Mount Mellenthin paired with Uinta Wyld

WyldMount Mellenthin is the second highest peak in Utah’s second highest range – the La Sal Mountains. It was also the second peak we intended to climb on our second trip to the La Sals that season, so it made sense that I brought along my second-favorite beer from Uinta Brewing, Wyld Extra Pale Ale.

We had reached the summit of Mount Tukuhnikivatz the day before, but despite our exhaustion, got up for more the next morning to ski Mellenthin. Despite it being a Monday, the parking lot was surprisingly full of skiers with the same ideas in mind – that the La Sals are the place to be for spring skiing. It was telling that most of the skiers we talked to were from Colorado, and most were drinking cheap macrobrews. Such a shame. After exchanging beta with other touring parties, we skinned up Geyser Pass Road past the popular entrance to Gold Basin and were soon by ourselves in a pine forest. Continuing down the road, we soon entered a wide swatch in the trees that revealed Mellenthin’s massive north face. Angling south, we headed toward the peak as if it were a magnet.

Mount Mellenthin

At 11,000 feet, the forest cleared at timberline and nothing but a moonscape of talus and snow was left. One thing that stood in the way of our ski objective was the north ascent ridge. It looked steep, rocky, and windy. But seeing no other option, we strapped skis to our packs and started booting up the loose scree and styrofoam snow. The winds threatened to tear us off though, as our skis became sails, pulling us to the side with every gust. I had to plunge my whippet into the snow a few times to stop from losing my footing above a rock-strewn slide-for-life when the wind yanked at my overloaded back.

Mellenthin JustinAbove the first steep pitch, the ridge leveled out for easy walking until the final steep push on a scree field to the top. All three of us made it by early afternoon and relaxed by watching skiers descend Tukuhnikivatz across the range south of our perch. Getting to the top of Mellenthin was much harder and longer than Tuk, so we hoped the skiing would be worth the effort. One thing was indeed made the endeavor was the chance to savor a bottle of Wyld Pale Ale with that intense view dominating my field of vision.

Jared Mellenthin

Unfortunately, nobody brought a bottle opener! Such a travesty is a disaster with summit brews as there is usually no recourse. It takes creative ways to get the cap off, and in our case, we had an ice ax on hand. It took some muscling, but the ax worked ideally as a McGuyver to avert certain doom that would have sent our summit brew into darkness, leaving your reward in the bottle.

Uinta Wyld Extra Pale Ale

Drink WyldUinta Wyld Pale Ale is a part of the brewery’s Organic Line. It also happens to be one of favorite low-point beers in the world. It’s a highly drinkable EPA that is very hoppy yet refreshing at the same time. The taste from a bottle atop a mountain is crisp and just slightly bitter.

In the glass, Wyld pours a cloudy, golden yellow/orange color with a fine head. Aromas abound in the foam, largely in part because Uinta says they aggressively dry hop the beer. Mouthfeel is a bit thin, which is to be expected with a 3.2 beer, and there is little taste in the malts. Just a slight hint of grains come through underneath all the hop flavor. About that… the hop flavor is huge and delicious with the typical citrus and pine tastes.


This hophead is so wild about Wyld that I think it’s far superior to Uinta’s other, more popular Cutthroat Pale Ale. I’m also thrilled that it is not available in cans for even easier packing in my backcountry ski pack.

After drinking it up at the summit of Mellenthin, we were ready to ski down, but about 40 feet of rock hampered access to the main chute off the summit. We had to downclimb to that point before clicking into our bindings. Taking turns, we carefully edged out onto the face, then actively made sweeping turns through the choke onto a gigantic apron.

Justin Ski Mellenthin

Once again we skied above the picture-perfect desert in the distance, but only on snow that was wind affected. The turns lacked any softness as those high winds kept the snow cool. But the slabby crust was breakable enough that edges would bite. It was a long run on the second-highest mountain in the La Sals, which is the second-highest range in Utah. If we ran out of reason to make the trek, we could fall back on the memory of summit beers on a high desert peak with friends.

For more about Uinta Brewing, visit then at

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Great White Whale paired with New Belgium Ranger IPA

Ranger IPALong live IPA in cans. The style is easily my favorite to consume, and by having it available in cans, it’s all the more easy to transport in a pack when climbing to the top of lofty mountain summits. The beer gods must have smiled upon me when I joined my friends on a backcountry skiing yurt trip in the Tushar Mountains, and found that my Uncle Tim brought along a few cases of New Belgium Ranger IPA. With a can of this hoppy goodness firmly tucked away in my pack, Adam and I set out to climb and ski the Great White Whale.

The Great White Whale is actually an unnamed peak found on Topo maps as Point 11526. But local skiers dubbed it the Great White Whale, perhaps due to its broad summit that resembles the humped back of a giant whale. Rather than be obsessed by our personal Moby Dick, we decided to bag ‘er first before moving on to more prominent mountains like Delano and Shelly Baldy.

We started our tour from the Snorkeling Elk Yurt after a full morning of skinning to it under heavy packs. The Snorkeling Elk Yurt is one of two yurts run by Alec Hornstein of Tushar Mountain Tours, who met the six of us at the trail head on Big John Flat Road with his snowmobile (which we reserved exclusively to haul up cases of New Belgium and Sierra Nevada beer.) Loaded down with heavy packs, we slowly made our way up the low-angle road to the yurt. In just over two hours, we arrived and settled in.

