It was supposed to be a quick run...We pulled into misty, snowless foothills of the Stansburies, only to get a rude surprise. The FS gate was locked, the first such winter closure in my memory. We already got a late start - and I needed an early return to make it for a party tonight - and what seemed like a quickie ascent suddenly got 4 miles longer each way. Or well.
I figured it's time to leave my Tuas in the car - it would be too great a distance to carry them, and the skiing may be very iffy up there. Little did I know about the creamy powder awaiting us beyong 9,000 ft elevation - or of the trouble soon to develop with Grizz's old snowshoe which he kindly lent me once again.
We put the snowshoes on at Medina Turnoff, a couple miles up the road. One of mine had a strange clanking sound, but heck, I am not a big 'shoer, I glanced at it once, didn't notice anything, and ignored it. The route through the narrows was beautiful and the snow was reasonably supportive despite a warm night. And the current temperatures, even with the clouds blocking morning sun, were so balmy that I walked barechested. The mountain ahead was throughly covered by the mist. Only once did it part, and we glimpsed the majestic notch of the North Chute.
People familiar with the area wouldn't be surprised that I lost trail immediately after Dry Lake Fork crossing. Anyway it was just a bit of upward traverse to the left until we crossed Mill Fork. Soon the woods parted, and we continued up the meadows and open gullies, where the snow was better consolidated by the wind. Only by now, the second side of my snowshoe binding fell apart (doh! it was the crack in the other side which was making the strange metal noise before!). With some duct tape, I got it back together, if quite a bit wobblier than it used to be. I really didn't expect this shaky contraption to last even a hundred yards, but it just needed 3 or 4 refresher duct tape layers for the rest of the tour!
We still didn't see much around until we hit the saddle. We only started to apprecate the visibility *after* we crossed it. Now it was a complete whiteout, and it was blowing hard. We couldn't see the little spur ridge ahead until literally sticking our noses into its cornice. After passing the Twin Chutes saddle, it's actually got worse - at one point I lost Grizz, even though barely 50 yards separated us.
A couple times we were ready to conclude that we topped it, but after continuing a bit more, we'd discover the next hump in the milk. But soon it was an unmistakeable summit, and the clouds even lifted a nudge, just to reclose again.
Back by Twin Chutes, we finally got the first nice views of this beautiful area. It looked like there was a good deal of wind-moved snow below the cornices, and probably in the cornices too. So even though a shortcut to Dry Lake was tempting, and even though the avy forecast was all-green, we chose to retrace our route back.
Good decision! Just steps East from Mill Fork Saddle, I broke loose a soft slab - not too thick one so I was able to self-arrest and watch the darn thing rush hundreds feet downslope. I shrugged with the thought that we've just avoided a higher, steeper chute. OK, now it's time to butt-slide in the avalanche's wake, and hurry on to our car!