Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sagebrush Mountaineering

Rob, Pete and I ventured out to try our luck on Durrance this morning. For those that don't know, Durrance is the name of the most prominent triangular peak just north of the SNRA Headquarters on the right side of HWY 75. The weather when we left the car at 8:00am was overcast and 14˚. 

We climbed through the sagebrush and followed the typical skin track on the ascent and gained the south ridge, picking our way through the exposed limestone outcrops, tap-dancing on our skins asking them to do more than their fair share on the icy track. As we reached the first of three false summits, the wind began to blast (see clip).

Rob nearing the summit of Durrance. 

We tried to stay on the leeward (south) slope that provided a respite, but it was far too icy from the past week's freeze/thaw cycle. Upon topping out we determined that conditions didn't warrant trekking further out the ridge to shots that are usually worth walking to, peeled our skins and descended into Headquarters Canyon. 

We were more than pleasantly suprised as we took turns skiing the first northeast-facing shot into Headquarters. The top 6" of snow was wind affected but plenty soft enough to carve really fun turns on. As we returned below tree line we attempted to ski the shade lines on the north sides of the tree stands until we bottomed out in the gully above the SNRA. The last 1/4 mile down the canyon was crusty and impossible to ski so we took care to keep our knee tendons intact by carefully traversing and looking for the soft snow that the shade of a lone tree provided to make a jump turn here or there. We reached the road about 2.5 hrs after we left and all agreed that the effort was well worth the reward, granted our expectations were very low! 

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