Backcountry skiing is one of the best ways to bag a peak and drink a beer while hanging out on top – it’s fast, efficient, and when you’re done, you get to ski down! A recent trip to search out some snow in the Uinta Mountains led us to Wolf Creek Peak, a smallish mountain on Wolf Creek Pass that promised some decent turns in the trees, as well as a nice spot with a view to enjoy a Wasatch Kolob Kolsch.
The start of the month welcomed a much needed snowstorm in Utah’s mountains, with high winds and 8 inches of snow falling on the western Uintas. Our first exploratory mission happened the day before our summit bid. It was a warm day but the winds were blowing fierce as we parked at the pass summit and skinned alongside snowmobiles that buzzed around like insects on the snow.An obvious ridge rose straight from the road with a nice head wall where old ski tracks proved we came to the right place. We skinned up the shoulder and switched to ski mode behind a stand of pines to block the incessant howling air. The north face was crusted and rocky at the top, but a few turns later all things became soft and fast. But it was all too short as only 400 feet of vertical put us into the flats and the end of the run.
Skinning back up, we traversed west along the ridge to another bowl that feeds into Neeley Basin. It was clearly wind loaded so we stayed along the trees where more wind crust scattered our ski tips until more protected snow could be found. Going back up, we discovered a protected area where recrystalized powder sat undisturbed by ski or air, so we made another lap through the best snow of the day yet. Another run on the first headwall returned us to the highway where a short skin back up to the road put us at the car where cold beer awaited.
The next day we returned, convinced that there was more to explore. Topo maps showed immense cirques radiating out from Wolf Creek Peak that invited us to see if anything was skiable. We followed our skin track from the day before, but split off a hundred yards in toward the mountain. A summer road buried in snow showed us the way, but such low-angle skinning made us impatient, so we instead broke trail through deep powder straight up to the ridge.
An old barbed-wire fence, half-buried under wind-blown powder, continued up the ridge to the top of Wolf Creek Peak. It only took about 20 minutes to summit, where expansive views of the western Uintas surrounded us. But the wind kept blowing, and temperatures were well below freezing – not ideal SummitBrew weather. But the priority of beer drinking trumped any worries of frostbitten fingers, so I popped the cap off a bottle of Wasatch Kolob Kolsch, and drank it despite the beer-flavored snow cone that had formed in the neck of the bottle.
Wasatch Kolob Kolsch
Wasatch Brewery’s version of a kolsch has long been labled as “Summer Twilight,” but recent rebranding changed the name to Kolob Kolsch. Those in the know (Mormons) will recognize the name as the mythological planet that God lives on… or something like that. In either case, it’s a light-hearted jab at the dominant faith here in Utah.
Light-hearted indeed, as this is a seriously light beer that would be far more appropriate quaffing lakeside on a hot summer day, instead of a frozen mountain. It most reminded me of a fresh Fosters Lager, with a light, pale aroma with a touch of hoppy citrus. Not much to say about it as this is a simple, highly drinkable brew that can be sessioned over and over again, preferably when tuning a mountain bike in the garage or mowing the lawn, which we were a long way from doing while skiing the Uintas.