Snorkeling Elk Yurt

Our group of 7 soon dwindled to 2, however, as Adam and I were the only ones willing to explore the Tushars after such a long slog to the snow shelter. Leaving the others behind (and hoping there would be any beer left when we returned) we set out, skinning up through a forest of old pines to a ridge that afforded us a sweeping view of Mount Holly, Delano Peak, and the Great White Whale sitting in the foreground between them. A short ski into the next valley over put us at the foot of the mountain where we headed up into a canyon between the south face of Delano and the north side of GWW. It was an efficient route that rose to the high alpine, affording us fantastic, above treeline views of the range. From the upper canyon, a short climb up to a saddle, then a bootpack south over grassy meadows put us on the top.

White Whale 1

The vistas just about made taking photos mandatory, and awe filled our minds as we made imaginary turns on skiable lines spread out around us. We had three more days to explore it all, and got down to it by skiing the Great White Whale. But first we had to Summit Brew this white beast with that cold can of New Belgium’s Ranger IPA.

White Whale 2

New Belgium Ranger IPA

Ranger IPA is probably the very first India Pale Ale I ever drank straight from a can. As a self-professed beer snob, I was skeptical at first, being sure that it would taste like crap if the brew couldn’t breathe. If there was no foam, how on earth could all those hoppy aromas tickle my nostrils? The very thought seemed wrong. But then I tried it… and was pleasantly surprised. All the hoppy goodness was in tact, and drinking from a can meant I could take an IPA wherever I went.

Great White Ranger

New Belgium’s version of an IPA is also ideal for that aluminum container because it seems lighter than most. Rather than a strong, malty backbone melded perfectly with a deep hop profile, I think Ranger is more thin with nothing but hops right off the bat. The effect makes this beer more easily drinkable and refreshing while not skimping on full flavors – just what this hop-head looks for in a warm-weather beer in a can.

Adam RangerThe flavor is about what you would expect from an IPA – lots of citrus and pine tastes. It also tastes a bit sweeter than normal, as if they put honey or a bit of sucrose in it. It was hugely enjoyable atop the Great White Whale on a warmish day in the Tushar Mountains! Put me in such a good mood that I even let Adam take a few pulls from the can.

As for the ski down-post brew, Adam chose a steep line on a ribbon of snow while I set up across a small sub-peak to get a good photo. Dropping in, Adam made a series of short turns on hard-yet-edgeable spring corn, framed by a massive view of the Tushars behind. I soon followed, catching up with Adam at the bottom where we made fast turns back to our pine ridge and the yurt waiting below.

White Whale 3

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Mount Tukuhnikivatz paired with Wasatch Ghost Rider White IPA

Ghost Rider White IPAWhen one travels to Moab, especially if that someone is a skier, the La Sal Mountains dominate as they float above the red rock desert. Among those lofty peaks, Mount Tukuhnikivatz (or Mount Tuk for short) is the most visible – she’s a triangular mountain on the south side of the range, with a vertical relief that will make any skier salivate. I’ve been eyeing Mount Tuk for years, and finally reached the summit and skied down on spring corn snow. Of course at the top, I had a beer in hand for a Summit Brew with Ghost Rider White IPA from the Wasatch Brewery.

According to, the word “Tukuhnikivatz” is a combination of Native American words meaning “where the sun sets last.” A co-worker says Tukuhnikivatz is a Dine’ word, the ancient language spoken by the Navajo. Along with the mysterious name, “Tuk” is a worthy objective in either winter and summer because it’s a 12,482-foot mountain (the 3rd highest in the range.) No mountain in the Wasatch comes close to that height, so for Utah summits, she’s a must climb.

On our successful summit bid, Adam, Justin and I drove overnight in the Yurt-on-Wheels to Moab, then up the Geyser Pass road to a parking lot where the plowing ends. We rolled in at 5:30 in pitch darkness – a shame since we couldn’t see Mount Tukuhnikivatz as we drove ever higher into the alpine. Exhausted from the drive and lack of sleep, we got into our sleeping bags and caught a few hours of sleep before the rising sun and the sound of skiers gearing up outside woke us.

Hike to Tuk

We were not alone. Upon looking out the windows of the camper, we could see several cars had pulled in and backcountry skiers spilled out like a clown car. It seemed we weren’t the only ones with the idea to ski Tuk this day, as everyone else we spoke to had the same destination in mind. So we too put skins on skis and buckled our boots for the long ascent.

Tuk RidgeThe weather was perfect for a spring climb, and the skin into Gold Basin was fast. Before we knew it, we soon began skinning up Mount Tuk’s main face. There was some debate about using the north ridge as an ascent route, but previous parties already put in a nice track and boot pack up the face to the summit ridge, so we figured it would be a shame to put it to waste. As we climbed, the views of Tuk, Tuk No, and the Talking Mountain Cirque enveloped us. One by one, skiers that summited before us skied down, whooping in delight on creamy corn snow. A couple from Montana made a second lap from the ridge, showing us our future selves as they flowed down the mountainside.

With renewed motivation, we quickly booted to the ridge then up to the peaked summit. Adam donned his coon hat as an homage to our great western adventure. At the summit of Mount Tukuhnikivatz, we whooped in joy and high-fived each other and we claimed our reward of a spinning view of Utah’s red rock desert, Colorado’s mountains to the east, and nothing but deep schmoo below our skis. Despite the warming temperatures and snow that was getting wetter by the minute, we soaked in the fantastic view, and then I pulled out a bottle of Wasatch Ghost Rider White IPA.

