Lonely, Frozen National Park

Last week my buddy Mark and I headed to Great Basin National Park to ski Wheeler Peak. The skies were stormy around Park City and the lightning show continued as we headed past Delta, into the middle of nowhere. Nobody goes to Wheeler Peak so the information was limited on snow conditions. Upon arriving to the trail head at Upper Lehman Creek Campground (7750ft) we were greeted to a nice graupel storm and the peaks were engulfed in stormy clouds. Things were looking good.

We had to hike to the snow before we could start skinning and lightening our loads. It was approximately 1 mile on dirt trail before we hit continuous snow. From there, the route was fairly straight forward to reach the upper campground area at 10,000ft. There was about 18-24” of snow on the ground at 10,000ft and coverage was looking good. That area of the world gets hammered with wind so the mountains actually have less snow above tree line than below. Up high, its only snow in the gullies and chutes. Everywhere else is a frozen lunar landscape.

The storm was in progress when we reached the upper basin so we searched for a nice sheltered spot in the trees to camp. Our view of the peaks was limited but the extra protection was worth the trade off. I’d suggested using a tarp/dugout setup for our shelter and it turned into quite the process in the snow and wind. We got it set up but we both experienced nice “wet tarp to the face” effects through the night. The next night it was fixed and luxurious!

The morning brought more grey skies and slightly warming temperatures. It was enough for the 4” of new snow to begin getting gloppy and made for some difficult skinning out of camp. Once above tree line, the skinning to the peak became much easier! We switched to boot packing the upper section on the frozen, rimed moonscape. It was foggy, windy and somewhat of a magical landscape at 13,000ft. We waited for about an hour at the summit, in the fog, waiting for a break. Wait for it….it never happened. So we skied from the summit, stepping on rocks and side stepping a lot, in the fog. And down into the fog. Finally it broke up a little as we skied a chute of dense, creamy graupel powder. I’m not sure if we laid the first tracks of the season or not but it is quite the feeling to ski where there are no people for miles around

The next day brought bright blue skies and a warm April sun! Bam! We decided to head up near our path from the day before and get some more of the good skiing in the chutes. Heading from camp, I was treated to the worst gloppy snow and sticky skins I’ve ever experienced. Time for some skin wax? My day was pretty much over for skiing at that point so I chilled and watched Mark ski 2 lines in great conditions. I was sitting in the shade since the sun is INTENSE at that elevation!!

Camp was packed up quickly and the dreaded ski out with full packs was ahead. It was a nice way to knock out about 2 miles but the rotten snow finally beat me. Shoes were put on and the trail was found easily. 1 mile later, we were eating some premade gourmet burritos and a nice tall beer

As for the photos, I didn’t take as many shots on my DSLR as I thought I would due to the conditions. I used my P&S for many of the posted images and I’m actually pretty happy with the images. It was a different experience shooting with the small camera as opposed to setting up a tripod, focus, exposure, filters. I was semi forced to do so because of the nature of the trip. I simply didn’t have a lot of time to truly photograph the place. I focused more on our adventure. The last thought about the images took me awhile to understand. I edited my photos, saving the ones I want to post, and opened the folder to all black & white images. This was not intentional, to only shoot B&W, but I edited the images how I saw them and that was the result! Enjoy a different side of my photography EE

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9 thoughts on “Lonely, Frozen National Park

    • The ski season is winding down at the resorts now. You can hike and ski for several more months though. Skinning means putting climbing skins on your skis. They have small hairs angled back that allow your ski to not slide back. The heel of the binding then unlocks allowing you to walk (skin) uphill. It’s very efficient and great exercise!!

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  1. I love your photos. I started backcountry skiing Utah Valley this past season. Already itching for the next season. Good luck on all your new adventures! I look forward to seeing them. – Sharyn

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