Wednesday, May 23, 2012


There is a lot of talk in skiing and climbing about what condition the route or objective is in at a given point in time. One of the reasons sports like ski mountaineering and mountain climbing are so compelling is the variable nature of the medium. The British have elevated this peculiar practice to a high art form, constantly obsessing about when climbs are 'in good nick' and generally that means it's not pouring rain. Even a bit of hoarfrost seems to denote great winter climbing conditions in their book. I have been a bit spoiled by the skiing in the Wasatch in the past three years. My first attempt to rediscover ski touring was in Lamb's Canyon, and even though it had not snowed in about a week my very kind hosts found some great north facing slopes with lovely powder, accessed by about half a dozen miles of skinning (or in my case learning to skin.)
The next two years were similar, only better. I reached out to my friends from year 1, feeling they'd done their bit with beginners, asking them and some other friends of friends who I might use as a guide: I was very clear that my understanding of snow conditions, and the Wasatch in particular, was no match for the objective hazard. One of the resources I tapped into was Andrew McLean, a legendary ski mountaineer, and a prince of a guy in my limited experience. He offered to take me out and I've been taking him up on it ever since. The first two years it seemed wise due to the incredible conditions and his uncanny ability to find new and fresh fields of play any day. This year he was invaluable because the conditions were truly dreadful. The upside of this is that the two other locals I introduced to Andrew could only outpace me so much, in spite of living above 8,000 ft and being super fit individuals unfamiliar with a life of commuting from Brooklyn to New Jersey. Nonetheless, it was a great time with great friends, which goes to show conditions are nice but not everything.