What a week it has been! Utah was graced with some deep snow and sunny skies for the Christmas holiday. Add to that the fact that my wife took a week off of work and you have a recipe for some great days in the backcountry.
On Wednesday the 26th, I headed up to meet some friends for another trip up Grizzly Gulch but they bailed on me with the snow coming down hard. I was already half way there, so I decided to go anyway and try to meet up with someone in the parking lot. Sure, enough, there was another guy there who came up solo and was looking for a touring partner. I'm still not that familiar with the area and neither was he so we took it easy. Visibility was poor as well so we trekked only to areas we could actually see. For us that day, that meant Patsy Marley, a mellow peak (on its north face at least) that we could get to realitively easily.
We skinned our way to the ridge and topped out at the summit, but the north side of Patsy's is short if you want to ski the fall line. We had some fresh tracks for the first pitch then made our way through the trees for some nice shots and back down the cattrack. We skied one more 300 foot line down into the creek that leads back to the parking lot.
The guy I skied with was visiting from Rhode Island. He had been to the Wasatch before and was never disappointed. What a cool thing to be able to just show up and have some companions to tour with.
The snow kept coming down and ended up dropping about 18 inches in the Cottonwoods from Wednesday to Friday. With the greenlight from the fam to take in another day I met some buds once again at Grizzly Gulch on Saturday. With avy danger hovering on the Moderate side, we felt a little more adventurous. We crested at the Solitude resort boundary and decided on some 500 foot lines into the Twin Lakes area wedged between Solitude and Brighton. While we weren't the only ones there, there were plenty of fresh tracks to be made. We skied one lap then had one in our party have to head home. So with 2 of us left, we skinned a bit higher and found a steeper, longer line of untouched. There were some dudes building a kicker just above us so we hugged the trees to keep their landing area pristine. They were appreciative and I hope it earned us some good BC karma.
The skin out of Twin Lakes was steep and we contemplated our last run. We had thought about heading up to Patsy's but on our way found an incredible, even steeper and deeper chute to lay some tracks on. It was run where I wish I had my GoPro. It was truly a hero run, with the kind of snow and pitch that dreams are made...snow blasting up against your chest, effortless turns and just the sounds of the wind blowing through your helmet and soft, light and fluffy flakes battering your body.
It was too good to last however. Our final skin out was hampered by frozen skins. I had made the rookie mistake of getting snow on my skins before putting them in my backpack and they wouldn't stick to my skies. Then, in a effort to clean them, I lost the metal clip for the back strap. So, I tried boot packing with my skis on my pack but that effort was futile. The skin track wasn't near packed enough to boot it. So at the suggestion of a passerby, I put my skins in my shirt to thaw then out. While it made for some cold, wet minutes, it did the trick. My skins stuck and we made it out just fine.
Our last run of the day was back to the parking lot but we manged to find some fresh shots in the trees on the way.
Our day began at 9:30 and ended at 3:30. It was an amazing day that left us with about 2000 feet of skiing, all fresh lines. We could see some of the runs in the resorts, all of which were tracked out and already filled with moguls. I felt lucky to be out in the BC and earning turns. While I didn't get in as many runs as I would at a resort, each run I had was quality. Even with a crowded day in one of the most popular BC spots in the Wasatch, I never skied over anyone else's tracks. I would much rather so that than spend $70+ at a resort skiing moguls and fighting for fresh-ish lines.
Part of my enjoyment as well is the workout you get touring. You gotta love the up as much as the down if you're heading out into the BC. You also have to be ready to call it quits or ski mellow terrain if avy danger is too high. So you may end up skinning alot and not even ski! Regardless, its about being out in the sun and snow and having a great time with your friends.
With 3 days now on my new equipment, I've got some things to say about for sure. Tomorrow will talk nutrition and then Wednesday I'll review some of the equipment I'm using in hopes it will help your next gear purchase.
Until then, Happy New Year!!