Sunday, January 13, 2008

Day 17: Skiing the Big Boy - West Kessler

Saturday was shaping up to be one of the best touring days of the year. After feet and feet of snow, one storm after another, we were due for at least one day of high pressure and clear skies. We talked with our dependable ski partner Scott on Friday night, and decided to call our shot in the morning.

We picked Scott up at his house around 8:00 and decided to check out Mineral Fork. Scott had skied some east-facing shots the week before and had seen some sweet stuff across the canyon on Kessler. We decided to check it out, even though none of us knew where we were going. Scott said it looked like fun, steep tree skiing.

After a false start (Scott forgot his beacon - d'oh), we started skinning a little bit before 9:00. The temps were really comfortable and there was absolutely no wind. The aspen forest in Mineral was almost magical, and it felt like we were walking through a fairyland forest. I had the strange urge to start singing "Little Bunny Foo-foo", and I kept expecting to see a forest gnome pop his head out at any given moment. It was definitely a cool morning.

We got up to the face we wanted to ski and saw a big dilemma - a large cliff band with a probable entry chute that we couldn't see. The entry was a steep right facing gully running up between the cliffs. However, the real obstacle was the choke right below the chute. There was a beautiful ice pillar coming off a rock band we had to get over. I was extremely apprehensive, and continued to say so, but the boys convinced me that we at least had to check it out. Scott skinned over and found that it was actually pretty accessible. I owe him $2 for being right about that. Damn.

We stopped for a long food and water break, getting geared up for the climb ahead of us. The sun came out, and the sky turned an impossible blue. The snow was just unbelievable beautiful, and was sparkling with a slight touch of surface hoar in the sun. The trees around us were caked with rime and the whole scene was just incredible. We all just kept looking at each other and shaking our heads in disbelief.

We came around the corner of the entry gully and saw our objective - a lone chute through the trees all the way from the ridge of Kessler. We giggled like idiots and started sniffing our way up the face. Route-finding was pretty interesting and it was fun figuring out the safe routes and working on safe travel techniques. The sun was wrecking havoc on anything that was exposed and there were a few spicy choke points on the way up. Scott is so great to be with on days like these - it's really fun to learn from him.

The upper section was steep and deep. Josh earns the Mule Award for the day for some seriously hard trail breaking for at least 1000 ft. I earn the Mooch Award for the day for not breaking trail at all. I figured it was fair since I could barely keep up as it was. Eek.

We came up over a rollover and saw the gentle rise up to the ridge. Josh finally stopped for a minute, took a breath, and said "I'm knackered." I laughed, because I knew he had been getting his ass kicked for at least an hour, but didn't want to admit it until the objective was in sight. The ridge of Kessler was breath-taking with the Twins, Dromedary, O'Sullivan, and Bonkers down-canyon, Whipple and Raymond across canyon, a mirror-calm Great Salt Lake in the distance, and Cardiff Fork below us up-canyon. After 5 hours of skinning, we were standing on top of Kessler ridge. So freaking cool.

Even after the coolest day of touring I remember, the skiing was the highlight of the day. We had about 3000 ft of perfect snow in perfect conditions. The only downer is that the camera batteries died at the very top. Curses!

An epic day called for beer and nachos, and we gladly basked in the glory of a great day for an hour or so at the Porcupine. Thanks to my dear husband and Scott Keller for the best touring day I remember. You guys are the best touring partners I could ask for. I always feel like I'm a part of the process and part of the crew, that my concerns are valid, and that I'm never a hindrance. And I always laugh my ass off, even if I'm always getting crop-sprayed in the back of the pack. :)

The word of the day is "sick".

Stats for the day:
5.4 miles
3592 ft vertical

(click on the maps below for route and profile info!)

Trying something new. Click on the image below!

No comments: