Wandering in Wildflowers to Wolverine: Wasatch Summertime Schuss

By:  Ben
August 16, 2011

Growing up on the east coast, I’ve always felt a special affinity to the concept of a twelve month season. Back east it’s easy enough to get a 10 month season (October – July), as numerous July 4th weekend Tucks trips and October Silly Ski Missions will attest to. In all but the most exceptional years, however, August and September are out of reach in the eastern mountains. There are many things that I love about living in the shadow of the Wasatch, but one of the things I was most excited about going into this summer was the ability to get a twelve month season.

This past weekend I achieved that goal. Almost a year ago, I started off my season in September skiing on the shoulder of Mt. Baker with Sam and Allen. 130 days of adventure, deep snow, great times with friends, and the occasional solo “soul ski day” later, I found myself clicking into my dynafits at the top of Wolverine Cirque staring down at a surprisingly good looking ribbon of snow leading down into a sea of green trees and wildflowers. The suncups dotting the snow surface ensured that the skiing wouldn’t be anything to write home about, but I couldn’t help but feel a bit overwhelmed by the beauty of standing on snow on a warm August afternoon. A warm mountain breeze gently swept over my exposed arms as I took a deep breath and dropped in. The summertime scenery faded to the background as the familiar feeling of skis sliding on snow took over. It’s been a good season…

A few hours earlier, Kate and I stood in the hot sun on the side of a dirt road in Albion Basin. Tourists rolled by in SUVs looking at the wild flowers and watching us strap skis to our packs. There were a few patches of snow high up in the distance, but overall skis seemed like the last thing one would want on such a day.

Kate hoping that there's actually snow up there!

We started walking up Grizzly Gulch and felt as though we were wading through a sea of wildflowers. It’s been a late and wet summer overall, and the flowers are just starting to peak now – the high elevation meadows are incredible places to be right now.

The hike up Grizzly Gulch was uneventful, but it was my first time up there in the summer. It’s a strange feeling to see a place that you are intimately familiar with in the wintertime devoid of its rounding blanket of snow. Mine debris dots the landscape as an old dirt mining road winds its way up through alpine meadows, paralleling a small creek. Soon we reached Twin Lakes Pass and began ascending the ridge toward Wolverine Cirque.

Ahhh, this is what we came for!

We topped out on the top of Patsy and looked out at Little Cottonwood Canyon bathed in a warm late afternoon glow. I’m still not used to seeing this place without snow, but it has its own distinct beauty in the summer too.

Looking west at the high Wasatch

Kate topping out on Patsy. Sure looks different in the summer!

The ridge traverse was a lot harder in the summer. Going across a slope that is a smooth skin in the winter becomes much more of a chore when you have to fight your way through encroaching vegetation and scramble over rocks on the precipitous edge of the cirque. Fortunately we didn’t have far to go, and soon found ourselves putting on ski boots on a melted out shelf at the top of Granny Chute in Wolverine.

We finally found the snow!

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Read about the author:   Ben
Enjoy this TR? Read another: TR: Circumnavigation of Mount Washington


  1. Harvey44
    wrote on August 16th, 2011 at 9:51 pm  

    Great looking TR Ben. What is the pitch on the shot in the third pic on page 1? It looks insane. Great year, way to get it.

    • Ben
      wrote on August 17th, 2011 at 12:09 am  

      Thanks Harvey! It’s not actually as steep as it looks – it’s just a deceptive angle looking at it from across the cirque. Andrew Maclean’s book has it at ~38 degrees, and that sounds reasonable to me (although it probably gets a little steeper as it melts out) There are some really fun steeper lines in the cirque during the winter though!

  2. bushman
    wrote on August 18th, 2011 at 8:21 am  

    Morning….thanks Ben and Kate for August shots. Lots of work for hardtop snow, saw what I suspect is red algae on top? Hey, appreciate the effort, pics, and narrative. And recap photos for last year also topshelf. Like Feb and April best. Been there, done that. Starting to get cool in mornings in East, down to 50’s, cooler in the hills, time to start hiking. Your stuff gets us pumped.

  3. icelanticskier
    wrote on August 18th, 2011 at 8:24 am  

    love the 1 favorite pic per month shots! tells a fine tale!


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