloir across the valley, we’d dropped into the deep twilight of the forest below Lisa Falls. At Noah’s truck we inhaled sandwiches and decided to save the Lone Peak to Draper section for another day.  In hindsight, every part of the hike except the climb up Olympus was significantly more difficult than we had anticipated.  The micro routefinding was endless and our unfamiliarity with the terrain (at least without a thick snowy blanket) hindered our ability to move quickly.  If we repeated the route I’m sure we could shave off several hours. Still, the route Noah envisioned could be beyond my ability, at least if the goal is travel from Olympus to Twins to Lone Peak between sunrise and sundown. But then again… well, maybe.

Gooseberry Mesa

Allison and I spent a couple days romping through Gooseberry mesa. The riding consists of lots of techy little ups and downs without any sustained uphill grunts nor fast downhills. The constant up-over-down riding has it’s own sort of flow and is pretty entertaining in an xc sort of way.

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.