Saturday, January 31, 2009

Kessler Trifecta

Kessler peak holds down the south end of Cardiac Ridge in Big Cottonwood Canyon, serving as a nice counter-balance to Mt. Superior on the north end. Looking for a quality tour, and inspired by the Chuting Gallery's suggestion of doing the East Col. and then Argenta, the idea of doing the "Kessler Quad" was hatched. As conceived, the Kessler Quad involves climbing and skiing 4 challenging lines that run off the top of Kessler -- the East Col., God's Lawnmower, Argenta, and the West Col. One day I'll get the Quad, but today I had to settle for what turned out to be a satisfying three course meal (I'm still thinking about food for reasons I will explain below): the Kessler Trifecta.

First Course: God's Lawnmower

God's Lawnmower is an unnerving swath off the north face of Kessler. It doesn't take a whole lot of imagination to understand why it's named what it is.

We ascended through the trees to the climber's left of the Lawnmower. The skinner was good and we were able to move fast, until we hit the NE sub ridge. In hindsight, we should have taken a different route because the knife-edge ridge was steep, sketchy, scrambly, and sugary. Most of all, it ate lots of time. Here's Bart on the scramble:

From January 31, 2009

Once we weaved through the cliffy entrance, the descent was nice consolidated pow. It's hard to describe nailing a steep, open descent, in near perfect snow conditions -- pole plant, initiate turn in air, free fall 2, 4, 6, 8, then 10 meters, whufmph, get absorbed by the snow, emerge, pole plant . . . . The real thing is better, trust me.

Second Course: Kessler's East Couloir

A little over 2 hours after we left it, we found ourselves back on the Cardiff trail. It was 9:15 am. We needed to be back home (not the car -- a distinction clearly made by my wife) by 2:00 pm. We proceeded up the Cardiff trail and were happy and relieved to find that someone, Cardiff Brad as it turns out, had put in a nice skinner in towards the East Couloir.

From January 31, 2009

Cardiff Brad cursed us for finding "his trail" and accused us of "ski running" and we took it because we were really grateful for "his trail." When it ran out, we packed up the skis and clawed our way to Kessler's south shoulder, which again took too much time. Our scramble finally brought us to this:

From January 31, 2009

The East Col. was untracked. The snow was protected in the chute, and therefore nice, and the sun had taken the edge off the snow in the apron, making it nice too. Here's Bart skiing the lower chute:

From January 31, 2009

The chute dumped out onto the apron, which led into a nice powder run back to the Cardiff trail. When we hit the Cardiff trail it was about 11:15.

At that point since it was pretty clear we wouldn't be able to do the Quad in our alloted time, we decided that rather than going back to the car and driving to Argenta, we would simply climb back up Kessler on Cardiff Brad's skinner and then ski the West Couloir and out Mineral Fork. The only problem was that I was hungry and I had only started out with 20 oz. of water, a bag of Cliff Blocks and 1 Cliff Shot, counting on being able to refuel at the car. I had eaten my last Shot at the top of the East Col. and then mooched a 1/3 PBJ sandwich and a mini-Cliff bar from Bart, which I ate. Bart came to my aid again, without giving me grief for being an amateur, and we shared a fruit leather and a nutrigrain bar. And then we headed back up to Kessler.

Third Course: Kessler's West Couloir

With over 6k vertical under our belts, we were moving a bit slower. I ran out of water about 5 steps into our last climb and started eating snow. And the snow was sticking to our topsheets and the bottom of our skins. Still, it was a good time.

From January 31, 2009

We got to the top of Kessler again at about 12:45. Although the west facing slopes had been sunbaked and held a nice death crust, the northish aspect of the West Col. held some nice fluffy snow. The entrance to the West Col. is relatively open, but it funnels into a choke.

From January 31, 2009

Bart in the West Col.

From January 31, 2009

Trifecta Stats

The thing that hurt second most (the thing that hurt the worst was when I hit a patch of breakable crust and wrenched my neck) was having to call it quits after 9000 vertical feet. Bart said that when he got home, he was going to burn a lap on this back hill to make it an even 10k. The quad would have been around 12k. Here are the stats:

Time car to car: 6:48
Vertical: 9000 ft
Time ascending: 4:20 @ avg rate of 33 ft per minute
Skis: BD Havocs (me), Mt. Baker Superlights (Bart), and Dynafits, OF COURSE!
Boots: Modified F1s (me), Spirit 3s (Bart)
Climbing equipment: fingernails
No. of humans enountered: 2 (until we hit Mineral Fork in which there were throngs)
Near Death enounters: 1
Amateur Moments: at least 3
Bart fashion: 3 different jackets in his pack
Food: not enough
Water: sucking on snow sucks
Fun: lots
Late getting home: No
Understanding Wives: Karen (me), Rosie (Bart)


Bart G said...

For the record I had 2 jackets in my pack because I could not decide which one was a better match for my "silver" pants. Also, that was 1/2 a PBJ and I found another bar in my pack when I got home.
Hope the neck feels better!

Andrew McLean said...

Very nice! Three out of four and hopefully still married - hard to ask for more. After seeing the photo of the West Couloir, I moved it to the top of my queue list as a must ski. It looked like it was in great shape.

Ski Bike Junkie said...

33 FPM = insane. I could keep that up for maybe an hour or two with an established skin track and no booting. Nice work.

Jared said...

Bart is not gay. I promise. Much gratitude for the 1/2 PBJ. I knew you were holding out on the food.

Andrew: Unlike the E. Col., which you can't miss, we weren't quite sure where the W. Col. was. If that was it -- and I'm 90 percent sure it was since it was the only way down into Mineral without cliffing out -- it was nice. I find that when in doubt, it's best to ask this question: What would Andrew do?

SBJ: I had to slow down to 33 FPM to wait for my partner. Don't pay attention to Bart's pics that depict me in Bonkersville.

ag said...

sounds like you needed me there with the lunch box

Jared said...

Dude, I so needed a lunchbox! Missed you.

Ski Bike Junkie said...

Box Elder is on tap for 5:30 tomorrow. It will be a leisurely pace by your standards, hoping to get back by 1. Contact me if interested.