Joe St.Onge and Patrick Graham (with assistant guides Toby Citret and Sam Felch) just returned from 4 days in the Pioneer Mountains. The goal of the trip was to teach the skills and techniques used in ski mountaineering and to apply those skills climbing and skiing the spectacular peaks of the Pioneers. This area holds fanatstic opportunties for ski mountainnering, with big peaks (up to 12,000′), large vertical relief (3,000’+ runs), aesthetic mountain features and a cozy yurt in the middle of it all. While we found good to excellent conditions at the mid elevations, the highest peaks were still holding transitional snow that was good for climbing, but a bit challenging for skiing. Long days, great tours/climbs and lots of learning in a beautiful setting made for a fun trip!
Watch out! The interns have gotten ahold of the blog! On Tuesday, nine of Sun Valley Trekkings finest converged on the Redfish Lake parking area to find a not-so-snow-covered road in to the summer trailhead. After a few hours of hauling sleds full of food, beverages, and most importantly chainsaws the few miles (and 1,100 feet up) in to Bench hut, the real work began. Areas of standing dead trees were selected and the saw fairies sprang into action! Amid hoots and hollers, trees fell left and right until a carpet of soon-to-be firewood lay scattered across the isothermic mash-potato snow.
As the sun moved across the sky, the carpet of downed trees that was laying a few hundred yards from the hut was moved, piece by piece to the wood rick, bucked into firewood sized chunks, and stacked in preparation for next years flakes to fall.
By the end of the afternoon and caked with sawdust, the firewood fairies emerged from their chainsaw slinging, log carrying dust cloud to find a full wood rick, a three-inch mat of sawdust, and a case of PBR. Boots were removed to sighs of relief, as the Irish crickets sounded off, making quick work of the beer.
The fairies slept well that night, with visions of peaks and coolers dancing in their heads, for tomorrow was to be a ski day the likes of which have never been seen. Though not a flake fell from the sky that night, Wednesday’s objective was cold dry snow, and with that singular goal in mind, the fairies gladly traded their work-gloves for ski gear, and headed up toward the peaks
Ascending to the 5th Lake Saddle, hopes of cold dry snow became blurry with heat-induced mirages. Glopping skins and beads of sweat made even the surest believers in cold snow doubt their tour plans. And then, with one short traverse and two quick turns, we struck it rich, skier style!!
Looking back at our tracks, eyes moved higher. A pair of coolers towered above us as we began to transition back to climbing mode. Wet, crusty glop turned to dry, fluffy powder as we ascended up into the confines of the coolers, and one by one each skier had his turn to enjoy the fruits of his gravity-fighting labors.
Amid hoots and cries, the cooler and runout were completely shralped, harvested of their majestic white blankness in favor of deep arcing turns. Another transition and climb back up brought the group to a turning point, and the decision was made to divide and
conquer ski. Three of the interns and Patrick opted to attempt the Heyburn Cooler, while Joe and two others decided that the original cooler still needed more shralping. More bootpacking, heavy breathing, and jaw-dropping views, found us transitioning back to downhill mode.
And just like that, we reached the lake, and prepared ourselves for a downhill battle with the late afternoon isothermic snowpack that stood between us and the hut.
One of the lesser known products of these woodcuts are fairly large piles of “slash” that aren’t wood-stove-worthy, and what’s a firewood fairy to do but put flame to flammables, sit back, and enjoy a nice little campfire.
Again, sleep evaded no-one that night, and after an early morning of cleaning and buffing out the hut, the fairies were on their way to Fishhook Yurt for more chainsaw slinging and log hauling.
With full wood ricks at both Bench and Fishhook, the firewood fairies deemed their job complete, and, the next morning, headed back to the trailhead, satisfied that yet another winter could be shared with so many, around a roaring wood stove.
The Firewood Fairies