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Bouldering in Bishop

Rock climbing in Happy Boulders in Bishop, CA with Nik, Trevor, and Jill on Sunday, November 6, 2016. Photo by Kiffer Creveling.

The time has come for regular climbers to plan their annual fall trips. With Utah getting cold fast, your best bet is to look elsewhere for thrilling climbs. One place I’ve taken to venturing to is Mount Whitney in Bishop, California.

If you have not, Mount Whitney is the highest summit in the contiguous 48 states, standing at 14,505 feet, and it is located one hour south of Bishop, California. The drive is long if you’re coming from Salt Lake City, about eight hours if you go through Nevada, so make sure to have some playlists ready. After reaching the Nevada-California border, you’ll begin to see some of the highest mountain peaks in the lower 48. They are crested with white snow and sit atop the horizon. The best place I recommend stopping for food is at Erick Schat’s Bakery for fresh Dutch bread and treats before heading out to the camping spot known as the Pit. Of course, you should make sure you already have supplies for your climbing expedition.

The Pleasant Valley Pit Campground, located 8 miles west of Bishop on Highway 395 is the perfect campground and is relatively inexpensive. The cost will set you back $14 per night with a maximum stay of up to 60 days. That is, if your body can handle that long of a trip. The view from the Pit is stunning. You’ll fall asleep directly under the stars while looking at Mount Tom, which towers over you at 13,652 feet. Most of the fellow campers in the Pit are also climbers looking to either boulder or climb in the Gorge.

Rock climbing in Happy Boulders in Bishop, CA with Nik, Trevor, and Jill on Sunday, November 6, 2016. Photo by Kiffer Creveling.

Owens River Gorge, about 11 miles north of the Pleasant Valley Campground, is the perfect place to work sport climbing routes. With over 577 climbing routes, including both sport and traditional, the possibilities are endless. I recommend heading to a few routes in the Holy Trinity crag in the Upper Gorge. Routes range from 5.9 to 5.12 with excellent protection. The routes will almost be shaded from the daytime sun since they run next to the river in the gorge. Pick Pocket, 5.11a, was my favorite route. It is easily noticeable because of the specific chalk holds that have marked the path up to the bolts 60 feet off the ground. Other notable climbs in this area that are a must are Triple Play cliff, great for warm ups, and Gorgeous Towers, awesome crack climbing, especially on Wacked Scenario 5.10b. You will absolutely love this crack.

After you’ve finished climbing in the gorge, head back up to your car and drive north to take a dip in the Crab Cooker hot spring 20 miles northwest. The Crab Cooker is located on your way to Mammoth, a classic California ski resort in the Inyo National Forest. The hot springs have adjustable temperature settings with a wrench to turn the valve. Once you’ve relaxed in the hot spring, head back to camp and catch some shut-eye before bouldering the next day in the Happy Boulders area.

When you wake up the following morning, get a well-rounded breakfast and head due east about 4 miles to the Happy Boulders for another exciting day of climbing. The only bouldering I had done prior to this trip in Bishop, California, was in a Salt Lake City gym. After bouldering outside in Bishop, I finally understand the desire to boulder — it is so much more fun to be outside with friends, climbing on real rock. The thing about bouldering is that there are so many different routes to climb it is unbelievable. In the Happy Boulders area alone, there are 481 marked routes. One climb I would put down for the record books is Monkey Hang V3, which starts out with an unbelievable Gaston hold, a technique where you push against holds instead of pulling on one to gain leverage, and a foot hold. While keeping your hands placed on the starting hold, you swing your body around to latch your feet on the top edge of the boulder. Once they have been placed, carefully reposition your body to mantle (a move where you push and flop like a beached whale) up over the lip to finish the route. You will be breathing heavily after completing this route, but you will feel like a champion once reaching the top.

Rock climbing in Owen’s River Gorge near Bishop, CA with Nik, Trevor, Jill, Felix, and Kristen on Saturday, November 5, 2016. Photo by Kiffer Creveling.

