Recognizing that this year's window for big lines the Wasatch is going to close quickly, a few of us have been energized to get some new projects done. A late night phone call and some last minute plans resulted in again setting my alarm for the middle of the night so I could get in some skiing before work. The line of choice was a new one (for us) on the northern end of Mount Timpanogos, just looker's left of the "Front Porch" couloir that we skied last year. This one is a little less obvious but every bit as good and highly visible from I-15 from the Point-of-the-mountain to Pleasant Grove.
Any one know the actual name? For now I'm calling it the Easter Couloir given the time of year.
As seen from the Great Western Trail/Road (all photos by Adam Fabrikant and Billy Haas)
Young gun skiers, Adam Fabrikant and Billy Haas were kind enough to join me for a long walk on the dirt to get to our desired objective. These guys are newish to Utah and are trying to ski any and every line possible. They remind me of me, except they are better skiers. Anyway, I promised them a cool new line that doesn't get skied very much and that's all they needed to hear.
We hiked up Grove Creek Canyon under a near full moon, moving steadily until we reached the Great Western Trail that runs along the high bench. We took the road north until almost directly under the North Summit. Here, we finally transitioned to skis and began the long skin up the apron to the mouth of the couloir. The snow was baked into a frozen smoothness that allowed relatively fast travel. We pushed the skinning up the lower reaches of the couloir before transitioning to boot packing up nearly perfect conditions...for booting that is. The snow here, allowed only partial penetration and made setting the track very easy.
I kept stopping to look back at the other guys, cast as shadows under the full moon. As we passed through alternating pockets of warm then cool air, we were energized by the light of the moon, which was amplified through its reflection off Utah Lake. A few zig zags to avoid wind slabs brought us to a steep frozen roll over that we estimated at 50 degrees (the majority of the chute is upper 30s to low 40s).
Soft morning light just before sunrise
Here, Adam took the lead as the sky softened into shades of pink, blue, and gray. 5 minutes later, I let out a cry as I crested the summit to find the sun cresting the horizon, setting fire to my friend's faces with the deepest red. We shot a few pictures, ripped skins, and then I declared it time to go since I had a schedule to maintain. Adam descended the North Summit (actually false N. Summit) first and was quickly heading toward the Front Porch. Billy and I screamed against the grating sound of metal on textured hard pack and eventually got Adam's attention. We both pointed skier's right and reminded the overzealous lad that the plan was to descend our ascent route.
Topping out the couloir at 7:00 am
Stunning morning light casting a large shadow over Utah Valley
Once established in the 'Back Door' proper, we took turns skiing from island to island and shooting pictures of each other. Billy displayed his racing roots as he rolled from edge to edge with speed and finesse. Adam made strong confident turns and looked for every part a bona fide ski mountaineer. At 31 years old, I was the old man of the group and linked deliberate slow turns down the steep upper sections. Once we deemed the objective hazard behind us, we gang skied until the boys had to make a decision as to whether or not to go back up for a run down the adjacent 'Front Porch'. Sadly, my decision was already made and it involved running down a few miles of dirt to make it to work on time.
As I slid up to my stashed running shoes, I noticed that my camera with those priceless pictures was missing (not my awesome new S100, but an old beater Cannon). That makes the third camera sacrificed to the mountains. One is somewhere on Box Elder, another fell off the NE Buttress of Angel's Landing, and now this one. I have no intention of ever littering and regularly pick up trash/bottles to improve the wilderness. Perhaps my accidental offerings are the price for safe passage?
With my lightweight skis and boots on my back (Dynafit Nanga Parbats and TLTs), I jogged down the trail to the car, arriving 5 hours after starting. 40 euphoric minutes later and I was showered and destroying a massive omelet and pancakes before strolling casually into work. Remember what I said last time? It's always worth it. These are the days!