Category Archives: LCC

A Taste of Utah Powder

Over my spring break, I headed to Salt Lake City for five days of resort skiing. My brother and I hit Alta, Snowbird, Brighton, and Park City. We had minor powder days on 3 of our 5 days, and the terrain was really outstanding.

Day 1 – Alta/Snowbird

Hello Utah!

We got half-price tickets to Alta and Snowbird for the day since it was within 24 hours of our arrival. Sweet! We started the day at Alta since fresh snow had fallen on Saturday, but for the most part everything was already tracked out by the time we got there. Not to worry, there was good bump skiing and groomer cruising to be had.

Devil’s Castle, Sugar Loaf, and Baldy from near Catherine’s

Mineral Basin is beautiful… but with all that southern exposure, it was totally cooked. Apparently locals call it Miserable Basin. Also, the GoPro failed to charge the night before, so no clips in the video are from today. Bummer!

Mineral Basin from the Alta/Snowbird interconnect

Day 2: Alta

From Day 2 to Day 4 we skied on the “Salt Lake Super Pass” which gives a little discount on the daily rate but includes the UTA Ski Bus fare up and down the canyon. It ends up being a good deal.

Supreme Lift

Snow started falling at around 9am and continued throughout the day, covering the groomers with a few inches and making the skiing off the Supreme Chair pretty nice. We stayed on this fixed-grip triple chair for most of the day because of the great terrain!

Among my favorites were the tree runs and little chutelets skier’s right of the Challenger run, and the open bowl pretty far along the Catherine’s traverse (accessible with a small hike). We also tried skiing off Sugar Loaf and Collins but visibility was poor.

Day 3 and 4: Brighton

Day 3 was the family-friendly day. Dad skied with us for the first time in a while and had a good time once we got him warmed up on the Majestic green runs and up to the Snake Creek Express with some nice blue cruisers. Meanwhile, I was enjoying some unexpectedly good powder stashes in the trees off the beginner/intermediate Majestic Chair (actually the finest powder turns I got at any of the Cottonwoods resorts we visited!)

Looking South towards Little Cottonwood off the Great Western summit. Brings back fun memories of summer hikes on all these peaks

I enjoyed taking the double black runs skiers left of the Snake Creek lift (Snake Bowl and Sawbuck), as well as some tougher lines on Mt. Millicent. Lone Pine is probably the steepest line I’ve skied yet.

Milly face runs (challenging terrain in the middle chutes)

On Wednesday night, it snowed again, leaving us with some nice new powder on Thursday to check out. My favorite runs that day were the mellow tree runs following the Great Western lift line. There were great glades of pines and aspen all along that ridge which could be skied all day long.

Mellow trees off of Great Western
Snowy view of Timpanogos

Day 5: Park City

Park City was an unexpected hit after it snowed heavily Thursday night, leaving 5 inches in the Cottonwoods and 3-4 inches in most of PCMR. My brother and I headed straight for the expert terrain off of the Jupiter lift, but couldn’t resist lapping a couple of the Thaynes runs in untouched powder. It’s all about the journey, not the destination, right?

Jupiter Bowl

Turns out there was plenty left when we got there. I skied Jupiter Bowl/Fortune Teller right under the lift line for my first run, then made the hike to Scott’s Bowl four or five more times before it started getting a little more tracked out.

Scott’s Bowl
Fun mini-cornice drop in to Scott’s Bowl

It was funny to think I had ridden my bike to within a few hundred feet of this point from Salt Lake City (over Guardsman Pass) not too many months ago.

There really is no easy way down from the Jupiter lift, so make sure you have the skills to ski it safely if you go. There are some runs that are easier for double blacks, but steeps and unmarked obstacles could be found pretty much everywhere.

Looking at Pinecone Ridge

The rest of the day consisted largely of nice high-altitude groomers. We avoided the lower runs because it got very soupy as the day warmed up.

Oh yeah, Park City has groomers

And all too soon it was time to head home again! It was an awesome trip. I wouldn’t hesitate to come back to Utah to ski. We got a great deal on accommodations in the valley, and I think you’d be hard pressed to find a better “dollars to quality skiing ratio” anywhere around.

Nice parting shot of Canyonlands as we flew home
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Road Trip Part 3 – Tetons to Grand Canyon

Day 5: Yellowstone to Salt Lake City, UT

We knew that Day 5 was going to be a long drive, but also that it would pass some of the most spectacular vistas on the trip (as well as 2 new states for much of the family). We left the park fairly early and fought construction from the South exit of the park until the Grand Teton visitor center. We didn’t spend much time in the park, but did enjoy the great views of the range from the road.