As always, climb with friends in case of an emergency, and remember to take the proper equipment such as sun screen, clothing, and food. Document your adventure with a camera and tell others about the awesome area in Bishop. On your drive back home, I suggest stopping by Erick Schat’s Bakery for some cinnamon pull-apart bread to enjoy in celebration.

k.creveling@wasatchmag.com

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Beginners’ guide to skiing and snowboarding

Living in Utah, you should already know that the winter season is a big deal. If you were like me growing up, I never saw the middle school skiing/snowboarding program, Snow Blitz, appealing as a young tween. Wearing layers upon layers of snow attire and falling down a mountainside didn’t sound fun, and the expense was unattainable — until now. Even though I’m interested now, I must warn you, the falling doesn’t stop. Which leads me to the first of many tips when you begin to learn how to ski or snowboard — get used to falling, but before you start falling, you’ll need the gear for it.

Gear

Buying skiing and snowboarding gear right off the bat can be quite the commitment and can start at $600 and easily reach into the thousands.

Luckily, if you’re a student at the University of Utah, you’ll find the cheapest rentals rates in the state at the Student Life Center. Pro tip: you don’t need to be a student to rent from the university, but you can get 20 percent off the already cheap rates if you bring your UID. You can rent a basic skiing and/or snowboarding package, which includes skis/snowboard, bindings, boots, and poles (if skiing). You can also rent a coat and snow pants. The staff is there to help you get fitted, teach you proper gear technique, and you can store all this information for future reference. While the U would be the cheapest and easiest rental place, there are places all over Utah you can rent gear from like Ski N’ See & ARCS, which offers discount lift passes if you rent from them.

What you’ll need:

  • Beanie
  • Helmet
  • Goggles
  • Gloves
  • Coat
  • Snow pants/overalls
  • Layers
  • Boots
  • Bindings
  • Skis/snowboard
  • A snowy mountain

Lift Passes

Lift passes are the other expensive part of this hobby. As a beginner, no one wants to dish out $400+fon a season pass, but it can be pricey paying by day. Brighton Ski Resort is a great place to begin. If you can handle the cold, single day evening passes at Brighton are your best bet. While single full day passes allow you to ride from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and start at approximately about $82, night passes start at about $47, allowing you to ride from 4-9 p.m.

Though it can get rather cold and dark, night riding is a great time to learn since there are less people around. While a seasonal night pass to Brighton Ski Resort is only $319-$419, a seasonal day pass can range from $599 to $750. The best part of Brighton is the promotional offers it runs during the season. You can always find promotional deals on night riding like “2 for 1” rides or a discounted night pass if you bring canned goods during their food drive. Find the entire list of promotional deals on night riding and lessons on the Brighton webpage.To do it right, you need lessons.

Lesson

Once you have your gear and a pass, it’s time to hit the slopes.

If you don’t have a patient enough friend, adult lessons will help develop your skills. While you have the option between group lessons or private, you will learn skills and techniques to help ride more of the mountain while having fun with other riders. Keep in mind; resorts, like Alta, are for skiers only, so instructors may not know how to teach you how to snowboard. While lessons can range from $50 to $100+, Brighton offers the cheapest skiing/snowboarding lessons starting at $55 for a night lesson. Remember, safety first. I highly suggest not trying to teach yourself how to ski or snowboard as it can be fairly dangerous without proper skills and technique.

Tips

  • Don’t compare yourself to anyone else on the slopes.
  • Helmets are cool; wear one.
  • Skiers, don’t cross your tips.
  • Always keep your knees bent, but not too bent.
  • Wear proper winter clothing. Do not wear cotton (it absorbs and holds water, making you colder).
  • Save money on gas by using your pass as a ticket for public transportation.
  • Snowboarders, there are such things as butt pads.
  • Look for promotional deals.
  • Bandanas/masks make a big difference in keeping warm.
  • Your boots should be snug, but still have enough room for when your feet swell.
  • Have fun, but safety first.

a.duong@wasatchmag.com

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A Day in the Life of a Wasatch Urban Ranger

Have you ever heard of the Wasatch Front Urban Ranger program at the University of Utah? I bet you haven’t. Most people wish they had known sooner once they learn about the important work the folks involved do.

This program began in 2015 to advocate for trail users and land resources of the Jordan River Trail and the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. The Rangers, who are U students, patrol these trails while completing a variety of tasks: talking to users to collect data about their experiences on the trail, picking up trash, reporting any graffiti or maintenance problems, and even handing out treats to dogs and humans alike.

