Shaping up...

Things are shaping up in the Wasatch, as well as in my body.  Intermittent storms have been sliding across the Great Salt Lake into the East and West running Cottonwood Canyons in near perfect succession.  As a result, the snow pack is shaping up better then we have seen in a few years.  With any luck, this will carry through and really set the season up well.  The tiny little back straps running down either side of my spine in my lower back are starting to take shape as well.  I have been pushing those little slabs of bacon to the brink to try to fatten them up again with a steady diet of raw protein and early season skin path slogs.  My longtime tour partner, Ben Geiger, had an itch to get up to Cardiac Ridge in "Was Angeles" just north of Little Cottonwood Canyon's famous Mt. Superior.  However, he wanted to do the approach from what I think is called Mill D. Regardless, what is important is that it is one hell of a good long slog for me in my current condition and timing within the season.  In reality, it is probably good for me. A bit much, but good.

^(L to R) Two longtime friends of mine Rob Harris and Paul Wright, and then the spearhead of the day, Ben.  We took our sweet ass time on the tour up.  It is more about jaw jacking, telling lies, and catching up on what has gone down since we saw each other last winter.  Plenty of breaks and carb loading to try to manage our early season legs.
^Follow the yellow brick road to never never land or the other side of the rainbow or something like that.

^This particular long mellow tour rolls right past an old mining structure that is a really cool surprise when you come out into this clearing. The tour is littered with evidence of the once booming mining industry that thrived in these mountains.  

^I pulled up to this cool little stream and decided that it was as good a spot as any for some lunch with a creek trickle soundtrack.  I love that sound.

^At the bottom of Cardiac Ridge Ben gave me a nice little look back so I could snap a pic of him on our last approach before the ski. Of course, the end is always the steepest, but digging deep for the last push is all part of the sacrifice.  

^Lake affect snow was lingering in the air even as the bluebird skies broke out for us.  Ben is pictured in the lower right hand corner of the frame about half way up the last pitch of the tour.  You can see some tracks right next to the kick turn.  Damn that looks good.  We were all kicking it into high gear and pushing each other to finish strong.

^Giving the last of his legs to the final pitch of the skin Rob managed to lay down some smooth powder turns for the big payoff.  The smile on his face indicates that he was glad he went inside himself and found the inner strength to push his early season legs to the brink.

^Framing the right side of the picture is telemark legend and mentor to my own backcountry skiing career, Paul Wright.  Paul was a big reason I made the switch to telemark so many years ago.  He just made it look so damn good.  Also, over the years he has taught me and my crew at Snowbasin gobs of local knowledge and avalanche mitigation skills.  I always enjoy touring with people I respect and feel like I can learn from.  Paul has a lot of years in the mountains and I for one will eat up any of that wisdom he wants to share. In this picture Paul is shooting the breeze with another ski party at the base of our ski while a stranger milks the last few turns of his own descent.  Paul has been working like a dog these days selling the shit out of some mountain luxury home components so he was granted first in for our party.  Early in the day I had convinced myself that I was only going to make parallel alpine style turns on the descent. However, when Paul dropped in first and laid down some silky high speed freeheel wonders, I could not resist.  My first telemark turns of the year felt just like home, and I even laid way back on a few and dipped an uphill hand down into the goodness. We were all pleasantly surprised with the depth of the snowpack and the quality of the skiing for such an early date on the calendar. As usual, I played the healthy skeptic to Ben's famously over the top enthusiasm at the onset of the tour that morning.  However, I was quick to eat my words and give him a big huge high five for this one.  One hell of a day for early November.