The Grand Teton from the north
Panorama of the range
Grand Teton from the south

The hazy conditions due to forest fires in the area reduced visibility somewhat but not enough to conceal America’s most distinctive mountain range. Passing through Jackson, along the Snake River into Idaho, and then into Utah, we got our first taste of how enormous the West is, and how desolate the parts of the Southwest can be. We rolled into Salt Lake City in the early evening, and I showed the family around Temple Square. I talked them into eating at my favorite restaurant in town, Squatter’s Pub, which was a real treat after road food.

Day 6: Salt Lake City, UT to Springdale, UT

I wanted to do an easy hike in the Wasatch to expose my brother and dad to the beauty of the area without making the trip too difficult or hazardous. We ended up hiking Sunset Peak (for my fourth time) from the Alta side. Needless to say, they both really enjoyed it. I’ve posted lots of pictures of the area on the blog before, but here are some of the nicer ones from that morning:

Devils Castle in the morning light
Twin Lakes from the summit ridge of Sunset Peak

The rest of the day consisted of a fairly lengthy drive on the interstate to Springdale, which is right outside Zion National Park. We took a bus tour of Zion Canyon in the evening as the sun set, and the colors were pretty unreal. It’s a very different view of the Canyon than when I had previously seen it in the morning light.

Zion Canyon
Evening colors as the sun sets – near the entrance to the park

 

Day 7: Zion National Park to Grand Canyon North Rim

The primary goal of the day was for my brother and I to hike Angel’s Landing. I had hiked it in the spring and really enjoyed it, but he was concerned about the exposure. I told him he had nothing to worry about, and he handled it pretty well.

Waking up early

We got on the first bus into the park, which put us on the trail earlier than anybody (always good for the crowded Angel’s Landing trail).

First view of the valley from higher up on Angel’s Landing
Don’t slip here

We handled the chain section with no problem. My brother who isn’t a very experienced hiker said it wasn’t as bad as he was expecting.

The infamous “knife edge” (not actually that narrow)
Topping out

The second trip up Angel’s Landing presented the same view, but it’ll be

Crazy lower trail carved into the canyon wall

This was my second trip to the top of Angel’s Landing, but I imagine it will always be worth the trip due to the unparallelled view of the rest of the valley and the “exciting” trail!

Back in the Canyon Floor

We hiked out and rode the bus back to our hotel in Springdale, where we linked up with the rest of the family and headed to the Grand Canyon via Kanab. This route goes through the Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel, which was carved out of the sandstone by WPA crews in the 1930’s. It is sort of sketchy with regard to lack of guardrails and narrow parts of the tunnel, but worth it for the views (and for getting to the Grand Canyon of course).

Navajo sandstone domes on the drive to Kanab

From there it was several hours of driving to get to the North Rim. Along the way, we stopped in the little town of Kanab for a quick bite to eat before heading through the Kaibab National Forest to the North Rim visitor’s center. Be advised that there are very few services along this road. It definitely feels like a remote corner of the country, despite the number of visitors.

When we finally arrived (in Arizona time, one hour behind) it was pretty rainy and chilly, although it cleared up enough for us to see a canyon. We were gawking at the view until we realized it was only a side canyon. The main canyon is beyond imagination in scale. It’s easily the largest natural feature I’ve ever seen, wider even I believe than the Yellowstone caldera.

Grand Canyon

Due to the long drive and easily accessible views, we didn’t plan to hike much in the park, but we did walk to a small point by the N. Rim Lodge where we were able to get a pretty good view of the main canyon. We stayed around after dinner until the sun set, and that’s when the scenery really came to life. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, it was just awe inspiring.

Luckily we were done driving for the day, as we had a reservation at one of the cabins. I recommend staying in the park if at all possible, because the drive back to Kanab really would have put a damper on the day and would have made it impossible to watch the sun go down over the canyon.

The Beatout (Pfeifferhorn to Bell’s Canyon)

The Beatout
14 miles
5700+’ gain
12 hours car-to-car
Class 3
 

The Beatout is a Wasatch Mountain Club classic ridge traverse – known for being one of the longest, toughest hikes typically done in the Wasatch.

I started in Red Pine with a WMC group at around 7:20 AM on Saturday. We made decent time to the lake (~1 hr) and then proceeded up the headwall to Pfeifferhorn ridge.

Red Pine Lake

At this point, I took a slightly higher line than the use trail and bagged Little Pfeifferhorn. Good views from here with little effort.

