Skiing Great Basin National Park Memorial Weekend 2010

Skiing Great Basin National Park Memorial Weekend 2010

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: May 30, 2010
Activities Activities: Skiing
Seasons Season: Summer

Day 1 (The Lehman Caves)

After years of listening to the rumors, old wise tales, and many exaggerations about how great The Great Basin National Park truly is, we decided that the only way to find out was to actually go there. Early Friday morning we drove the 260 miles of barren desert, through the small towns and dust storms. From the highway our first view of the Snake Range was seen and right away we knew we made the right decision on spending Memorial Weekend in Great Basin National Park. Shortly after our first view of the park we found ourselves driving a short distance up the Wheeler Peak Scenic Highway where we got a beautiful view of Jeff Davis Peak and the other terrain we would be skiing over the next 3 days.
Great Basin National ParkGreat Basin National Park (with Jeff Davis Peak in the middle) from Highway 6
Jeff Davis Peak, Wheeler Peak Cirque and Wheeler Peak Jeff Davis Peak and the Wheeler Peak Cirque from the Wheeler Peak Scenic Highway.

We knew that the campgrounds in Great Basin National Park are first come first serve, so we made finding a campsite our number one agenda. The upper two campgrounds (Wheeler and Upper Lehman) were closed when we got there, leaving only The Lower Lehman Campground open. With only 11 campsites available at this campground, we got the 8th (and best) campsite and were relieved that we would not have to poach a spot in the desert with the rattle snakes and vast forests of cactus.
Lower Lehman CampgroundOur campsite in the Lower Lehman Campground with Jeff Davis Peak in the background.

Still wondering why this part of the Snake Range is considered a National Park we went to see the supposedly world famous Lehman Caves. While paying our $10 each we wondered just how good this cave would be. As we entered the cave I was able to see right away why this cave is so famous. The reddish, tan and even purple lighting, combined with the natural features of the cave gave the feeling that we were in a different world unlike that of earth. Through the twists, turns and dark downhills, the 20 of us "cavers" saw rooms over 60 feet high, an angles ear, the infamous Parachute Shield, and even some cave bacon. Walking through that cave was the most beautiful 90 minutes of the whole trip. As one SP'er said here on Summit Post, "The Lehman Cave is a real life hallucination".
The beautiful Lehman CaveThe first room inside the beautiful Lehman Caves.
The Lehman CaveThe beautiful Lehman Cave
Inside the Lehman CavesThe beautiful Lehman Cave

While heading back to camp and away from the cave we saw a family of baby foxes cross the scenic highway near our camp. It was right then and there when we both realized how this section of the Snake Range became a U.S. National Park. Our friends from Park City strolled into camp later that night and we spent a cold night full of anticipation about the skiing over the next several days.

Day 2 (Bald Mountain)

The next morning we woke up around 7am and started the short 8 mile drive up The Wheeler Peak Scenic Highway. Wondering just why cars over 24 feet are not allowed, we found out in less than a mile. Not only was the road narrow, but it had drop offs that were so steep that if you drove off, you would never stop until you reached the desert floor. Funny how Nevada's version of a guard rail is a speed bump and a wood post with a reflector on it. We stopped at the Mather Overlook and took a seat at the bench to observe the terrain around us. We decided that because of the high winds from the previous day that an attempt at Jeff Davis was still somewhat dangerous avalanche wise so we aimed our sights at Bald Mountain.
Skinning up Bald MountainTroy skinning up Bald Mountain
The Crew through Troy s gogglesThe crew (Liam, MJ and me) through Troy's goggles.

As the 4 of us set up at the Wheeler Peak Summit Trailhead we knew that if the skiing the was not outstanding, the views definitely would be. We started to skin up the thick forest with a vague idea on what we were getting into. Soon the forest broke and we got a view at our summit as well as the surrounding terrain. After a short break we made it made it to the not so bald summit of Bald Mountain.
Troy about to reach the summit of Bald MountainTroy just about to reach the summit of Bald Mountain.

