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)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Addendum to Yesterday's Post: Slab

For the most part, the snow was stable. As always, there are exceptions. This photo is on a NW facing aspect that I doubt sees much sun and is up pretty high. I'm guessing, that the failure was on a layer of surface hoar over a harder wind crust. I made a ski cut and flushed the chute. Then Ben flushed a small slab. Actually, the crown is larger than it looked from below. We were considering skiing some bigger lines on a NW aspect. I'm glad we passed on those since consequences would have been bigger. Thanks to Jon for the photo.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Pow Day (Almost)

Dear ski partners of this morning,

Thanks for skiing with me this morning. And sorry for the tour-gone-wild in both time and space (terrain). I've been on some royal bushwhacks, Coalpit and Mt. Aire come to mind, but nothing compares to this morning. I hope you're not forever scarred. Perhaps with time, your scars will heal and you will remember the good pow over the sucky bushes. May the 6000 vertical foot climb through 20 inches of powder and the glorious 5000 feet descent in 5% pow overshadow the most hateful 1000 vert feet scrub oak and quartzite-ski-gouging exit. May we be grateful that the soft slabs simply ran through us and not over us. May those snow birds stay buried in the snow. And may our wives and employers forgive us. I've attached some pics to help in your healing.

Jon at Dawn

First Light on Triangle Peak

Hallelujah!! (The Lonely One in all its greatness was absolutely breathtaking.)

Flocked Trees


Mt. Olympus' Backside

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Saturday Soup

We've been having weird weather in the Wasatch. On Thursday night, I was doing some stealth training on some groomers at about 8800 feet, and it was pouring rain on me. Wanting to get above the rainline, on Saturday morning, Tim, Jon, Jeff, and I went to Alta, up Cardiff, to Cardiac Ridge, back up to the towers, and then off south facing Superior Shoulder. As you can see (or not) by the picture above, visibility was not great. Case in point: Cardiac Bowl is really big. But, we couldn't find it, and instead ended up on Cardiac Ridge. Still we got some decent skiing in.

On our descent of SF Superior Ridge, things got a bit tense when I kicked off two small slabs of new dense snow that had fallen that morning. These slabs ran down a gully and I held my breath that they wouldn't propagate. They didn't. To the left is a District shooting crack.

Hopefully things will settle out quickly. Skiing 20% "powder" isn't the greatest, but with fat skis, it is ok.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Speed Ascent

Check out this video. Huge peak (7000 meters) that usually takes 4 days to climb. Benedikt Bohm and Sebastian Haag did it in 10:41. 9.5 hrs up. 1 hr down.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I'm Drawing the Line, Right Here.

Or that's what I tell myself. But then I'm pulled back into the mountains. Then when I find myself hanging on a ledge with one whippet or dangling by one arm next to a water fall (see below), I recommit: that's it, this is where I draw the line! It's a vicious cycle.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Das Pfeif

Objective: Pfeif's NW Couloir

An older avalanche.

Timp and Box Elder . . . soon.

The east ridge of Das Pfeif.

Scrambling in ski boots.

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The NW Couloir. "Holy $(mack) we're skiing that?"

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Hope your edges are sharp.

I'm using 2 cm of plastic to support myself above a big fat cliff.

The Rap.

Ping pong or skiing? It's all in your hands (or feet).

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Northeast face.

Ethan and Miya.

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Grand Targhee Rando Race

Photo from

The first rando race of the US Ski Mountaineering Series season was held this Saturday at Grand Targhee in Wyoming. It was a team event and I partnered up with a Brian Harder, a Jackson climber, Exum guide, cyclist, and PA (among other things). Dave Bergart kindly put me up in Victor.

As you can see from the photo above, we started out fast. I did my trademark "Fast and Fade" start, which involves me sprinting off the line 'cross style and then getting caught and dropped by the front group. The first leg of the course was a long steep climb from the bottom to the top of the Grand Targhee resort -- about 2000 feet. On the first climb, there were four teams at the front: Kroger and Cary Smith, Brandon French and a new (and very fast) racer from Montana, Zahan and a Driggs guy, and me and Brian. I faded a bit when the slope turned up -- like 40 degrees up -- and I tried to zig zag up the hill instead of power climbing it like the front runners. Eventually, I had to suck it up and power climb like everyone else, i.e., stomp the skins, hunker down, and hang/pull on the poles. I hung with Zahan's team to the top where Brian (who was waiting) helped me deal with my skins. We were the third team to leave the transition.

We ripped the DH and arrived at transition no. 2 as the other two teams were pulling out. The second climb was a bootpack -- no need to skin up -- so we put our skis on our back and booted and scrambled up the toilet bowl. Some tree branches and root aids were involved. Three quarters of the way up the climb, I had to shift into four wheel drive, and using both hands and feet, climbed up to the lip of the bowl. When we arrived at transition no. 3, Cary and Kroger were gone, and Brandon and his teammate were getting ready to pull out.

We ripped the DH again. At transition no. 4, we were all together. Kroger and Cary were the first out, followed by Brian and then me. Brian took a couple steps and his ski fell off. Wanting to keep the pressure on, and afraid I might get dropped, I opted to go ahead. I started skinning and Brandon and his teammate followed. As I started out, I had hopes of catching Kroger and Cary. But they were going fast and opened up a gap. Behind, I knew that if Brandon wanted to go, he could, but he was sticking with his teammate. About two-thirds up the climb, Brian got around Brandon's team, bridged up to me, and we went to the top of the final ~2000 foot climb together. Brandon's team, who had some skin problems, followed and Zahan's team was in tow.

We hit transition no. 5 just as Kroger and Cary left. Once again, we had a smooth transition -- quick smooth rips, fast buckles, no dropped skins, etc. And we ripped the final DH once again, or tried to. The snow had a bit of a zipper crust making skiing challenging. I invoked my 34 degree rule, which is, "if less than 34 degrees, straighline it. Midway down, Brian stacked it up and nearly lost his ski. Luckily, he didn't and he got it on (the ski and the race).

We crossed the line together, and celebrated a great race. As we found out soon after, we were actually the first to cross the line, even though Kroger and Cary were ahead of us. Unfortunately, they missed a turn and went off-route. Bummer. They were definitely the strongest team.

Finish order:

1. Brian and me
2. Brandon and co.
3. Zahan and co.
4. Cary and Kroger

When the individual events come around, expect all of those guys to be in the mix. They are fast!


Our time: ~1 hr 28 minutes
Total Vert: ~4400 ft
Time climbing: ~1 hr 18 minutes
Time descending: ~11 minutes

Who says it's all about the down?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I went to bed smiling

Last night as I was laying in bed, I realized that I had a big grin on my face. That was odd because I had just spent the night (until 12 am) trying to find and transfer my old computer files to a new computer. I've had computer issues the last couple weeks. My work computer got dropped when I slipped and fell on ice. My home computer died all of the sudden.

In trying to find all my old files and transfer them to my new computer (I know there's a program that does this and probably an easier way to do this, but I am what I am), I came across lots of photos, which reminded me of all the good times I have had since I got a digital camera. I had good times before that, but they weren't captured on disk.

Here is one of the first trips I captured on a digicam -- when 1 megapixels were a big thing. This was a day trip to the top of Timpanogas.

Joey and Chris on the saddle overlooking Provo on the one side and Aspen Grove on the other.

Someone booting up the South Summit.

Proof that I once tele'd and liked it.

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Heber Valley and Deer Creek from a hanging valley on Timp.

The "glacier."

Big mountain with lots of possibilities.

Joey, Molly, and Katie. You decide which ones are the dogs.

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