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

Pfeifferporn Part II

On monday I deliberated with some friends over beers on what to go ski the next day.  The iconic Pfeifferhorn came up in the discussion.  Of course the Pfeiff has always had a special spot in my heart, akin to many a Wastach skier.  I gained some inspiration from our friends Tim and Lizard's blog earlier this year. We discussed the NW couloir by North combination.  I've climbed it in the summer and it is a great alpine climb, made only better with some snow and skis on our back.  After Bret and I taunted Kevin with text messages about our start time we finally settled on an approximate 5:00 am start.  The usual junk show in the morning pushed that back a little. It was a pristine bluebird day with the only danger were some strong wind gusts and new snow slabs. A great day in the mountains with friends always helps to keep the ski stoke going.         
I got a new camera this year, and its been great. I think Bret likes it too.  I'm still not versed in all its features. I sometimes end up shooting short videos when I'm really trying to take pictures. Someday I'll read the directions.  It's usually jumpy video and not premeditated but I thought this captured some good moments of climbing.  Check it out if it uploaded.  

The climb was probably the highlight of the day for me, and the NW couloir is always a classic.  It was bare bones up top.  We slipped in the same way a party before us did on west facing steep snow chute that ran off the ridge.  It was actually nice to be the third party down it of the day and not have to worry about too much moving snow.  Bret starts down.

Kevin's first time down the NW couloir, here he is enjoying the turns before the rappel, a little puckered.  He told his girlfriend he would be back at noon, c'mon dude. I'm taking my time, oh yeah.

The rappel was a little bit bigger than one 30 meter rondo line.


Is that Bret locking down the heel?

We skied out to Maybird Gulch and enjoyed some creamy pow down the Hogum 500.  I set of a small 10 cm new snow slab on the first rollover below Hogum Divide Peak on a obviously wind-loaded NE aspect. Wonder what those pesky slabs will be like with more snow coming later this week.

He went into the backcountry a man and came out a boyz.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Williams Peak Yurt

Is it the mountain that calls us or is it the thought of adventure?
The new places and what hide around the next corner will always be there.
When is it your time to be in that place?
Somehow you just do it and when it's done you know you've been there.

Thubs up. Go time!!
 Getting the loads down tight.
From here to there and back again.
Long heavy day.

This is what makes it all worth it.
Low snow year but still good approach.
Home sweet home.
Steve making the best of the day.
Bret nailing it.

Snow can do crazy things.

Em storm skiing.

New place. Hehe.

Thats smiles all around.
The lines Jesus Christ, Resurrection, and others are hiding in these corners.

When Stef started heading for what makes these shadows I knew I was heading over to meet him.
The shadow had led us to great palces. 
Stefan lead a great part of the J.C. I passed by and got this awesome view of Thompson lake.
A scary cornice and the sumit.
This is what we do. We live, breath, sleep, eat, and feel alive.

Stefan getting into the J.C.
Bret dropping in off the cornice.

Hiden treasures.

We might have to come back for this one when theres more snow.

Love this shot.
Big Fatty.
Merritt Ridge.
The sun has set. Night is on it's way. Food and good times.