Need to get those snowshoeing muscles in shape :)The 4th Annual WMC snowshoeing ascent of Lone Peak was coming in just a couple weeks, but I have barely logged a mile or two on snowshoes so far this winter. And my recovering broken ankle still needed a lot of work. So I jumped on a chance to skip a day of work and go snowshoeing with Grizz. But the avy forecast was "significant danger", and a storm was supposed to dump a few more inches of snow, which kind of limited our options. Then, just as we were preparing to set out, we learned that the Cottonwood Canyons were closed for avalanche control. That's when I suggested my "backyard canyon", the Fergie's.
I've only been up Storm Mtn in winter once before, on skis, and it turned out to be yucky, with brush and lower-elevation snow issues. So I'm not gonna regret 'shoeing there for a change!
There was the usual foot track into the narrows, and then old snow-covered track to the ever-beautiful overlook, but then we were on our own. Some half-mile past the overlook we began to loose the summer trail, but the generous snowstorms of the last month have buried the underbrush and it was easy cruising between not-too-dense gambrel oaks and maples. In just over two hours, we cleared the treshold of the upper cirque, and the peak finally came into view, barely half-mile away and some 1200 ft above us. With over 3,000 ft of elevation gain already behind us, it looked ...well ... close. Sheesh!
After a snack break, we started to break a gradually ascending line between the trees to the West Ridge. On a typical climb, I would usually gain the ridge quite a good deal closer to the summit, to avoid the forest underbrush. But today it wasn't an issue.
Still there was a payback for gaining the ridge a tad too early, with a few humps to cross, including one rather spectacular sharp rocky point. But it was merely an appetizer for what was soon to come. After the last forested saddle (where my route normal would join from the South), the ridge was a combination of steep-and-deep drifts and iced-over bare quartzite. Not quite how it works in less wintry conditions! Not half-way up, I got to a section where my rock-climbing confidence left me. Maybe the gloves were too bulky for the tentative holds, or maybe I wasn't as tall as Grizz, but I opted to backtrack and bypass on a system of ledges and gullies of the South side. Let me just tell that it was DEEP over there. We finally reunited for the beatiful upper ridge, and soon were greeted by an amazingly clear view of Stairs Gulch, Upper Fergies, and Mule Hollow across BCC. The promised storm turned out to be whimp, and here we were on top of Storm Mountain! But ... the last half-mile took us almost 3 hours, and it was clear that we are not coming back that way!
A few steep ups and downs along the Upper East Ridge felt rather tame compared to what we've just experienced. But soon the ridge dropped precipitously, and a few seconds later trail-blazing Grizz found himself hugging a crooked limber pine below a trecherous gully which turned out to be a snowed-over cliff. The slopes was getting more reasonable further down and to the left, so instead of following the route normal to the low point of East Ridge, we just dropped into the bowl right there. And when it was a relaxed stomp down.
Isn't it just amazing how Mother Nature can turn your familiar routes into a serious adventure?