It’s official: being jet lagged helps with Dawn patrol. Getting up really early has never been easier :)
With all the snow that Europe got while we were in the US we needed a quick powder fix. Hohe Winde delivered once again. I promised myself to always use skis for our Dawn patrol missions and i was lucky to find the last pair of carbon converts lying in the office as everything else is at ISPO. Snow was great, my skiing not so much but we had fun. Looking forward to more.
The next day we hit the road, soon left Utah and entered the great potato state of Idaho. As you can imagine there are huge potato fields everywhere with only a handful of towns and indian reservations. The further north we drove however the bigger the mountains became and we were soon crossing the Teton Pass (2570 m) into Wyoming, the Cowboy State. After settling in into our hostel in Jackson Hole we went for dinner and hit the best apres ski bar in the world – The Mangy Moose.
The next two days we spent skiing the resort and even got a little taste of powder. Unfortunately not much but we did have very nice sunny and very warm weather on the mountain. Interestingly Corbert’s was still closed because the conditions were too icy…
The 3rd day we decided to play tourists and drove up the valley to check out the town of Jackson, National Elk Refuge, Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park. Amazing scenery and such vast landscape. Sadly all the animals seemed to be sleeping and the closest we got to seeing a bison was in a burger. At least it was good :P
Last day we checked out and headed towards our final destination of the trip – Big Sky, Montana. We drove back across the Teton Pass and since it is one of the best starting points for backcountry tours we couldn’t go by without trying one of the routes. We climbed up Mount Glory (3074 m). The ascent is so steep you don’t even bother putting on the skins but instead boot pack it the entire way. The views on top are spectacular and there are so many options for descent. We took the classic through the Glory Bowl since the avalanche situation was favourable. Great terrain, definitely need to come back.
After the tour we hit the road again back north across Idaho and through Targhee National Forest into western part of Yellowstone and Montana.
Some time last year my man Mr. F stumbled on a cheap plane ticket to Salt Lake City and booked it without thinking much about it. As our departure neared we were joined by Mr. B and Mr. M and we suddenly had a road trip in the southern part of the Rocky Mountains on our hands.
The flight from Zürich to NYC was almost empty so we were luxuriously snoring the entire way. From NYC to Salt Lake however it was overbooked and they were offering $800 to anyone who was willing to take a later flight. We stuck to our seats and finally arrived to SLC in the middle of the night. Next morning it was time to visit our office, get the tour of the factory, say hi to people and stock up with “test” gear :) We also picked up our SUV or MOV as they call it in Utah (stands for Mormon Assault Vehicle :P ). Then after some proper Mexican burritos it was time to head up the Big Cottonwood Canyon to check out the conditions. There are two resorts at the end of the Big Canyon: Brighton and Solitude. We headed to Brighton since it also offers night skiing and we were getting our first taste of the famed Utah snow until well after 9PM. Unfortunately the snow situation in the US wasn’t much better than what we had in Europe at the time. The air was warm but the snow somehow managed to stay relatively light and dry so the skiing was not that bad.
The next day we had planned a little ski tour with some folks from the office but they all decide to go climbing instead :) We didn’t bring our climbing shoes so we stuck with the plan and climbed Scott Hill (3083m). Looks like the US weatherman are in the same situation as their Swiss colleagues as we didn’t see much from the forecasted sunshine. In fact it was super windy and the main ridge had most of the snow blown away so we actually had to descend the first few meters on foot in order to save our carbon. Oh well.
In the evening we had dinner at one of our VPs house and then headed downtown for some beers. Utah being a Mormon controlled state has some “interesting” laws, one of them dictates diluted beer. Just as well since we were still jet lagged and had a long drive to Jackson the next day.
After all the avalanches that were reported yesterday and the ones we witnessed on our own it was clear we need to keep on the defensive. That rules out a lot of tours and basically keeps you doing the classics we’ve done a lot already. You might think it gets boring but just being out there is enough to put a smile on your face. Combine that with sunshine and good company and it is everything but boring.
Since most people realised the same problem with the conditions the classic tours were crowded. We set out for the least crowded of them — up the Tälligrat (2748 m). The reason that most people opt for other tours is the approach, you need almost 2 hours just to get to the base of the mountain. But in return you are truly in beautiful surroundings, deep in the backcountry. Since we were a bit sleepy and started late the clouds overtook us before the end and due to bad visibility we didn’t traverse the entire ridge. But that’s OK since we still got a good workout and some nice skiing. The snow was noticeably harder and wetter so no more face shots but more sore knees :P
Since we were too tired to last through the party we woke early and headed out into another sunny day. It got from -15 to +5 on 2000m and the snow is suffering, especially so on the south exposures. We headed for the Maighels hut (2314m) and Cavradi. But it was soon obvious that we won’t be able to do the whole tour as the north face of Cavradi was stripped bare by the wind and the bottom section lacked snow. Our decision was further proven correct when we saw two medium sized avalanches being triggered by some other people. They were lucky… So we just skinned up to the hut, got some nice food and enjoyed the sun and the warmth then descended down the way we came. Not great skiing but a great tour nonetheless.
Last tour of the calendar year promised sunshine but unfortunately there was a pesky fog belt covering the valley and we only saw the sun on the top. Which made it that more beautiful. There has been constant snowfall in the last few days and because of the cold the snow is super light and dry. It is however also very wind affected and deposited on an unfavorable base which makes it dangerous. We did find some very nice ridges to ride from Schafberg (2591m) and we could have easily gone up again if only it didn’t take 4 hours. And if there would be no fog :)
This is how -25C looked like. That is almost -35C with the wind chill. It was cold.