Cooke Pt. 2

Published 2011-03-28

After spending a long weekend in Cooke, I was beckoned once again by the scale and availability of its spectacular objectives.


I couldn’t get the images of some of those lines out of my head and was fortunate enough to be able to load up, once again, and drive south. This time, with a solid crew from Salt Lake City, including my good amigo Jay Beyer.


We had decided to spend a few days camped up where I had spent the previous weekend, to put us in good position for a solid assault on some big lines at a moment’s notice. I took a scouting lap on my sled into the basin and found a stellar campsite in the trees located right below the immense wall, that I am nostalgically referring to as Churchbells. After a few laps of running the boys into camp, we set out to see if anything was moving, and show the SLC crew the spectacular arena surrounding us. I think they were impressed.

Eric Balken - still cracking me up.

We got back to camp and, after a few bouts of the Old Crow, we attempted sleep amongst the titans that surrounded us. Morning 1; quick breakfast to ease the angst we all had building inside. Off we go.

Beautiful ridgelines

We skinned our way to the ridge that would eventually lead us to a “pick your line and go” sort of scenario. The Churchbells have about every style of big mountain skiing you can imagine and we witnessed endless possibilities as we climbed the ridge towards the now sun-cloaked east face. Eric Balken spotted a beautiful spine to air, and Carston Oliver picked his way under a freakishly scary cornice and onto an incredibly steep spine. Carston and Balken are both rad skiers, and I was privileged to be able to rip lines with these guys in my backyard. As you can see, they threw down.

Carston throwing a huge corked 3 off a glorious spine

Balken hucks a 60 foot back flip, on his first line of the trip

The Nose ~ in perfect conditions

For round two we moved higher up the ridgeline until I spotted a line off the summit of Churchbells that I liked while Jay made his way across the valley to shoot. It was incredibly difficult finding entrances to our beauties below, I tried all the tricks to gain a glimpse of something, anything, that would allow access off the ridge. Cornices, I swear, the size of semi-trucks blocked most every access to get in and it seemed like a set of car keys would break any one of them. Finally, I found an entrance at the summit, of all places, that allowed me a hallway down onto the face, and I locked in. Ten turns in, rookie move, I got hit by my sluff. The tomahawking began and lasted for what felt like an eternity until I finally, and extremely luckily, was released. Jay witnessed it from straight on and got this shot that explains a lot. Needless to say, we were stoked to see each other at the bottom.

Saved in Graceland

Monday morning was perfect: bluebird skies with warming temps but we noticed approaching clouds as we gained the ridge once again. We arranged ourselves back on top of the wall of spines and raced to get ready before the milky skies took over. One thing led to another and unfortunately we lost the race against light as Jay’s perspective of the face diminished into a cloud of gray. Not to be denied by visibility, Carston had a repeat of his stellar line from the day before and Balken and I relished in the glory that is 2,500 ft of 40-degree pow, milky skies and all. Light schmight.

So, another successful trip to Graceland, and another dozen or more things to think about while I sit and type this. Until next time, thanks for the greatest life I’ve ever known.