Pfeifferhorn’s NE face from Little Pfeifferhorn

Soon we reached the (in)famous Knife Edge approaching Pfeifferhorn’s East Ridge.

The Knife Edge
Scrambling the knife edge (really not that bad)

We topped out and started down the opposite ridge to continue the Beatout towards the unnamed peak west of Pfeifferhorn (UPWOP Peak).

Summit shot on Pfeifferhorn
Heading down Pfeifferhorn
Pfeifferhorn’s imposing West Face
Pfeifferhorn

The views of Pfeifferhorn are outstanding from this part of the ridge – a unique side of the mountain not visible from anyplace else. Next we reached the summit of Upwop and continued down the other side to Chipman Peak.

Chipman Peak

This part of the trip was the most challenging scramble of the day – some boulders are stacked up precariously so be on the lookout, but in general the rock is excellent in quality and the scrambling is fun. The exposure can largely be avoided.

Lightning Ridge

From here Lightning Ridge forms the remainder of the route to South Thunder mountain. It looks worse than it is, but it sure is impressive.

Looking back towards Upwop
Scrambling toward Chipman
Scrambling toward Chipman
Higher up on Chipman

The next landmark is the saddle between Chipman and Lightning ridge. We dropped packs and made the quick run to bag Chipman.

South side of Lightning Ridge from the Chipman saddle
Pano from the summit of Chipman. Box Elder and Timpanogos behind. (Click to expand)
Looking back at Pfeifferhorn and Upwop from the summit of Chipman

We picked up our packs and continued along the crest of Lightning ridge, generally staying on the south side to avoid the worst of the exposure. This was my favorite part of the hike. The views are outstanding, the rock solid, and the scrambling a blast.

Hole in the ridge crest (click to expand)
Messing around on Lightning Ridge
A little bit of exposure in places….

We continued along the ridge, dropping a bit further down to the south to avoid some cliff bands around the South Thunder saddle. The scrambling continued its excellent quality.

Lightning Ridge
Lightning Ridge is spectacular
Cool obelisk

Before reaching South Thunder, we were surprised to see a bunch of mountain goats with the purest white coat I’ve ever seen.

Adult goat
Goat family
How do I get down?
Jumping down
South Thunder mountain

We walked the remaining few hundred feet up to the summit of South Thunder. It was cool to revisit this peak as my last Wasatch hike – it was also my first!

South Thunder take 2
South Thunder pano (click to expand)
East Face of Lone Peak
Descending South Thunder

At this point, we began the descent and I was starting to get tired. It was a couple thousand feet of granite slabs to the grassy field above the reservoir, then a bit of a bushwhack down to the reservoir itself.

View of the reservoir from up high
Hanging valley above the reservoir
Upper Bell’s reservoir

After reaching the reservoir I thought I was home free. Ohhhh no. There are still 4-5 miles and thousands of feet of elevation left to lose all the way down to the car. Never has the valley looked so close yet been so far away…

Upper Bell’s Falls

Maybe 1/3 of the way down the trail we side-hiked to the upper falls which were nice. I was pretty beat though so I was ready to head all the way down. The trail is steep and rocky – wouldn’t be a problem but after 11 hours of hiking it was pretty brutal.

We arrived back at the car at around 7:00 – just under 12 hours car-to-car. Not a fast pace, but we got down before dark which is all I was looking for.

Bullion Divide

Bullion Divide
5 hours total
8.5 miles
 

The Bullion Divide is the high-altitude ridge run from Alta Ski Resort to White Pine Canyon. My coworker Tyler and I elected to take on an abbreviated version on Saturday due to expected showers and storms in the early afternoon. The route summits 6 named peaks over 11,000′: (in order) Sugar Loaf Peak, Mount Baldy, Hidden Peak, American Fork Twin Peaks (E and W), and Red Top. Three of those are prominent enough to make my Wasatch Eleveners list.

Alta to Sugar Loaf Peak

Sugar Loaf Peak
11,051′
1.42 miles

Sugar Loaf Peak is a breeze. We were on top in way less than an hour after leaving the Secret Lake trailhead. It winds around the west side of the lake up to the ridgeline, then a couple hundred feet more to the top.