Adam on Tuk

Wasatch Ghost Rider White IPA

Ghost Rider is a new release from the Wasatch Brewery. The label depicts a mysterious cowboy riding a pale horse. His rifle is drawn, his face is obscured, and a desolate desert surrounds him. The label evokes the old west and desert shootouts, so it was the perfect beer to pair with a desert peak high above the red rock spires around Moab.

Ghost Rider on Tuk

The style is a White IPA, a type of beer that I’ve been seeing a lot of lately, and it’s one my wife has been enjoying quite a bit. It pairs the fruity flavor of Belgian yeast with the citrus tang of a hopped-up beer for a combination of flavors that is refreshing, light and oh-so-citrusy.

Ghost Rider GlassGhost Rider is no different. The flavor is just such – citrus and fruity tastes from the hops and yeast, with a spicy element that I think might be coriander. But although the label says IPA, the taste is much more like a hoppy Belgian Wit.

In the glass, the beer pours a crisp, clean color that is only slightly cloudy, with a good head that is full of bubbles and leaves a fair amount of sticky lacing. The aroma is all hops baby, and the mouthfeel is excellent, even fun. The carbonation is light and bubbly with only a slight heaviness.

Overall, Ghost Rider White IPA is a a very tasty, highly drinkable beer that will be perfect for the warmer months. The taste is refreshing and hoppy, though not so hopped up that I would call it an “IPA.” But if you’re a fan of Belgian beers with a kick, you’ll want to saddle up with this Ghost Rider.

As for the ski down post-brew, well, let’s just say skiing Tukuhnikivatz was the most fun I’d ever had in Moab. That says a lot considering I’ve climbed Castleton Tower, mountain biked the Whole Enchilada and the White Rim Trail. But something about the timing, the bluebird skies, the aerobic hike up, the vibe from fellow skiers, the tasty Ghost Rider, and the incomparable views followed by a sweet ski descent of a long sought-after peak made this single adventure percolate to the top of my bro brain as the highlight of my Moab adventure life.

Justin Ski Tuk

For more information about Ghost Rider and other Wasatch beers, visit them at

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Shelly Baldy Peak paired with New Belgium Shift

Shift on Shelly BaldyDrinking beer atop mountains is easy in the winter. You can put climbing skins on skis and simply walk to the top. The bonus is that you get to ski down when you’re done. The minus, is that mountaintops are freaking windy and cold, which makes enjoying a tasty brew from a can a challenging endeavor in itself. Such was the case when myself, Adam Symonds and Eric Ghanem went on a backcountry ski trip to the Snorkeling Elk Yurt in the Tushar Mountains and completed a Summit Brew on Shelly Baldy Peak with a can of New Belgium Shift.

Shelly Baldy Peak is a 11,319 foot mountain that is basically ignored by everyone and their grandma. Visitors to the Tushars focus on Delano Peak, Belknap and Baldy. But I was immediately struck by Shelly Baldy’s wide powder bowls that looked so tasty from Big John Flat that I knew I had to summit her, drink from her top, then ski her perfect flanks.

The night before our summit day, I awoke to that sweet sound of snow sliding off the yurt’s roof, signaling a powder day. It was our final day of a trip that saw us summit and ski the Great White Whale and Delano Peak which I “Summit Brewed” last summer with a Uinta Skipping Stone. Our final objective was Shelly Baldy Peak. When we first got to the yurt, her proud, rocky face drew our eyes and our skis to her snowy base, but it wasn’t easy to get there. A series of ridges and drainages stood between the yurt and the mountain, which slowed travel time considerably (but provided opportunity to ski down each of the aforementioned ridges.)

Adam Shelly Baldy

It took four hours and just as many miles to traverse to Shelly Baldy’s foot. Once there, we had to make a decision – hike up a central, rocky ridge covered in wind-scoured rocks to the summit, or contour around on the summit ridge, which was surely being blasted by high winds that were visible from powder clouds being whipped up on the horizon. We chose the former option and took off our skis, strapped them to packs, and started hiking. Even there, the ever present, massive Tushar winds greeted us. But it didn’t take long to boot up the ridge and top out on a summit marked by three large cairns.

Shelly Baldy PeakA fantastic view cut through the chill as Mount Baldy and Mount Belknap stunned us, towering to the west. To escape the arctic breeze, we hunkered down behind the rock piles and busted out the can of New Belgium Shift Lager. But it was so cold, we had to drink it fast as it turned into a beer Slurpee as soon as it left the safe aluminum confines. Luckily there were three of us to share the Shift, which was well earned as we put in a full-day’s work just getting to the mountain.

New Belgium Shift Pale Lager

Shift on Shelly Baldy

New Belgium’s Shift Pale Lager is a fairly new brew from Colorado’s New Belgium, and is so named because brewery workers would have a beer after their work shift. It comes in a tallboy can and has a cool label of gears and chains that make me think more of bicycle shifting than wheels and cogs in a factory. The taste is a typical lager that is anything but typical as it’s loaded with hoppy goodness that’s just enough to give it some snap without being too bitter. In fact, they use Nelson Sauvin hops which give it a unique profile.

