Monday, March 21, 2016

Multi-modal on Deseret Peak

Deseret Peak is the most prominent peak in the Stansbury Range out in Utah's West Desert, named after the "state" of Deseret that the early Mormon settlers were trying to establish.  It's actually just the highest point on a long ridgeline there, but I think that Brigham Young and Co. probably looked up and imagined slaying the phat couloir that comes almost off the summit on his slat skis and had to give the high point a good name!   As such, skiing the three mainlines of Dez has become a bit of a spring ritual for skiers looking to escape the busy central Wasangeles.

Historically we've waited until April or May to head west to Dez, but February - and, really, March's - bleak snowfall and warm temps have brought the feeling of spring early this year, so when Chad Bracklesberg - finally freed from the rigors of organizing the Wasatch Powder Keg and bizzy business life - suggested giving it an earlier-than-normal go, Brother Paul and I were in.

The first time I did Deseret Peak a few years ago we knew that there were a couple of Forest Service gates on the road into Little Willow canyon that were sometimes locked, sometimes not, and debated about bringing mountain bikes for the road approach.  However, not only did we blow off mountain bikes, we also weren't very attentive to our morning footwear, so a couple of us did the 4 mile road climb - and descent - in clogs and other non-appropriate footwear.  Therefore, it's become a multi-modal effort of riding to ski regardless of the snowline/gate closures.  I love the concept of riding to ski, which Chad calls "Skiking" or I call "Skicycling".   Later in the spring the lower gate is unlocked and the upper gate is locked, with the road clear up a few miles to the campground; this early the lower gate was locked, but the snowline wasn't much above the 2nd gate. So off on our bikes we went.  

After a few miles we ditched the bikes and switched to skis/skins, and soon enough we were out of the low-elevation goo and breaking through some powder, with views of the main couloir in the distance:

 However, I forgot to wax that set of skins:
 "skin wax" really doesn't work that well, especially since it is contradictory to the human propensity to only react to adverse conditions, not think pre-emptively.....
So we were booting somewhat prematurely toward the couloir that Brigham lusted after.
yes, it's really as non-steep as it looks!
A ways up we dug a little and got some borderline stability results:
Me picking a notso-safe place to wonder if it's safe! 
But we talked ourselves into persevering, because it was such a sweet line

and skied it with aplomb:
Given that it didn't avalanche on us, we charged back up:
went up the ridge for the gratuitous summit bid, where some tasty-looking chutes loomed off to the north, but we were "pretty sure" that they cliffed out:
did you forget to take the beta picture?  Are you feeling lucky?  
We weren't feeling lucky so we carried on, but after getting to the head of the iconic twin chutes that run north off the shoulder we looked to the south, and after about 2 seconds of debate decided to blast down the 1500 feet of perfect midday corn at about 60 mph.  
this isn't the "blasting" part, but you can imagine heading down to the flats far below.  Note the nice north facing glades and burn lines in the background.....
And a nice long gradual climb brought us back up to the twin chutes, where we charged down one, climbed back up it, and hit up the other.  There are enough funky winds blowing off the desert that they can funnel up the couloirs and create just enough windjack to make them quad-burners. but nobody cared about conditions.  

We had good untracked white dog shit skiing back down to the road, and once on the road it felt like an Austin Powers car chase, skiing down a decently-steep road at barely above walking pace due to the watery snow, with the occasional awkward shuffle across dry patches.  But eventually we hit the bikes - which of course we had pushed too far up the snowy road - and engaged some creative bike/ski transport options:
skiing and pushing the bike simultaneous works pretty well, but you gotta remember not to use the bike brakes to slow down, since the brakes don't affect the skis!
Paul figured out one other way to skicyle: straddling the bike with both skis on the ground, which I copied:

But actually putting the skis on the pedals is a pretty effective way to skicycle along!  
Can I get a ski-crampon-like attachment for my ski bases?  
A great cap to an awesome birthday weekend of shredding with Ash and Colin (Saturday, in Big Cottonwood and Mill Creek) and Paul and Chad!   Brigham woulda been proud that his "state's" namesake mountain delivered yet again.  

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