Dusk Patrol Solo

This time of the year sunset in Northern Utah is around 8:30pm. This particular spring day the temperature was going to be a high of 52 degrees fahrenheit and raining in Ogden City where I live at 4,300 feet above sea level. The highest mountain peaks in the Ogden Wasatch Range are at about 9,700 feet above sea level. I knew the high country would see some snow, but the elevation where the rain would switch to snow was in question. A rule of thumb states that for every 1,000 feet higher in elevation it can be expected to see a 5 degree drop in temperature. The base area with which I wanted to start my tour was to be about 6,300 feet above sea level. Some simple math shows that if I started my tour at the highest temperature of the day, typically around 2pm, then there was a good chance that I would be starting my tour in the rain at 6,300 feet above sea level and roughly 42 degrees fahrenheit. With some luck I could be out of the rain and into snow by 7,000 feet above sea level. I was not particularly stoked about touring in the rain, but I held out hope throughout the morning.

^With the storm hitting the hills, and a forecast calling for a possibility of the storm starting to clear later in the evening, I took advantage of the morning to get some office work done. I also enjoyed watching my son play with his toys and Grandma Kay. My wife's mother, Kay, watches Amos on Thursdays so I knew I would have a clear schedule in the afternoon if I could manage to finish up the office work I wanted to get done. By 1pm I was finished with office work and made it to higher country by 2pm. The typical hottest time of the day, and I was not really looking forward to what I thought would certainly be rain for a while to begin my tour. 

^However, just as I pulled into my parking spot the rain turned over to snow. I was elated not to have to walk in the rain. The snow was really wet though requiring me to hike in my hard shell for the first 500 vertical feet, but at least it wasn't rain. I managed to stay dry and by the time I reached 7,000 feet above sea level the snow was cold enough to layer back down to a much more comfortable soft shell layer. The storm was still hitting pretty hard, and as I ascended the visibility got worse and worse. 

^I had a plan to deal with the poor visibility with some nicely gladed slopes up high just below the tree line. The trees help with visibility and in the area I was going to there were plenty of options for glades. I love skiing glades so even if the storm were not to break I would be plenty happy with a lonely day in the trees.  

^I made some laps starting at about 8,000 feet, and then a bit higher at 8,500 feet. I was pleasantly surprised at the good riding conditions at those elevations. After this lap pictured above at about 8,500 feet the clouds started to lift ever so slightly. Just enough though for me to justify touring up to my highest partially slope gladed option at about 9,000 feet. 

^I snapped off this picture at about 8,800 feet just a quick 20 minute skin after I decided to go higher. The cloud level was continuing to rise. I wondered if I'd get lucky to be there when it broke. By then it was about 7:30pm. I texted my wife to let her know I was going to run later then I thought, and give her my new location higher up the mountain. I also mentioned that if the sky broke blue, then I might just need to stay longer. I think I texted something about the universe and how it was speaking to me and such. I could envision her eyes rolling as she read it. She knows I am a bit of a different kind of bird, but she loves me anyways, or because of it. I don't know. I don't ask questions like that. She said yes so I just ran with it! You don't question a beautiful smart woman that agrees to marry you despite your ski bum nature!

^My plan included rolling the gladed lines as long as the clouds were still in. I was totally content with that plan for as long as need be. Even if it was the rest of the day. The picture above displays the three quick laps I made in the partially gladed terrain. I was nearly dead legged at that point.

^I decided to hit the little spot I cleared out in some flat land trees below the cirque above for some water and food. I figured I had a little more time. Also, maybe with some fuel I could give my legs the strength to make another lap as well as give the clouds a little more time to possibly break out.  

^Then through the trees I saw Mt. Ogden come into view. With some fuel, and some motivation from the clouds breaking, I started back up for another lap. I had some grand ideas about a run down the west face of the Ogden Range if the clouds really did break, but it was more like wishful thinking. I did not really think it would break out full on so I could actually make a go for the west face. 

^I got higher up, and the clouds looked more and more like the unlikely break out might become reality. My spirits lifted further yet, and the west face was feeling more like a possibility.

^As I got higher it broke out even more. By the time I snapped this picture of the clouds ripping off the top of Demoisey Peak I was starting to think that I might just be lucking out after all. I started to think through a west face plan, and how I could get back around to my car on the east side of the Ogden Range. 

^Full of sunny motivation I pushed my way up towards Needles Peak. I figured that I could grab a good view at the least, and at best maybe get a west face finish for the glory.  

^As I gained the ridge of Needles Peak I was starting to get really excited, but I was also starting to feel an ever so slight cramp in my left leg. I was still feeling pretty good about things, but as I got to the peak the cramp in my left leg was starting to get more noticeable. Not quite painful at that point, but the pain was not too far off.

^I sat on the peak for a bit hoping that the cramp would subside and I would be feeling good for the relatively big push I would have to make to get to the slope on the west face that I would want to ski. Plus, the hour and a half down-hike I would have to make to get out. I drank some more water and snapped this picture of the light show unfolding out in the distance in front of me. 

^I was trying to decide if I had enough gas in the tank for the push. I snapped off this last picture of Mt. Ogden in all of its glory and put my phone back in my pocket. By this time it was 8pm and I figured I'd have time to push the last peak and make my ski, but I'd probably be hiking out in the dark. That was not really a problem for me. I had a head lamp in my bag and it would not be the first time I hiked out of a line in the dark by headlamp light. My leg was still a question mark, but I was feeling pretty good and was thinking that I would go for it. I pulled my phone out to try to text my wife about my new plan, but when I did I noticed that my battery was dead from the cold wind on the peak. At that point I took that as a sign that I should back off. My leg was questionable, my energy was questionable, timing was cutting close, and then my communication died. It was time to take the signs and call it what it was… one hell of a really great day. Also, I had about 2,500 vertical feet of great skiing below me. I couldn't be too disappointed with that below me!

^So here is a picture of my vehicle at the base. With a dead phone I could not stop and snap pictures of the various gloriously lit ski lines I made all the way back down to about 7,000 feet above sea level. The formerly sloppy wet snow by that time was freezing up into icy conditions for the last 1,000 feet back down to the base area. As I geared down at my car I took comfort in telling myself that although it is my job to share beautiful lines like those on this website, sometimes it just doesn't always work out as planned. I really wanted to ski the west face in pure glory, but I had to back off. It was the right call in hindsight. Additionally, those pictures I really wanted to take, well, sometimes that doesn't work out either. I guess the sight of those beautiful powder turns in sunset light will be just a memory for me to keep to myself. Sorry I couldn't share it here, but it seems those lines are just for me, just my own beautiful memory to keep in my heart and mind just for me, they're all mine. I would not trade memories like that for any high-paying, high-status job in the world that I could have otherwise chosen to chase. I am happy enough chasing powder, peaks, sunsets, and the whole glorious ride this chase has taken me on each and every day.