Shift DrinkThe nose is of malts that remind of dry grass and spices. Upon drinking, I noticed a jumpy, bubbly mouthfeel where the spicy taste hits first followed by the hops as it goes down. It has a crisp finish that is refreshing and satisfying. I rank it into the category of a good post-biking, lawn mowing beer. It wasn’t bad on a wind-blasted frozen peak either.

After enjoying our hoppy lager, the real fun began. The ski down was… interesting as Eric and I found wind-affected powder but Adam made close-and-personal contact with a buried rock that destroyed the edges of both skis. After much cursing and ski-throwing, we traversed the four miles back to the yurt, diverging here and there for powder turns in open meadows and even an aesthetic chute between a pair of red-rock towers that rose from the final ridge like rabbit ears. The snow was punchy and challenging, but that descent was the most thrilling of the trip.

Shelly Baldy Approach

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Sharp Mountain paired with Wasatch Alta 75th Anniversary Ale

Alta 75thOur search for new and/or random peaks to summit and consume hops and grain in liquid form recently brought us to the “other” mountain range of the Salt Lake Valley – the Oquirrh Mountains. After years of looking at these peaks every day and wondering what it would be like to ski them, Adam and I decided to stop the wondering and bring along a bottle of Alta 75th Anniversary Ale.

We started our ski tour from the tiny town of Ophir, a former mining community that is now a sleepy burg surrounded by cliffs and the white-capped peaks of the southern Oquirrhs. We drove through the main street, amused by signs admonishing us that quiet time starts at 10pm, along with seemingly thousands of no-trespassing signs nailed to every wall, tree and fence post in sight.

The road ended on the other side of town where it became unplowed. A few miles of 4×4 driving in deep snow brought us near the mouth of Serviceberry Canyon, a small drainage that allows access to Bald Mountain East, also known locally as Sharp Mountain. It is among the easier mountains to climb in the area, and we heard that the skiing is good here in early winter.


The route began at a green metal gate with a posted sign that said, “No Motorized Vehicles.” Beyond the gate, an ancient tractor lay rotting in the bushes and snow. We skinned up a summer road that switchbacked from sagebrush flats to oak groves, to aspen and pine trees and eventually the high alpine. Once the trail broke the treeline, Sharp Mountain came into view.

Adam SharpThe road grade ended at Chandler Pass, where we decided to climb the east ridge of Bald Mountain. The wind was howling, dropping the already bitter 9 degrees to an unthinkable wind-chill affected number. With hoods on and frozen fingers, we slowly skinned up the ridge and topped out in thick fog that shrouded the peak in milky white.

It was unfortunate that fog dominated, because the view would have been awesome behind the sparkling bottle of Alta 75th Anniversary Ale that I pulled from my pack. Even though it was but-ass cold, we drank up in celebration of another summit… summited.

Wasatch Alta 75th Anniversary Ale

Alta Beer 2

This beer is pretty much your typical American-style pale ale – which I think is the ideal beer for post-skiing or mountain climbing shenanigans. This special version released especially for Alta’s 75th anniversary tastes a bit more hoppy than most, with a thin mouthfeel and malt base which makes the brew dangerously sessionable.

Alta 75th DrinkIt’s an easy-drinking ale that’s balanced and hits all the right citrus hop notes. The only unfortunate thing is that it’s a special edition and won’t be around long after Alta’s 75th anniversary season is over. Hopefully the brewers will re-release it under a new name in the future.

After the Summit Brew was completed atop Sharp Mountain, we followed the mountain’s south ridge until an excellent fall-line with no rocks or brush appeared below us. Just before dropping in, the fog lifted and sunlight illuminated our descent. Adam went first, carving tracks 1,500 vertical feet all the way back to canyon bottom near Chandler Pass. I followed, whooping in surprise when every turn in creamy powder made me realize how long the run was. It just kept going and going and going….

For more from the Wasatch/Squatters Breweries, visit

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Wolf Creek Peak paired with Wasatch Kolob Kolsch

Kolob KolschBackcountry 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.

Adam Wolf Creek Peak

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.

Wolf Creek Peak TracksThe 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 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.

Drinking KolobLight-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.

Wolf Creek Peak Ski

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Cordón de los Hermanos, Patagonia paired with Berlina IPA

Our trip to Patagonia had been full of amazing ski mountaineering and beer drinking so far, but not much in the way of craft beer had yet been consumed. So after a trip to Los Baguales for some cat skiing, including an ascent of El Cordón de los Hermanos, it was high time to knock back some local brew, like Berlina IPA.

Cordera los Hermanos

The first morning at Los Baguales started at the Alaska Hostel in Bariloche, where our guides from Alta Montaña EVT, Patricio and Alejandro, picked us up for a trip to Refugio Baguales, a brand new hut located in the heart of the Cordillera de los Baguales, or “The Mountains of the Wild.” After loading up our skis and gear, then making a quick stop at a local bakery to pick up fixings for breakfast, we drove south on a highway that snaked alongside immense views of giant peaks that rose directly up from the shores of Lago Gutierrez and Mascardi. It was on this drive that some of the most amazing Patagonian scenery of the trip sped by in a blur outside the car windows.