Seeing that we had plenty of daylight left we went searching for where we would make our first lap. As we approached the North Headwall we could not see over it but we could see thousands of downed trees from where huge avalanches came ripping through. Knowing it would be good, we (except for MJ who was not feeling so well) dropped into the steep North Headwall. After 3,500 vertical feet worth of turns that felt like butter on toast, we set up for the climb back up and out.
Splitboarding Bald MountainLiam splitboarding the North Headwall of Bald Mountain
Bald MountainTroy and Liam searching for a line on Bald Mountain
Bald Mountain s North HeadwallOur tracks on the North Headwall of Bald Mountain

After an uneventful climb back up we met up with MJ at the summit. From the top we discussed where we were going to ski next. After much debate it was decided that we would ski the mellow but extremely scenic South Bowl of Bald Mountain back to the Wheeler Campground (1 mile away from the cars). As we made our way down the South Bowl the skiing went from amazing to epic as we traveled down through roll overs, open faces, chutes and thin forests back to the highway. While skiing into the campground an old couple saw me skiing and offered me a ride back to the cars...thus eliminating the hike back. That night the rangers put a notice about where our tents were and later asked if we would move to a different campground to accommodate 1 RV'er. As the ranger explained about how great the the Upper Lehman Campground is for tent campers, he then slipped and told us that the upper 4 sites were closed because of a cougar had killed a deer right in the campsite, just the other night. With that in mind we told the ranger that we would consider moving and stayed in place at our campsite for the remainder of the trip.
Skiing Bald MountianTroy skiing the South Bowl of Bald Mountain

Day 3 (Jeff Davis Peak)

We woke up with the sun on day 3 so we could get an early start for an attempt at Jeff Davis Peak. The black ice in the Wheeler Campground Parking lot was proof enough that a refreeze occurred. We made our way across the thick woods passing some of the oldest living species on the planet....Bristle Cone Pines. When the North Ramp finally came into sight we made our way up the steep slope. Near the top we had to switch from skinning to boot packing. Just before the ridge the snow, 6 inches underneath, turned icy and dangerous avalanche wise. It was here that I informed my partners that we would be skiing from this point. The skiing on the North Ramp of Jeff Davis Peak was incredible. There is nothing quite like skiing a massive snow ramp thats supported by a 1,500 foot vertical cliff, that eventually and oh so slowly makes its way into a grove of old Bristle Cone Pines.
A nice boulder along the pathTroy taking a break on a nice boulder that is along the path that leads up to Jeff Davis.
Skiing Jeff Davis PeakLiam splitboarding the North Ramp of Jeff Davis.

Liam was starting to show the signs of altitude sickness (either that or atitude sickness) so we made our way back to the car at the Wheeler Campground, drove a mile up the road and parked at the Wheeler Summit Trailhead, where we then ditched him. With more than enough daylight left, Troy and I made our way up from the Wheeler Peak Summit Trailhead to a short bowl off of Bald Mountain that feeds its way back into the same trailhead/parking lot. We skinned along side the afternoon light, catching a glimpse or two of our lap on Jeff Davis Peak every now and then. Also from the ridge we could make out a small wind slab avalanche in The Ditch (a steep couloir right next to the ramp we skied) thus confirming my avalanche worries. When we finally reached the top of the bowl we skied down to the car via a series of open faces and called it just another day at church. That night at camp bats flew over our heads for several hours and it was amazing to see how big they can get in the flickering light of a warm campfire.
Troy skiing Bald MountainTroy skiing the scenic Bald Mountain with the peak we skied earlier in the day, Jeff Davis, in the background.

Setting up for another lapTroy setting up for another lap with the days previous lap in the background.

