14-15 March 2015
Mt Timpanogos to Mt Olympus
It’s funny how our perceptions are changed. Time, people who go before, personal bests and trying adventures change our perception of what is possible. And it’s just damn fun to hang it out there and realize the mystery of a new adventure.
Before I first moved to the Wasatch for the winters, I went on a long adventure with my friend Chris Covington. I say “long” because at the time, it was a long day of backcountry skiing on regular sized ski touring equipment for me. I had gone much further on race skis with a lighter pack in half the time. But this, was different. Like most, I had not explored much out of Little Cottonwood Canyon. The Wasatch still seemed huge and much of the terrain was still unknown to me. Here is a quick synopsis of our adventure. We started at the White Pine trail head- climbed the Pfeifferhorn and skied it’s North West Couloir, rapping the cliff in the middle. We then skied up the head of Hogum Fork up and over Thunder Ridge into Bells Canyon and up Lone Peak. From there we changed into our rock climbing costume, rapped into the Lone Peak Cirque and climbed the Center Thumb out. We changed back into our ski costume and skied a North east Couloir and out Bells Canyon where we hitched back up Little Cottonwood Canyon to complete our big adventure. It took about 12 hours and was likely 15 miles, 7,000′ of climbing and all with a rope and rack on the back. And ya know, I felt tired but great. What else could we do here? Of course I began dreaming up more big adventures and link ups in the Wasatch.
Over the years the adventures keep getting bigger. It’s the normal progression right? Fast forward past four winters in the Wasatch to last weekend.
“…yeah Noah Howell skied from Lone Peak to the SLC Twins during his ‘Super Coaster’ “yeah, thats pretty big.” “Timpanogos is a big single run.” “How about we link ski lines on Timp and Box Elder in a Day?” Andy Dorais- “Hmmm, why don’t we ski lines on Timp, Box Elder, The Pfeifferhorn, and the SLC Twins in a day.” It just kept getting more and more absurd. I don’t know who suggested it, probably Tom Goth, “…but why not add Mt Olympus and then its an enchainment of five of the most prominent peaks in Utah and Salt Lake Counties.” So we’ll ski from Mt Timpanogos to Mt Olympus? Why not? I like skiing all day and night!
Lars Tom and I made the nearly one hour drive to the Battle Creek trail head in Pleasant Grove. It seemed strange to drive for almost an hour mostly on the interstate only to get out with the intent to ski back home over some of the ranges largest mountains. It was still dark and I wasn’t awake enough to come to my senses before my light Scarpa Tru running shoes were on and we were walking up the dirt trail to the snow. I note ‘light’ since we would be carrying them for the next day and a half. This stretch of dirt was only a couple miles of the 6,500′ ascent and one of the times we gave the middle finger to global warming. We hit the snow at the dead elk caracas and enjoyed fast skinning and good booting to the summit in the rising light.
Lars and Tom saw Mountain Goats near the North summit while I was obliviously walking the rock ridge toward our descent.
Tom dove in first, opening the 4000′ cold creamy descent into the Timpanookie basin, through snowfields and gladded chutes, down a rad little couloir and out the road until the snow gave up, and spring pavement took over.
Aliens off, shoes back on and down the road we walked. Toms awesome girlfriend Dominique met us to refuel. Bellies full we walked the road up to the Tibble Fork trail head and began our ski up Box Elder. Box Elder took a while during the heat of the day. Luckily Tom had done great route finding homework and kept us right on course as we all alternated taking good pulls to break trail to the summit. Somewhere around the top we hit about 12k of climbing for the day and the legs were beginning to feel the accumulated vert. On the summit we ate and drank well. All three of us know these events are only eating and drinking missions with a lot of skiing thrown in. After skiing some ok snow down to the Shotgun Chutes the day got even better. The Shotguns always seem to deliver cold settled creamy snow many days after a storm. We laughed all the way down the 3000′ line.
-Phone dead no photos from Box through the Pfeiff 🙁
-Phone charged a bit when at aid in LCC Keep reading for more photos!
The climb up the Pfeifferhorn found us breaking trail about half way before we opted to take an existing skin track. We chose to avoid the steeper more direct and solar aspect approach with the hot temps and wet snow. Could be tricky footing and just a couple steep slopes to climb under warm snow. We cruised seemingly effortlessly on a low angled skin track before gaining the ridge and scrambling and booting to the summit. Climbing up the Pfeiff late in the day after an early start and over 15,000′ of skiing, produced a strange feeling . It was like we were suspended in time. As I booted the last steep pitch onto the summit I looked at my feet for careful steps in the icy boot track. When there were no more steps to take me any higher, I looked up and out past Box Elder back to Mt Timpanogos in all it’s grandeur. It looked impossibly far away. I turned to look at the Salt Lake Twins and felt, happy. This, this is where it all makes sense. It all works so well. This is perfect. The boys ripped skins and we dropped the east ridge and into the high North facing headwall of Maybird. We enjoyed a nice 4000′ run of shaded snow all the way down to Red Pine trees and the road below Tanners. Dominique showed up like clockwork with provisions to power us onward. We changed socks, mowed down donuts, pizza Coke and potato chips. Lars had broken a pole while crossing the creek so I attempted to fix it with a coke can, stick and duct tape. Nothing was going to stop us from finishing this thing.
