Wasatch Dispatch: Lisa Falls

John Solder | BackcountryBackcountry
photo: E. Johnson

This past weekend was one for the books all across the Wasatch. People were getting after it! Lots of classic lines went down (hypodermic needle, Y-couloir) and even some of the once in a wild-hair line (Medusa face, yikes). But we had the big mama in mind, the most vert you can ski in the Wasatch, Lisa Falls.

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Lisa Falls. credit: Google Earth

Clocking in at ~5000 feet of skiing, this line has been on my mind for a long time. Starting right from the top of Salt Lake Twin, Lisa Falls is more than just a couloir. It is it’s own whole world dropping down to the Little Cottonwood road. Seriously, it is a huge drainage back there that you just never see otherwise.

South facing big lines always start early. Even in February. So before the crack, Evan, Jeremy, and I hit the old dusty ski track and started making our way up. We decided to go the steeper more direct route from Little Cottonwood, skinning and booting our way up another classic line, just so we could drop off the other side.

photo: J. Solder

Just as it was starting to warm-up and we were enjoying ourselves, the north wind starting chewing on us as we topped out. We quickly transitioned and skied a nice 1200 feet of creamy wind buff. As the cold set in, we didn’t want to waste any time and started back up again, moving toward our ultimate goal.

photo: J. Solder

With the bitter cold, we kept moving at a steady pace and soon were back in the blessed sunlight. After a quick refuel and pondering what to do next, we started heading up to the spicy part of the climb. The rock slab was looking steep and, more than that, covered in rime. Not wanting to jingle-jangle down a rock face, we opted to traverse out and boot up a more direct couloir to re-gain the ridgeline. We didn’t quite avoid all the fun though and had to do some steep traversing boot kicks to get where we wanted to be.

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photo: J. Theisen
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photo: E. Johnson

With a few last steps, we finally topped out to a heck of a view and a long descent at our feet. The snow at the top left us wondering how we were going to get down 5000 feet of this. Variable wind board, soft slab, and punchy conditions in the first pitch and we all had the same look on our face, “ah s**t”.

But we made the best of it by taking short leg-burning sections looking for smooth turns. And after a while, things got better, then good, and before we knew it we were skiing incredible warm powder on the east aspects and cold dry powder on the west side. Now the smiles were out in force.

photo: J. Solder
photo: J. Solder

Down and down and down, the slope just kept going as we worked back and forth looking for good snow and fun features to play on. The run would gully up for a bit with steep rock walls, just to open up again to another beautiful apron. It is hard to express just how fun this line was!!

photo: J. Theisen

Finally, we get down to the technical part of the descent: waterfalls. Yes, multiple, it is called Lisa Falls for a reason. We are able to work around the sides for a while until finally, we get to where the ropes have to come out. Another group is there with us and we do some back and forth before they decided to look for the sneak route, while we yard on some branches and start digging in our dead man’s anchor.

Just as we are starting to get ready to bury our 1″ thick branches, our friends pop out the bottom. Since it was one of the parties first ski rappel, and he was not stoked on the concept of buried sticks, I sucked up little girl whines about not wanting to hike anymore and we started up the sneaky boot pack.

Turns out, the sneak was a short walk but a long and hairy tips and tails side-slip across rocks. All right above the waterfall, we were trying to avoid. Downclimbing on skis is easy, right?

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photo: J. Solder

Quite a few shenanigans later, we are past the main obstacle. But we have more to go. Falls, remember? Thankfully the next features are comparatively easy with boulder hopping, straight lines, some sidestepping, and lots of bush grabbing.

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photo: J . Solder

Finally, we push out to the road and gratefully drop our gear at the car. Looking back up we could see where we came from and hollered out in joy and exhaustion. What a beautiful monster. Now, where are those beers?

photo: J. Theisen

– Photo Tour – 

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photo: E. Johnson
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photo: E. Johnson
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photo: J. Theisen
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photo: E. Johnson
photo: E. Johnson
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photo: E. Johnson
photo: E. Johnson
photo: our homie up top
photo: E. Johnson
photo: E. Johnson
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photo: E. Johnson
photo: J. Theisen
photo: J. Theisen
photo: J. Theisen
photo: J. Solder
photo: J. Theisen
photo: J. Solder
photo: J. Solder
photo: J. Solder
photo: J. Solder
photo: J. Solder

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