Thursday, March 7, 2013

Pilot Peak- Sky Pilot

Great Salt Lake and Pilot Peak

Pilot Peaks Sky Pilot Col...
Cousin Richardson with Pilot Peak looming above

The Sky Pilot

Dead old tree in the bottom of a major slide path

Hello Friend

Near the top of our ascent
The west side you can see from I-80


Top of Sky Pilot

Half way down the upper choke

The exposure is mind numbing

How many thousand feet left?

I don't know if this goes Bill?


Almost home

My step cousin and I were back home in Ovando, Montana visiting family and came up with a great idea while drinking at Trixi's, that we should go on an adventure. We both live and work in the Wasatch Mountains and wanted to get away from the crowds. We got the idea from a friend to go check out Pilot Peak above the Bonneville Salt Flats. Early one morning we drove out to the salt flats, but stayed a hair west, about 30 miles of dirt road north of I-80. We parked about 3.5 miles and 6,000 vertical feet from the summit.

We began our ascent at about 10am and were back at the truck at 6pm. We climbed through the desert sage and juniper forest up into the land of pinyon pines and mountain mahogany. We ascended a 5000' east facing slide path. The slide path is impressively massive and made us wonder how often it runs full track? Maybe every couple hundred years? Maybe never again due to lack of snow?  Who knows? Anyways it was a pretty humbling experience to be hiking up a slide path this massive and remote.

On our walk up, a chute caught our eye. Does it go? Is it stable? Questions ran through our mind and as we tried to keep our excitement from clouding our decision making. On our ascent of the large avy path we noticed the snow was really set up from the recent week plus of high pressure. We ascended a mostly southeast facing aspect which is generally more stable at this latitude at this time of year. On our climb we ventured off onto a more northerly facing aspect, which held considerably more snow than anywhere else we traveled. We dug a couple pits to get an idea of the aspect we wanted to ski. We had good results and found surprisingly nice powder snow that looked rather enticing to ski.

However, being from Ovando and from a family of peak baggers and chute skiers, we decided there was no other option than the true summit. We traversed south on the summit ridge over to the top of Pilot Peak. We were greeted with clear skies, light winds, and a 360° view of the super remote desert. The Salt Flats, The Great Salt Lake, and numerous desert ranges coated in snow as far as the eye can see. Ohh my.

From the summit we traversed east down a rocky ridge to the top of the chute. The entrance was about 45-50°, narrow, and firm. In the name of Uncle Keith, I dropped in first. I harnessed my inner Shreddy and made on large turn down to a safe zone a couple hundred feet below. Cousin Richardson was right: it was FIRM! Luckily my snow blades dug in and kept me from cartwheeling down the 4,000' chute. I usually like to use snow blades in steep chutes and this time I took out my Big Foots and Kolfac boots. They worked really well on the ascent and descent. Anyways, we were not too sure the chute went through. We didn't have a rope for doing a sport rappel and knew we would have to climb back out the chute if we couldn't make it. Luckily we knew we would be okay if that were the case, because we had a whole bunch of buttered chicken to fuel us through the day and night. 

We experienced powder, wind board, sun crust, and sheer ecstasy as we made our descent. Being a former stunt ditch rider, Richardson just slayed it on his knuckle dragging machine. I however made about a million hop turns down the chute.  We couldn't tell if it went until the bottom and when we made it out into the juniper forest. "Heck yes, we made it." We continued our descent through the desert linking together patches of snow to his truck. We pretty much snow slid our way back to the truck without taking our blades and board off.

Not being sure if this chute has been skied or its name we decided to call the chute the Sky Pilot. Great ski trail and worth checking out if there's enough snow.

The Hammer Slayer