River CrossingAfter about 45 minutes, we turned onto an unmarked dirt road into the valley of Rio Villegas as Alejandro blasted Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd on the car’s stereo. It was a fitting soundtrack for the rough terrain we entered. Just getting to the hut proved to be an adventure in itself as we crossed the river by literally driving in the water. Steam rose up from the bottom of the cars as we continued up from the water onto a loose cut in the mountainside. The road soon ended at the snow line where we had to hike in the mud for 200 yards with our gear in hand to snowmobiles that idled in wait. With our skis secured on a sled, we rode the snowmobiles to the hut, while Adam and Sean were treated to even more adventure as they volunteered to be pulled on their skis from behind.

Baguales HutRefugio Baguales is a large hut (more like pimped-out cabin) of rough-hewn wood paneling and beams. Inside, stone floors encircle a giant, central fireplace that sits open beneath a massive metal hood and chimney. Leather couches, animal-skin chairs, a communal dining table, and panoramic windows that look out over Alaskan-style mountains round out the accommodations. It’s all tied warmly together by Loli, the hut’s cheerful hostess who will kill you with too much food and drink if you allow it (and believe me, it’s hard to resist.)

After a late brunch of croissants, coffee and tea, we geared up and loaded a brand-new Pisten Bully 300 snowcat with room for 18. As the cat lumbered on its tracks over the Mesada de los Baguales, we took in the expansive mountain range that is privately owned by the same company that runs the hut and the snowcat operation. Hundreds upon hundreds of skiable lines spread out in all directions, and on all aspects. We drooled over the skiing prospects here, practically fogging up the cat’s windows as our noses pressed against the glass.

Baguales Ski 1

When the snowcat stopped atop a small peak, we all jumped out into a 360-degree view worthy of a Valdez heli ski-porn segment. Patricio and Alejandro took us to the edge of a cornice and dropped in, leading us to the best lines they could find despite the spring-like heat of the day and a rapidly warming snowpack.

Baguales Ski 2The first few runs were warm-ups where we could get our legs under us and the guides could observe our skiing abilities. We must have shown off our mad skills because it didn’t take long for them to rally the cat to ever higher and steeper descents. One run after another stacked up as we shredded spring corn all day long, carving crescent curves on creamy corn, farming lines until our legs begged us to stop. On that day, we were Patagonian corn farmers, harvesting the shit out of the Cordillera de los Baguales.

To make the descents even sweeter, our guides admitted that we were the second clients to ever use the hut and snowcat. A group from France had been the first, as they visited earlier in the week to shoot film for a ski movie. In fact, we were told that some of the peaks we skied were second descents, including the massive summit called Cordón de los Hermanos. Plus, our final run was on a line that Alejandro had never skied before, and he was clearly excited to be there skiing it with us. Looking at the amount of terrain in Los Baguales, and the possibilities of the innumerable ski routes she holds, my mind boggled to think about it, and made me wish I could spend a week here skiing everything I could.

Baguales Ski 3

After eight runs or so of the most perfect spring corn I ever tasted with metal edges and ski wax, we returned to the warm confines of the hut just before sundown, where Loli poured bottles of vintage 2006 Tupungato Malbec wine. As we sat around the table sipping vino and noshing on warm meat and appetizers of cheese and salmon, we recounted our day and the “buenoing-out” of our corn-orgy began.

Baguales Hut 2We could not believe we were there, the second group of skiers to ever experience the place. Under a warm Patagonian sun, we skied almost 10,000 vertical feet in five hours in a remote mountain range. Then “second lunch” was ready, as Loli dished out bowls of beef and potato stew with even more wine. It was 6 in the evening, and our bellies were full. But we knew dinner was yet to come. So we changed into comfortable clothes, gathered around the fireplace, and talked as the sunset cast alpenglow across the face of the Baguales mountains. Later, we drank Fernet con Coca and delighted when dinner was served. It was a traditional Argentinian Asado, consisting of several courses of meat like chorizo and strips of steak that were slowly cooked over the fire.

After we had our fill and couldn’t possibly eat another morsel, an impromptu dance party ensued fueled by Goal Zero speakers and the emergency flash modes of our headlamps that acted like dozens of head-mounted disco balls. But the batteries in the speakers soon wussed out, so we retired to the sweeping wood deck and laid underneath the stars where the trance overtook our wine, food and buenoed-out bodies. As the night became late, and the temperatures dropped well below freezing on the winds of an approaching cold front, we went back inside, crawled into our sleeping bags in the attic, and got the best damn sleep of the trip.

This day was the highlight of our Patagonia Ski Tours trip. And even though we questioned it throughout the day we were convinced that, yes, this really did happen. To celebrate our good fortune, it was craft beer time. So I opened a Patagonian version of my favorite beer style – and IPA from the Berlina Brewery.

Berlina IPA

Berlina IPA, from Bariloche, Argentina, is an English style IPA that is more malty than hoppy. The lack of hop flavor didn’t diminish the beer for me though, as one should not expect to get a northwest-style American IPA in South America. The flavors did have the citrus and grapefruit flavors that were a bit overpowered by the sweet malts. The beer poured cloudy and had little head or carbonation. Despite its flaws, Berlina IPA was a good finish to a memorable beer and ski trip.

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Catedral Norte, Patagonia paired with Quilmes Lager

Catedral Norte, a peak of the Cerro Catedral region in Argentine Patagonia, was our exit back to civilization after staying the night at the legendary Refugio Frey. The trip was a huge bite to chew as far as ski mountaineering was concerned. The day climbing this peak was such that we ran out of water before days end. Good thing there was copious amounts of Quilmes Lager beer waiting for us at the end, making this a Patagonian Summit Brew of the highest order!

