Hiking for Fresh Lines in Big Cottonwood Canyon

Group hiking for fresh lines in Big Cottonwood Canyon

Road Trip

Last season I took a trip out to Salt Lake City, Utah. I can cross another state off my list! Actually, several states since we decided to do a 20 hour drive instead of taking a plane ride. Road trips always come with great memories, beautiful sites, and some awkward car conversations.

Road trip mountain shot.
Traveling through Big Cottonwood Canyon.

Traveling with two of my friends Ben & Jerry (hehe I can’t help but crack up every time I say it) who are both awesome riders presented some quick learnings, along with a lot of pretty funny fails. I became “the comedic relief” of the trip as Ben put it. Check out my post of “What Not To Do When Shredding In Powder” for proof, and a good laugh.

Finding A Location

This adventure is a very special trip to me as it was the hardest snowboarding I have ever done. The most powder I’ve ever seen. Also, this was my first ever experience hiking a mountain to summit!

We headed out to Big Cottonwood Canyon Utah to find some common trails for our hike. This first hike was Butler Fork Trail. Big Cottonwood Canyon offers many trails and is a very common spot to do backcountry riding.

Butler Fork trail map.

The Hike

Before Hiking

When hiking a mountain in the winter there is always a risk for avalanches. Before heading out make sure to check the avalanche rating.

Be sure to have all your avalanche safety gear. This should include a pack filled with a probe and shovel. If you have a pack compatible with an airbag, you may have that too.

You must wear a beacon! If there were to be an avalanche you need a way to be found under the snow if you get buried. Don’t forget to check the batteries before heading out as well.

Gather your climbing gear. This will vary by sport. I snowshoed up the mountain with my GNU B-Pro on my back while Ben and Jerry used splitboards and skinned up it. If you are a skier you may skin up using your ski’s. Regardless, everyone will need poles. For those whom snowboard down you will want collapsable poles that can fit in your pack for the ride down.

The Climbing Journey

Since we chose to hike a common trail out in Big Cottonwood Canyon, we had some extra features you may not have. There was a beacon testing station available to ensure they are working properly before you go.

Beacon testing station.
Beacon testing station. Know before you go.

During the beginning portion of the hike we quickly discovered my snowshoes worked much better than their skinning up on splitboards as the snow was heavily packed and slick. They didn’t have crampons on their bindings and were sliding backwards all over the place. I had the upper-hand!

Later on though, the situation quickly changed. The path narrowed making it tough with my wide snowshoes and the pack was much less meaning I was sinking more.

Skinning up on splitboards.
The trail narrows, Ben takes the lead.

About an hour into the hike I was extremely thankful for having my Camelbak Reservoir and some snickers and other goodies packed in my pack. We would take breaks and catch the views a few times along our journey up. I was also VERY thankful I worked out on the stair stepper for several weeks before this hike otherwise my legs would have been fried!

Hiking break.
Hiking break. Stop to grab a snack and take a few photos about 2 hours into the climb.

I learned a lot of techniques when approaching summit. One of which is going one at a time while zig-zagging while approaching steep parts of the mountain. This became critical when approaching summit. While doing this, making sure no one is directly below you in case the snow pack were to slide. This was much easier to do splitboarding than snowshoes as I was having a hard time on the narrow path and sinking in the fluffy snow up to my knees with each step. Imagine how far I would’ve sank without snowshoes!? When all said and done, it took us approximately four hours to summit.

Fresh Lines

The best part of my hike? Strapping into your board at the top of the mountain and looking down at all that untouched snow.

Ben at mountain summit.
Ben at summit, preparing gear to ride down.
Jerry overlooking mountain summit.
Jerry overlooking the mountain at summit, deciding what line to take.
Mountain Summit Shot of Kait
I reached summit for my very first time!

If you are a snowboarder or skier you will understand what I mean when I say fresh lines. There is no feeling like the one you get when you carve a fresh line you earned! #EarnYourTurns Knowing you hiked up, put in the work and were able to experience the beauty of the raw earth. This is something most don’t ever get to do. Resort riding, though still amazing and fun has absolutely no comparison to earning your turns in the backcountry.

Kait resting on side of mountain.
Taking a break while riding down to take in the view!

Wrap Up

Location: Big Cottonwood Canyon Utah
Sport: Hiking & Snowboarding
Gear: Pack, Water, Snacks, Beacon, Hiking Poles, Probe, Shovel, Snowshoes and Snowboard OR Splitboard, Helmet, Goggles

Future Plans

I had an amazing season! I was fortunate enough to experience backcountry in a different way a couple months later out in Montezuma Colorado. Check out my experience here.

Next season I intend to take AIARE 1, an avalanche safety training course so I can learn how to properly use all the backcountry gear, the proper riding techniques, and how to save someone in case of an avalanche.

With a few runs out in the backcountry I have now fallen in love. I am now slowly collecting backcountry safety gear for next season. So far I’ve got a probe and shovel, next I will be looking for poles and a beacon. I would absolutely love to get my hands on a Neversummer Aura Splitboard before next season as well.

I am looking for gear recommendations and would love to test out different brands. I am looking for sponsorships and products to try out and review. Message us:

 

Kaitlyn

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