Thursday, February 12, 2015

Trading sticks for stones....and wheels

Usually I'm quite optimistic about skiing; my most common refrain when people ask me how the skiing was/has been I answer "It's a lot better than than you'd think it'd be", and I've come to not only appreciate but like challenging snow conditions, because a) it's a good challenge, b) skiing it makes one a better skier, c) it's usually safer, which means fewer opps for avalanches and more opps for skiing steeps, and d) there aren't many people out!  But an unprecedented midwinter heat wave....that makes it a bit less appealing, and the desert starts to loom pretty large.  So after a Friday night dinner with 7 week old Stevie Ray:
Black puppies don't photograph that well, but be assured he's about as cute as cute gets
And I think Mike Brehm was there too....We fairly spontaneously loaded up and headed south.

First stop was St. George.  While Gooseberry Mesa and the Hurricane/JEM/Gould trails are the marquee rides in the southwest corner of the state, there's a lot more awesome singletrack to be had, and St. George is the center.  We hit up the Barrel Roll/Rim Rock area and within just a few square miles were able to slay 26 miles of great singletrack with 3000 feet of climbing, with amazing views of the desert hills rolling up into the Pine Valley mountains and the cliffs of Zion off in the distance.
swapping skin tracks for single tracks. not a bad trade.  
The next day we headed for Zion, where we climbed Lady Mountain.  Lady Mountain lies right across the street from the Zion Lodge, and it is cool in a couple of different ways.  Even though you can practically throw a rock off the top and hit the Virgin river 2700 feet below, it's more really steep hike than climb, and amazingly it was one of the first trails in Zion.  They built it in the 20's and put in a copious amount of cables, steps, and ladders, and it lasted 50 years until the Park Service grew weary of rescuing freaked out hikers and hauling bodies off of it, so it was dismantled and 'closed" in the late 60's/early 70's.  However, the "trail" still exists, and the durable paint that they used back then is still around to show the way:
the directional paint ranges from the very obvious.....

to the very subtle
and some old chopped steel that held cables
The route is super cool and it's easy to be impressed by the original builders:  they basically exploited a series of weaknesses that ascends a near-vertical "wall" on a macro level, and on a micro level they used great traverses, rock bands, and natural staircases to work up the weaknesses.  There's a little bit of easy climbing:

some fun "stairs":
a bit of 3rd/4th class:
happy to have that Stealth rubber!

Ash wore her fleece pants (as always) and as such was able to successfully tussle with the yucca:
But I had to claw my way up and around that obstacle!
As with every place Zion, the views from up high were sublime
Despite a dork being there
note the cars at the lodge in the lower right corner; as the condor flies it's not very far there, but a long ways down
We brought a rope to climb/rappel the two short 5th class sections; this is a pretty cool old anchor:
We saw a few folks; we saw this guy at the rappel, and he used the rope to haul himself up:
I then hurried away, since I figured I was aiding and abetting a rescue-in-the-making!

We also saw a couple of ladies that made for some interesting thoughts/conversation:  Cathy and Catherine were from SLC, and they were about halfway up when we saw them on our descent.  Cathy was not very athletic, not a climber, and was tired/sore from a relatively easy hike the day before, yet Catherine (a runner) apparently was determined to drag her up Lady Mt her a good time?  Despite Catherine having been up there twice before she did not bring a rope for her friend, and while Cathy was game enough to climb up the two 5th class sections the only option was to downclimb them as well, which is considerably harder/scarier for someone who's not comfortable climbing.  We let Cathy use our rope and a harness to descend the two raps, and then we boogied out of there because we were so annoyed at watching Catherine totally sandbag her "friend".

Lady Mountain is an overlooked (winter/shoulder season) gem, probably because it's within spittin' distance of Zion's world-famous climbs (Moonlight Buttress), runs (Zion Crossing), slot canyons (Heaps) and hikes (Angel's Landing) but it combines a bit of all of those in one very-cool, medium-length outing.

and then we came back to some good powder in a few-inch refresher storm!

But back to spring this weekend again, so the desert is tempting us to make another drive south....

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