The day began with a debate at Refugio Frey about whether we should go back the way we came in through Valle Van Titter and The Notch, but overnight temperatures that dropped to 20 degrees meant that particular slope would be frozen solid. Most people who visit the hut hike in and out on a trail that goes around the mountain range to the base of the ski resort Catedral Alta Patagonia, but that would mean eight miles of backpacking in ski boots. No, we decided there had to be another way.

After skiing through somewhat soft snow back down to the Spooky Forest and the bottom of Valle Van Titter, we skinned up the drainage to take a look at our options. The Notch route definitely was in the shade, and therefore too icy for an ascent. But another option lay in the sun. The back side of Catedral Norte looked scary, but it had some solar exposure, could be approached by a low-angle ramp above a cliff band, then finished with a boot pack on the upper headwall to the summit.

It was decided. We would climb Catedral Norte. The trek started out well enough, as an easy skin to the bottom of the slope revealed slick snow that skins barely stuck to. But upon reaching the shadow line, it was clear there would be no skinning on the ice. So the majority of the group removed skis and splitboards, pulled out the axes and whippets, and started booting up small chutes that led to the ramp we spied across the valley.

I chose a chute directly above me and started up. But as soon as I wedged myself between two rock walls, a layer of blue ice revealed itself beneath a thin layer of snow. Without crampons on my feet, I had to kick steps to make a sort of ladder for myself. But the ice was so hard, it took a at least five kicks for every step – an exhausting and very inefficient way of climbing. But I was committed, and had no choice but to go up. Sweaty and footsore, I reach the ramp where Sean had put in a boot pack and I could relax my aching calves.

But the ramp was steeper than it looked from below – too steep for skins. So we continued to walk up until the slope got so steep we all took a break on some rocks and attached crampons to our ski boots. Then the real workout began. Wes Wylie, the “Chuck Norris” of the group, went first, creating a route for us to follow that skirted the edge of vertical walls, ice crust and pockets of soft snow around warm boulders that threatened to sink us to our waists. The snow was rapidly getting warm, too warm, and the top of Catedral Norte seemed impossibly far away. Head down, I let all thoughts disappear and focused only on my steps. Any mistake or imbalance risked a slide-for-life over boulders and that cliff band we negotiated earlier below.

Luckily, we made it to the top after a class-5 scramble through a narrow, rocky chute filled with loose rock and icy foot holds. Elated but thirsty, we drank the rest of our water and watched the unmoving view below us. A short traverse to the summit of Catedral Norte put us above La Laguna, a premiere backcountry ski area just outside the ski resort’s boundary where freeskiing competitions are held. We skied a wide bowl beneath a derelict lift on snow that resembled styrofoam, but damn it felt good to be skiing instead of climbing.

But when Wes dropped in, his Telemark binding tore right out of his ski, sending it flying down the mountain. Sean, who was watching this unfold from below, skied into the ski’s path despite our screams to get out of the way. But instead of trying to stop it, he tapped it with his pole, which sent it airborne. The ski landed just over a roller where it went out of view, and came down on its tail, sticking out from snow like an arrow on a target. Sean recovered the errant board and we all skied to the gondola station (while Wes picked his way down on one ski.)

Dying of thirst, we arrived at the upper gondola station and promptly ordered, then drank, 40 beers (between seven of us) in an hour. My beer of choice was the amazingly refreshing Quilmes Lager, another of Argentina’s “Budweiser” type macro-brews.

Quilmes Lager

This beer is about what one would expect. I’d say it’s the “Coors” of Argentina as it sort of reminded me of the flavor of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain-brewed tastiness. Perhaps that’s because they say the beer is brewed with the “purest Patagonian water.” Something about that mineral-heavy mountain water makes a beer taste better. Overall though, this is a basic lager with a thin mouthfeel, little flavor, and a crisp but clean finish. Not something I would normally seek out, but boy did it hit the spot while lounging on the deck after a long, thirsty day in the mountains… which is why I had, like, 4.

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Refugio Frey, Patagonia paired with Isenbeck Pale Lager

Last September, I went on a trip of a lifetime in Patagonia to go backcountry skiing with buds in some of the biggest mountains I’ve ever seen, and to visit legendary mountain huts like the Refugio Frey, located in Cerro Catedral outside Bariloche. Of course traveling exotic mountains requires the consumption of exotic beer, so I paired a visit to Refugio Frey with one of Argentina’s beers, Isenbeck Pale Lager.

First thing was first though. We had some skiing to do, and we found it at the resort at Cerro Catedral. It is an immense ski resort that honestly has seen better days. The snow line began halfway up the mountain, and the locals say nobody has been able to ski from top to base in five years because of warm winters. Despite that, the upper mountain held good, albeit soft, snow that was fast and fun to turn in. Wide open runs above tree line provided the most incredible views from a ski resort that I’ve ever seen, and dozens of lifts in close proximity allowed for easy lapping over and over again.

When we had our fill, we rode lifts to the top of the mountain where we exited the resort boundary and began our rock-strewn ridge traverse to a place where a descent would get us to our destination. With clear weather and warm temperatures, our spirits were high as we strapped skis to packs and unsheathed whippets and mountaineering axes. The route was simple enough, and previous parties had already booted in a faint trail barely covered by a thin dusting of snow.

