January 14, 2010
I’m sure you’ve all been watching the weather as carefully as I have, waiting, hoping, wishing for some snow.
Any snow will do.
I get the UAC avalanche report in my Inbox every morning. I’m getting tired of stuff like this:
This has to be what we’d call an “Experts-Only Moderate”. Avalanche likelihood? Possible. Size? Varies. Distribution? Spotty and variable. All unmanageable. Previous tracks can be misleading. Consider taking a step back – these are very unusual conditions in the Wasatch.
So, to make myself feel better, I started looking through scrapbooks (the true spirit of Elijah). Oh, how I long for those halcyon days, when the snow was Utah-traditional, deep and stable.
Like this day (flashback sequence starting, vision blurring, then clearing, circa March, 2005):
Timp is my view out my bedroom window. I’d been on top more times than I can remember, but never in Winter. The South Peak of Timp, something I’d always wanted to do, is the second highest summit (so about 11,7023 feet), only about 25 feet less than the main summit, and stands apart, with a huge face, one of the largest in the lower 48, below it.
I used my debit card as my map for the descent, since the front of my debit card is just a big picture of the prominence of Mount Timpanogos in Winter. And no, I don’t think I’ll put a picture of my debit card on my blog.
I went with Ferris, a split-boarder from work, and we dropped my car at the base of the stairs at the Dry Canyon trailhead in Orem at 4:30am, then we drove Ferris’ vintage Mercedes up to Aspen Grove. We didn’t get hiking till close to 6. We met several hard core tourers who were heading out on snowmobiles to go up the alpine loop road and around to the base of the North face, where they would boot straight up the main northwest couloir of Timp, called Cold Fusion in some guidebooks. That’s on my list. But not this day. This day, I was peak bagging.
I’d never peak-bagged before. I was pretty excited, and pretty nervous. So nervous, that I bought an ice axe for the event, and kept it handy in a belt loop all day, since slipping and sliding down a 40 degree 6,000 foot frozen face was not on my agenda (but it was on my mind). Never used it. Still have never used it. But that’s a good thing, right? It’s for emergencies.
It’s a pretty easy skin up the Primrose Cirque for a mile or so, then you hit the headwall, and you quickly (well, not quickly, but the idea is it goes from easy grade to a headwall rather abruptly) climb from 7500 feet to 10,000 feet, around a waterfall and some cliff bands. Very steep skinning. We’d been out a couple hours, and Ferris was quite a ways back. I waited at about 8200 feet for about half an hour, and when he finally appeared, he was clearly tired. He motioned for me to turn on the walkie talkie. He was cooked and done.
I was not a big enough man to head back down with him. Sorry Ferris. Really. But no way was I missing out on this one, conditions were too perfect. I turned and headed up, steep skinning for quite a while, then I dug a chair into the steep snow with my ice axe (I don’t think that counts as using it), and put on my boot crampons, and booted to the top of the headwall. I’m guessing the Primrose Cirque doesn’t really qualify as a place to put on crampons, but I was alone, and this was my first time.
Plus, crampons are like night-vision goggles–if you have em, you really want to use em.
I topped out at just over 10,000 feet there, had a Twix and a Red Bull, and text messaged Sunderlage to let him know I missed him.
How do you like that beanie? I bought it in Alagna, Italy, where it was knit by a 90 year old woman in the local beanie style. I am not making that up.
From the top of the headwall, it’s easy skinning to Emerald Lake, where you could go right, to the Timpanogos basin or up the Robert’s Horn ridge (there was a free-heeler heading up there to ski the face of Robert’s Horn (possible only in very deep, stable snow years)–that is NOT on my list), or left, up what in the summer is called the snowfield or glacier.
The Summit cliff wall is on the right, 1500 feet straight up, and the first part of this cirque is easy skinning, gradually getting steeper, until at the end of it, I had to boot/crampon the last few hundred yards. (Okay, maybe I didn’t HAVE to, but again, I BROUGHT the crampons, I might as well wear em, right?), bearing left to avoid the big cornice at the saddle. I measured 48 degrees at the upper portion by the cornice, although I’m no whiz with the inclinometer. That might be a bit of an understatement.
I reached the saddle at about 11,400 feet, where I was finally in the sun, and I booted/cramponed the last hundred yards to the South Peak summit, 11,723 feet. Spectacular.
I have freakishly long arms to be able to get that glamour shot. And those glasses are maybe the worst possible shape for my face. Why don’t people tell me these things?
Since I reached the top just after 10am, it was very cold and very very windy there. I bundled up and hunkered down, thinking the snow was probably not soft enough for corn yet, and I wasn’t very excited about skiing 6,000 feet of bulletproof. I stomped around on the summit for a while, keeping warm, and drinking Diet Coke with Lime. I peed off the 1500 foot cliff toward Sundance. I don’t like Sundance.
I waved at the guy over on the Pyramid summit half a mile to the North, who was probably doing exactly the same thing I was.
About 11am I couldn’t stand the wind anymore, so I gathered my stuff, and headed down. Top 500 feet or so were a bit chattery, but not too bad, not too steep, and very wide open. After that first 500 feet the snow quite suddenly turned to the nicest corn snow ever, and remained so for about 4,000 vertical feet. All I can say is wow. WOW.
The face finally narrowed down to a gully about 20 feet wide, but somehow the gully had good snow in it all the way to almost 6500 feet. Unbelievable.
Then I bushwacked down a dry stream bed for about a mile. That was awkward. Without giant ski boots to keep my ankles straight, I think I would have ended up with several dozen severe sprains. Hi Shelle!
And, finally the big clearing above the Dry Canyon cliffs, where the Bonneville shoreline trail comes in from the south.
Not many mountain bikers riding that in those days.
And, the car:
Oh, those Canaan Days, where did they go?