A few hops, a skip, and 50 miles west of Salt Lake lies the alpine island known as Deseret Peak. Surrounded by 360 degrees of salt flats, military bases, and hazardous waste disposal facilities, this wild land holds an ecosystem unique to only itself. If you look closely enough from Interstate 80, 2 tall snowy couloirs beckon the Wasatch powder-hounds that pass by at 80 miles per hour. Few people make it out this far west when big lines in the Wasatch are so close to home.
I’d had the idea to bike out there and ski this peak for about a year now, and as soon as I told my plan to the bikepacking, kneedropping, banana-powered Elliot Gorr (@backcountrybananaboy), he knew we had to do it. After a few minutes of convincing me into my own plan, we had a date set.
The route was simple, but not all that sane. the first 10 miles were spent weaving between the traffic of Salt Lake’s grid system, squeezing us out to the Great Salt Lake where we were forced onto the freeway. 20 or so more highway miles dropped us off at the base of a slow and steady 10 mile stretch that gained 3,000 feet in elevation.
We were finally at the trailhead and it was barely lunch time. To make sure we had good snow conditions, we spent the rest of the day hanging at camp, swapping stories and making fun of each others’ eating habits. Myself producing extra metabolic waste by eating salmon, and him drinking banana paste from a jar.
With a 4am alarm, we were up and on the trail. The first 3 miles were a mix of packed down snow and icy dirt, followed by a 2 mile skin and boot pack up the final ridge. This was easy compared to the bike ride.
After a long brake on the summit allowing snow to soften, we scrambled back down to the awaiting chutes.
With a cold night and a strong sun, conditions were variable (Utah Avy Observation). We dropped in on some hard melt-freeze crust, opened up on the smooth sunny patches, slalomed through crusty wet-slide debris, and layed it out on the creamy corn apron. From the bottom of the apron we skirted left, enjoying fun turns dipping through gullies and trees almost to the trailhead.
After a successful tour, our day was only half done. Once we made it to camp we had another 45 miles of (mostly) downhill back home. Apart from a little headwind and a few hills, the cruise home was a breeze.
The trip tallied to 98 miles of biking, booting, and skiing with 8,000 feet of elevation gain in just under 36 hours.
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Words and images copyright Douglas Tolman 2018