The Rangers start off their patrol by recruiting one other U student. At least once a week, Rangers complete about a three-hour patrol on one of the two trails — the Jordan River Trail, which is patrolled from about 200 South to 3900 South, and the Bonneville Shoreline trail, which is patrolled from Utah’s Hogle Zoo to Dry Creek. Rangers carry an assortment of items in their backpacks which include dog treats, gloves, and first aid kits, so they can be ready to pull noxious weeds or deal with small trail accidents. The Rangers also have access to the Gaia GPS app so they can track places that need trail maintenance.

In the program’s annual report for the 2016-17 school year, rangers reported 548 maintenance issues and removed 807 pounds of litter on the two trails. That is no small feat.

Urban Rangers out on the trail. Photo by Sierra Marty.

The data collected by the Rangers is meant to make a difference and is sent to important agencies like the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Jordan River Commision, Campus Security, Red Butte Garden, and the United States Forest Service.

This year, the program is lead by three guys in the Parks, Recreation, and Tourism department: Nick Rushford, Nate Furman, and Jeff Rose. However, students do not have to be majoring in PRT to join the team or volunteer; you can be studying anything.

These Wasatch Rangers aren’t paid for their time. This project is entirely service correlated, but what better service project is there than getting to walk on a trail and have a good time making it a good time for others? Essentially, anyone can be their own Urban Ranger. Have you ever picked up trash on your way out on a trail? Have you ever had the unfortunate experience of having a bike tire popped by puncturevine, a nasty weed that has mace-like seeds? Then you might be a good fit for this program. Anyone who loves the outdoors and is looking for service hours can volunteer to go on a patrol — general inquiries to UrbanRanger@utah.edu or call (801) 581-8542.

s.marty@wasatchmag.com

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Bindings—A Ski for all Reasons

How do you pick the right pair of bindings for your skis? There are so many variations of bindings available that it’s difficult to find the right pair just for you. You can listen to vendors describe the intricate details of why their bindings are better than their competitors, but it all boils down to one simple concept –— bindings are used to attach your skis to your boots. With this in mind, there are three categories of ski bindings: alpine, alpine touring, and telemark bindings. With these bindings, it is important to know what type of ski boot you are using, because there is no ski boot that fits all three.

The first step to choosing a new pair of bindings is determining what type of skier you are. If you prefer to ski exclusively in resorts and on groomed trails, then alpine bindings are the right choice for you. These bindings are designed for skiers who are learning how to get down the mountain to Olympic skiers who race down mountains at freeway speeds. These bindings have a release setting based on your skill level and weight. This setting is known as the DIN of your bindings. Generally, the higher the DIN setting, the better or heavier a skier you are.

If you are a more experienced skier who is looking to transition from waiting in long lift lines to making the first tracks down the mountain after a recent storm, then alpine touring (AT) bindings will fit your needs. These bindings are designed to release from the heel and pivot to about the toe to mimic the motion of cross country skis. Alpine touring bindings are used for scaling mountain sides with the ability to transform back into a downhill ski. There are two main types of alpine touring bindings: frame AT and tech AT bindings. Frame AT bindings will work with your normal alpine boots, whereas tech AT bindings need special boots that only work with tech bindings. The main difference between these two types of bindings are the weight savings, tech bindings being much lighter than frame ones. If you are a veteran backcountry skier, the tech boots and bindings are the best way to go. If you are just getting into backcountry skiing and are looking to save a penny or two (or a couple hundred dollars), then frame AT bindings are the best option. Both types of bindings will get you to some of the best, untouched powder available.

If you are the type of person who’s looking for a challenge and wants to look good while doing it, then telemark bindings are the best choice. These bindings allow for a novel type of skiing that mixes downhill and cross country skiing. The toe is connected to the ski, but the heel is free the whole time. This is unlike AT bindings, where the heel is free for the ascent, but then clips in for the descent. You have to change your style of skiing because you are essentially making a lunge motion down the mountain. While elegant to watch, just know that telemark skiers love to work their legs to exhaustion in an already tiring sport. Only telemark boots will work with telemark bindings. The range of motion allowed by the combination of the boot and the binding allows you to make these dynamic maneuvers.

