>Windy Peak – Snake River Range

>“Go big, or go home…” How many times have you heard that catch phase? Today for me, it was – go home. Let me explain…

Another “hey, lets check this out” Dean idea was to ski the north face of Windy Peak in the Snake River Range. The north face is just shy of 3,000 vertical feet into the depths of Palisades Creek. I know Palisades Creek very well as I’ve spent much time there in the summer hiking and biking – but never skiing. So it only makes sense to check the place out during the winter… right?

Justin, Scott D. and I skinned up Butler Canyon on the south side of Windy. Well we tried anyway! Our day was laden with mechanical difficulties. First it was the bindings on Scott’s approach skis (he’s a knuckle dragger). Justin ended up taping Scott’s boots to the bindings, which actually worked, then being the kind hearted adventure seeker he is, shouldered Scott’s snowboard for several hours of the approach. This allowed Scott to move quicker with less weight and keep his feet connected to the bindings. Scott wanted to turn around, sighting the fact that he’ll slow us down…nonsense! I blazed trail, Justin humped the snowboard and Scott willing went along with us into the unknown!

Justin and Scott skinning up the south face of Windy Peak with the Palisades Bench and Swan Valley in the background. We had amazing weather today with little to no breeze and intense sunshine…without sunblock. At one point it felt like that heat blast sensation on your face when you stand too close to the campfire!

Scott and snowboard following Justin with Sheep Mountain in the distance.

From the top of Windy Peak we had a great view looking up Palisades Creek. A half frozen Lower Palisades Lake shows itself several miles to the northeast.

The view down the north face was intimidating, at least to me. It was unclear if the couloir would in fact grant us passage. We could see enough skiable terrain (maybe 100 yards!) that we committed to dropping in to the unknown. For the first time ever with skiing, I was nervous and very intimidated. My stomach was in my throat as i jokingly squeaked out the words…. “Scott, just hold me – I’m scared” just before turning down the fall line – dropping over the lip and committing myself to such a steep and intimidating environment.

So you’re probably asking yourself about now, “so what’s this go home comment about at the beginning of the blog? Well – as we snaked our way down the first portion of the couloir we encountered a very NICE cliff. We stopped and had a conversation about it. We (well, maybe not me?) could have easily skied off the thing and likely it would have been a complete non issue, but i has some reservations with being in a remote area and the fact the Justin was having relatively serious problems with one of his bindings. A hard landing could render him ski-less for the rest of the day with a broken binding. Now here’s the greatest part about my friends and our group dynamic. I voiced my concerns and without guilt, ego, or thinking twice, we found a way around to the right without incident. I have to thank Justin and Scott D. for their willingness in working with my conerns and for going home rather than going big at that moment in time. Thank you.

Not that we didn’t have any other terrain below us that kept the adrenaline up. As a matter of fact for nearly 2,000 feet we, skied smaller cliffs in the couloir which eventually turned into a gully before dumping us out on the banks of Palisades Creek. I’ll let the video’s tell that story. Volume helps!

Justin entering the slot that would be our home for the next 2,800 vertical feet!

That’s me executing a perfect entry to a nice 12ft double drop. You can see me take flight just before dropping out of sight. Good thing you can’t see the hole i made at the bottom of it!

Here i’m showing my skateboard moves as i do a nice rail slide across Justin’s skis! You can see the south slope of Baldy in the sun across the canyon.

Scott D. in the lower exit gully finding a face full of snow!

Once we reached Palisades Creek the thrash began. We had to skin down stream through Willow infested glades for a while until we could connect with the summer trail at the first bridge. In my opinion, it was a great way to end our adventure. As a matter of fact, it wouldn’t be a Dean idea if there wasn’t some sort of adversity encountered at some point in the trip!

From the bridge it was a pleasant ski down to the parking lot on a well packed snowshoe trail!

All in a good days fun for the East Idaho Off-Piste crew. Thanks for a great day, boys!


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