Skiing the La Sals

Moonrise over the La Sals

This weekend I met up with Ann Driggers and Seth Anderson, some new ski buddies I met through SummitPost.org, to ski some lines in the La Sal Mountains in Utah. The La Sals rise 8,700 vertical feet above the city of Moab and all the surrounding canyonlands. I was excited not only to check out a new mountain range, but to snowboard down some of these lofty desert peaks that I’ve gazed up at so many times from the canyonlands far below.

The La Sals were also a good choice for this time of year because the snow there has already settled into a solid springtime snowpack, unlike the snowpack here in the San Juans, which is still transitioning from winter.

 

DAY ONE: TUKLEAR REACTION

Our first objective was Mount Tukuhnikivatz, or “Tuk” for short. This pyramid-shaped peak is one of the most notable mountains in the La Sals, easily visible for hundreds of miles from the south side of the range.

High above Moab

With crampons on our feet and skis/board strapped on our backs, we hiked on the solidly frozen snow pretty much straight up one of the ridgelines for 3200 vertical feet or so to the summit. It felt so strange to peer down at vast red rock canyonlands while we were hiking on snow. The mountain is so much higher than the surrounding deserts that you almost feel like you’re looking out from an airplane.

Skiing down Tuk

Ann and I skied/rode the southeastern face, known as the “Tuklear Reaction.” The snow was nice and soft since the sun had been baking it all morning. After skiing/snowboarding down the upper face and some long mid-section gullies, the skiing became really cruisy through mellow aspen glades. The long run seemed to go on and on!

 
 

DAY TWO: NORTH LA SALS TRAVERSE (or variation of some sort)

Day two was the big adventure of the trip: a 12 mile traverse of the northern La Sal mountains, with 6,000 vertical feet of climbing and 7,000 feet of descent, including 4 peaks and 4 descents along the way. I haven’t done any ski traverses of this scale before and I wondered if I could keep up with Ann and Seth, who are both very strong hikers.

Sunrise from Geyser Pass
We started off at 5:00 am and skiied (me on my splitboard) along a snowpacked road for 3 miles in the dark, and watched a mellow sunrise from some meadows on Geyser Pass.

Burro Ridge
On the ridgeline to the first highpoint, we got our first taste of the wind – which would prove to be a real bitch later in the day.

skiing to Burro Pass
Survival skiing down the crusty frozen snow to Burro Pass.

Skiing Manns Peak
After skinning up to the summit of Manns Peak (12,272 feet), we dropped down the northern bowl into Beaver Basin.

snowboarding in the La Sals
Here I am, snowboarding down Manns Peak.

Skiing down Manns Peak
Because the constant wind was keeping the snow from softening up, this run wasn’t as sweet as it could have been… but it was still fun!

Windy as hellHere’s where the trip really got interesting. The wind was raging on the high slopes of Mineral Mountain (12,200 feet). The wind was so strong that it kept knocking me over, at times forcing me to crawl. It got so bad that I started to wonder if the wind would pick me up and blow me over the mountainside.

Up up and away!
Ann and Seth practice their synchronized wind-ballet dance on the summit of Green Mountain (12,163 feet), our fourth and final summit of the traverse. Off in the far distance at right is the line we rode down Manns Peak a few hours earlier.

Skiing down Green Mountain
Seth drops in from Green Mountain, for the last descent into Miners Basin.

Skiing into Miners BasinHere comes Seth and Ann. The snow was smooth and soft in a big broad gully into Miners Basin, providing the best turns of the day. With an interesting ninja bushwack we managed to slide almost all the way out to the road, where our ice-cold beers were waiting to celebrate!

It was a great adventure and a hell of a day, and I was stoked to successfully complete this challenging route with Ann and Seth. I was so worked from these two days that I slept 12 hours last night!

8 thoughts on “Skiing the La Sals

  1. Wow, what an awesome adventure and I love your pics (as usual). Have always wanted to ski those peaks after looking at them so many times. Sounds like you saw no one as well!

  2. Amazing Trip Jack! Next time let’s consider the whole range in a day or with a light camp. The North Peaks were disney like though. They seemed big but they are managably close together. What a magical place… I almost want to keep it secret…

  3. I’ve heard there is some killer backcountry skiing in the La Sals and this proves the point. Sounds like a great time, Jack! Thanks for sharing the photos and trip report.

  4. my grandfather, gordon fowler was the last of the gold miners from miners basin…as a child i spent many wonderful summers there and we actually lived in the old log cabins which were built just before the turn of the 1900’s.im glad you enjoyed your trip through there…sincerely, bob tanner.

  5. These are some great photos and is sounds like it was a wonderful trip! I was wondering if, in your opinion, it would be safe enough to go here and do some backcountry if I don’t have a probe or beacon? I would be going with 2 others.
    Thanks,
    Rhonda

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