Day 4 (Wheeler Peak)

In no rush we slept in until the sun forced us out of our tents. Liam and MJ bailed back to Park City, leaving just Troy and I to ski for the last day. We decided that due to the avalanche activity seen the previous day, to go for Wheeler Peak insted of skiing the steep couloirs of the Taresa Lake Cirque. In for torture we took the long and scenic route. After almost getting blown off of the ridge by a couple 50+mph gusts, we decided that the summit of Wheeler Peak would have to wait for another trip. Making the best of it we skied the Stella Lake Ramp and ran into some other skiers that were from Utah as well.
Observing our tracks.....Troy observing our tracks on The Stella Lake Ramp
Troy skiing down the Stella Lake RampTroy skiing The Stella Lake Ramp

After saying our goodbyes to the mountains of the Snake Range, we skied back to the Wheeler Campground, hiked the mile back up the scenic highway and drove back to our camp. We broke down camp in record time and packed up the car in not so record time. As we made our way out of Great Basin National Park back to Salt Lake City, we stopped for a flower picture and possibly the best roadside attraction that Great Basin National Park has to offer........The horse with NO name.
A beautiful flower at Great Basin National ParkA beautiful GBNP flower
The Horse With No NameThe Horse With NO Name


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-20 of 35

hamik - Jun 3, 2010 2:36 pm - Voted 10/10

Call me ignorant...

But I'd never heard of this national park! Looks like a very worthwhile place to ski, should I tire of our Sierra sometime :-)


TyeDyeTwins - Jun 3, 2010 3:02 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Call me ignorant...

According to the rangers, GBNP is the 2nd least visited National Park in the natiion. The skiing is long as there is enough snow. This year is way above average snowpack wise. We are definately gonna make this a yearly adventure. See you out there and happy trails hamik.


scotthsu - Jun 3, 2010 9:27 pm - Voted 10/10

great TR

thanks for the beta on what seems like an amazing place for spring skiing!


TyeDyeTwins - Jun 3, 2010 9:51 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: great TR

You are very welcome scotthsu.......I never knew Nevda had such epic skiing. A must do for any big mountain skier. Happy Trails out there.


TyeDyeTwins - Jun 5, 2010 8:20 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Super sweet

We were wondering about how to access Pyrimid Peak and Baker Peak as well. We never skied any powder....but there was plenty of corn to go around out there. We are definately going back year after year for sure. Happy Trails out there.

Ed F

Ed F - Jun 7, 2010 10:13 am - Voted 10/10

Always wondered

about skiing there. Looks fun, thanks for writing it up.


TyeDyeTwins - Jun 7, 2010 12:32 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Always wondered

Your welcome, someone had to do it. Trust me, as a fellow skier of the Wasatch you would easily fall in love with GBNP for sure. We are definately going back year after year. Happy Trails out there Ed F.

gralpinist - Jun 7, 2010 5:18 pm - Hasn't voted

Great Basin NP

I'm glad you had such a successful trip. I was in Great Basin NP about 10 years ago. I was on my way to CA, to climb Mt. Shasta, and then on to WA, to ascend Mt. Rainier (both attempts successful). I stopped there in late June, but it was a much drier year, with little snow, even on the summit of Wheeler Peak. One of the reasons to stop in Great Basin NP is to enjoy all the bristlecone pine trees, some of the oldest living things on earth. Wheeler Peak is essentially a walk-up, but it does have challenging northeast face route. Travellers should know that there are very limited services in the area. I experienced a flat tire & was unable to have it repaired until I drove on to the town of Ely. Michael R. Kelsey has written a book about the park. I would like to try skiing next time. Nice trip report!


TyeDyeTwins - Jun 7, 2010 9:42 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Great Basin NP

True, true.....Thanks for the information gralpinist.


Blair - Jun 7, 2010 5:27 pm - Voted 10/10

Great TR, Thanks for sharing it!

I have always been drawn to GB Nat' Park and always wanted to go. Now that I see the skiing can be good I am even more excited to go. Thanks for sharing your awesome experiences!

BTW, How much longer will the skiing hold up out there, may have to get out there before July...


TyeDyeTwins - Jun 7, 2010 9:45 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Great TR, Thanks for sharing it!

Better catch it while you is melting fast. When we left the trailheads still had about 2 feet of snow on the ground. There still should be snow through the end of June this year due to the above average snowpack. Happy Trails out there.


