Last week in the Wasatch was the warmest week of the year so far and we had gone over a week with no snow, only intense sunny days and cold nights. Last Saturday (4/27) was the perfect recipe for corn. Cold clear night of 29°F and a high of over 50°F with a clear sky. Little Pine Chute was our destination, I had already been shut down on the 3300 vertical foot chute twice this year due to high winds creating dangerous avalanche conditions. This day was different, this day the conditions were prime for strapping on crampons and doing some stair step cardio to the top.
We stepped out of the car and had our boots on by 6am and took advantage of one of the best features of the Wasatch, that being that over 100 avalanche slide paths terminate at or across the road. Park your car and walk across the road and you’re on the snow.
Do to the south facing exposure of our line we had a short 15 minute bushwhack to reach the snow line. From the snow the route to ascend couldn’t be more obvious, straight up. Little Pine is a 3/3 star rating in the book “Chuting Gallery” by Andrew McLean for access and being one of the longest straight shots in all of the Wasatch.
It turned out that we were slightly too ambitious and arrived at the top slightly over 2 hours after we began. The snow was still ice hard and had required us to toe point with crampons the majority of the ascent. Taking the current lack luster conditions in stride we build a bench on the ridge and rested from the grueling ascent.
The top 800 vertical feet Little Pine fans out into a 180° bowl with East, South and West facing aspects. After 90 minutes we hiked the ridge over to inspect the east facing walls, perfect corn. At that point we rushed back down the ridge to retrieve all of our gear and headed back across the knife edge ridge again, toting skis with us this time. After a nearly 1000 foot descent we began the arduous task of climbing back to the ridge, this time on a now warmer and punchy crust on the southern aspect. By the time we were back on top it wasn’t much longer for the southern 3,200 foot aspect to become perfectly ripened corn. This time we skied the entire length of the chute except for a small bottle neck that a wet slide in the previous days had gouged down to rock for 15 feet.
They say the 3rd time is the charm and it seems to be true for Little Pine, one of the best chutes I have ever skied. I’ve bailed on Tanners Gulch 2 times this year as well, but with warmer weather in the forecast again skiing corn in the longest chutes of the Wasatch will soon be a reality again.