Friday, April 25, 2008

Mt. Ogden's Southeast chutes

There are two narrow chutes on the east side of Mt. Ogden that I look at every ride up the Needles gondola. I've never seen tracks in them before today. Today was Friday, April 25, I can't make it up tomorrow, and Sunday is closing day, so I was hoping to hit one or maybe two new lines today, with the east chutes and the north-facing "tower" shot (off the summit) at the top of the list. The Porcupine chair has an even better view, and so last week, when Porcupine was the closest lift running to Mt. Ogden, I looked at those chutes quite a bit, but the patrol said they were closed that day.

Anyway, today the Porcupine chair was closed :-(, so after a warmup run, I did a hike up the Needles bowl, veering right to the start of the huge cornice line over the middle Needles cirque. The wind was nuking! Gusting to 50 I would say; drove me to my knees a few times on the ridges. There was about 6" of fresh, well bonded, but high wind is another factor, and so I did one long cut from the start of the cornice line to the east. This is the very top of what the trail map calls Taxman; could be called "the steepest Taxman". The very top of this is quite steep, maybe 55 degrees, and yet nothing moved. This was a good sign, but still; with the winds, and the added hike of having Porcupine chair closed, I figured I wouldn't get up Mt. Ogden today. Next run I hiked to the west of Needles, and dropped over toward the top of Porky chair. As soon as I dropped onto the other side of the ridge, it was hard wind scoured sun crust; look out! Then some nice untracked wind-hammered powder, but too short... riding up the Needles, to my surprise I saw that there were tracks in one of those East chutes! Two skiers had hit it, from close to the top. And it hadn't slid. OK, that was all I needed to see; I hiked from Needles over the ridge to Porky again, and tried a big traverse, but it went nowhere in the flats. Hiking, tired, the wind was nuking in the flats for pete's sake! Getting over toward the chutes, the sun came out, and the winds weren't hitting that area for some reason, so I sat under a big old tree in the middle of an untracked low angle slope, ate a bar, drank all of my small water bottle, and even made a call to work.

Booting was good; solid crust under the fresh 6". I missed the chute I wanted to head up, and climbed something with a couple rock bands that would be very difficult to ski. For a fairly small face, it is pretty complicated. Eventually I realized that the skiers had started in the southern of the two east chutes, then jumped over to the other one. Most of this terrain was no steeper than 40 degrees; the upper half of the face where I went is sustained at 45 degrees.

For the upper half, I took a new line to the north of the skiers. What a cool view of the north face! There is a traversing entrance to the "tower" shot, that would be a great belayed cut. Theres another lower entrance that seems to cliff out; maybe a rappel would make it worthwhile. Someone had done the Mt Ogden couloir, and they had pushed down a sluff that propagated into a good-sized slide, running about 500 feet.

I decided to start right off the summit, since I'd never been off the summit of Mt. Ogden before. Going east, the crux of the whole run is about 10 feet from the summit, where there is a meter wide sideways thread, over a steep cliff at the very top of the north face. This is a no-fall zone. The wind was a bit unnerving, but I managed it carefully, then cut on down my chosen line. I was a bit concerned that the intermittent sun would destabilize the new snow. It was about 3:30 PM by now. The worst case would be that it all slid out under my cut, and I was left with the old hard crust to get down. I pushed down some chunks, but it didn't slide, so that was good. Still, I stayed in a sideslip for most of it, not wanting to jump ahead of any rolling chunks. I missed the top of the left chute, and didn't want to jump in where the skiers had, so I put tracks in the untracked bottom of the right chute. This entire side of Mt. Ogden has rock bands and outcrops all over the place, and not all the lines go through; I like hiking up what I plan to come down, or close to it.
Another fine day at the Basin!