Friday, December 31, 2010

25 Short is still there

Eric and I went to the top yesterday, just to make sure. The ski conditions were absolutely excellent.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Tree

Bob and Jill and I went for a tour up on Teton Pass. Andy joined us as well, he is back in town for a job interview and hoping mightily to return to Jackson on a permanent basis. We dropped off a vehicle at the bottom of the old pass road as a potential exit strategy.

It looked like Edelweiss was seriously tracked up, so we decided to head for Christmas Bowl. The run down through Powder Reserves was okay but noticeably stiff snow, maybe cream-cheese-light. It has been very warm the last couple days (40F in the valley, upper 20s up high) and we were wondering whether it was heat-affected or wind-affected or both.

The laps on Christmas Bowl were good, the snow was in much better condition. After two laps, Bob and Jill headed out to cut a christmas tree (more on that in a moment), while Andy and I did one more lap and then skied out Chivers Ridge to the bottom. As we got into lower elevation stuff on Chivers, it was still skiable but very stiff; fortunately it had not been sunny, just warm.

Our next-door neighbor Mary has been the coordinator for the US Capitol Christmas Tree this year, being delivered from Jackson Wyoming to Washington DC. That 67-foot Engelmann spruce has pretty much consumed her life for the past six or seven months. Yesterday was the official lighting at the Capitol; Dave and Petra flew back there to visit and join in the fun. We decided they should have a Christmas tree to welcome them back home tomorrow. Hmm, Bob had a tree permit and a saw. So it's not the Capitol christmas tree, it's more like the lowercase Christmas tree.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Moose Brush

Guy and Janet and I went up Mail Cabin. The trail looked a lot different from last Friday. Instead of breaking trail, the skin track was practically a superhighway, and there were ski tracks on just about every imaginable line including some places where I'd never seen ski tracks before. Going up the pass, I gave a hitch-hiker a ride, he told me that he was in Mail Cabin on Sunday and there were more people in there than he'd ever seen before. So, we were wondering if there would be any good lines left....

The creek crossings in East Fork were fine, not great, but good enough. There was a skin track up to Moose Brush and surprisingly enough it was an excellent track, a nice angle, not too steep. Guy & Janet had never been to Moose Brush before, so they were drooling over it during the approach. There were plenty of good lines left. After leaving the main bowl, I got over just barely on the right side of the spine of the ridge, and found a very nice section of totally untracked for 100 yards or so. That was a much easier route out than going the left side of the ridge, and then having to dodge through the pines the rest of the way.

It was their first day out in the backcountry, so we didn't do any laps. It was snowing an inch an hour starting at about noon, with relatively light wind, the existing tracks were filling in very nicely. Sweet!

Can't Get There from Here

On Sunday I decided to go for a fishscale tour to Jenny Lake. The Taggart Lake trailhead parking lot was only about 2/3 full, the winds were calm, and the clouds were  gradually clearing. I hate skiing the road in to Jenny Lake and so chose the usual route on the west side of Cottonwood Creek.

Just past the old Fabian Ranch buildings, the existing track started curving west toward Burnt Wagon Gulch. I was surprised to see that nobody had been north to Jenny Lake. In a civic-minded mood I went ahead and started breaking trail; the snow was about a foot deep but not particularly heavy. However, it wasn't clear to me that I wanted to do 2.5 miles of it!

Heading north from the Fabian Ranch, there is an open area about 1/2 or 3/4 of a mile, and then the usual route jogs east into the trees and then north along a wide shallow stream that is usually frozen in midwinter. Unfortunately, the route along the edge of the stream was blocked by two new downed trees; very large downed trees, as in I couldn't find a way around them. I spent about a half hour trying to find a way through the trees and deadfall, and eventually gave up. I did "X-out" my ski tracks, hoping that nobody else tries to follow them into the trees. Maybe there will be a passable route after there is more snow, but for now it appears to be deadfall hell.

Back in the parking lot, I saw Tim and Sarah; they had just come down 25 Short. They said conditions were excellent, they skied the center avalanche path all the way down (conditions are stable for now, good thing) to the Valley Trail and didn't have any problems with thin cover.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Mail Cabin Recon

Avy report says Considerable, which seems a bit low to me. At 9300 feet there is 15" of new, since midnight the upper elevation winds have been 30 mph gusting 40. It's 33F at the house at 8am. Bob and Chris and I decide to go for a very conservative day on the pass, like maybe out to Mount Elly and back.

At the top of the pass at 11:00 am there are still plenty of parking places if you can get to them. First you have to shovel through the 2.5 foot wall of snow from the plowing. The earliest cars have been plowed in, have fun with that. We decide instead on a Mail Cabin tour. The Coal Creek parking lot is mostly plowed, there is easily a foot of new there.

There is a track up to East Fork of Mail Cabin, and from there I start breaking trail. Not bad when I can stay on top of the old track, and heavy going when I can't. Mike and Lynne, some old friends from Idaho Falls, catch up with us and share some trailbreaking until they peel off up to the west. We plan to head for the forks, but don't get quite that far. Chris is having blister issues (it is early season, remember!) and the trail breaking does get tiring. We stopped just short of 8000' for some lunch. I dug a snowpit, with a few taps got a easy Q3 shear at the fresh snow interface, and the next shear (CT18) was right at the ground (about 4' depth). The column stayed intact, just detached itself from the ground.

Chris's feet had had enough, so we declared victory and skied back out. On the way back over the top of the Pass, the parking lot was still mostly snowbank.  Speaking of snowbanks, the banks on the west side are a good 6' high, as tall as they ever were last winter. And it's only December 3rd...