The standard way to reach Refugio Frey is to ski down from The Notch, a small opening in a cliff band that allows entry to Valle Van Titter, a route that requires bushwhacking at the bottom of the drainage followed by a skin up to the hut. So Justin and Sean had their eyes on a different way by traversing the entire ridge, then skiing right down to the hut on a headwall dubbed “Schmoll Bowl” that spills onto Laguna Toncek. But after a few hours of slowly making our way over loose rock, scrambling along boulders, and tentatively side-hilling without crampons over death exposure, we decided to cut things short and ski from a saddle just beyond The Notch. Plus, the weather was beginning to turn, with a rapidly lowering ceiling and visibility becoming dangerously low.

After a quick pit test and lunch, we clicked into our skis and carefully made turns on chattery, hard snow that gave new meaning to sewing-machine-leg. One by one we descended down the steep headwall that led to an area of rollers and small cliff bands broken up by openings large enough for us to ski and snowboard through. Eventually, the line traversed skier’s right to a final pitch of softer snow where we we able to edge a little bit turn for turn to the valley bottom.

Despite the mediocre snow conditions, we were taken in by our surroundings. Cerro Catedral completely encased us with grey spires and towers of stone. At the bottom of Valle Van Titter, it felt as if we were standing in the palm of a god hand below fingers curving skyward.

A short traverse along a stream filled with melting, spring snow brought us to what Justin dubbed the “Spooky Forest.” I could see where he got the name. Gnarly trees of dark grey and barren limbs grew thick and tall, creating a sense of foreboding. Large curtains of bushy moss covered the trees like an old man’s beard, while bark knots scarred tree surfaces in the shape of an evil face. Silence fell on us as we put skins to our skis and ate dried pears to fuel our ascent to Refugio Frey, hiding somewhere in a hanging valley above.

Bushes and naked limbs tore at our shells and snagged our poles as we skinned up through the forest that thinned into a grove of shrubs as we got higher. A bit of route-finding navigated us over snow bridges and through the occasional patch of bare ground until we found an old skin track. Switchbacks on rapidly melting snow under the late-afternoon sun made short work of the climb, and before we knew it, a corner of the hut’s roof appeared around a small shoulder of snow. With renewed enthusiasm, we skinned faster until Refugio Frey came into full view, a storybook, stone cottage nestled beneath an impossibly jagged cauldron of sawtooth mountains.

 Immediately, the cameras came out, despite the beer that surely waited for us inside. We probably spent an hour taking photos of the hut, providing the perfect foreground to the otherworldly granite spires beyond the frozen lake. Several of the group decided it best to relax and drink, but despite the late hour, Adam, Sean and myself decided to go for a short tour. A quick skin halfway across the lake and up a stone littered face brought us to a saddle overlooking Campenile, the next valley over that housed even more thin towers. It was no wonder why rock climbers converge here in the summer. But we skiers scoped out the lines on couloirs and chutes that spilled down between the monoliths.

Unfortunately, because of the previous day’s weather and our inability to reach Refugio Frey at that time, we only had one night at the hut, which meant there would be no time to ski any of the juicy lines that I had hoped to tick off one by one. So after more picture taking and soaking in the scenery, the three of us skied back down to the lake on creamy corn snow and savored every turn, knowing it would be our only turns at Frey as we had to leave early in the morning.

Despite that disappointment, our time was well spent at Refugio Frey. Good company, excellent pasta dinner, and cans of beer kept us occupied well into the night. I enjoyed my first brew while sitting on a boulder just outside the hut where a view of Cerro Principal loomed above the frozen lake and glowed pink with Andean glow that reflected the setting sun. With that serene yet jagged view in front of me, I popped open an Isenbeck Pale Lager and drank to the day.

Isenbeck Pale Lager

It’s funny how being in a foreign country, you almost expect everything to taste better, or at least different, than what we eat or drink in the United States. This certainly holds true for beer. So it was with much relish that I took my first sip of Isenbeck Pale Lager, one of the few “macro beer” companies in Argentina. The yellow can states, Cerveza 100% Malta, which I thought translates  to a tasty, malty beer. But upon the first swig, I determined that even South America has its “Budweiser or Coors” style beers.

Isenbeck has a watered down taste that is certainly easy to drink and was wonderfully refreshing after a long day skiing and hiking in the mountains. It has a light, grainy hop aroma with a touch of straw and some barley. Typical bitterness for a lager style beer was dominant with some sweetness as well, probably from the malts. Overall, it’s not a bad beer, but is uninspiring unless you’re drinking it in a place that is nothing but inspiring.

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Storm Mountain paired with Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’

Lagunitas Brewing Company’s Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale atop Storm Mountain, Utah.

Sometimes a hike up a mountain becomes two… and you don’t even realize it. Such was the case with my annual trek to a lofty Wasatch summit to give my offering of booze and beer to Ullr, the Norse god of snow, in the hope that he will be pleased and shower us with his powder bounty for the upcoming ski season. In order to do this, it is imperative to bring quality hooch, because cheap liquor will displease Ullr, and he will make his wrath known, as Brewddha discovered a few season ago as described here. So, I packed some whiskey in a Montana Fly Company flask (let’s hope Ullr likes to fish) and a bottle of “Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale from Lagunitas Brewing Company (even Ullr needs a little sumpin’ sumpin’ from time to time.) I also figured I’d climb Storm Mountain, seeing as how the peak’s very name is begging for low pressure systems to come rolling across the west desert and slam into the Wasatch.

