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| | |-+  Jan 17 - 20 2008, Tiffany and Rock Mtns
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Author Topic: Jan 17 - 20 2008, Tiffany and Rock Mtns  (Read 1724 times)

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Jan 17 - 20 2008, Tiffany and Rock Mtns
« on: 01/29/08, 10:24 AM »

Roy was putting together a snowmobile / ski trip to Tiffany Mountain. James and I became his co-conspirators.  Arriving in Winthrop mid-day on Thursday Jan 17, we drove up the East Chewack River Road to the Boulder River Sno-Park. There are over 100 miles of groomed snowmobile trails in this area following forest service roads. We had two snowmobiles plus a sled to haul in all the gear we would need for 4 days. It was approximately 13 miles to Freezeout Pass 6520' and another several miles beyond to the 6800' Tiffany Spring Campground and the base of our operations. Shortly after leaving the Sno-Park Roy and James startled two bull moose which ran ahead of the snowmobiles for a quarter mile before pealing off into the forest. Day one mostly involved getting organized and set up.

James and I were in one tent, Roy was in another. At 5:40 in the morning we could hear Roy outside getting the stoves started. The plan was to take one snowmobile back to Freezeout Pass where we would begin our ascent. There was a nice drop in elevation from the campsite before the climb to the pass so James and I headed out on skis ahead of Roy. With ropes he would then haul us up to the pass like water skiers being pulled behind a boat. That was the plan...

We could hear the snowmobile coming and then it got quiet. Why was that we thought. Eventually Roy came strolling up the road, skis in his arms. The snowmobile had quit and would not start. We had a mountain to climb so dealing with snowmobile issues would have to wait. Attaching skins to the bases of our skis, we began the slog up to Freezeout Pass.

From the pass we followed the Freezeout Ridge trail and the beautiful low angled SW ridge toward the summit of Tiffany. While I waited at the pass for Roy, James went ahead. The last I'd seen Roy he was talking about the snowmobile and his worries about it. He stated that he wasn't moving real well and if we didn't see him again he'd be back working on it. After waiting for a while it appeared that Roy was not coming. I followed James' tracks into the forest. The tracks angled across the slope until they hit the ridge proper at tree line where James was waiting. From here the views really began to open up.

Conditions were great for skinning up and the thin overcast of the early morning had given way to blue skies and sunshine.  I didn't even put on a jacket when we stopped for a snack. We kept looking down the ridge for Roy but did not see him. It got a bit breezy higher up and downright windy and cold by the time we reached the 8245 foot summit. Near the top we traversed across the west face to the north weaving our way though many rocky areas. Eventually we skied across the summit ridge from North to South. The great views made up for the wind and the chill in the air. I was glad for my thermos full of hot tea.

It was hard to avoid all the rocks near the summit and our skis got a bit nicked up as we descended. After skiing a few hundred feet down the steeper part of the mountain, James pointed out a figure making his way up the ridge. Roy was coming after all. In minutes we skied down to him and devised a plan. James would ski back to camp and get the good snowmobile while I would ski back up Tiffany with Roy.

This time we stayed on the south side of the mountain until we hit the highpoint. I was so glad Roy had continued. In his 80th year, he is always an inspiration to me. After more photos it was time for another downhill run. Roy had a few mishaps (okay, falls) on the descent that worried me, but with each fall came a renewed determination... Tiffany is a fun ski route, nothing too difficult and no real avalanche danger. Just a fun ski run. After descending from the pass James was waiting for us with the good snowmobile. After some frustrating non-fruitful work on Roy's machine, we headed back to Tiffany Spring Campground.

The next day we decided, if nothing else, that we would haul out the disabled machine on the sled. James would stay in the backcountry and we would return later in the day. Originally we'd planned to climb Rock Mtn near our camp on Saturday. I asked James to see if he could figure out the route and we would do it under the brilliant moon light upon our return.

A couple other helpful snowmobilers helped up get the belt off Roy's machine so that it could simply be dragged out by our other machine. So we dragged one machine by the other followed by the sled with other unnecessary gear followed by me on my skis being hauled with a ski rope. To get over the pass, we had to make two trips because their was simply too much weight to haul. The disabled snowmobile went up on one trip and I went up with the sled in the second trip.

After getting back to the Sno-Park it was a lot of work getting  the snowmobile up onto the trailer. We used a come-along and a lot of effort to get the machine hauled up into place. After getting more gas and some lunch we headed back to the Sno-Park and made our way toward camp with me again being hauled by a tow rope. Going downhill hadn't been so bad but going in mostly uphill for 15 miles made my arms and shoulder a bit sore. We got back to camp about 4:30 PM and just before 5 PM, James and I were in route for Rock Mountain. Roy had had enough for one day and would relax in camp.

The moon shined brightly through thin overcast and intermittent snow showers. Much of the forest in this area has been burned and it was a mystical experience skiing through dark trees casting dark shadows across the snow covered forest. The higher we got the more windy it became. There had been and inch or more of snow during the day and the snow was now blowing into our faces. I tried my ski goggles at one point but it was too dark. Snow appeared to be falling as well but we could still see the moon.

The flat forest soon gave way to the NW ridge of Rock Mountain. The ridge started out very wide but narrowed before eventually giving way to a huge dome shape. In the darkness it was hard to tell whether the snow stinging our faces was freshly falling or whether is was simply surface snow being blow. It was windy and inhospitable but in a weird way it was very enjoyable. The moon and the snow were bright enough that we never used headlamps. On the summit is a forest service repeater and a very large rock cairn.

The ski descent was a very unique experience unlike anything I've ever done. The wind died once we got to tree line, a few snow flurries hung in the air and the moonlight brightened. Open tree skiing by moonlight through the blackened forest was an unearthly experience. The ascent had taken just over 2 hrs from camp and RT just under 4 hrs. A good night's sleep was had by all.

The next morning  there was six inches of freshly fallen snow. James and I hurriedly packed up and then carved up some good turns below camp before being hauled out, water ski style, by Roy. It continued to snow hard a good part of the way out making route finding difficult until we eventually met up with snowmobilers coming the opposite direction...

A special thanks goes to Don Duncan for the use of his snowmobile. Without it we might still be wallowing in the white stuff...

I tried to provide a link to photos but it did not work. It looks like I'll have to learn how to attach the photos to a report... 

Don Beavon
« Last Edit: 01/29/08, 10:51 AM by PJ » Logged
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