Report from Monday, January 23, 2023
The Fantasy Ridge boot pack at Solitude Mountain Resort is just plain gnarly.
It goes up a razor-thin ridgeline with bottomless cliffs on each side.
The margin for error is small.
Cables run alongside the scarier portions of the climb for you to hold on to as you mechanically move your feet up the mountain.
Meanwhile you’re trying your best to not look down.
But the view is pretty nice from up there.
I started the botpack around 12:45 after checking in with Ski Patrol.
I said hi to my buddy Eamon on Patrol, who had probably just got done eating a cheeseburger.
Solitude requires that you check in with Patrol prior to passing through the gate and carry a beacon, shovel, and probe.
The climb commenced.
It was sunny and freezing when I started; there were no clouds in the sky and temperatures were in the single digits.
Good boot packing weather.
With extreme focus I kept my eyes glued on my ski boots as I planted each one in the boot pack’s holes.
Steel cables were latched onto the rocks above the steeper, more exposed sections of the boot pack and I used them.
It was a short walk but it felt as though time stood still.
After about 15 minutes it was all said and done and I was past Fantasy Ridge and on top of Black Bess Peak.
From there I threw some skins on and toured over to Honeycomb Peak.
One my left was Little Cottonwood Canyon and on my right was Big Cottonwood.
Mt. Superior looked glorious, her south face radiating in the sun like a blonde woman’s golden locks.
Once top of Honeycomb Peak, I gazed around at all the possible descent options back into Solitude.
They were all steep and gnarly.
Solitude has some of the steepest inbounds terrain out of any ski area I’ve ever visited.
There were ski tracks down lines I would never have even thought possible, some of them even terminating in hair-raising cliffs that skiers must of aired over.
People here are a different breed.
I set my gaze upon “22:” a classic Solitude Couloir with a long, narrow choke and aesthetic rock walls running its length.
There were two other heads on top of the line with me, watching me drop in as I entered the belly of the beast.
I navigated spicy rocks entering into the chute, which was over 50º at the top.
Past the rocks I made some turns when something happened.
This was not a good place to fall and I used all my chi to stop myself immediately.
A tumble down this steep, rocky descent could prove painful or worse.
I managed to self arrest immediately and was breathing hard.
Time to focus up—no more falls allowed here.
I started skiing again, entering into the choke.
The tight section of the chute lined with chocolate-colored rock walls was tremendously beautiful.
It was a gorgeous, pinner section that I slid and hopped turn down to the best of my ability.
My legs were crying.
After hop turning down the crux the chute opened up into a wider section that was filled with soft sluff debris that skied like fluffy powder.
Exhausted at this point, my skis kept making turns after my mind had long gone blank.
I jumped over a small bergshrund, marking the end of 22. *(If there are bergshrunds in the Wasatch, you know it’s a big snow year.)
It was all over before I even knew it.
I felt like collapsing from exhaustion and glee, but after a short stop I kept on skiing down to the Honeycomb Return Chair.
There I met my dad and from the chair I pointed out the line I had just skied.
His eyes grew wide as dinner plates.