In summary, think about what type of skier you want to be this season before purchasing a new pair of bindings. Look at your boot inventory and decide which bindings will be compatible with them. Once you have made all of these decisions, mount your bindings to your skis. Have a professional set your DIN release setting, then get on the mountain and ski.

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

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A Gem in the Pacific Northwest

In southwestern Oregon, amid rolling hills of vineyards and proud forests of ponderosa pine trees, is Crater Lake National Park, the remnants of the former Mount Mazama Volcano that erupted over 7,700 years ago.

Crater Lake NP is Oregon’s singular National Park and with every passing year its popularity increases. Just last year, a recordbreaking 756,344 people visitors to the park had a chance to take in its gorgeous vistas.

Crater Lake owns the accolade of being the deepest lake in the U.S., and that’s not the only thing that makes it unique. If not for precipitation, the lake would be a giant hole in the earth, devoid of any moisture, as there are no inlets or outlets to the lake. This is also the reason for the lake’s existence, as that lack and its location in the rainy Pacific Northwest ensures that the water remains. For an average of eight months out of the year the park is covered in snow; during the other four months rainy days are frequent. When I visited at the end of July, there was still snow covering mountain tops as well as trails that led to higher elevations.

Don’t let this deter you, the rain and snowfall only serve to enhance the park’s beauty. When the sun shines across the lake, the translucent blue water practically sparkles as it contrasts with the lush green and brown forests that surround it. In the middle of the lake sits Wizard Island, the volcanic cinder cone standing as a reminder of how this piece of earth looked so many thousands of years ago.

What to do

There are many wonderful ways to take in the views around this lake, including a boat tour out to Wizard Island and summiting its mountain peak, a spectacular way to see the lake and watch the water as it surrounds you. These tours are $41 for adults, and $27 for children.

If a relaxing scenic drive is more your thing, though, you’re in luck: The park offers a trolley that provides a 2-hour tour and travels the entirety of the rim trail. The ride comes complete with a park ranger to answer all your questions and educate you on the history of Crater Lake. The trolley is also much more affordable than the boat tour, starting at $17 for children and ending at $27 for adults.

Last but not least, for those that like to go it alone there are a plethora or hiking and biking trails to choose from. Occasionally parts of the rim trail are closed to motor vehicles to allow bikers more space for themselves. This year those days will be Saturday, September 9th, and Saturday, September 16th. There are 16 different hiking trails with an almost equal selection of easy, moderate and difficult trails.

Fishing and swimming is allowed on certain parts of the lake, and from Monday-Saturday there are ranger talks, hikes and other activities to participate in.

How to prepare

If you plan on visiting Crater Lake soon, it’s best to make reservations ahead of time. As the popularity of the park increases it’s becoming ever more difficult to find lodging. There are 111 rooms total to be found at the two hotels inside the park, Crater Lake Lodge and The Cabins at Mazama Village, and campers have 230 sites to choose from at either Mazama or Lost Creek campgrounds. Backcountry camping permits can also be obtained in person, on the intended day of camping and free of charge, for backpackers that want to get away from the crowds.

As the number of visitors to Crater Lake National Park steadily climbs each year, this caldera lake becomes increasingly recognizable as a gem in the Pacific Northwest, and an icon of the always amazing creations of Mother Earth.

e.aboussou@wasatchmag.com

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Beyond The Mighty Five

Many Utah folk try to enjoy the outdoors. If you’re among them, you’re likely either a part of the classic motor-tourist family, or you’re a semi-adventurous backroad traveler. If you identify with the former, you cram your trunk and zoom off across I-15, I-70, or some other highway to join the crowds craning their necks up in Zion, strolling along the canyon at Bryce, or waiting in line for their picture under a sweeping ceiling of stone in Arches. If you fit in with the latter, you might hit the backroads of Capitol Reef to stop in Cathedral Valley or brave the heat of Canyonlands to see The Needles. Either way, more likely than not, your itinerary will begin and end with the Mighty Five.

Amazingly enough, Utah’s wilderness extends past the borders of its five famous national parks. While they are a sight to see, and worth many full days of exploration in their own right, confining your itinerary to include only those parks means you’ll miss out on everything else our piece of the Wild West has to offer. Fortunately, there is another, less popular contingent of public lands endorsed by the Department of the Interior. They are our national monuments, and Utah is home to eight of them.

