Sunday, February 7, 2016

2-6-16 Wheeler Peak

"I'd rather be in the Oquirrhs'
Plan B was Wheeler Peak.  None of us had ever been to Great Basin NP but from Google Earth the terrain looked promising.  We decided on a 4A start from Andy's hoping to be back in town but 7P.  Seemed a little early for any of our liking but the psych was high as we started south.  The psych was even higher when we found an open Maverick in Delta, even higher when we found warm clean bathrooms at the GBNP visitor center, and even higher when we found a 3 mile trail that lead through dense brush to the base of the cirque WITH a skinner in!
Once we got good views of the upper mountain it was pretty clear winds had been absolutely ravaging the place.  Anything above tree line was scoured down to talus.  No worries though, the chutes where in, the sun was out, and there wasn't a breath of wind.  

From the summit we decided on a SW facing shot towards Pyramid Peak with the hope of climbing back up the back side (south side) of Jeff Davis and then hopefully skiing a NW couloir back into the upper cirque.  We had a rope so decided to give the first pitch on the SW a nice hard ski on rappel.  Our fears of instability (we hadn't touched this aspect) were quickly eased and we ended up finding corn shortly off the summit.

Tom with Andy giving a solid hip belay

The line on the left heading
 towards the camera
From there everything went as planned.  We skinned back up the south side of Jeff Davis and found a scoured NW facing shot back into the Wheeler cirque.  Conditions ranged from wind buffed hard pack to powder.  Setting ranged from amazing to a little better than amazing.  There certainly is more to be done in Great Basin National Park.  If the winds calmed down long enough for snow to accumulate up high this could be a little skiers paradise.


Bristlecone Pines

2-5-15 Lewiston

We went to the Oquirrhs to do a little recon for a possible traverse.  After futzing around on the bushes for a hour or so we finally got on track and found nothing but powder to the top Lewiston.  The skiing turned out to be pretty good but we figured the travel was a little slow for 40 mile day.  On to plan B...

Thursday, February 4, 2016

2-4-16 Spanish Fork Round 2

It was so ridiculously good yesterday we had to go back for more.  Unfortunately the viz wasn't the greatest.  None of us were complaining though.  

2-3-16 Spanish Fork Peak

Surprise powder day.  I'm not sure if 1% snow is a thing but today seemed like it was pretty close.  Sa, Andy and I broke 5200' of trail to the top of SFP.  To bad we didn't have all day to keep skiing.  The ole butthole is on the mend!

2-2-16 Days Fork

After 3 weeks off nursing a bruised butthole and broken Coccyx, it felt really good to get back on skis.  It started a little achey but as the day went the soft snow eased all pain.  

Monday, January 18, 2016

1-12-16 Lisa Falls Avalanche

All I saw was sunlight starting to hit the bottom of the crack.  Nothing else. I had no thoughts.  There was no swearing.  Nothing.  I dove uphill into the light trying to dig into the bed surface above me.  The next thing I knew, another slab washed over me and pulled me from the ground.  It went dark, then I choked on snow, then it was light again, and then I was still moving down hill.  As I kept moving I caught a glimpse of Andy skiing about 50' above me yelling to FIGHT!!!  I was.

The heart of Lisa Falls
Shortly after I was able to dig into the bed surface and everything stopped.  My butt hurt, my boot was broken but after a quick run through everything was fine.  I sat there strangely calm and tried to wrap my head around what just happened. My first thought that was immediate gratitude.  I had gone a couple hundred feet and was grateful/amazed I didn't go another hundred where the upper portion of Lisa Falls steepens and funnels into a tight rock lined chute.  The outcome would have been different.

Until that point, we were in the middle of an amazing day.  Lars, Andy and I had just skied a new (to us) line, East Fork of Lisa Falls.  The snow was amazing and the location even better. As we worked our way up Lisa we had continual conversations about snow safety.  We chose an appropriate line up making sure we avoided the wind loaded upper SE aspect of East Twin.  We knew it was a suspect slope.  We talked about it being suspect.  We knew all the reasons it was suspect. We took extra effort to avoid it.

Summit Ridge to Sunrise
Andy's first turn off Sunrise, Twins in the background, en route to East Fork of Lisa Falls
East Fork Lisa Falls
Between West and East Twin, staying on the ridge.
Once we ripped skins it seemed easier to ski the suspect slope then retrace our up track.  We justified doing it by saying if we stayed on the upper side of the slope we'd be fine.  I happened to rip skins first so was in the lead.  I stayed as close to the rocky ridge as possible.  I kept weighting my skis heavily and feeling myself push through a soft slab.  This continued to reinforce our lazy/bad decision.  All of a sudden the slab was not soft anymore, it had cracked above me, and I was getting churned.  

Lars, showing us his fashion sense in upper Lisa Falls
In hind sight the correct decision was easy.  I (we) didn't make the correct decision for various reasons, none of them valid, but I think it comes down to respect.  I don't think I respected the consequences of getting caught or even thought I would get caught.  I think we all get away with a lot in the mountains and the consequences of a slide are all theory until they're not.  One of my good friends was caught a few years ago and told me no one can truly respect avalanches and their power until they've actually felt it.  I don't think that's 100% correct but I do think there is some truth to it.  I certainly didn't really respect the 'lanche until I felt my ass getting scraped against rocks, my mouth filling with snow,  and my world turning dark then light.  How could I?  That experience brought all the words I've heard and read to life.  All the snow science education in the world does no good if you don't know there are consequences of a bad decision.

I suspect January 12th ended in the absolute best possible scenario.  We were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the dragon without being required to pay too much.  Six days later my butt's still heavily bruised (now into my scrotum!) and I'm too sore to ski. My wife keeps telling me she's glad it hurts and hopes that I remember this.  I hope I do too.

Lower Lisa

Sunday, January 10, 2016