Fadgen's Adventures

Fadgen's Adventures
Green Creek Lake

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Lost River Peak Super Gully Ski!

LRP Super Gully on Monday May 5th
Dylan and I had been scheming on skiing the Super Gully on Lost River Peak for the last month or so.  We had set preliminary plans for the weekend after he finished his first year of higher education.  Things looked good after we took a small detour to look at the conditions on our way home from Taylor’s graduation last Monday.

The forecast for Saturday was 50% chance of snow with little or no accumulation, but the sky was mostly clear as we drove through Mackay Friday evening.  We set up camp at the trail head, in the wind, as it was getting dark and it was lights out at 10:30 with a planned 5AM wake up.

During the course of the night I woke several times to hear snow pelting the tent, but didn’t think much about it. After Dylan stuck his head out of the tent at 5, he mentioned the snow and muttered something about it not looking too good.  I suggested we sleep for a few more minutes and then check again.  When I took a look 30 minutes later and saw partly cloudy skies and no snow on the ground, I suggested we go for it and see what happened higher up.
Leaving camp
 After a quick breakfast, and a not so quick packing of gear, we were on our feet at 6:30 in the early morning light.  The mountain top was shrouded in clouds and we could see a light dusting of snow higher up as we huffed and puffed up the trail.  At least I was huffing and puffing.  Dylan was showing his old man that even though he had been slacking off in school, he could still hike.  
Dylan told me to smile like I was having fun
Huffing and puffing
We finally took a break a little before 8AM above the trees at 9600 feet.  Dylan had been waiting for me for 15 minutes or so, as I could not keep up with his 2000 foot/hour pace. After a short break we crested the ridge and got a closer view of our ski decent route.  From this vantage point the snow didn’t look too good with a mix of old, wet slide avalanche debris and thin conditions. 

As we moved higher with ice axes and crampons on, the wind picked up and the snow started falling.  Not the spring type graupel, but large snowflakes.  Figuring that this would just blow over in a few minutes we continued higher.  We stopped and took a couple of breaks between 10,000 and 11,000 feet, trying to get out of the wind whipped snow without much luck.  

As we moved into the bowl just below the false summit, the snow started to accumulate.  We moved to climber’s left, continuing up in the wind and snow, and gained the ridge at 11,800 feet at 11:30.  Here we dropped our skis and debated on what to do.  
Dylan on the windy ridge

After a few minutes of discussion, we opted to head up the remaining 200 feet to the false summit and further assess the conditions.  On the ridge, the wind was really whipping as the snow continued to swirl about. When we reached the false summit, the visibility was limited to 50 feet or so and rather than continue on the narrow corniced ridge to the summit, we elected to go back down to our skis.

A not quite the summit Splattski
 The great thing was, once we reached our skis, the clouds lifted and we could just barely make out the Lost River valley 5000 feet below. Though we could now see our ski route and the snow had slowed considerably, the wind was still blowing strong and moving a lot of snow off the ridge.  Before clipping into our skis, we assessed the conditions and figured things were safe since we could still see our ascent footsteps in the snow below. 
The clouds are lifting!
Dylan dropped in first and was hooting and hollering as the 6” of fresh powder was blowing off of his skis.  I followed after he tucked behind a band of rocks, and could not get a sound out as I was blasted by a big face shot of powder on my second turn!  Wasn't this May 10th?
All smiles!
We leap frogged each other down the gully, laughing and high fiving each time we met up.  We could not believe the condition of the snow.  What luck!  After seeing how crappy the snow looked 3 hours before on our ascent, we just couldn't stop smiling. As we progressed lower, the depth of the powder diminished, but we always had fresh snow covering the old.

All smiles again!
Still smiling!
But, all good things must come to an end, and before we knew it we were back to our snowed in boots at 9900 feet.  As we transitioned back into hiking mode, we just couldn’t get over how lucky we had been to have this spring squall bring such great conditions – we were in the right place at the right time!
Getting ready to head back down with Mt. McCaleb in the background
 After putting our skis back on our backs, we cautiously followed the snow covered trail down the ridge.  We meandered our way through the trees and rather than follow the straight line back to the truck we gave our knees a break by zig-zagging down the ridge.

We were back at the truck at 1:30 and quickly packed up camp before heading to Amy Lou’s in Mackay for an excellent burger and fries!
One last look at the mountain
Distance: Who cares! But something close to 3.5 miles.
Elevation Gain: 4600 feet
Time (car to car): 7 hours

1 comment:

larry szurgot said...

John, if I ever had a doubt about your sanity, it has been removed now.

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A team of adventurers consisting of John, Tamara, Taylor, Dylan, and Shadow Fadgen