Joined: Fri Dec 14, 2012 8:33 am Posts: 91 Location: Salt Lake City, UT
The weather forecast for this past weekend wasn't looking ideal for a camping trip to the LaSals we had planned so we had to post pone . I had taken Monday and Tuesday off and didn't want to waste a day off of work so I spent a few hours Sunday looking at NWS forcasts and Snotel data to see where it would be sunny and free of the dreaded dust on crust. I decided that a solo trip to Great Basin National Park would be worth the effort.
I've wanted to tour at "Utah's 6th"(a stones throw over the border in Nevada), least visited, and closest (to SLC) National Park for last two seasons. Both years I decide to wait until the summer road opened to 10000 feet in may and both years I was too busy with work to make it happen.
This past August I did a back packing trip there and it immediately jumped towards the top of my list of favorite places.
I was pretty stoked to finally heading there with my splitboard. For me, planning routes and finding access is almost as fun as the trip itself. There is a OK amount of beta on the web about touring there except all but a couple sources describe the route for when the road is plowed to the Wheeler Peak trail head in May. The rest involve hiking the a lower trail (7700 feet) to the Wheeler Peak TH (10000 feet) and following the summer routes to the peaks. Looking at a map, I saw that I could shave a few miles off by leaving the lower connector trail early and making a cross country B line to the base of the slope I wanted to ride. Hope I right.
It was supposed to be a warm and sunny day Monday but it got down to single digits Sunday night after almost of week of hot temps and I planned to ride a NE facing line so I saw no need for an alpine start. Left SLC a little after 5AM and pointed the truck towards the monster blood moon setting to the west.
I bought my post tour burrito in Delta at sunrise and headed down US 50, the "loneliest road in America"
I made quick work of the long flat and open stretches of road. I think the longest stretch I traveled goes for over 40 miles without changing course 1 degree.
I got to the park at 830, ate some breakfast and started hiking.
"Always leave a note" -George Bluth
I started leaving notes like this on my dash when I go on solo trips to less frequented places, along with leaving an itinerary with my roommate. I figure its another level of protection should something happen. Maybe a ranger taking out the trash or another hiker will notice see it. I know I'm always peaking into cars at TH's to see what they are up to.
After a mile of hiking on dirt and snow patches, I saw my objective Jeff Davis peak (12771), left, and Wheeler Peak (13063) with its bad as cirque . From here I would be bush wacking.
I aimed for the low point of the treed bench. The other winter routes I saw on the web had you hiking all the way to high side of the bench.
Travel was pretty easy going. I ended up booting the entire way. The snow was firm with just enough give to give you solid footing. Trees were well spaced. Had to cross a few creeks. Always fun.
The snow was starting to soften when I got to the toe of the slope, around 1100. Good news. I continued up the gully, stopping mid way to eat lunch. And give the snow more time to soften.
From where I stopped, the slope makes a little bit of a climbers right. That was enough of a change in aspect (or maybe elevation?) to change the snow from a softening melt freeze crust to a chalky wind buffed powder.
Made it about 200 feet from the top before I started to run out of snow and started to run into sharks.
I realized I lost part of my toe strap along the way. Another day saved by Voile straps!
The descent was great for the first half in the powdery section. Then it transitioned in to a some what character building edgable crust for a few turns before finally turning into smooth corn. Not needing to share the slope with other sheep, I made monster turns. A fun long run!
At the bottom I spent about an hour looking at the trees. Great Basin is know for its bristle cone pines. On my backpacking trip in another drainage, I wasn't able to find any and was really stoke to be in a grove of them. They are the oldest living things on earth. There is supposedly one under wheeler peak that is dated at over 5000 years old!
Many people, myself included mistake weathered ponderosa and limber pines for bristle cones. Having finally seem some, they are unmistakable. Truly unique trees when you get down to the details.
It was amazing being among such old living things. Wondering about how much the world has changed in their life time and on the other hand, seeing sapplings and wondering about what will happen in their life time. Really makes the things we fret about today seem really insignificant.
And while Im still hugging trees on my tie dyed soap box....More slide damage.
Ive been thinking a lot about monster slides (not triggered by overzealous heli ski operations) lately and seeing mature trees in piles really helps grasp the frequency of these catastrophic events (100yr, 500ys, etc.) Meaning that a tree is able to grow for over 100 years before a slide big enough to take it out occurs. Cool stuff.
Anyway, the exit sucked. I got a few more nice corn turns before the snow was mess of unsupportable mush. Lots of cursing going on. Riding, skinning, booting. None of it worked. Borderline sufferfest. But I made it. 7 hours car to car.
Stopped to take a picture of the horse with no name, with Jeff Davis peak in the background, and drove back to Salt Lake.
I had my camping gear in case I wanted to do another day but decided that its very do able as a day trip but the approach and exit is too much work for multiple days. I hope to go back when the road opens up and get more bang for my buck.
Joined: Sun Jul 29, 2007 9:45 am Posts: 90 Location: Vancouver, Wa.
Awesome pictures and great report. Those ranges down there are really vast! I see you have the Billy Goat split. What year is that? Ive got the 2013 and love it...rides as good as my standard Billy Goat I think with the Sparks bindings.
Joined: Thu Nov 19, 2009 9:16 am Posts: 490 Location: Salida, Flagstaff
Switchback these are my favorite TRs of the year. Super cool. I've only been to GBNP once--in the summer--and of course I was scoping it out for splitting. Excellent to see you doing it here.
I have done a lot of skin track geeking-out about old trees and catastrophic slide frequency. I have even devised (in my mind) tree-age sampling schemes along transects perpendicular to slide paths that could be used to estimate minimum intervals of catastrophic slides.
The 2005 slides in the southern Colorado Plateau ranges were 100 - 200 year interval events (at least). I wonder if the slide pictured above (some old trees in there too) was from the same year at GBNP. Perhaps more recent given one tipped tree is still green, but perhaps it's a survivor of an older event.
_________________ Craig Kelly is my co-pilot 195 Glissade Big Gun 187 Donek Custom Split 181 Venture Storm Solid and Split 173 Rossi Race DIY Swallowtail Split
Joined: Fri Dec 14, 2012 8:33 am Posts: 91 Location: Salt Lake City, UT
Snowolf, I bought it last year and think its last seasons model but Im not sure. Ya its a nice board but its starting to show some signs of wear. Ive have to make edge repairs on two spots (1 blow out, 1 random delam) but ive put about 150 days on it so I cant complain.
Taylor, the felled trees do look relatively fresh and now that you mention that, most looked to be the same "level of dead" so it could have happen in that in that 2005 winter. With the small amount of snow that these ranges get I would have to take an unusual winter to create conditions to cause such huge slides.
Snurfer, The road and upper Lehman campground were open and free of snow. The Lehman trail was patchy snow and dirt for half its length and compacted snow, but well defined the rest of the way. I left the trail at the first meadow area on the up but took a different way down and met up with the summer trail above the snowline.
Joined: Sat Oct 08, 2005 3:44 pm Posts: 536 Location: Flagstaff, AZ
This is just really cool.
I love snowboarding and splitboarding no matter where it goes. But what I love even more is using the splitboard to explore really unique mountains, landscapes, ecosystems, that are mostly overlooked by the snow sliding world at large. Like GBNP, the La Sals, the Henry's. Like Snurfer did down to Cedar Breaks. Nothing better to combine the adventure with the splitboard.
And nice job quoting George Bluth.
_________________ "Do not follow where the path may lead. Go where there is no path... and leave a trail." --Today's fortune cookie.