Secret Lake and Sugar Loaf Peak
Summit of Sugar Loaf Peak. Bullion Divide is the ridge going from the right edge to center along the bald high peaks

Sugar Loaf Peak to Mt. Baldy

Mt. Baldy
11,068′
0.95 miles

The next segment of the trail follows a use trail down the shallow slope of Sugar Loaf, and up the moderate shoulder of Mt. Baldy. This was a quick segment with a scenic meadow at the saddle with a good view of Twin Peaks

American Fork Twins from Baldy Saddle

Mt. Baldy to Hidden Peak

Hidden Peak*
11,000′
1 mile

This is the easiest and least-scenic section of the trail, since you see the ugly Snowbird Aerial Tram station on top of Hidden Peak. Hidden Peak would have a  nice view but there is a huge concrete structure and a bunch of cat tracks everywhere. We ran into a bunch of hikers walking downhill from the tram stop. We passed through without stopping to bother to take a picture. Clouds were starting to roll in at this point so we were moving efficiently.

Clouds starting to roll in on the twins

Hidden Peak to American Fork Twin Peaks

American Fork Twin Peaks
11,489′
1.1 miles
Exposed Class 3 scramble

Now we are talking! After Hidden Peak, we scrambled along the knife-edge ridge to the base of the East ridge of American Fork Twin Peaks East. To our left was a long drop off into Mary Ellen Gulch, and Peruvian Gulch was to the right. This is not a place you want to slip and fall but the rock was solid and the scrambling straightforward. Not recommended in the rain, the rock would be slippery.

Looking back at Sugar Loaf, Baldy, and Hidden Peak

The ridge gains almost 900′ passing through quartzite, then this black band, and finally light-colored scree and talus. Finally, after half an hour or so, we reached the East Twin’s summit ridge.

From the summit of East Twin

It was quiet, peaceful, and beautiful up here, in contrast to experience I had on some of the more exposed summits like White Baldy or Pfeifferhorn which were windy and cold. We looked around for a bit before hiking over to West Twin for the summit shots.

East Twin from the summit of West
Cottonwood Ridge to the North
Pfeifferhorn and Lone Peak to the West
Great view of Box Elder Peak
AF Twins summit shot with Timpanogos in the background

I believe AF Twins is the only mountain from which you can see every other Wasatch Elevener (Provo Peak may be the exception but I think that was what I was looking at). We took in the sights for a bit longer and moved on to Red Top.

Red Top barely counts since it is not very prominent at all from West Twin; however, it blocks the view into White Pine Canyon so we headed over to take some more photos.

Looking back at both American Fork Twins
Summit of Red Top
Great panorama to the South and West
Snowbird and the descent ridge

Descent

3.8 miles
 

We headed down soon after to avoid the afternoon thunderstorms, starting down Red Top’s North Ridge on the standard Gad Valley route. The way down was tedious boulder hopping but the views were good.

AF West Twin – impressive geology
Great wildflowers!
Epic Pfeifferhorn shot

We reached the top of Gad 2 lift thinking we’d be walking downhill on grass on the Bassackwards ski run. Bad call. It was a giant boulderfield all the way down past the Little Cloud chair.

Giant boulder fields
Waterfall in Snowbird boundary

By about 1pm we were back at the Snowbird parking lot ready to make the car shuttle again. It’s a great way to get a bunch of high peaks all at once, but the highlight of the trip was definitely the scramble up American Fork Twins. Snowbird’s expansion plans call for building another stupid tram all the way to the top, so hike it while you can.

 

Pfeifferhorn (fail)

On Saturday, I joined members of the Wasatch Mountain Club for a snow climb of the Pfeifferhorn, an 11,326′ peak in the Alpine ridge south of Little Cottonwood Canyon.

We approached through Red Pine, starting at around 8:30. Snow covered the trail almost all the way to the parking lot. That would have been fine, except that it was a particularly hot day. The snow became very sloppy, making for slow going, and it took us almost 4 hours just to get to Red Pine Lake. All of us post holed up to our knees repeatedly.

Lower Red Pine Lake

Once there, we had lunch and noticed all the recent wet slide activity on the steeper ridges. This did not bode well for finishing the climb, since we would be traveling on avalanche-prone steep slopes.

Wet slide activity on Pfeiff north ridge

We tried walking around Red Pine Lake to see if the snow would get firmer up high. Almost right away, we noticed that there were at least three distinct soft layers with crusts in between.  Acknowledging that we had started too late in the day to proceed safely, we turned back. This turned out to be a good decision – another group descending from the peak set off a small wet avalanche later in the day. On the trail back to White Pine, we felt a “whoomph” of the snow settling – not a good sign! I was happy that we turned around.

Wet slides close to the trail (!). Looked scarily recent

The rest of the hike was scenic and easy. From the Red Pine trail there were great views of the canyon and the valley below.

The route to Pfeifferhorn from Red Pine
LCC from the Red Pine trail