Except maybe Tanners.
Nothing worked very well. We kept switching from post-holing in the mildly crusted iso-thermal snow to slipping while skinning on Avy debris. It was so slow. And then we realized we had followed snow up an east fork about 800′ vert off course. We planned to fork right to avoid the suspected melt out and waterfall of the main drainage but we forked to early. I gained a ridge and turned on the high beam. Yep, way off. The guys were demoralized. We really slowed down, stopped and messed around for to long deciding how to move forward. I figured we could continue and according to the map and memory, ski off and around Dromedary to regain our route up the Twins. It seemed like the conservative thing to do was back track. I hate back tracking. We were now 15hours, and around 17,000′ into the trip. We punched in and stumbled back down through the half frozen avy debris only to turn the corner into the correct fork to re-ascend. It’s now 9:30 at night and we need to punch and slip our way back up at least 2000′ to the top of Tanners. And then we still had the Twins, the Defsmith shwack, Wasatch Boulovard and Mount Olympus to go. Wow. And you know what? I didn’t give a #u$%. This is a small bump in a long road. We finally made it to the top of Tanners in 4 and a half hours including our detour. What normally takes us an hour and a half took three times as long in our state and difficulties. Happily at the O’Sulivan/Dromedary col we ate more food and drink. Throw the lever on the Aliens, rip skins and drop into the dark. Score! We surffed the cold dense powder down the North side high into Broads Fork. We cut left part way down and started up the fourth major peak of the “day” under the stars and calm night air.
At this point Lars started to act pretty sleepy. We all certainly had our moments. Once we met the rock step in the ridge that requires some exposed climbing I suggested he lead as I thought in his sleepy state that leading would cause him to be more on point rather than less engaged while following. We don’t use a rope for this section and the holds are good if you are awake. Plus, he had been there only a few days earlier to ski the South West face of the Twins. I followed as Lars quickly climbed up the rock step and we were booting toward the fourth major summit.
Once we hiked a leg up and pulled onto the summit, the expansive lights of the Salt Lake Valley flooded our eyes. What a sight.
It was 2 in the morning. We skied off into the sustained steep North west Couloir of the most prominent Mountain over the middle of this valley of well over a million. Most of which were sound asleep as one should be at 2AM. This 6000′ line would be a popular classic if it wasn’t for the shwack out Defsmith Canyon. During a regular tour it would be great to ski the top 3000′ and ascend to Bonkers. Or do like Noah Howell and ski the 4 or 5 major lines off the summits of the Twins. Why not?
Let’s not discuss the shwack out of Defsmith. This is one of the parts where we give the middle finger to global warming.
After escaping the grips of Defsmith we strolled over to the 7-11 to refuel. (Dominique was asleep like everyone else but us and the store clerk) He wasn’t sure what to make of our ‘get-up’ and red eyed wandering around the store, pulling pop tarts, chips and eating donuts right off the shelves. After guzzling coffee and Redbull to wash it all down, we staggered down Wasatch in race suits and skis on our backs. I fell asleep three times while walking and almost fell down. Thank god it was dark and everyone was still asleep.
We charged up the Olympus trail, Lars leading with renewed energy from the rising sun, making it to the summit in not much over 2hrs. As we scrambled the rock to the summit I felt a wash of emotion. These are the days. These are the days we feel alive. When we are at our best. Doing what we do well. When it all makes sense and it all works so perfectly. We were tested for 29 hours and were tired and couldn’t be happier. Lars and I looked at each other and felt the same thing. We smiled, put the boots on, and down climbed the bit of rock to the top of Memorial #1.
While walking through Olympus Cove, Lars a winning Ultra runner mentioned The Mt Timpanogos to Mt Olympus was the longest, furthest, and most vert he had ever completed in a push. I agreed. I looked back on my first “big” adventure in the Wasatch. It was far with a climbing adventure built in, a total blast and eye opening to the potential for exploring in the Wasatch. This Timp-olympus Enchainment was an absurd route idea and right in our back yard. It’s a riot to conjure up ridiculous adventures and then go see if you can pull them off. We end up forever changing our perception of what’s possible, and building relationships and memories. I believe it’s the collaborative minds and sequence of mystery, creativity and realization that make this game of adventure so damn fun. Thanks for the stoke Andy, Jason, Lars and Tom.
23,000′ ascent and 23000′ of skiing, 50+Miles??, 5 of the most prominent summits, 2 counties, 1 wrong turn, fantastic snow, horrendous snow, Scarpa Aliens, 6 Kate’ Bars, Gnarly Whey and Boost, 2 Redbulls, a broken ski pole, and two sunrises.