When “Fifty Classic Ski Descents” was released, I was excited see the incredible images and read the accounts of some historic, proud lines in North America. I loved the large format and enjoyed reading about the first descents and the folks who pioneered them.
The book has been sitting on the shelf collecting dust for the past 5 years, but after inadvertently ticking off a few gems this season, it got me diving back in and looking up nearby classics. My OCD (obsessive chute-skiing disorder) is clearly flaring back up and making turns is the only cure. The last foray to the spud state was so good, and the slopes still held such great snow, that I decided to return.
Word on the street was that Castle Peak had melted out, but that the “Devil’s Bedstead” was in great shape. Plus, anything with the word Devil in it automatically means it must be cool. Spring is such a hit-or-miss time of year. I was guessing “D-B” wouldn’t be as heavily coated as this image I found online, but it’s pics like these that pique interest and feed the imagination. Apparently it does look like a bed when viewed from a canyon to the east?!
With so many possible obstacles on remote approaches I decided to bring the moto to aid in bypassing gates, dead-fall, etc. Truth is I’ve just been wanting to incorporate the moto on a ski trip. This seemed like a good trial run. After some long overdue maintenance on the bike, I headed off last Tuesday with trusty steed in tow.
Half an audio-book later, I was past Mackay Idaho and in the foothills of the Pioneer Mountains. I spent the night at the Motel Tacoma, where I always find they have a vacancy, spacious accommodations, a reasonable check out time, inter-continental breakfast, (yes that’s a box of doughnuts) and prices that can’t be beat.
“The past exists only in our memories, the future only in our plans. The present is our only reality. The tree that you are aware of intellectually, because of that small time lag, is always in the past and therefore is always unreal. Any intellectually conceived object is always in the past and therefore unreal. Reality is always the moment of vision before the intellectualization takes place. There is no other reality.”
-Robert M. Pirsig- Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
The moto came in handy right away and allowed passage around some dead-fall. My two wheel euphoria didn’t last long, however, because patches of snow and a closed trail shut ‘er down. More of a novelty than a necessity, but any throttle time is welcomed. She ran purrrrrfectly.
Shoe leather replaced rubber and I crossed the creek, walking the dark woods on an old jeep road that continued up the valley floor. The GPS told me to climb a steep wooded hill, so id did. At this point, I hit snow and switched to skinning, and contoured around into the drainage of the north face of the “D-B”. When I popped out of the forest and saw the face for the first time it looked fucking huge! I hadn’t paid much attention on the maps, and it was hard to tell by just staring. Turns out it’s 2,500 ft! My inner powderwhore was disheartened at the appearance of the snow though. It looked bad. All the unwanted elements seemed to have worked it over, the heat, gravity, and wind. Oh well, I thought, I came all this way, I’ll blast up it and hack my way down.
The line of descent marked in red. The ascent was almost identical, but I hit the ridge to the right and slowly clambered up loose and slippery granite blocks to the summit.
As I started up I happily realized my eyes had been deceived, the snow was good and only got better the higher I climbed. One icy choke at the top of the lower couloir was the only bad section on the entire face.
There aren’t many things about going it solo that I dislike, but breaking 2K feet of deep trail is one of them.
The forecast showed 30% chance or rain/snow and the clouds were trying hard to prove NOAA right.
The slope mellows out on the upper part of the face and I was able to skin to the ridge which saved some time and energy. The skinner is in!
This peak is only the 5th highest in the Pioneer Range, and I could see Borah, the tallest in the state, but it sure felt like I was on top of all of Idaho. The sun had been on and off the snow all day turning it into heavy pow. My first turn created a hefty mush-alanche that cleaned out a third of the face. I worked skiers left making quick turns and staying ahead of, and out from under the wet sloughs that continued to rip.
In bed with the Devil!
Skiing was fast, surfy, and far better than I had expected. The chute lower down was a few hours, or degrees in temperature past corn and a little sticky, but still good skiing.
I retraced my steps through the woods, then tread on the roads.
A quick storm was moving through the valley as I headed out. I packed up and made it back to SLC before dark. The “Devil’s Bedstead” IS a classic indeed with it’s remote location, challenging approach, and steep skiing on that huge open face!
Back when it was first released, Jonah and I played with the idea of turning the “50 Classics” into a documentary film. However, we decided not to due to the difficulties in logistics and permitting. And now, after having ticked twelve lines, I toyed with the idea of turning it into a project to ski them all. Unfortunately, the Thompson Pass classics are all heli-ski terrain, which doesn’t interest me at all.
Nevertheless, these little excursions have been feeding the adventure ski bug and helping provide one of the best spring seasons I’ve ever had.