Mother Nature's BDay Gift
After a long spring dry spell which painted the summery yellow hues over the Wasatch foothills, it was finally raining cats and dogs in the valley - and the folks over at telemarktips forums posted their whiteout shots of deep June powder up in Alta. I thought I already said goodbye to skiing this season with a mid-May slushy glide down Broads, but now it looked like Mother Nature prepared a nice surprise present for my birthday.
Then the forecast predicted an abrupt weather change, with the sunshine and summer heat to return by Friday afternoon. Am I gonna loose this chance? The only choice was to dawn-patrol Friday before work. A tough decision to make since the previous night, we've been dancing at an opening milonga of Utango Festival way through midnight, so after loading the gear I barely had a couple hours left to sleep. But it is a birthday celebration after all, so anything insane fits in just right :) At 3:45, my alarm rang. Off to BCC!
Half-full old Moon, my favorite phase, was so bright that it casted deep shadows across Brighton parking lot. No need for headlamp! Trail breaking soon started to slow down my pace, but just shy of Evergreen top a yesterday's foot track joined in. I paused at the top of Milli lift tp soak in the daybreak panorama, with the lights of Brighton shining down below. Then it was the bouldery ridge of Mt Millicent, a route I haven't travelled before. It was a bit trecherous now, with some wobbly boulders and deep soft snow hiding the holes between the rocks, but I hurried up to beat the first rays of the rising Sun.
A snowboarder's boottrack, overblown by the still-strong winds, went as far as the low point of the Milli-Wolverine ridge. Then I finally put on the skis and skinned up the short remaining section.
Albion Basin stretched on the other side, lit by the morning rays of Sun, and the steeps underneath the cliffs of Devils Castle have already been tracked! But not a single skier on this side of the canyon.
Now straight down the summit snowfield and right through the stand of firs into a narrowish gully at the edge of boulderfields of Tuscarora - then a bit more right through the grove of firs - and a parallel gully brought me to the edge of the cliffband of Mary's Chutes.
Below the cliffs, there was a steep chaos of boulders between me and the lake shore now, but alongs its right edge, protected from the Sun by the towering cliff, a ribbon of snow still stretched all the way down. Whew!
Now the route took a definitive summer twist. There was no ice on the lake of course, so I had to cut a fairly long traverse across the steep gullies feeding the lake, until I hit the summer trail above its East bank. Amazingly, it was all skiable! I veered off the trail to the right by Mary Dam, then, in seconds, there were the resort ski runs around, crisscrossed by creeks full of runoff, glazed into icy crusts - but - skiable all the way to the pavement. Whoa! I never counted on skiing much more than half of the distance down from the peak!
At 8 am, I was driving down the canyon, just the right time for the usual breakfast tea before work.