Monday, May 11, 2015

The White Rim Trail

Last Saturday, Jason, Tom Goth, Jason Prigge, and I rode the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park.  I was expecting dusty and boring but got mind blowing scenery and cool perfect weather.  

Jason and Tom skipped town Friday evening and stayed in Moab while Prigge and I opted for the early alarm and left my house at 5 AM.  By 9:15, we hopped on our bikes and rode down the Mineral Bottom road, heading in a clockwise direction.  

Every few minutes we kept screaming about how beautiful and wild the landscape was and I think this fueled our early hot pace.  We stopped a few times to hike over and look down from the rim and a few other times to scrap myself off the slick rock or to fix a flat (just one on the day).  Otherwise, the day went off without a hitch and we returned to the car about 8 1/2 hours after starting.  We even made it back to SLC that evening so as to not miss out on the mother's day celebrations the next morning. 

Regarding my crash, I was so stunned by the scenery that I kept trying to take photos while riding and eventually it caught up with me.  I'm lacking in bike handling skills and on a flat section of trail, somehow managed to end up slamming my shoulder and head into the slick rock.  My head being hard and covered by a helmet was fine but my shoulder felt destroyed.  I lay in a heap while Jason and Tom actually expressed concern instead of the typical laughter.  Eventually, I wiped away waves of nausea, got back on the bike, and was happy to find that I could ride without trouble.  I just couldn't lift my arm up.  

Not even my stupidity could ruin the day.  

My interest is now piqued to return and ride it as a TT or to take the bikes elsewhere and explore other corners of the desert.  I've always thought of adventures in terms of how far I could run in a day.  Now that we are on bikes, I have to readjust my scale of what is possible. 

Suggestions for adventure rides are more than welcome. 

Early in the ride near to top of the Hardscrabble climb

The guys and the Green River

Investigating big holes

Look closely, Jason and Tom should be visible at the edge of the sage. 


Monday, April 13, 2015

Mount Sopris: Crystal Couloir

Some years ago, I raced the Heathen Challenge at Sunlight Mountain outside of Glenwood Springs, Colorado.  At the time, I was psyched to to be racing but kept looking at Mount Sopris across the valley.  Why wasn't I skiing that big aesthetic mountain instead?  

We are just back from a family vacation to the Roaring Valley and I finally got my chance to ski Sopris when I crashed some local guys' plans.  I had stopped by the Cripple Creek Backcountry store and chatted with Doug, one of the owners.  He invited me to ski Sopris the next morning and said to meet outside the shop at 5:30.  Up at 4:20, I readied myself in the dark and drove down the Frying Pan road to Carbondale.  We were staying up by the Ruedi Reservoir and chose the place as randomly as throwing darts while blindfolded.  Fortunately, we have good aim.  

Just after 5:30 Randy, the other co-owner, pulled up and seemed surprised to see me.  Apparently, Doug had bailed but didn't tell Randy or Tony that I was coming.  They rolled with it and soon we were navigating dirt roads in the predawn light as the guys had gotten permission from a local ranch owner to start on their property, just underneath the Crystal Couloir of Sopris, which was the day's objective.  

Out of the truck, I had another idiot moment when I realized I left my liners in my car back in Carbondale.  Not only did I just meet these guys fifteen minutes ago, but now I was about to ruin their day, or at least mine.   Luckily, Tony had a spare set of Alien liners that fit my boots in his truck and didn't seem squeamish about the fact that I was going to return them smoking with foot sweat.  What a guy!

We walked through the rancher's property, navigated some game trails until we hit snow, and booted around 4000 steps to the top of the Crystal Couloir.  It was mostly bullet proof with swaths of blown in powder that was an inch or two deep.  The skiing was going to mostly suck but it would still be a glorious spring descent.  

At the top of the face, the guys sat down for some snacks but since I'd never been up there before, I headed up to tag the summit.  A few minutes later, I was atop a false summit and out of time.  It was already 10 AM and I was supposed to be back at the cabin by now to take on a full day of adventures with the boys.  I quickly texted an apology to my wife and turned it around.  From there, I skied  a rocky strip of snow back to the guys, and then we all clicked in for thousands of feet of spring skiing on that very face that had captured my attention years ago.  

It's not that steep or really that long, but it dominates one's view driving up the valley and was an unexpected bonus of an already great family vacation.  

