The early season here in the Wasatch Mountains of Northern Utah has been STELLAR! The amount of backcountry pow the last month has been dreamy. In addition, Solitude, our first resort of the year is poised to open on the 8th.
Things are going great here and now is one of the most exciting times to start picking off big lines. We are typically spoiled with superb access for all backcountry zones in our area so many times we are skinning from the car and skiing to the car. However early season poses some logistical challenges to add to the spice.
Yesterday’s line choice was Country Lane Chute. I choose this line since I knew that Main Chute across the road at Alta had been getting skied for a couple weeks and Country Lane is a very similar aspect. In addition I also knew no one had skied it yet this season. Country lane is about 1500 vertical feet of skiing with about 1200 of that in the chute. It is also a very committing line no matter the time of the year as there are many rock slabs above the confined chute that continually sluff large quantities of snow on to unsuspecting skiers booting up. Besides getting sluffed out being in the back of our heads the challenges of even getting in the line remained strong.
Access to the chute in the early season is always No Bueno. Yesterday was no different as we strapped on our crampons and gripped our ice axes firmly. The steep rocky cliffs below the line are always seeping water and with the cold temps we had a couple inches of snow on a couple inches of poorly bonded ice to contend with.
Conditions in the chute were all time and well worth the hazards of the approach and ascent. It was fairly obvious as we started the slog up the chute we were in for a treat. The waist deep snow from the last couple storms had stayed very well preserved and was reassuringly stable as there are always a couple accidents a season on this line.
After down climbing the ice flows we came across the worst part of the day, skiing back through the apron of Mount Superior and her peppery goodness of shark fins every 2 feet. Before long though this apron will be filled in with storm snow and avalanche debris from the hazards above.
If you ever have an opportunity to get in this line take it, but be aware of the hazards that are always present here. Country Lane is ranked in the Top 10 Chutes in the Wasatch so your efforts and waiting for safe conditions won’t go unrewarded.