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The White Pine Dirty Dozen

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Posted by timgibson11 on 2/7/24 10:17am

I didn't expect to be back in Utah this winter, but the combination of plentiful snow, good weather, short drives to the mountains, and amenities for rest days was hard to beat. And while I explored the Wasatch pretty thoroughly last year, there were plenty of stones left unturned. A week of high pressure during late January 2024 turned out to be one of the best ski experiences of my life. Inspired by Andrew McLean's “Ten in Ten” (skiing the 10 best Chuting Gallery lines over 10 days) and Noah Howell's “High Five” (skiing 5 lines on Twin Peaks in one day), I created a project that would keep me motivated to get the most out of myself, the conditions, and the place I was in. I set out to climb and ski 12 big lines from the 4 summits of Little Cottonwood's White Pine Cirque (Red Top, Thunder Mountain, White Baldy, and Red Baldy) over the 6-day weather window. Looking back on it, I think the "White Pine Dirty Dozen" is right up there with the best adventures you can have on skis in the Wasatch.

On Day 1 I skied a trio of lines on Red Top: Birthday Chute, Tri Chute, and Liam's Pension. I decided to start with Red Top partly for terrain progression, and partly because I figured it would get tracked out more quickly than some of my other objectives in the area. With clear skies, settled powder, and a reasonably deep snowpack at higher elevations, conditions were ideal for making a dent in my to-do list. 

On Day 2 I skied Thunder Mountain's Lake Chute, Northeast Face, and North Face. While the ski conditions remained excellent, visibility was a challenge, as the dark clouds didn't lift until I was back at the parking lot. This peak has various names, depending on who you ask - it's known to mapmakers as Thunder Mountain and to skiers as Lake Peak. Why not keep it simple and call it Foggy Mountain?

After a rest day, I went back up White Pine to climb and ski White Baldy's Northeast Ramp, a great line that doesn't see a lot of traffic. Afterwards I headed over to Rock & Roll chutes, which lived up to its name when I hit a buried rock in the entrance and rolled into a full faceplant. I've included the false start footage as an intro here, enjoy! 

I finished that day with a descent of an unnamed line on Red Baldy that I’m referring to as the North Couloir. After another rest day, on my fourth trip into White Pine (and the last day of high pressure) I managed to hit all of the remaining lines on my list. By this point the sun, wind, and other skiers had taken their toll on the snow surface, and conditions were less rippable than on previous days, but still nothing to sniff at. Red Baldy is not the highest peak in the White Pine Cirque, but it has the biggest, best, and most diverse ski lines. If the theme of this project is making the most of every trip to the mountains, following the sun and skiing multiple aspects, Red Baldy truly captures this spirit, with quality descents on its North, South, East, and West faces. On the last day of the project I skied Red Baldy’s NW Face, Icefall, and NE Couloir.

Across the four days of touring I did about 24,000’ of elevation gain. A significant chunk of this was during the approach up the valley, which I did four times and is quite long by Wasatch standards. Ideally one would base camp at the head of the valley for this type of project, but I had a four-legged companion waiting for me at the end of each day, so that wasn’t an option for me. I got to know the approach so well that on the last day I did it in the pitch dark with no headlamp. Podcasts eased the pain and made it go by more quickly.

This is not meant to be a definitive list, just the 12 most promising alpine descents from this zone that I had identified in online research and scouting missions. During the project I found a couple others that may be included in a future edition. I would happily repeat all four of these tours, although I’m good with the approach for a while. Aside from the skiing itself, watching the heli crews down in the valley provided some amusement. If you are curious about heli-skiing, sitting on top of a ridgeline or peak and watching Powderbird drop their clients on flattish terrain 1400’ below you is a unique White Pine experience! 

Hopefully this inspires some people to create their own projects and linkups, and to look at their home mountains with a new sense of possibility. I'll be in Utah for the next couple months and can't wait to see what other surprises this season has in store.

Tremendous!  I very much enjoyed that and well done!

I really enjoy your updates and videos from the road Tim, even if I am too mired in work and family to ever dream of going on them myself!  At least in the next 5-10 years....

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2024-02-07 18:17:53