Today marks my (and also Charlie’s) seventh day out splitboarding in a row. This last week since the big dump has been one of the best continuous stretches of snowboarding that I can remember… and it’s not over yet!
Today we climbed and rode down another big 13er in the neighborhood.
P e r f e c t snow conditions today – old powder in the transition to pure spring corn snow, soft and smooth for high speed carving.
During yesterday’s splitboard tour, I could see that the big north couloir of Gilpin Peak was in the best shape I’ve ever seen it, full of smooth snow without any chunder. This line has been on my wish list for years, and Charlie, Dan, and I decided to come back today to track it up.
After the 16″ dump over the weekend, it has just kept on snowing here in the San Juans, for a total of 30″ of fresh snow by Wednesday! Of course I’ve been out every day shredding every inch of the powder. Spring powder fever has a similar intensity as early season powder fever, except that this time of year the stoke comes from knowing that it’s all going to melt soon.
We lapped this perfect, long heel-side snow wave several times; I almost felt like I was in Costa Rica.
Is it April? Or February? I can’t tell the difference.
On Friday, Claudia and I got back out into the mountains to enjoy some more turns. Monday’s foot of fresh snow had baked down to about 3-4 inches of old powder corn snow (For those who don’t backcountry ski, “corn” snow is snow that goes through multiple melt/freeze cycles, resulting in a firm but smooth snow surface that softens up nicely by around noon on a sunny spring day. In my opinion, it’s the next best thing to fresh powder!)
I took Claudia up to one of the taller peaks around. It was Claudia’s first time skiing corn snow, and she rocked it!
We skied/snowboarded from the summit down a beautiful long untracked line, then skinned back up to the high ridge and scored a nice long bonus descent down the front side. What a day!
As we drove home from our recent desert road trip, the rain we passed through in Utah had turned into snow when we reached the San Juans in Colorado. Despite my desire to rest after our big trip, I knew I couldn’t pass up a beautiful spring powder day!
The snowpack was sturdy after the previous warm days melted the various snow layers, followed by cold nights that froze it solid again. The new snow came in wet, bonded well to the surface, and then became blower powder on top. Perfect conditions for riding some bigger, longer lines up in the high peaks!
We skied/snowboarded through this big gully I’ve had my eye on for years, followed by a second lap up high again.
The last stop on our two-week road trip through southern Utah was the famous Bryce Canyon National Park, which Claudia just had to see since we were so close already in Escalante. The shot above was taken right before we randomly ran into my photographer friend Rich Voninski. Nice to see you, Rich!
Despite the threatening storm clouds, we day-hiked the Peekaboo and Queens Garden loop trails and were fortunate to not get rained on! The dark clouds actually provided a wonderful atmosphere against the bright orange hoodoos all along the trail.
After hiking the fantastic trails in Bryce, we needed to escape the crowds there since we were more adjusted to solitude after two weeks of camping on our own in the wilds. So we headed over to nearby Red Canyon and found a nice secluded camp spot for the evening. A quick scramble above our camp provided a broad vista from which to enjoy a windy sunset.
That night it poured rain for the first time on our trip, and with the continuing stormy weather in the morning we decided it was time to end our desert journeys and head home to the mountains.
The morning after returning from our previous Escalante backpack, we embarked on another even more adventurous trek – this time into the slickrock country just east of the town of Escalante. For years I’ve driven the spectacular stretch of highway between Boulder and Escalante and always wondered what it was like up amongst all that slickrock. During this trek we would find out! Continue reading “Death Hollow Loop”→
The Escalante region is one of my favorite areas in the southern Utah desert. Though perhaps less impressive at first glance than other Utah destinations, a little bit of hiking reveals countless deep canyons and slots. The variety of canyon country around Escalante is staggering.
I wanted to show Claudia a few of the classic canyons off the Hole in the Rock Road, so we backpacked down in there for two nights, establishing a base camp from which we could explore several narrow canyons on day hikes.
One day we visited one of the more popular canyons around here, Neon Canyon, but unfortunately while we were there it was mobbed by a large group of backpackers which diminished the mystical experience of the place a bit. I wasn’t able to produce any better photos than from my previous visits to Neon, so I haven’t posted any here. I think it’s a sign I’m getting older when I start to have more and more stories about how things “used to be”! For example during my first visit here back in the 90’s before Escalante became a national monument, my friends and I were the only people around for many miles and it felt like a true desert wilderness. We even camped right underneath the Golden Cathedral, something that would probably be considered quite disrespectful today. Maybe it was then too…
Despite my griping, there are still many empty canyons to explore and plenty of solitude to be found out there!