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 Post subject: Desert Pow in the Unknown Range 4/6/14
PostPosted: Sun Apr 06, 2014 10:24 pm 
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Location: Salt Lake City, UT
The forecast for this weekend didn't really make me want to spend much time outside in the mountains. Gloomy and cold but with little fresh snow. :nononno: So I decided to go to the anti-Wasatch. The Henry Mountains.

The Henry's are really intriguing to me. They were the last range in the lower 48 to be mapped. They are in the middle of nowhere. They have a free range wild buffalo herd. As far as I can tell they really haven't been molested by man. They are supposedly haunted. They are mountains that are seen by many, visted by few.

They are also in the middle of one of the most geologically unique parts of the world. Capitol reef to the West, Canyonlands to the East, Boulder Mountain and Escalante to the South and the San Rafael Swell to the North. All things that come to mind when you think of snowboarding.

I tried to ride there last year in late April but when I got there, there was barely any snow left, so I aborted and hung out at capitol reef. I figured my window to hit it this year was running out so I decided to go for it.

I spent Saturday morning trying to get snowpack info and route beta. Since there are no weather stations there, I tried to use snotel data from Boulder mountain, 30 miles to the SW, and the few TRs on the web to figure out where the snow line was going to be. I figured that there was a 60% chance of decent riding conditions (corn). Good enough for me. At the very least it would be a fun drive on dirt roads in a remote area. (mej, how much to get you on retainer for this info? :) )

I tried to round up a partner for this last minute adventure but couldn't. I shouldn't have been so honest with my expectations I guess. Oh well. More solitude for me.

I loaded up the truck and headed down to the Goblin Valley area to spend the night.
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Sunday was supposed to be sunny and breezy but to that hot. I planned to take my time and get a later start, hoping for softer climbing conditions.

The high country was looking way whiter that it did last year. Good news. Hope I don't have to skin on the road to get to the TH.
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The road was rough but not to bad for a pick up. The last 1.5 miles to the TH had intermittent patches of snow that were easy enough to negotiate.

It climbed up the drainage looking like your standard desert environment. Then you drop over a little pass and BOOM! Your in a more traditional mountain setting
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I see this stud and his harem hanging out by the TH. Lucky dude. And lucky me. If I get stuck up there I have food for months.
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Thirty minutes of dirt hiking on a jeep road and I'm on snow. Ill take it. About a thousand switchback to go.

The terrain varied from huge well spaced Ponderosa to thick aspens and spruces. There was a fire a while back. The burn area was pretty cool.
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The aspens, not so cool. There were patches of 1 inch thick by 10 feet tall aspen that would pop op out of no where and get trap you. I got captured more time that I wish to count.
I don't know how it kept happening but it did.
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Once I was on the snow I realized it snowed recently. Not from the little storm last night but Im guessing mid week when the LaSals got some. There was 4-6 inches of settled, dry pow in the sheltered areas!

I got disoriented in the thick forest and once it opened up I realized I was on the opposite side of the gully that I wanted to be. Too late to turn back. I'll make my corrections on the ridge.

Once I topped out on Mt Ellen, the views were amazing. Red rock as far as I could see. But I also saw rain to the north which was bad news. The road down low had a lot of clay in it and I was a little worried that if it rained enough, the road would become impassible. I took a few pictures and transitioned, hoping to beat the rain.

The light was kinda funny so my pictures didn't come out as well as I hoped. I Guess you had to be there.

Canyonlands and the LaSals
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Capitol Reefs Water Pocket Fold
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I chose to ride a NE facing slide path that went for 1500 feet before it joined a few more paths in a gully for another 500 of so feet. It had a perfect aspect the made you feel like you were going to end up in the Colorado river in Canyonlands, with the LaSals as a back drop. I had to look up every few turns to take it in. It might be the most aesthetically pleasing run Ive ever had.
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The snow was about 4-6 inches of dry soft settled, but wind damaged powder on top of 3 feet of facets to the ground. It rode great.
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I really wanted to take another lap but I was worried about the rain. I had to work Monday and didn't want to get stuck out there with no way of getting ahold of anyone.

So I got back to the truck using a combination of glissading, post-holing, bush wacking, dirt hiking and even some riding. I met up with the jeep road I hiked up and realized that I started up one sub drainage to soon on the way up. Now I know.

My burrito was waiting for me nice and warm on the dash board.
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And of course I had to hydrate.
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But the adventure wasn't over yet. Those snow patches that were nice and hard this morning were slushy and muddy. After some white knuckle driving I made it back down to desert 7000 feet below the ridge.

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The rain ended up being a short period of a light drizzle/flurries but Im Ok with my decision to skidattle.

My route. Red = descent.
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It wasn't the most physically demanding tour or gnarliest line but it was an awesome adventure. I thought it would just be something I would do so I could say I did. But ended up being a great time climbing up and riding down. Its a trip I plan on repeating.

Each of Utahs islands in the sky brings something unique to the table. The Stansburys have the twin couloirs. LaSals have big lines. The Oquirrhs have a lot of cougars. The Henrys take the cake for scenery.

PS. Sorry if this is long. Im both hopped up on caffeine and stoked.