Sidenote: The rancher sent a photo of us to Tony crossing his property taken from a security camera that was apparently taken just moments after a couple mountain lions had stalked through.  Let those stand as two reasons (cameras and lions) to not trespass.  

Randy just below the snow line

Randy and the Crystal Face

Booting forever

The Elks are just a little bigger than the Wasatch!

Looking back at the guys having a snack. 

Randy dropping into the firm sustained face with race gear. 



Back with the family, Lars was all business.  He will race anything that moves. 

Most days involved at least some time throwing rocks into the lake.  

Saturday, March 28, 2015

V Notch, Apocalypse, and the Son of Apocalypse Couloirs

After our late start on Wednesday, we knew we needed to get up early and get high to beat the heat and find good snow.  We are lucky to know Zahan Billimoria, who made a couple suggestions, gave us the beta on route finding, and even fed us dinner and welcomed us into his home for a short night's sleep.  Z is one of the nicest guys on the planet and is always psyched, always supportive, and is one of the most inspiring people I've met.  He has a family with two kids a little older than mine and I hope that I can emulate him in more ways than just his ski mountaineering.  

We sat by his computer and bounced around ideas for the day.  Eventually, we settled on the following.  The plan was to get up early, cross Phelps Lake in the dark, and ascend to the top of the Apocalypse Couloir.  From there, we would get a look at the V Notch Couloir, perhaps link them both, and then if conditions allowed, add on the Son of Apocalypse.  Sometimes, everything goes exactly according to one's whimsical plans. 

We broke trail the entire day, didn't see a single soul, and skied steep but stable powder until Jason declared, "Well, I think we've gotten our Teton fix for a bit."  That usually means about a day but at least we were content.  

We were reasonably high by the time the light turned sharp

Near the top of the V Notch, there was a bouldery ice step that prompted the use of ropes and sharp objects.  

photo by Jason Dorais

We topped out the line and found nothing but white.  It's just as well since the summit of Prospector is apparently closed to human traffic to protect the big horn sheep.  Photo by Jason Dorais

We skied back to the small rock band and placed an anchor. 

A look down at the minimal but engaging crux

Time to ski.

This chute is reasonably steep but the soft snow made it carefree.

Photo by Jason Dorais

Photo by Jason Dorais

Out onto the apron.

The aptly named V Notch decorated with our tracks. 

We skinned back up to the top of the Apocalypse and after some rooting around, found the slings at the base of a large tree.  We knew there would be three rappels but it still seems odd that this line doesn't fill in to the top.  I suppose the prevailing winds prevent it, but DAMN would that be nice.  

For the first rap, the rope was handy.  For the second two, it was only useful to lower over a couple small rock steps that interrupted the steep snow.  This was nice as our rope was just a little short for the second rap (we were using one 60).  

Once in the cave, we donned skis and I belayed Jason as he ski cut the hell out of the upper Apocalypse.  I then skied to his position and gave it my best shot while he belayed.  Satisfied, we laughed our way down this insanely classic Teton chute.  

From the top.  Photo by Jason Dorais

The second rappel with the small rock step below me.  Photo by Jason Dorais

Jason rappelling the upper Apocalypse

The third and final rap with the last rock bulge below Jason.

Free of the rope! Photo by Jason Dorais

Around the corner and entering the main couloir.  Photo by Jason Dorais

Jason approaches the icy choke

Jason trying to decide if it "goes"

It goes!  But required some ugly turns and hip checking into the rock wall on the left.  Photo by Jason Dorais

Through the ice crux, happy to have kept skis on. 

Photo by Jason Dorais

Pleased with the day but not ready to be done, we skied to the apron of the Son of Apocalypse to get a look.  Our main concern was the sun and the danger involved in climbing a chute with some big terrain above us.  Fortunately, the wind picked up and the skies were becoming more overcast so we decided to start up with the pact to turn around at the first sign of instability.  

The only instability we found was in ourselves.  The benefit of being alone in the mountains is paid for by trail breaking and this seemed to be taking a toll.  With heavy packs and deep snow, I resigned myself to just be uncomfortable.  We thought it would take an hour to boot the chute but the truth was closer to two.  

As we topped out I got a text from Z that read, "How are we doing boyz?"  

About to drop into the Son of Apocalypse after two great lines already, the answer was most definitely, "Psyched!"

Jason booting up the Son of Apocalypse

Skiing the upper bowl before it funnels into the chute. Photo by Jason Dorais

Photo by Jason Dorais

Photo by Jason Dorais

The long walk home across Phelps Lake