The La Sal Mountains, just over the border in Utah, had nearly 150 percent of their average snowpack in mid-March, and that’s when Stan Wagon, a Summit County resident and avid ski mountaineer, headed toward Moab to sample the goods.
By Stan Wagon
On Friday, March 19, 2010, Jonathan Kriegel and I headed up the Geyser Pass Trail with large packs (55 pounds) to set up a camp for three nights at the pass. Conditions were stormy (and the drive up difficult in 6 inches of new snow), but the storm was ending and so it seemed perfect, with a forecast of sunny days and lots of fresh snow. We got to the pass in just over two hours and set up camp. We headed north for a short ski tour in the late afternoon but got a little lost on return, having to climb 200 feet to return to camp.
On Saturday we went for Haystack (11,640 ft.), which we failed on two years ago because of very firm snow and no crampons. This year, armed (footed?) with the proper tools, we easily cramponed up the steep east ridge and enjoyed some fine summit time. We could look down the large north face, which would have been skiable, but we stuck to our plan of skiing the south face.
The descent of the south face was not great—firm and uneven—and we had hopes for better on the north-facing slopes of Mellenthin (second-highest peak in the La Sals). In the afternoon we investigated the route to Mellenthin (12,645 ft.) and set a useful track to the base of the wonderful north face. Looking at things up close, it seemed like the left-hand ridge (the northeast ridge) would offer the best way to the summit, and there appeared to be a rock-free way down from the summit area to the center of the face we wanted to ski. Jonathan had skied this several years ago, in a lower snow year. Snow conditions this year were amazing, at 146 percent of normal….