"Let us go into the mountains and be happy." – Serge 

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Arizona, April 2012

Published on April 17, 2012 by

The girls and I took a trip down to Phoenix for the annual Marks Clan Seder. It was another fine dinner – this time with Jane’s savory beef brisket. Before dinner, McKenna Jane played with Grandma Jane, giving Dara and I the opportunity for a single-track ride together. The weather was crisp and the trails surprisingly empty for a Saturday – everyone must have been catching the AZT300 on ESPN. 😉

Dara, Phoenix Mountains.

With only clouds and no rain experienced on our ride, I was surprised to find the SNOTEL weather station, near home in Flagstaff, reporting 15″ of new snow at 9,700 ft. I began scheming a Sunday/Monday trip into the mountains. By Sunday afternoon we were back home and I was packing my ski gear. The only one interested in a night trip into the mountains was 9 year-old Sazi dog.

Sazi near Reese Tanks.

McKenna really wanted to come, but I told her that she needed to develop her ski skills. “I have an idea”, she said “maybe you can carry me!” With laughter I told her just how fun it would be to go winter camping but that time was not now. She seemed fine with that.
Sazi and I started hiking around sunset. The views and stoke were red-lined.

Left to right: Reese Peak, Bear Jaw Canyon, Abineau Peak, Reese Canyon, Abineau canyon (big avalanche chutes) and Humphreys Peak (highest point in AZ at 12,635) hidden in clouds.

Painted desert and Little Colorado River drainage that feeds into Grand Canyon

Sazi doing his stoked snow-roll-dance next to splitboard and pack.

We hiked for about an hour before there was enough snow to start skinning (uphill skiing) with my splitboard. Temps were around 25 degees F., and we felt quite good. We also “felt the spirits” of the Kachina Peaks, standing our hair on end.


Our goal for the evening was a place I call the tree-cave (aka – the Hanta Hotel). I choose a new route and became disoriented, finding myself near Abineau Canyon, rather than Reese Canyon. From there it was either steep country up or a long traverse back to the mellow route. I chose up and when we got into steep icy slopes, the choice revealed itself as unwise. I became tired, lost my focus and slipped several times.
By 12:30am we made it to the tree-cave. I’ve done this tour in 3.5 hours, tonight it took 6. Alfredo and leftover brisket dinner.
Up and skinning by 7:30.

The storm from ~24 hours ago left beautiful powder that faceted overnight.

Electricity was created by combining gorgeous views, calm air, warm sunshine, chocolate, and the anticipation of snowboarding powder.

Doyle Peak, 11,460 ft. Fremont Peak, 11,969 ft

Abineau Canyon chutes.

From the top of Abineau Peak (11,838), we eased into Bear Jaw Canyon, while keeping my brain on snow-stability. It was a go and for about 1,000 vertical feet and 30 seconds I became a powder spraying superhero riding a snowboard rocket-ship through the universe.

Batten down the hatches – powder spray ahead!

Snowboard and Sazi tracks.

They say every superhero has a weakness – mine became a thick crust over powder in the 10,500-10,000 foot range. From 10,000 to 9,000 the snow became soft again from warm air/sunshine. Below 9,000 there was not much snow and we began the long hike/traverse out of Bear Jaw Canyon back to Reese Canyon and our truck.

Reese Tank. Old Reese homestead foundation?

Elevation: 4000+ vertical climb
Distance covered: ~12 miles. Sazi dog likely covered closer to 20+.
Time: 19 hours April 15/16, 2012 – 6:30pm to 1:30pm (4 hours of sleep at the tree-cave)
Time spent as superhero: 30 seconds

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2 Comments  comments 

2 Responses

  1. I like superhero time…I needed to sit on my butt and drink beer instead though since every superhero needs to be lazy every once in a while.

  2. lazy beer drinking is for heros!

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