Wandering in Wildflowers to Wolverine: Wasatch Summertime Schuss
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.
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.
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.
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.
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