May Ski Tour to Notch and Reids

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Trip Report
Utah, United States, North America
Date Climbed/Hiked:
May 24, 2008
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May Ski Tour to Notch and Reids
Created On: May 27, 2008
Last Edited On: May 29, 2008

Memorial Day weekend skiing?

Mt Emmons and Timothy Lakes BasinSouth of High Uintas Crest, there wasn't much snow left even on the 13ers!

After two May recon trips to Yellowstone River Basin of Uinta's South slope, it was easy to believe that there isn't any good snow left out there to ski. But of course the things generally get more moist there as you move North and West. There was certainly enough snow to prevent UDOT from opening Mirror Lake Highway by Memorial Day this year, as the local custom demands. But we knew that during the previous weekend, the road has been plowed to MP 21, well within reach of the local high peaks. It sounded like a perfect recipe to get some quality late-spring skiing, if only there is a night refreeze and maybe a tad of fresh accumulation.

A major cold front did hit just before Memorial Day weekend, dumping over a foot of new snow. So at 6:30 on Saturday the 24th, we were at the usual meeting place near Bombay House. Off to the Uintas!
Raging Provo River at 9,700 ftStaring the tour along Provo River
Cliffs of Haystack - a wintry viewIt's like the winter again!

As we approached milepost 21, there was scarcely any continuous snowcover to ski, but the road remained open beyond that spot. The highway kept climbing and climbing, and by the time we reached the dead end just shy of Trial Lake turnoff (MP 25.5, 9700 ft el), it looked like winter! And there was one car with skiers there already, two guys with dogs and heavy tele skis on the way to nearby Mount Watson!

We followed their skintrack to summer Crystal Lake TH and short ways beyond, then left the steep track and cut our own ascent line to beautiful Cliff Lake bench, briefly meeting again and overtaking one of the skiers, and finally reached the overlook above Clyde Lake. It was only 20 minutes past 9.

East Notch Mtn

East Notch and Reids peaksEast Notch and Reids, our goals
North Ridge of WatsonRidge of Watson rising above Cliff Lake

Possible routes led in all direction from the high pass of Clyde Divide. I tentatively mentioned East Notch and Reids peaks when we were planning the trip, but West and North summits of Notch Mountain, and even East Long, were all possible. The low clouds were saving the snow from sogging up, yet breaks in the clouds let a ray of Sun shine here and there. A beautiful spring weather! We decided that the conditions were perfect for the original plan, and crossed the divide towards East Notch, stopping for breakfast just below Notch Mountain Pass.

Instead of steeply ascending through the cliffbands to the windswept summit plateau, we took a long gradual traverse of the South slopes, emerging to the plateau right next to its high point.
Ascent line to East NotchOur route up East Notch

Gradual traverse of the South slopes of East Notch MtnTraversing the slopes of East Notch

Refreshed your glacier travel skills lately?A man-eating hole...
Hells Kitchen RidgeLooking West towards Hells Kitchen Divide

Nice line, but probably too avy-prone on the days when the snow isn't as well bonded as today. The snow did let me down once though, when I fell through into a bottomless hole between the cliff face and the snow. If were on a glacier, that would be a randkluft!
ZeeJay on the summit plateauZeeJay approaching the summit of East Notch
View SE from the summitLooking SE from the summit

North Cirque of East Notch looked even more rugged now, with cornices and streaks of yesterday's warn sluffs, than it does in summer. Summits of neighboring peaks all disappeared in the low clouds, including Reids, our next goal. It looked like an impenetrable fortress from this direction, but of course our ascent route would be on its opposite, South-Eastern side.
North Cirque of East NotchBeautiful North Cirque

Descent East from East NotchTraversing on descent
Looking back at our descent route from East NotchLooking back at our descent route

Just like on our ascent, we cut a gradual descending line across South-facing slopes towards SE spur ridge of East Notch. Soon we crossed Dean Lake, and started gaining altitude in the direction of Reids Saddle.

Reids Peak

Crossing Dean Lake on the way to Reids SaddleDean Lake, aiming at Reids Saddle!
Beautiful glades at the base of Reids  South slopeAround the base of Reids

A chain of beautiful little glades stretched at the base of red cliffs of the peak. A couple of switchbacks, and we were on the ridge just North of the low point of Reids Saddle and its humongous cornice.

The ridge thrust up in a series of cliffs straight away, but we were able to gain almost 400 ft more by skinning up to the left of the ridgeline. Then at 11,400 contour the ridge turned right and got appreciably steeper. The cliffs looked nothing but spectacular. We took the skis off and started booting.
View from Reids SaddleAt Reids Saddle
Lower SE RidgeLower summit ridge
Skinning up at 11,400The cliffs ahead would be the end of our skintrack

Skiing to the base of the cliffsSkiing towards the base of the tallest cliffs

Time to ditch the skisTime to leave the skis!

Traversing under the talest cliffbandTraversing below the cliffband
ZeeJay breaking trail on Upper SE RidgeZeeJay breaking trail

Just like before, the most challenging spots could all be bypassed on the left, even though the incline topped 45 degrees in some sections. Soon the angle of the slope started easing again, and there was a wide snow cap of the summit, and a fantastic view in all directions, all the way from the Wasatch to central High Uintas beyond the crest of Hayden Peak.
Breaking trail on the summit coneMinutes away from the top!

On the summit, looking EastView East to Central Uintas
Bald Mtn as seen from the summit of ReidsBald Mountain
Summit view to Kleiting, Hayden, and AgassizKletting, Hayden,Agassiz

Start of descent from ReidsBeginning the descent

Beginning of descentFirst section of descent from Reids
Descending along SE RidgeCliff steps interrupt the descent line
 I would have brought an ice ax ,Down the steepest section
A stone staircaseA stone staircase

Traversing under a cliff bandTraversing under a cliff

Last steps to our ski stash at 11,400Last steps down to our ski stash!

A little fire tucked away from the windLunch break
Our track on the summit ridgeOur track up there...

The Sun was shining now, if intermittently, and the snow surface was softening. Not a super glide, but most importantly, the supporting crust below remain firm. We stopped at the edge of the woods for a lunch break and to wax the skis, and beelined through the beautiful sunlit open forest to Trial Lake.

Rob was able to spot our track on the summit cone from this distance, but I only could see it clearly on a zoomed telephoto!

Beautiful Reids PeakLooking back at Reids Peak

Spring ski tour is overTailgate party time
Spring runoff at Provo River FallsRaging Provo River

By 5 pm we were having a sunshine tailgate party, all alone at the trailhead with the snowmobilers gone for the day, and then stopped to watch the runoff rush down Provo River Falls a mile down the road.

Trip Stats courtesy of ZeeJay: 10.35 miles, 3265 ft elevation gain

Topo of the trip

Notch-Reids ski tour trackMap of the route, by ZeeJay


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