Saturday, November 30, 2013

Suicide Chute at Mt Superior

The name is definitely a bit dramatic as I just did this line and made it back home... Clearly that name is based on a great exaggeration of the actual facts on the ground. We have agreed that as far as our wives are concerned its original name, Shane's chute, is the only one acceptable... Having said that this line should still get some respect and calling it Country Lane like some do is clearly slanderous. This has the classic couloir feel with nice rock walls and a double fall line for a bonus... Given the scarcity of the snow in this pre-season cycle we figured this line could be our snow trap just like Main Baldy chute which is now closed since the opening of Alta. The conditions on the ground were as good as expected with 2-3 feet in the most favored spots and never less than a foot or so. Now that exclusively applies to the couloir proper, the apron is miserable and that's is NOT an exaggeration; forget skiing any part of it. 
Here are the pictures (click to enlarge):
What it looks like today, a little rock but clearly manageable.
View down into Homicide chute, not ready just yet...
Mike toiling in the mixed ice and rock at the choke taking
you into the today skiable part of the chute .
Yet another tasty little Wasatch line. Can't wait to get
back here with a foot plus of powder.

Yours truly two thirds of the way up...
...and beginning the ski down.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Pre-season training: Empire Lodge – McConkey’s top

With PCMR opening this week-end, I had to move my pre-season skinning sessions to Deer Valley. I went to the Empire Express base to skin up to the lift top station then on to McConkey’s. That’s about 1,500 feet elevation gain, ideally I would continue to the Jupiter summit but was on a schedule with Max to pick up from ski training at PCMR at noon sharp.
I went up for a solo tour but bumped in to Lance plus Drew and his dog Maya in the parking lot, so my dog Skadi and I had the good fortune of being in a good group of aggressive tri-athletes (not me, them: Drew and Lance). Once on top of McConkey’s a quick inspection of the conditions showed that although some parts probably have close to two feet of cover on grass this is also interspersed with a lot of islands of shallow cover, down to two inches and less over rocks. That ruled out skiing McConkey’s for the day. We will need another foot or more before you can have a great ski down this slope. Essentially the same goes for Jupiter but with the added concern of the large rocks there that you don’t have at McConkey’s. I am not complaining though, this is more than the last couple of seasons, and more than the 2009/2010 season when I was up here at the same time of the year (click here to compare).
The “variable” snow cover, as in rocks and snow, makes it absolutely impossible to relax completely on your skis unless you stopped counting the core shots a while back... Having said that there are portions of really good cover and thus fun skiing to be had on the way back down to the Empire Lodge.
Here are today’s pictures (click to enlarge):
Daly chutes don't have a consistent cover just yet.
Photo credit: Drew Izzo. Taken from the POark City
ridgeline see the clouds covering Heber Valley and
the sun rays piercing thriough the clouds.

Lance on top of McKonkey's with 10,420 in the background.

Drew enjoying the great outdoors with
Deer Valley in the background.

Drew and Lance barrelling down from McConkey's
and back to Deer Valley.

From top to bottom: Lance, Maya, Drew, and Skadi
that got hurt right around here...

...left arrow: her blood, right arrow the "fix".

Skadi and Maya almost back to Empire Lodge.

Skadi inspecting her war wound...

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Main Baldy redux

With ski buddies travelling or recovering from injury or whatever else, I had no choice but to do yet another solo tour today. As long as I have no choice I can’t be doing anything wrong, right? Now, I am sure that some narrow minds out there will argue that one could just decide to NOT ski that day, but then again, I submit that only non-skiers could see that as a reasonable option. Being a skier, that choice is just not available to me. As you can see, I am pretty flexible on the rationalizations I need to come up with to break this cardinal rule of avy safety. Having said that, I do get extra aware and cagey when I go out alone especially in avalanche terrain that slid just a few days ago… I was a lot more worried about the shoulder than the line itself as Main Baldy has lately been subject to a whole lot of skier compaction. On Wednesday however, the Baldy shoulder saw the largest slide so far this season. It was due to some wind loading and that buried weak faceted snow near the ground. The avalanche was 2 to 4 feet deep, 200 feet wide, and ran about 900 vertical feet, for details click here.

Here are the pictures (click to enlarge):
View of Mt Baldy with the entry to Main Baldy apparent and
Wednesday's avalanche crown visible to climber's right.

In red; highlights of Wednesdays avalanche, in green the skin track as
previously cut and in orange the general direction of the track I cut today
sneaking back up to Main Baldy entrance "from behind". The blue line
is the ski line (eerily parallel to the avy line)

On the ridgline, leaving Wildcat behind.

The Pfeiff, one of my absolute favorites in the Wasatch

View down Main Baldy.

Main Baldy exit.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Main Baldy Chute at Alta

Today I went out with my friend Mike to ski some safe east facing lines (relying on a forecast of up to a foot of new snow overnight and facets in the north facing). Weather conditions were mildly stormy but not cold and the snow was absolutely fantastic up high. In privileged spots we were looking at two feet plus. Once there we noticed that the overnight new snow was very light and the quantity way below forecasted quantities, reducing our risk assessment. On the way up we met a couple of guys that told us that Main Baldy had been skied the day prior by a dozen skiers or so. They were going to ski it now, so we would have the benefit of an additional stability test for the day. I had also noticed, a few days prior, that the line had been skied out after the mid-October storm. With that information and a snowpack that did not give up any signs of instability, we decided that this should be as good a day as any for a Main Baldy ski. We got there, had a great ski on a snowpack that felt real close to bomb proof. After Baldy we went up to Collins pass and skied out on the runs.
Here are the pictures (click to enlarge):
Winter sun over Mt Baldy

Mike on the way to Main Baldy

Main Baldy Chute, a tasty little line...
Mike on the ski out

Friday, November 1, 2013

It's beginning to look a lot like winter…

Went to Alta today (by the time the pictures uploaded this should now say yesterday as in Thursday...) and got to ski two foot deep powder. Jealous yet? You should, it was bloody amazing! And I didn’t even hit a single rock! I skied small but high quality north facing shots off of Wildcat top station. I didn’t dare do the shots off of the Mount Baldy Shoulder considering the size of those runs and the sugar making up the bottom layer of all north facing slopes. The shots off of Wildcat top station are small enough to practically qualify for test slopes.
Here are the day’s pictures (click to enlarge):
From the parking lot at the Gold Miners Daughter.
Going up Wildcat
Mt Superior in the clouds
At Collins Angle station
Ski tracks no matter which way you go up
To the right, the shots off of Wildcat top