TyeDyeTwins - Jun 7, 2010 10:55 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Jealous!

Thanks Wasatchvoyage.....The Snake Range has some massive potencial in the next couple of years. Pyramid Peak and Baker Peak are both on the agenda next year if there is enough snow.....granted the cougars dont get us first.

Vertigo soul

Vertigo soul - Jun 7, 2010 7:09 pm - Hasn't voted

Great TR!

Glad to hear about your successful trip and especially about the killer skiing you got in! After many years of hearing about GBNP I finally visited it last summer....and was amazed and grateful I did. Definitely a must see! The gothic looking bristlecone pine trees were a highlight, as well as the Lehman Caves. The hike to Wheeler Peak was not technical, but it was well worth the visit to have that 360-deg. view of the Great Basin and have the whole place to ourselves. Nobody knows of this place, and that was the best part of being there! By the way, Nevada has some better skiing in the Ruby Mountains just south of Elko....but don't tell anyone that :)


TyeDyeTwins - Jun 7, 2010 11:01 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Great TR!

Sounds like you enjoyed GBNP just as much as us.....Amazing that GBNP is the second least visited National Park in the US. From the top of Bald Mountain we could see the Ruby Range and those peaks sure looked sweet......Maybe we might just have to check em out one of these years.


NJTripper - Jun 7, 2010 7:32 pm - Hasn't voted

Nice TR!

From the pics - looks like you had some fan-dam-tastic weather!

GBNP is a great place! I've only been there once - but loved the place. (came out this time last year from NJ for a trekup Wheeler - but got turned back from the summit by an afternoon white-out and an alt-sick hiking partner).

I can only imagine how great it was to ski there..


TyeDyeTwins - Jun 7, 2010 11:05 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Nice TR!

The skiing was far better than we could have ever imagined. We did not get the summit of Wheeler either due to weather (the idea of getting blown off of the hanging snow feild near the top brought self preservation to mind). Still an epic trip though. Happy Trails out there NJripper.


lcarreau - Jun 7, 2010 11:25 pm - Voted 10/10

Awesome ..

I was out there in 1990. Had a seasonal job with the NPS putting
in some hiking trails during the summer. (using only picks & shovels).

Talk about a lonely location! I visited Lexington Arch, the
summit of Pyramid peak, Lincoln Mountain, and Mount Moriah to
the north of the Park.

You might want to grab hold of Mike Kelsey's book, "Hiking and
Climbing in Great Basin National Park."

It has some really good "trail maps" in it. Includes a 4x4 road
leading to some rustic cabins located directly south of Pyramid

It certainly "tempts" a fellow to continue coming back for more ...


TyeDyeTwins - Jun 8, 2010 1:46 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Awesome ..

How ironic..when the FS ranger saw us he offered us a job at GBNP. Too bad we live 260 miles away from there. I agree with you.......GBNP is one lonely place, and I think it is better that way. I will have to check out that book, Pyramid Peak is calling out to the backcountry skier in us. Can't wait to ski all again next year. Happy Trails out there Larry.


lcarreau - Jun 8, 2010 9:57 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Awesome ..

Give me five, Twins !!

Tooele is 200 miles away, so you live 60 miles beyond Tooele ??

The snow is melting fast. Oh no - what's next? Have you ever
thought about Greenland or the south island of New Zealand?

Yep, watch out for those rangers. They really get lonesome.

Thanks for posting this wonderful page. You guys are great!!!
And, you're really good sports.


TyeDyeTwins - Jun 9, 2010 3:07 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Awesome ..

What's next?????? Probley skiing Mount Watson in the Uintas this weekend. Beyond that it is going to be just the boring old Wasatch and Mount Timpanogos for the rest of the year until the 1st snows show up in September. I have a close family friend that lives in New Zeland and she says it is nothing short of of these years I will have to check it out for myself. You are right about the rangers getting lonely. When we had a tent dispute with the ranger he talked our heads off. At least he was friendly.

Viewing: 1-20 of 35



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