Pretty speechless about the winter we’ve been having! It’s been mostly deep powder skiing with a few short breaks in snow and weather to get into some higher peaks and ski big objectives. Thankfully the stability has been good the few times it’s cleared. Had a few good ticks—and some fails—but all in all the best winter for me since 2011! We’re in a serious thaw right now and I’m taking a day off. Time to squeeze out a trip report from last week.
Billy Haas hit me up and fortuitously we both had similar big objectives in mind. He’s been guiding all winter for UMA with only a handful of days off, so we hadn’t skied together yet this year. High on our list was the rarely skied north face of Timpanogos. This face has been on top of my Wasatch “to-do” list for many years. Jason Dorais recently took an arial tour of the range and I asked him if he happened to get a pic of this line. He sent me the incredible image below! After staring and zooming in on the photo, it led me to believe there might be a connection of chutes on the viewers right side that we could sneak through.
(Huge thanks to Jason for this great shot!) Red line is what we hoped would go continuously.
Many years ago, back when he was young (his words) Drew Hardesty dropped in solo and tried to work through the cliff band. He was unsuccessful and climbed back up and out. The only party I know of to ski the direct face was Andrew McLean and Brad Barlage back in the late 90’s. They center-punched it and exited the cliff band with two rappels. Some time later Jim Harris and Derek Weiss skied the lookers left skyline and worked off the face before having to deal with the cliffs (smart kids). We were hoping to piece together the line on the lookers right and escape the face without rappelling (but we brought a rope and plenty of gear just in case). (Please email, or post if you know any other parties who have skied it)
The consummate professional Billy Haas en route.
Plenty of snow has been falling up high, but we traversed underneath to scope it out. Sticking to the skiers left it appeared we could sneak off the face into a treed chute, into that dog-leg, across a lower ramp and into an exit couloir. No big deal.
There was a skin track set up the Cold Fusion Couloir so we followed. Skinning turned to booting as the snow became firm and wind blown. Billy in silhouette.
Pace was casual as we caught up on life, Wasatch gossip and his hot pink skis.
From the summit we peeked over and onto the face. It wasn’t as steep as it can appear from many vantage points, which was a little disappointing. I’m guessing it was in the low to mid 40 degree range, which is just good fun. The wind had done it’s best to remove and consolidate the snow and we were expecting mixed conditions.
It was a perfect sunny day and one of the least windy Timp summits we could recall. We transitioned and Billy worked his way in slowly, from the top, with feeling.
Good chalky snow up high!
The snow became much better as we dropped elevation and passed through some features on the face.
Just good old fashioned skiing in a beautiful place. The looming question of what lay below kept things interesting.
(Photo- Billy Haas)
Our avy concern was small pockets of wind slab. We worked one at a time from safe zone to safe zone without any signs of instability. The snow got better and better with a slight bit of wind effect. Anyplace other than Utah and you would call it powder.
Billy throwing on the breaks as we looked for the tree chute that might connect to the dog-leg chute.
And fortunately it did indeed connect, with plenty of snow and room to turn.
This connector dropped right into the obvious dog-leg chute we had seen from our recon photos and from the valley below. Excellent news so far, but we weren’t sure the next part would connect as we sank deeper down the rabbit hole. We had a 60m rope and gear, but we were hoping not to have to use it. Billy surged on ahead.
He stopped and hollered up the two most favorable words in steep skiing, “it goes”!
We were optimistic and enjoying being in this unique setting.
Exiting the dog-leg. (Photo- Billy Haas)
From here there were two options from what we could tell. There looked to be a steep chute into the exit couloir, or we could traverse an airy ramp that we knew would get us lined up properly. We opted for the sure thing and slowly crept along the exposed traverse in varied snow. Billy breaking trail.
A short section, but definitely spicy. It felt a bit like the ribbon on Devil’s Castle.
(Photo- Billy Haas)
Things just kept going our way! The exit chute appeared clean and we were psyched to say the least. The top was narrow though (just about 175cm’s) and we were both happy we’d brought short skis. I’ve been going shorter and fatter on my ski mountaineering skis lately and enjoying it. For this route I was on 105mm width and 175cm length. They come around really quick on hop turns, fit nicely through tight chokes and and there is enough underfoot that they float in soft snow and don’t dive in funky and mixed conditions.
Almost through the cliffs, or so we thought.
We had looked right up this exit chute while we skinned underneath it. What we hadn’t been able to detect was a 15 foot section of nearly vertical snow. A “no go” on this section.
We each only had one ice tool and it seemed faster and easier to use the rope as aid, instead of switchint to crampons, down climbing and then switching back to skis. The rock is shit and the pins weren’t bomber. We maintained edge contact and didn’t fully weight the rope. Not the fully clean descent we wanted, but not that dirty either.
Billy buries the hatchet while making it through the crux.
Another section of nice tight skiing.
With a mandatory straight-line finish onto the apron.
(Photo- Billy Haas)
And finally, home free. It really couldn’t have gone any better. We prepared for the worst, guessed right, and executed well. What was unknown to us, is now known and we’re calling the line “Bury the Hatchet”. Because we had finally made peace with this line that taunted us for so long.
A big motherfucking happy ending to a great day.
The higher up snowpack is as fat as I’ve ever seen it on Timpanogos. There are still several spicy lines I’d like to ski on that mountain. More high pressure is in town, big lines season is upon us.