An avalanche had swept it nearly clean to the bed surface.
Our hiking was straightforward and exhausting. And long. The top of the couloir is visible from the road but seemed miles from wherever we stood each time we looked up to see “how much further?”
Tanner’s Gulch Slide Path in Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon accumulates snow of storied proportions and danger. Skinning over a fresh debris pile at the base of the chute, we saw that our run would be an ice-boulder-hopping extravaganza down an avalanche path that had been completely taken out. Aside from a few feet of snow against the walls on either side of the couloir, it was an atrocious mess of ice, snow and dislodged boulders.
We skinned then booted then cramponed up, ticking off the climb in 1000-foot increments. The recent avalanche made for a dicey walk to the notch that is Tanner’s terminus because it exposed so much ice and increased the danger of icefall from above. It had left a platform barely large enough for both of us to stand at the chute’s entrance.
The largest peaks in the Wasatch loomed behind my partner as he dropped in. The ice was firm, bumpy and wildly inconsistent, like riding down a pile of 6-month-old East coast snowplow shavings in the late spring. We leapfrogged the entire run, keeping an eye on one another less because of avalanche danger—though it loomed from various offshooting couloirs—and more due to the risk of a devastating fall on fatigued legs.
Spring skiing at its finest, Tanner’s offered a unique combination of New York snow on a Utah scale. A short hike back to the trailhead through low-hanging branches made me happy I was with a friend, laughing each time our skis caught on trees, tossing us off balance and into the mud.
- Brody Leven
- @brodyleven (instagram & twitter)