I absolutely love the Wasatch Mountains in the spring! The weather has finally turned and the relentless grip of winter has eased. With a successful Pocatello 50 behind me it’s time to do what I love and try to get fit while exploring a mountain landscape than changes by the minute as temperatures increase and snow melts rapidly.
Probably THE best short journey in the Wasatch is a run up the West Slabs of Olympus. It has it all: singletrack, bushwhacking, boulder hopping, a steep snow-field, 1,000′ of 5.5, a brief ridge running section, an unbelievably good glissade dropping nearly 1,900′, and a canyoneering-like river gully descent at the bottom of the Apollo Chute. It is not for the faint of heart, but if you’re comfortable scrambling up easy 5th class quartzite and managing moderately steep snow this is about as good as it gets. The snow-field decent is so good right now that I’m going to try and do it every single day until it’s gone….. and it’s going fast.
Yesterday (6/4/2011) I had been having an incredible day running trails and I wanted to finish it off with this route. Ryan and I had done the route the prior day so I knew exactly what the conditions were like. I ran into a large party on my way up the snow-field (Zeus Chute) as I approached the slabs. The gully is chock-full of snow right now, more so than I’ve ever seen before in June. The large group had started early in the AM and it looked like a guided group, probably Exum. They looked at me like I was crazy in my shorts and running shoes. I thought to myself that they were crazy spoiling such a perfect mountain experience as they schlepped 60 lbs of crap with them. Ice axes, crampons, big boots, hundreds of feet of rope, and packs big enough for an everest expedition. It was 6:30 PM and I was just starting the route; light, simple, and with as few man-made items between me and the ground I was travelling as possible. Exactly how I like it.
I quickly hit the rock and looked down at where they were on the snow-field, about in the middle. I had a strange surge of adrenaline and I made it my goal to summit and descend the Apollo Couloir before they got to their car. I made good time up the slabs as the route was fresh on my mind from the prior day. The ridge was perfect, and no rattle snakes at all, a rare thing in June. Without losing a step I jumped onto my favorite snow field and only a few minutes later was at the bottom of it, some 1,900 vertical feet later. Yesterday Ryan had pointed out that the descent was so fast that you have to equalize your ear pressure while glissading. yee haw.
At the end of the glissade is the river gully section, which I love! I caught and passed the party on the trail out. 1:10 car-to-car. I was giddy all evening. The perfect Wasatch experience and finish to an already amazing day. Life is grand.
On 6/5/2011 I returned and pulled off a 1:01 car-to-car.