Friday, September 30, 2011

Vertical Training with a Cherry on Top

Vertical training is important this time of year and hiking in the mountains is a great way to accomplish that goal... and why not combine that with connecting 12 months of backcountry skiing.

We arrived at the Timponeke trailhead around 8:30am and the lot was pretty full. Sunday morning in Provo?  I guess we aren't the only gentiles who had the idea.  We shouldered our bags and headed out with the intent of hiking to a snowfield 5km from the trailhead. Our sources told us there was enough snow to make turns that would qualify as "skiing".

It was a chilly start but it warmed up quickly as the sun began peeking over the ridgeline.  We stopped to remove some clothing when an old guy who I would liken to Jerry Seinfeld's athletic nemesis Izzy Mandelbaum (only more able bodied) approached us and started asking us questions.  We had already started discussing the possibility of extending the hike out to the headwall but decided to make that decision when we reached our initial objective.  

"Where you guys headed?" he asked, to which we responded with our conditional possible destinations.  He immediately started making statements that seemed to have additional meaning - think "Password" the game show.  "It's pretty icy", and "C'mon you guys... you gotta have a plan," he kept insisting.  I would not have been even a little surprised if he'd asked us if we thought we were better than him or shouted "It's go time!"  

We fell more or less silent, shrugged and just stared at him.  We weren't rude about it - he just seemed to have more energy and and in-your-face attitude than I could deal with or muster.  He felt the awkward silence, wrapped up his psuedo-helpful act and carried on.

Izzy - it's icy go time!
When we reached our initial destination at 5km we considered how nice a day it was, how much food and water we had and decided to continue on to the upper snowfield.  As we were noshing and removing a bit more clothing, up walked Izzy. We had passed him earlier when he stopped to shed clothes.  

"Are you the two I just talked to down trail?"  

Jen said,  "No, that was other people," and he believed her.  He then engaged us in a conversation about these two other people he saw down below who were also planning on going skiing.  Again we paused silently for a moment and then as gracefully as possible told him that in fact we, and those two he'd seen down below, were one in the same.   We told him that we were headed up to the other snowfield and he started with the remarks again.   Apparently the 'password' to getting him to stop was to let him know that we had crampons and axes.  Once we told him this his demeanor changed and it was clear that his reason for all the obtuse questioning was actual concern.  He said he'd been up to the headwall a couple weeks back and he had needed crampons for the last bit.

Last winter transitions into this fall right here.

When we reached Timpanogos basin we were amazed by the number of wildflowers around so late - but I guess that's a testament to the huge snow year this past season.  We were also able to see our objective and that it was certainly worth the longer hike.  We crossed the last talus field before we finally reached Emerald Lake.  

Emerald Lake
We arrived at the edge of the snowfield, swapped out our shoes for boots with spikes and began taking notice of rocks and other hazards as we walked.  There were two other people just ahead of us sporting packs with skis clambering up the headwall - I guess what's normal depends on your surroundings... Utah proves that on a daily basis.  Turns out they too were there in order to keep their number contiguous months on snow increasing.  We waited for them to ski on before gaining the ridge. 

Provo & Utah Lake
In addition to the two skiers there were two guys who seemed terribly out of place - they looked like hikers and not being familiar with the topography of Timpanogos, I was not entirely sure how they reached the saddle in regular shoes.  The top was extremely icy and without at least mountaineering boots it would have been nearly impossible to climb.  It turns out that they had received some bum beta (quite literally) and were told they could hike around to the top of the snowfield and glissade down.  Bum indeed.  They took the plunge and their behinds paid the price for sure.  Additionally, the ride was so rough, one of the two lost their backpack.  As we were preparing to ski down they yelled up to ask if we'd pick up the pack on the way down; we had planned on it even if they had not asked. 

Jen's eye view

Ready to go...
The first one or two turns were a little dicey as the "snow" was pretty hard and sun-cupped and it was fairly steep as well.  Jen jumped in and had a binding malfunction leaving her to ski on one foot until she could bring herself to a stop by traversing.  The other ski drifted down the face and came to rest nearly on top of the dropped backpack.  Jen made her way down to the ski on one foot and then I skied down to meet her.

I picked up the backpack, and I'm not sure what they were carrying but it was heavy.  Best guess is, it wasn't beer.  Unfortunately they took our agreement to pick it up as permission to keep walking.  I now had to ski with two heavy bags all the way down.  When we finally reached them and saw the pink stains on their pants we knew they'd received punishment enough, and returned the pack without the tongue-lashing planned.

We changed back into summer clothing and had some lunch while enjoying the perfect weather and scenery.  We took one last look at our adventure and started the 12km trek back to the car.