Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Winter camping isn't so bad... but powder skiing is better

Spent the weekend guiding an introduction to mountaineering course for Exum of Utah. My clients were not skiers, so we earned our dinner and then some slogging into Maybird Gulch by slowshoe where we established a cozy winter camp under the beautiful Pfeifferhorn. We spent the rest of the day going over mountaineering basics: walking on snow, cramponing, self arrest, tying into the rope, roped travel, etc. We were hard pressed to find any firm snow to work with... winter was still in full swing. Lucky for me, the team had a great attitude and outlook, so when we awoke on Sunday morning to four inches of new snow and a veritable blizzard in progress, their enthusiasm wasn't noticeably damped. We pressed on as planned towards the East Ridge of the Pfeifferhorn, but as expected, strong winds, very poor visibility, and avalanche hazard associated with the new snow and wind turned us around 400 feet below the summit. My enthusiastic students didn't feel too ripped off though, climbing back down to camp, packing up, and descending back to the parking lot took most of the day and most of their energy, and they were dreaming of margaritas and pizza when we still had a few miles to go. Nothing like a mountain sufferfest to help you appreciate what really matters in life!

Anne, John and I enjoying some sun under the Pfeifferhorn during the
Exum Mountaineering Course

Prepping Dinner

Relaxing on the snow sofa

The mighty Pfeifferhorn

As for me, I couldn't help but notice all the people zipping by us on skis as we descended to our cars. The new snow was making for some great skiing, and it only got better with additional snow throughout the night on Sunday. School duties called on Monday, but on Tuesday I could fend off my desire to hit the slopes no longer. 8 AM saw me and a friend heading to the top of Superior. Despite the party of around 10 folks on the summit at the same time as us, we got first tracks off the NE face into Cardiac, because everyone else had their sights set on the South Face. A few laps in Cardiac used up my time for the day, and a somewhat sloppy descent down Little Superior left me feeling that my powder fever had subsided, at least for a few days.

The beautiful SE Face of Monte Cristo

Getting ready to drop into the South Face of Superior

Ski tracks in Cardiac

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