The Heart of the White Knobs
Dave and I were driving north on Highway 93 a couple of weeks ago to check on conditions in the LRR. We had just passed the little burg of Leslie and still south of Mackay, when Dave exclaimed in awe, “What’s that”, pointing west, not east.
There, backdropped by blue sky sat a cupid’s heart of snow…a big white, bowl of snow, top to bottom, rim to rim!
I had to confess my ignorance, it’s on the opposite side of the valley from my explorations in the LRR but we oohhed and aahhed over the potential line…wanting to complete the cupid’s heart with an “arrow” of ski tracks across that snowy heart!
It turns out that we were looking at Redbird Mt, second highest peak at 11,273′ (short of the high point of Shelly Mt by 5′ and connected to it by a swooping ridge) and sitting, appropriately, in the heart of White Knob Range.
Dave accepted the task of unlocking the tangle of roads and track back into the area this past Wednesday, while I lazed on a beach in Mexico! He closed in on the mountain to determine which of several ridges looked to offer the best approach and came up with a game plan that proved to be a winner!
We headed west off of Hwy 93 just past Leslie on Houston Rd and found Alder Creek Rd. We followed Alder Creek Rd SW then W and finally NW as it wraps around the foothills and took a rough 4wd branch up Sawmill Canyon until it sputtered out for even Dave’s Jeep.
We shouldered our loads and continued on up the narrowing and more trail like Sawmill Rd as it led us up and to the toe of the ridge we thought looked the most likely to summit us.
The ridge is broad and mostly open sage below and scree above but we had two snow patches to cross. The large one at about 9,500′ was hard and supportable yesterday (it probably won’t be after a warmer nigh and day) which was a relief as we had decided to leave the skins home. The second, up around 10,500′ had enough purchase to let us continue in our approach shoes and kept our crampons in our packs.
The summit is also a broad scree pile with a firm snow cap, the remnants of a cornice, and allowed us a comfortable transition stance AND spectacular views in all directions! Bits of the Lemhis and all the LRR to the east and north, the Pioneers, Copper Basin, Boulders, White Clouds and Sawtooths to the SW, W and NW!
The cornice was easily dropped off and the first 100′ vertical give us a few warm up turns on 20-25* before it drops over to 35-40ish for the next 900′, the angle mellows again for a bit and then drops over the second step on to a face closer to a 45* angle for a few hundred more vertical feet as we skied towards the “point of the heart”. Then we milked nearly another 1,000′ of vertical following the thread of snow in the drainage below the heart! That brought us to within 200′ of our uptrack road and it was a pleasant stroll back out to Dave’s Jeep!
The snow yesterday was firm from very cold overnight temps and it didn’t soften much as the day stayed cool and an overcast crept in to shield it from heavy sun. There was an 1 to 3″ of wind slab from meager precip and heavy winds the last couple of days that offered good edging turns but there were hard, ice-like patches to keep us on our toes.
The snow soften to corn for the run down the drainage from about 9,500′ feet down! We were both thrilled to have found no rocks to add more gouges to the ones we collected in the Super Gully last Saturday!
This is a highly recommended ski, if you have a 4wd or want to hike farther!
Anyone out there know if this has been skied before? We want to claim a first descent but surely someone has grabbed this beauty before now!!