Monday, December 15, 2008

Chalk One Up For the Weatherman

On Saturday I joined Peter and Greg to run the 2nd loop of the BSTM, just a 16 mile figure-eight loop between City Creek Canyon and Red Butte. We all knew about the predicted storm front that was supposed to hit at around 8am, but we'd never think of canceling a run because of a little weather. Once we got started and got up to the shoreline the route took us in a southerly direction with the wind in our faces, but after about an hour (around 8am) the wind changed direction in a dramatic manner and snowflakes started drifting around us.
I'm always amazed with the force of a big storm front. At one point as we contoured around a ridge a gust of wind pushed us from behind with such force that I was sprinting to keep up with my body. After the initial front came through the wind calmed slightly and the snow started coming down even faster. We looped around the far south end of the route and started heading back north with the wind in our faces once again. That was when Peter asked what was already on our minds, "do we go up Unkle?". What Peter was referring to is one of our favorite climbs up to the Black Mountain ridge line from the back of Dry Creek canyon.
We had a fairly logical discussion about it, before Greg quipped something about the older lady (70 or so) being tougher than us. I had seen this woman just the week before as Peter and I stood on top of Mt. Wire, watching her run toward us on the ridge, all alone. Her shins were scratched and bloody and after I asked, she told us how she had went out the length of the ridge before turning around. When I asked about her shins she replied "no leaves this time of year, the scrub oak just grab on like cats and won't let go". I was completely impressed and told Greg the story earlier on our run, now he was using it as a way to motivate us up the last climb. I believe this is the part where the lines between hardcore and stupid become blurred .
Dry Creek canyon is pretty narrow with steep slopes on either side which keeps it fairly protected, so we were lulled into a false sense security as we made our gradual ascent to the back of the canyon. The temperature was dropping but it was only around 25 to 30 degs so it didn't seem that bad, until we started the real climb. About halfway up I decided to put on my jacket, while Peter and Greg kept moving to stay warm. The wind was blowing harder and harder the higher we climbed. I plodded along, following their footsteps in the ankle deep snow, trying to catch up to them before they reached the top. Peter and Greg made it to the top of the ridge only a few seconds in front of me and yelled back that they weren't waiting. I was a little confused at first, thinking maybe they just wanted to put the screws to me, but once I reached the top I immediately knew why they took off, the wind. Not only was It blowing so hard up on top that I couldn't run straight, but the snow had also drifted up so it was nearly knee deep in spots. Visibility was reduced to thirty yards or so and I was sure my cheek was getting frostbite.
Several minutes went by and the conditions continued to decline. Then, right as I was thinking about curling up in the fetal position and giving up all hope, Peter and Greg bailed off the south side of the ridge.
Instant relief. I couldn't believe how calm it was just a few yards down off the ridge, now the only problem was figuring out where we were. The first words I remember hearing were "man, the weatherman nailed that one" from Greg. Because of the poor visibility we were unsure how far we had made it down the ridge. Normally it's only about 2.5 miles in a direct line back to where the car was parked but now we'd have longer, albeit a warmer, route back. We stood on the side of the mountain trying to figure out which drainage was which but nothing looked familiar from our new viewing angle. In no way were we lost, we just wanted to try and find the shortest way back to the car. We decided we couldn't go wrong if we just headed down and hoped for the best. A few minutes later we were back in the bottom of the drainage we had just climbed up, at the back of Dry Creek. Now it was just a return trip on the shoreline trail, pretty much the longest option we could have found. An extra 3 miles on empty stomachs made the return trip on the shoreline a quiet one. As we got closer the talk turned to food and the inevitable mention of Crown Burger. The crown burger is one of the most scrumptious sandwiches on the planet period. Pastrami piled an inch an high on a flame broiled hamburger patty dominated my thoughts as I found renewed energy in the last mile.
Sitting inside the warm restaurant devouring our sandwiches we decided that truly memorable adventures end with a crown burger.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Lookout Peak

Greg and I decided to check out part of the potential TUERL (The Ultimate Emigration Ridge Loop) that we're planning on doing sometime in the future. The Plan was to get up to Lookout Peak to get a peak of the quagmire we'll be up against for the whole loop. Starting from the top of Emigration Canyon we took the trail heading north along the ridge to the junction of Killyons and kept heading north. It was pretty cool to start at around 20 degs. but it quickly warmed as the sun came up.

The high point on that ridge is Lookout Peak

Only 2 days before a small storm rolled through that left about 4 to 6 inches of snow covering the lower ridge. Normally not a big deal, but my ankles seem to be a little out of practice and I rolled my right one pretty good on one of the descents.

Greg grabbing a snack just as the sun is coming up

Looking up the long ridge to Lookout Peak

Looking back down the ridge, the Wasatch front in the background

The picture above shows the view looking back from the Emigration drainage, Freeze creek is to the right. Once we were on this ridge we could see the Wasatch 100 route over by Swallow Rocks and Big Mtn pass, but not Lookout peak. As we would soon find out the peak was hidden behind no fewer than four false summits. My ankle found some relief in the deeper snow as we made our way to the top but our lungs did not as we both notice the altitude.
Once on top I checked my GPS for the elevation and it read 8990'(Lookout is officially 8954'), which I knew was wrong, but we used that as a reference for the knob just to the west. We thought it might be higher, so we descended and climbed up to find that it read 8950'. This also allowed us a peek down at the route we will be attempting in the future and the real prize of the day. Just below us on the ridge heading west Greg spotted a bull moose, then two more appeared. The big one watched us for a minute or so before getting back to business whipping up on the other two. This was the first time I had witnessed this kind of behavior and it was truly awesome. The sound of antlers crashing together and snorts could be heard as the big bull let the other try and take him down. Below is a picture just after one of the battles.

The battle is over, the 3rd moose is in the middle right in the trees

All in all a great run, ~13 miles or so in a little over 3 hours.