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 Post subject: Re: Desert Pow in the Unknown Range 4/6/14
PostPosted: Sun Apr 06, 2014 10:43 pm 
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Looks like you had fun out there. Some of those pics are amazing


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 Post subject: Re: Desert Pow in the Unknown Range 4/6/14
PostPosted: Sun Apr 06, 2014 11:06 pm 
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Awesome. Way to make it happen. Shoot me a pm next time you head out. Several of us northern AZ guys are way keen on shredding obscure Colorado Plateau sky islands.

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 Post subject: Re: Desert Pow in the Unknown Range 4/6/14
PostPosted: Mon Apr 07, 2014 5:28 am 
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Location: The Magic City
Cool TR, nice to see one from a lesser-traveled area.


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 Post subject: Re: Desert Pow in the Unknown Range 4/6/14
PostPosted: Mon Apr 07, 2014 10:02 am 
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super cool! rad photos awesome work.

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 Post subject: Re: Desert Pow in the Unknown Range 4/6/14
PostPosted: Mon Apr 07, 2014 10:09 am 
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Bravo, a really aesthetic line in a really aesthetic place! I've always wondered about a trip like this.

Taylor wrote:
Several of us northern AZ guys are way keen on shredding obscure Colorado Plateau sky islands.

Yup!

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 Post subject: Re: Desert Pow in the Unknown Range 4/6/14
PostPosted: Mon Apr 07, 2014 10:30 am 
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Joined: Mon Dec 22, 2008 6:35 pm
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Great trip report! I love the desert and the mountain contrast! Thanks for sharing! :thatrocks:


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 Post subject: Re: Desert Pow in the Unknown Range 4/6/14
PostPosted: Mon Apr 07, 2014 11:35 am 
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Location: UT
Nice work Switchback! :headbang:
I've spent a fair amount of time in that area in different seasons. Never gone in winter due to lack of (spur of the moment) partners and snow data. At some point there were weather instruments on Mt Ellen, but apparently they fell into disrepair and were abandoned. Also, a fair amount of prospecting and logging have taken place in the range over the years and there some established climbing areas in the eastern most part of the range.
The massive slide path just to the west of where you rode occurred in spring 2005 and can only be described as catastrophic. It stripped that line of about 1500' x 300' of massive evergreens, making the old mining route up to Mt Ellen impassable at the time. My dog miraculously avoided being impaled in the broken tangle as she charged ahead to play with some locals (mule deer). The scale of the destruction was shocking and to this day it still informs my winter decision making, despite seeing the carnage on a spring hike.

Michael Kelsey has an informative book on the area
http://kelseyguidebooks.com/?page_id=83

At any rate well done dude!

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 Post subject: Re: Desert Pow in the Unknown Range 4/6/14
PostPosted: Mon Apr 07, 2014 6:14 pm 
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Location: Salt Lake City, UT
Thanks guys. Glad you liked the pics.

Snurfer, Are you referring to the open SE face of the bowl (pic is East view)?

I saw some massive debris piles.

Here Is some debris stacked up on the gully walls.
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A few hundred feet down the gully where it benches there was a pile of mature trees stacked up 30-40 feet off the ground. I took a pic but the lens got wet and it didn't come out good.

Scary stuff indeed. I could totally see how monster avalanches would happen. Im guessing that area goes through major dry spells through the winter and all it takes is a good dump and some wind to overload the facets.


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 Post subject: Re: Desert Pow in the Unknown Range 4/6/14
PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2014 10:10 am 
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Sweet, switchback, I've never gotten up in the Henries but really would like to. I gotta point out, so in your first photo, which is looking west at the San Rafael Reef while driving I-70: that darker brown triangular face in the center, whose summit barely breaks above the horizon line behind it - the climbers call that Death by Chocolate, and I coincidentally got up to within 20 feet of the summit of that on Thursday, really fun terrain to scramble around in:
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A bit off the summit is a massive double arch, prolly 100 ft across:
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Then in your photo of Canyonlands and La Sals, that sprawling canyon complex in the foreground is the Dirty Devil and Robbers Roost area, with Canyonlands farther distant toward the La Sals. I was actually, literally, somewhere in that terrain when you took that photo, cuz I floated the Dirty Devil this weekend, here's what it looked like in there:
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Sorry to thread drift away from the splitting but I'm caffeinated and post-trip-stoked too. Hope to see you again soon Switchback!


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 Post subject: Re: Desert Pow in the Unknown Range 4/6/14
PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2014 12:29 pm 
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Love this thread! Being back east I am loving getting my desert fix from you guys! Thanks for the drift!


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 Post subject: Re: Desert Pow in the Unknown Range 4/6/14
PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2014 4:28 pm 
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Hey, I thought I saw you from up there, Bucky!

When I was driving back I was looking at that death by chocolate area from SR 24 and wondering if there was access to the area. Guess there is. It looks really cool.

That looks like a fun trip. Can you drink the water in the Dirty Devil? When I crossed it there were a lot of alkali looking deposits on the sandbars.


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 Post subject: Re: Desert Pow in the Unknown Range 4/6/14
PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2014 4:59 pm 
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And I felt there was someone watching me. The Dirty Devil river water, we let it settle over night in a bucket, filtered it, drank it. It's the thickest river around.


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