Monday, March 25, 2013

Pioneer Mts and Yurt

I love taking trips and adventuring into new mountain ranges. Its just that in the winters its easy to get wrapped up in your local skiing arenas. You are familiar with the weather and snowpack, you like to have dry socks and boot liners and its expensive to rent backcountry yurts and huts. This past week Gae and I met our Salt Lake Serious friends in the Pioneer Mts., just north of Hailey, ID. We celebrated with two buddies who turned 30, skied some peaks, harvested some corn, inducted a new member and made delicious and nutritious meals with IPAs and whiskey. 

Skiing on Mt Stanton to the beautiful Lake MacDonald in GNP
I don't want to leave!

When we arrived to meet the team at Shortys Diner, the stoke was as high as the atmospheric pressure outside. Sun Valley hadn't received any new snow on top of their below average base in a couple weeks and it was starting to look more like late Spring than Late Winter. 

We met our guide Ed, from Sun Valley Trekking at the Junction of East Fork and the Highway. He showed up with a sled to tow in our packs and food, it costs an extra 50 bucks for this service and its totally worth it. Gae and I also brought our snow machine, Sleddy, down so we packed heavy and very disorganized. This was obvious when Salt Lake Serious began placing shopping bags into Ed's sled and each of their packs were over 100 pounds. If Kevin and Chris didn't climb the North Face of Cobb I would be razzing them more, but they did use some of the hardware that was hauled in. I do believe a case of beer would have been more useful than most of the gear not used.  
Gaelen reaching the Pioneer Yurt after 5 mlles of skinning. Home Sweet Home!
Knowing that it was going to be a heavy haul for Sleddy, we didn't double and Gae walked in with the Serious crew. After three miles, Sleddy was tired and over heated on the trail. Ed came back for our second load of gear. I replaced the spark plugs, my extent of mechanics and she revved back up and I met Ed and our heap of food and beverages one mile below the Yurt.  

Because of restrictions you are only allowed to snowmobile to within one mile of the Yurt this time of year. The sun was Hot at this point and my buffalo tendencies had me maxing a sled load by ski of about 150 lbs up the last mile and 1000 foot vert climb to the Pioneer Yurt. What a bitching idea. 3/4 of the way up I dumped a food box and continued. 

The Yurt is beautiful. Its 24 ft. in diameter with a two burner stove for cooking and a wood stove for heating and drying. It is stocked with plenty of kitchen supplies, games and maps/ books to look at and plan from. It sleeps 10 comfortably in bunk beds, we had 9 in our group. There is also a Sauna located next to the Yurt with plenty of wood to be used. Entering the Yurt I was pleased to be left some H2o in a kettle that I guzzled down and headed back out to get another load of supplies. The rest of the team was on the final stretch when I was skiing down. They each asked me how much farther and I reassured them they were close. Kevin met me for the final tow and we were moved in for four nights! 

Some of the food we brought, 84 eggs not included.
Ed told us we brought more food than any other group that year
We settled in and got some beta from Ed. It looked like we were in for some big lines in corn conditions with a low snow pack. It quickly became five p.m. and we headed out to get some skiing in before dinner was made. We chose ELk Lips, a run directly behind the Yurt. It was a 1,200 foot climb that took about a hour to ascend. The scenery was breath taking and we were all excited to be there with each other playing in the mountains again, Happy 30th birthday Mark!

BOYZ Life is the Good Life!

On our way up to Elk Lips with the Yurt below.
Mt Hyndman on left and Mt Cobb on right
Beers were cracked back at the Yurt and DInner was cooked by the birthday boy. We began talking about the next days objective because they were all looming above us. Why not begin with the tallest in the range? Mt Hyndman, 12,008 ft in elevation. It was going to be sunny, so we planned for a early rise to ski the 1,500 foot gullies off the summit facing south to south east. 

Hyndman Peak and its South facing chutes
The Dorsal Fin in the the background on DUncan Ridge
We left the Yurt by 7 a.m. and started to the saddle between Old and New Hyndman until we were directly below the chutes. We climbed and descended Hyndmans S face with a group of six. Three Gmitros, including their Dad, Art and myself, Cambell and MArk. The climb took way longer than imagined. The booting sucked and because we wanted to stay off the face we were breaking through most of the time between rocks and snow. Kevin tested out his new ski crampons and skinned the entire 38 degree face, impressive. 

Chris after sending a boulder problem during the climb, so Serious

It was sunny but some clouds and a breeze kept the top of the line from corning up. We waited and inducted Mark into Skier Boyz, this is what we do! Then some clouds began to form around the sun and figured it wouldn't get any better so we dropped in. It was a little firm on the top but we managed to harvest some corn for about 3/4 of the run down. 

Mark shredding Hyndman after his induction to Skier Boyz
he had tears in his eyes when he was quoted
"best day of my life"
After a little lunch back at the Yurt we motivated, went back out and skinned through some deep mank to get to the top of Little Duncan for an afternoon corn run.
Afternoon Corn Harvest in Little Duncan Bowl
Next Day, Mt. Cobb of course, the ranges 2nd highest summit, 11,800 ft. It has a beautiful plumb couloir facing south splitting the summit cone. From below it was hard to tell if the line was even filled in enough to make it worth it. Because of its setting and our eager attitude we gave it a climb. 

Because of the corn delay we left the Yurt much later in the morning. Chris and Kevin went for the ascent up the steep North Face (5.7+) while the sane portion of the group climbed up the fun west ridge (class 4). This climb was as difficult and longer than Hyndmans S face and our group became scattered on the mountain. After the initial climb Gae decided to ride down and I caught up to Cambell and Mark almost on the ridge proper. It was a classic climb. We walked on a summer trail for a bit then went right for the rocks, climbing up some great granite, chock full of hand jams and jugs. It was a magical climb in a great position in the mountains. 
A new Skier Boy in his element
Stoic is an understatement

A future SKier Boy also loving life!
Mt. Cobb West Ridge
We got off the ridge and descended a sneaker chute into the S chute proper, then finished the climb by booting up the final 500 feet to the summit. The snow in the chute felt solid and booting up was easy. As we figured, there was not much snow near the top, but we hacked our way from the summit with skis on till a twenty foot rock section blocked our complete free descent.
Mark navigating the low snow in the upper chute.
I was happy to see him not try to split ski down this line.

From here the couloir was amazing. Best I have skied all season! Its a beautiful line looking straight down 3,500 feet to the valley floor. After the initial chute we followed gullies all the way down to below the Yurt. It was a manky skin back to our yurt, but well worth the effort to send such an aesthetic ski line.

Oh yeah! Dragging the Knuckles

Cambell Scott negotiating the choke with style
 After sending the North Face route, team Buzz Kill was seen descending from the summit down the chute at about 7 p.m. Chris avoided being caught in a big wet avalanche he set off in the bottom of the run. We cracked beers and ate a 14 veggie curry dish and planned on skiing as a group the next day, at least for one run.

The Yurt and its amenities

Kevins stuffed peppers, Yum!
This was fun, but next year lets go to Montana!
- Kid Bufo Hucks with whippet Jakems

On our final day we broke up once again, choosing on harvesting corn in various chutes. We did All meet up on top of the Peanut, a line we had been looking at for days for a final lap on some firm snow. At night Kevin made stuffed peppers, we finished the booze and toasted for Chris's birthday and a great trip! 

The Pioneer Yurt is a special place for mountain connoisseurs. There is plenty of powder skiing if you have those conditions and big mountains of course.