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The forecast for this weekend didn't really make me want to spend much time outside in the mountains. Gloomy and cold but with little fresh snow. :nononno: So I decided to go to the anti-Wasatch. The Henry Mountains.
The Henry's are really intriguing to me. They were the last range in the lower 48 to be mapped. They are in the middle of nowhere. They have a free range wild buffalo herd. As far as I can tell they really haven't been molested by man. They are supposedly haunted. They are mountains that are seen by many, visted by few.
They are also in the middle of one of the most geologically unique parts of the world. Capitol reef to the West, Canyonlands to the East, Boulder Mountain and Escalante to the South and the San Rafael Swell to the North. All things that come to mind when you think of snowboarding.
I tried to ride there last year in late April but when I got there, there was barely any snow left, so I aborted and hung out at capitol reef. I figured my window to hit it this year was running out so I decided to go for it.
I spent Saturday morning trying to get snowpack info and route beta. Since there are no weather stations there, I tried to use snotel data from Boulder mountain, 30 miles to the SW, and the few TRs on the web to figure out where the snow line was going to be. I figured that there was a 60% chance of decent riding conditions (corn). Good enough for me. At the very least it would be a fun drive on dirt roads in a remote area.
I tried to round up a partner for this last minute adventure but couldn't. I shouldn't have been so honest with my expectations I guess. Oh well. More solitude for me.
I loaded up the truck and headed down to the Goblin Valley area to spend the night.
Sunday was supposed to be sunny and breezy but to that hot. I planned to take my time and get a later start, hoping for softer climbing conditions.
The high country was looking way whiter that it did last year. Good news. Hope I don't have to skin on the road to get to the TH.
The road was rough but not to bad for a pick up. The last 1.5 miles to the TH had intermittent patches of snow that were easy enough to negotiate.
It climbed up the drainage looking like your standard desert environment. Then you drop over a little pass and BOOM! Your in a more traditional mountain setting
I see this stud and his harem hanging out by the TH. Lucky dude. And lucky me. If I get stuck up there I have food for months. Since I brought a gun with me:D
Thirty minutes of dirt hiking on a jeep road and I'm on snow. Ill take it. About a thousand switchback to go.
The terrain varied from huge well spaced Ponderosa to thick aspens and spruces. There was a fire a while back. The burn area was pretty cool.
The aspens, not so cool. There were patches of 1 inch thick by 10 feet tall aspen that would pop op out of no where and get trap you. I got captured more time that I wish to count.
I don't know how it kept happening but it did.
Once I was on the snow I realized it snowed recently. Not from the little storm last night but Im guessing mid week when the LaSals got some. There was 4-6 inches of settled, dry pow in the sheltered areas!
I got disoriented in the thick forest and once it opened up I realized I was on the opposite side of the gully that I wanted to be. Too late to turn back. I'll make my corrections on the ridge.
Once I topped out on Mt Ellen, the views were amazing. Red rock as far as I could see. But I also saw rain to the north which was bad news. The road down low had a lot of clay in it and I was a little worried that if it rained enough, the road would become impassible. I took a few pictures and transitioned, hoping to beat the rain.
The light was kinda funny so my pictures didn't come out as well as I hoped. I Guess you had to be there.
Canyonlands and the LaSals
Capitol Reefs Water Pocket Fold
I chose to ride a NE facing slide path that went for 1500 feet before it joined a few more paths in a gully for another 500 of so feet. It had a perfect aspect the made you feel like you were going to end up in the Colorado river in Canyonlands, with the LaSals as a back drop. I had to look up every few turns to take it in. It might be the most aesthetically pleasing run Ive ever had.
The snow was about 4-6 inches of dry soft settled, but wind damaged powder on top of 3 feet of facets to the ground. It rode great.
I really wanted to take another lap but I was worried about the rain. I had to work Monday and didn't want to get stuck out there with no way of getting ahold of anyone.
So I got back to the truck using a combination of glissading, post-holing, bush wacking, dirt hiking and even some riding. I met up with the jeep road I hiked up and realized that I started up one sub drainage to soon on the way up. Now I know.
My burrito was waiting for me nice and warm on the dash board.
And of course I had to hydrate.
But the adventure wasn't over yet. Those snow patches that were nice and hard this morning were slushy and muddy. After some white knuckle driving I made it back down to desert 7000 feet below the ridge.
The rain ended up being a short period of a light drizzle/flurries but Im Ok with my decision to skidattle.
My route. Red = descent.
It wasn't the most physically demanding tour or gnarliest line but it was an awesome adventure. I thought it would just be something I would do so I could say I did. But ended up being a great time climbing up and riding down. Its a trip I plan on repeating.
Each of Utahs islands in the sky brings something unique to the table. The Stansburys have the twin couloirs. LaSals have big lines. The Oquirrhs have a lot of cougars. The Henrys take the cake for scenery.
these photos are awesome....epic man, thanks for sharing! :thumbsup:
Wonderful pics, great trip :thumbsup: Thanks!
Awesome, thanks for sharing!!
Nice work. Has to be a good season for that type of thing. I am trying to figure out time (and space) for a La Sals-Moab splitboard-mountain bike trip.
This range is a new one to me. You are probably one of just a handful of people who have gotten turns back there this year. Maybe the only person.
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Reminds me of the view atop Burro Pass...........freakin' awesome!
Killclimbz, Make it happen. The LaSals are sick. But they are melting fast. I got plans to do some ski-packing there this weekend.
Mojo, if you looked west from burro pass, it is pretty much a mirror image of my picture looking east from the top of the henrys.
wow, that breath taking... but... new hampshire has its spots as well.
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