Cedar Breaks National Monument. Photo by Esther Aboussou.

National monuments are not quite national parks, though they are often confused. Parks are designed to inspire awe and wonder in their visitors by showcasing some of the country’s most spectacular natural features. Generally, monuments are smaller than parks, by at least about 2,500 acres. Monuments are far more specific; instead of highlighting a general region, like Zion Canyon or Yosemite Valley, they protect a specific resource for historical, scientific, or recreational use. They can be as small as a few blocks or as large as a couple million acres depending on how large the resource is. Monuments are typically less established than parks and see fewer visitors, meaning it is far easier to find a trail without tourists.

Dinosaur National Monument, which straddles the Utah-Colorado border, is home to one of the densest collections of dinosaur bones found anywhere. Since its founding, the 80-acre park has expanded to well over 200,000 acres and now encompasses vistas and canyons as stunning as anything found in Canyonlands. The best way to see the park is to imitate the late John Wesley Powell (the legendary, one-armed figure who first mapped the Grand Canyon) and raft from the Tolkein-esque Gates of Lodore to Echo Park along the Green River. These are undoubtedly the two most stunning areas of the park, and are both a long, circuitous drive on 4×4 roads, making a raft the best option.

Bears Ears is also on the list of historic marvels. The monument derives its name from a pair of buttes that distinctively mark a section in the area. The 1.35 million acres protects so many historically important aspects, listing them is nothing short of tedious. On the short list, there’s Alkali Ridge, Hole-in-the-Rock trail, Grand Gulch, Big Westwater Ruin, and many more–as that’s not even mentioning the deep traditional and cultural significance five different native tribes attribute to the land. Most of the protected area is undeveloped. The intent of the monument is preservation of these historic spots, not exploitation for recreation.

Up farther north, near Lehi, Timpanogos Cave sits under the shadow of its namesake mountain. This monument has no giant lizard bones or ancient villages, but the underground caverns are so fantastic, dragons would nest there if they ever existed. Follow a ranger on a guided tour through any of the three caves and be dazzled by the alien, underground world. To kill a day or two afterwards, you may as well hike Mt. Timpanogos, the second tallest peak in the Wasatch range.

While the weather is still nice, be sure to spend plenty of time exploring the largest of all the U.S. national monuments, Grand Staircase-Escalante. The monument’s 1.8 million acres encompass three main areas: The Grand Staircase, a haven of scientific knowledge uncovered by a unique erosion process; Kaiparowits Plateau, a massive geologic wonder extending all the way to Lake Powell; and the Canyons of Escalante, a canyoneer’s ultimate playground.

The next two of Utah’s monuments are also best explored in tepid weather, and oddly enough, by car. Monument Valley, more widely known as the place where Forrest Gump stopped his famous “run,” sits on the southern bord

A tree at Cedar Breaks National Monument. Photo by Esther Aboussou.

er, extending into Arizona. Go at night, find a spot that will allow you to comfortably face your tent east, and wake with the sun to one of the most classically western views in the world. Natural Bridges is famous for its very uncommon and non-classical views of rock bridges, as the name implies. Drive the loop around the monument and be sure to check out some of the largest natural bridges in the world. It’s like a mini Arches with a fraction of the visitors.

When the weather finally does turn, head just a few miles outside of Brian Head to check out Cedar Breaks. Reminiscent of Bryce Canyon, the monument has a ranger cabin open during the winter months to greet you with a warm fire and cup of cocoa. Grab your cross country skis or snowshoes and trek out for a true winter adventure to one of the state’s most gorgeous canyons.

National monuments are an explorer’s chance to dig deep into the historic, geologic, and cultural wonders of our land. They preserve those places which heighten our legacy and preserve our heritage. They remind us of days past, when creatures five times our size roamed, or when settlers ten times our imagination travelled. They inspire us with their deep canyons and expansive views, and lift our souls to see the most beautiful aspects of the natural world. They set the foundation for a huge part of Utah’s economy by establishing four of our state’s beloved Mighty Five. They are as integral to our country as any national park, and should be protected, explored, and loved.

n.halberg@wasatchmag.com

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