Storm Mountain is a 9,524 foot mountain that towers above lower Big Cottonwood Canyon. Unending quartzite clifs rise up from the roadside, where rock climbers can be found dangling from metamorphic rock. Indeed, this summit is impressive from Highway 190, but its south end, the one that allows a summit bid, looks more like a hump on a ridgeline. This feature (or featurelessness) would be my undoing.

Storm Mountain viewed from Big Cottonwood Canyon.

I started the hike at the mouth of Ferguson Canyon in the foothills above Cottonwood Heights, a suburb of Salt Lake City. The canyon rises parallel to Big Cottonwood Canyon and is the easiest route to the top of Storm Mountain. But easiest route does not mean easy. The ascent from the valley floor to the top requires 5,000 feet of elevation gain, and most of the trail is steep.  Within Ferguson canyon, slate-grey crags hover above vegetation-choked trails that meander around a small stream. It’s mostly a nice hike in a shady grotto until the trail goes straight up with rocky purpose.

The entrance to Ferguson Canyon.

Eventually, the trail switchbacks up the south side of the drainage and forks. Left goes to a nice overlook of the Salt Lake Valley and Big Cottonwood Canyon, while right continues up the canyon. I took the right path and followed the trail as it continued up into thick groves of scrub oak that drape over the trail with scratching branches.

Finally, the trail enters a mountainous meadow filled with aspen trees and pine beneath cliffs and jagged peaks. Here the hike becomes almost pleasant, so I took photos of the fall colors while aiming for the most prominent peak – one I thought must be Storm Mountain.

Soon after the meadow, the trail disappeared, replaced with a web of faint game trails that suckers hikers into dead ends and the base of cliffs. Rather than trying to decipher the thinking of deer and goats and where their highways may lead, I continued climbing toward that peak. The terrain steepened again. Bushwhacking became the norm, and loose scree welcomed me every chance it got.

Fall aspen trees in a meadow below Storm Mountain.

Head down, I soldiered on and finally found myself atop a summit. Thrilled, I took my pack off, unzipped the main compartment to grab my beer, turned around, and realized that I wasn’t standing on Storm Mountain at all. Storm Mountain was below me! I had just climbed a much higher peak to the southeast, a peak that has no name but is shown on maps simply as “10,350.”

Peak 10,350 as seen from the summit of Storm.

Damn. Since I was on a commanding peak even larger than my original destination, I considered for a moment to give my offering to Ullr right there. But the peak doesn’t have a name! Surely Ullr would prefer his offering on a crag named “Storm Mountain,” a peak with a moniker that honors the very thing that Ullr does – create snowstorms. So I dutifully put my beer back in its cooler, and downclimbed to the saddle.

My detour took about two hours out of my day, but as I stood beneath the true summit I meant to climb, I decided it was worth the sidetrack. Unnamed 10,350 provided an awesome view of the Twin Peaks, which I scoped out for a future SummitBrew. With renewed energy, I scrambled up the east ridge, enjoyed the fall-you-die exposure above Stairs Gulch, and made it to the top of Storm Mountain with plenty of daylight left to spare.

Having my share atop Storm Mountain.

The summit of Storm Mountain is a small area covered in uneven rocks and sparse brush. A gigantic cairn is the main feature as hundreds of rocks are stacked up like a biblical altar meant for slaughtering lambs or first-born sons. Luckily Ullr prefers tasty libations over spilled blood, so I removed my trout-covered flask and poured fine whiskey procured at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market onto the rocks. After taking a swig myself, out came a bottle of Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’. At this point, I said a little prayer to our god of snow asking for plentiful powder, cold air, and a stable snowpack. As per tradition, I poured Ullr his share upon the mountain, and drank the rest for myself in his honor.

Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale

Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ is from Lagunitas Brewing Company out of Petaluma, California. I’ve long been a fan of their beers ever since my wife and I shared bottles of their Pale Ale on a ferry in San Francisco Bay after riding bikes over the Golden Gate Bridge. But my favorite beer they make is one that we can actually get here in Utah, and that’s Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’.

Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ being sacrificed on the altar of Storm Mountain. Ullr better be pleased.

This beer is unique. There’s nothing quite like it in beerdom. The best way to describe it is like a light IPA that still packs an alcohol and hoppy punch. It’s closest to an IPA style, but doesn’t quite have the malt backbone one would expect. Turns out Lagunitas brews it with 50% wheat malt and all the “C” hops. Think a blend of Cascade, Citra, Columbus, Centennial, etc. The result is a hoppy, flavorful and refreshing beer that I buy every time I see it on the shelf.

Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ is a tasty beer that in the glass pours a light, see-through yellow color. It starts off with a healthy head that emits a smell of grassy hops, but as it’s swallowed down, there isn’t much lacing left on the glass. On the tongue, the hops have a piney, grassy and citrus taste that packs a punch but isn’t hard to drink at all. In fact, it’s super drinkable, almost dangerously so. There are also hints of wheat.

Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ in the glass.

Overall, this brew has a very nice balance that’s a little sweet, but mostly bitter from that amazing hop profile. Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ is absolutely one of my favorite beers in the world. Better yet, it’s no longer just a seasonal anymore but is now an “un-seasonal” to be enjoyed year round. You know I will, and hopefully Ullr will like it as much as I do.

For more from Lagunitas, visit them at

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