Most people anxiously await spring as they are ready to hit the trails, garden, bike, and do other warm weather activities. For me, spring means a new type of ski season starts. As the high elevations move into their warming and freezing cycles, the snow strengthens allowing us to safely get into the steep and alpine terrain. More and more each year, spring for me is about climbing peaks and skiing some bigger lines that I don’t venture into during the winter.
Over the past several years as I have done more skimo racing, it has allowed me to do more big ski mountaineering days in the spring. My back is still healing from January and I am unable to run yet so I am excited about a big spring of skiing. This weekend felt like the start of ski mountaineering season with a lot of big lines skied and people getting after it in the Wasatch. On Friday I mounted a pair of the new Voile Wasatch Speed Project skis and I was excited to try these. My hope was that these would be my go to ski mountaineering skis for this spring since I felt they would combine the light weight of a race ski with the ‘ski-ability’ of the rest of the Voile line of skis.
I wanted to try go ski one of the main chutes of LCC on Saturday with plans to go big on Mt Nebo on Sunday. Without a set plan, Blake and I headed up LCC on Saturday with a leisurely 9:15 departure from the city. We were contemplating Tannners or Little Pine. Since Blake had skied both of these, we ventured further east to Limber Pine. Had we planned this out ahead of time, we should have left earlier and tried to ski the triad of Limber Pine, Little Pine East, and Jedediah. Our late start prevented all 3 and our leisurely pace meant we only were able to ski Limber Pine before the snow warmed up too much.
Looking up the choke of Limber Pine – it was mostly skiable
Blake booting up Limber Pine
LCC/BCC Ridgeline with the LCC road 3,100’ below
Blake skiing Limber Pine
Limber Pine was a great ski for a quick ski day. I am excited to return of ski the triad.
Sunday was the day that Eric, Nick, and I had been planning all week. We had the hopes of ascending Mt Nebo from Pole Canyon and skiing the Champagne and Northwest Couloirs. There are 2 northwest facing couloirs off the North Summit of Mt Nebo that start at 60 degrees and then ease out to about 45. I was excited to ski these as it would be the steepest terrain I would have ever skied.
Unlike our leisurely Saturday morning, my alarm rang at 4:15 on Sunday morning and I was out the door by 5AM. We were able to 4-wheel my pickup farther up Pole Canyon than we had planned saving us about 500’ of climbing. We were walking up the rode in trail runners by 7:30 and reached snow after only about 20 minutes.
We skinned up the road missing turn to boot up the basin to the base of the couloirs so we climbed to Wolf Pass then took the ridge to the summit.
Chad & Nick on the ridge from Wolf Pass to Mt Nebo (photo by Eric Bunce)
Nick (foreground) and Eric on the ridge
We skinned and booted the ridge to the Mt Nebo summit to find the Champagne couloir looking in rough shape. The top 100 vertical feet was blown off down to the rocks and would require a down climb. The Northwest couoir looked to be in moderately better condition, but would either require a down climb or some creating side-sliding and side-stepping to get into.
A cold and windy Mt Nebo North Summit
While contemplating these objectives, we all agreed that the northwest to southeast aspects looked amazing and we decided that we better give those a try while we decided what we wanted to do about the couloirs.
Creamy snow on the NE aspects (photo by Eric Bunce)
After climbing out of the first run, we decided we needed one more run on these aspects. The snow was great and the terrain was huge.
Booting up in the warming day
The day was warming quickly and by the time we got to Wolf Pass after 2 runs we needed to make a final decision: 1) down to the road from the pass, 2) up to the summit again and down the NorthWest Couloir, or 3) up to North Peak and gamble that there was enough snow to ski out. No one really had a big preference other than based on already having climbed over 8,000’ and it getting later i the day we felt the NW couloir would take too long. Always up for an unknown adventure I voted for North Peak and no one vetoed (at least not very loudly).
Mt Nebo from the North Peak Ridge
Looking back at Nebo and the aspects that we skied
We skinned and booted to the peak, then had to boot down to snow line where after a little bit of creativity, we popped out into a great west facing gully with 1,000’ of perfect snow. We were lucky to have a fairly easy exist through the avalanche path and back down to the road. The road was a mix of corn, hardback, and ice and we were quickly at our ‘shoe stash’. We grabbed our shoes and continued to pick our way through patch snow to within a 5 minute walk to the pickup.
We had a great day on Nebo and it really just opened the door to some amazing terrain. There is an almost limitless amount of lines to ski in that area and almost guaranteed solidarity. I will definitely be heading back down for some big days.
The WSP skis did not disappoint me at all. Over the weekend I was able to ski them on ice, powder, corn, and breakable crust and for a ski/binding combined weight of 880g, they skied amazingly.