Thursday, February 12, 2009

That steep, narrow, cliff-lined chute. (You know, the one above Aspen Grove?)

So you know how yesterday I talked about suffering through a steep skin track and my absentmindedness disrupting an otherwise great tour? Well I spoke too soon.

This morning Dug, Aaron, the Wonder Twins (Rick and Rob), and I all met up in Orem for a little backcountry tour in Provo Canyon. Aaron just got a new splitboard, and today was the day to christen it.

The target was a line above Sundance that has been referred to as the Orion Chute. Incidentally, none of us particularly cares for that name, and since it’s neither well-known nor classic, we aren’t letting that name stick. But other than “Redford’s Bunghole” we couldn’t think of anything on the drive home. Dug has since christened it “That One Steep Narrow Cliff-lined Chute.” Actually, the hyphenation in “cliff-lined” was mine, because that was the one punctuation error in the name I couldn’t tolerate. And since apparently we all peed in it, I don’t think the name can be changed now. I’ll be sending notice to the USGS shortly.

Anyway, I had no idea what this line was like, but if I thought yesterday’s skin track was steep, then today’s was downright ridiculous. It wasn’t that Rick was keen on inflicting punishment (though that can’t be ruled out), it was just that the slide path we climbed up to get to the ridge was ridiculously steep.

It eventually choked down so narrow and steep that we were switching back about every ten feet and lucky if on the switchback we didn’t slide down to the track below us.

As an aside, Wasatch Front residents may remember that slide in Provo Canyon five or so years ago that buried three snowboarders, one of them to the point that they didn’t recover the body until spring. That was the line we climbed up, though today it was evident that it had already slid this storm cycle, whereas five years ago it was an “extreme” danger avalanche day and those guys had no safety equipment. Not that safety equipment (other than your brain telling you not to go out that day) would help in a slide that big. The damage was still visible, with large trees snapped in half at the trunk.

Once at the top, we enjoyed a few turns through the trees and some nice deep pow before arriving at the top of the One Steep Narrow Cliff-lined Chute. The first 15 or so feet were steep enough and narrow enough that we chose to downclimb rather than slide and scrape it clean before the next guy made it down.

Rick downclimbing:

Dug at the top:

The descent itself was steep and narrow—barely wider than my skis; when standing perpendicular to the fall line I could reach my hand out and touch the slope. Rick graciously chose not to shoot video of the descent because, though we all made it down, we didn’t look like pros doing so.





The only problem I had was poor sluff management. As it opened at the bottom and I started actually linking turns, I skied right into my own sluff, which buried my ski. As I made my next turn, the buried ski popped off. I stopped immediately, but on a line that steep, I was still 10 feet below my ski. To make matters worse, Aaron was coming down behind me, and his sluff was piling up on me as I tried to come back up. Before I’d made any progress climbing back to my ski, I was buried up to my chest in Aaron’s sluff.

Once out of the chute and onto the apron, the skiing was sublime. Knee deep and blower with well-spaced trees to keep it interesting. Every day should be so good. Wait. The last three have been. I am so spoiled.

The only bummer about today was that once again my absentmindedness reared its ugly head. Last night I charged my camera battery and was sure to put my camera in my pack this morning. Unfortunately, I forgot to put the battery back in the camera. So all we’ve got are Dug’s cell phone camera pics (which actually turned out quite nice, all things considered). And you know how I feel about those. Oh well, there are worse things than skiing a line like this without your camera.


  1. I love the hyphen! Secretly (not so much anymore?), I married you for your command of the English language.

  2. Rachel,

    Way to raise expectations. As if I weren't already self-conscious enough about the people who read my blog.

  3. Thanks for coming down south. It was cool to mix it up. Skiing that lower section made me wish I had my helmet. A lot of stuff under that snow.

  4. Just found your blog. It was good heading out with you. Next time I'll try not to be such a sluffer.