Monday, March 10, 2008

A canadian, a photographer and the NE Couloir of Lone Peak

Today I embarked on an adventure tour with my buddy, the esteemed photographer Andrew Burr (the mediocre photos in this posting are definitely mine, not his). Despite the fact that I was coughing up rainbow phlegm all day yesterday, I couldn't resist the temptation to ski a new line with a friend I hadn't caught up with in awhile. The day began with some good old fashioned slogging up, up, and up some more from the quaint little town of Alpine, where cute little cottages the size of Walmart dot the countryside. Andy's pack was bigger than I am, filled with all sorts of photographer gadgetry, yet somehow he managed to set a pace that I could barely keep up with... it was going to be quite the day. We slogged up south facing snow slopes for hours, floored by the unbelievable heat of the sun but pacified by ever-increasing views of granite spires ahead.

After catching some novelty turns right underneath the Lone Peak Cirque, an alpine rock climbing haven perched high above the Salt Lake Valley, we finally gained the ridge on Lone Peak. It was quite exposed; a knife-edge ridge separated cornices of unknown width stretched over the east face and hanging snowfields above what we knew were vertical rock climbs on the west face. Yikes! We got to a small saddle in the ridge and knew we were uncomfortable continuing without a rope. Oops, we hadn't brought one. After consulting with the photograph of the NE face that Andy had wisely brought along, we realized we were right where we needed to be, perched above the unbelievably steep NE couloir. The snow looked wind hammered and I was definitely nervous about strapping my boards on and jumping into a line that looked really steep and really firm. Luckily, Andy was a willing slope poodle, and wandered cautiously down into the entrance of the couloir. The snow was much softer than it looked, and we agreed it was time to "GIVER". As I skied the top pitch, adrenaline pumped through my body. This was definitely steeper than anything I had ever skied, even Andy agreed it was "real" 50 degrees. But the snow was forgiving and it was actually really FUN! The lower section of the couloir got progressively firmer. The exit was cliffed, but we knew from beta in Andrew McLean's steep skiing guide book "The Chuting Gallery" that on fat winters you could traverse right and avoid the cliffs. Well, it was looking a little hairy. We traversed a bit, but were still over cliffs and ended up doing some wild downclimbing and traversing to exit WAY right. Pretty exciting stuff, and the bootpacking on the way down didn't detract much from the day at all.

A bit of scrub oak ducking and isothermal snow skiing out Bell's Canyon kept us honest. All in all a great day.
Ummm... where are we?

Does this line even go???

Andy, the avalanche poodle, scoping out snow conditions.

The line

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