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The Devil’s Bedstead
Unfortunately, I was relieved of much of my camera equipment in Argentina, so I had to scrape together some pictures from the few I had uploaded on other sites. (I am aware there are no pictures of us actually skiing):
I’m already regretting my decision to bivy at the base of the Devil’s Bedstead and I haven’t even fallen asleep. While the freezing temperatures ease my concerns about skiing in the morning, the temps aren’t doing a whole lot for my current sleeping situation. Located in the Pioneer Mountains, the Devil’s Bedstead rises roughly 4,800’ from the valley floor and is defined by a 2,800’ face that looms over the Kane Creek drainage.
The view from the headwaters of Park Creek
Despite the cold temperatures, I manage to sleep until just after 3am. With a rather leisurly start to the day, we begin the bushwhack to the base of the mountain just after five. The route up the Bedstead is pretty straightforward, with the exception of gaining the basin at the bottom of the face. For anyone trying to replicate this here’s the key: go several hundred yards pass the drainage that, on the map, gives access to the basin (there’s a faint trail). At this point start heading up, through steep, yet open forests. Going directly up the drainage is possible, but it’s steep, heavily wooded, and pretty much fubar.
The face of the beast
Scrambling through the loose rock and dirt, we eventually make it to the subtle basin below the daunting face. Any concerns about the snow setting up are immediately dismissed once we reach snowline. The snow froze, and it froze deep, allowing for a long, but essentially straightforward route up the face. As we gain elevation, our crampons and ice axes provide less and less purchase, and I can’t help but think how good an idea not falling is. After a scramble over a windswept scree field, we eventually reach the summit, just as we think the snow is beginning to warm. Relaxing on the summit, we predict that the snow should be turning to corn in the next hour, considering the face has been catching light since six thirty.
Ketchum from the summit
When it comes to skiing (and most other things I suppose) I have the patience of a virgin on prom night, which is probably not the best quality given our current situation. So, after a casual lunch on the summit, I deemed the snow had reached sufficient softness and it was time to drop in. Wrong. The first mid radius turn I ambitiously made was nothing short of terrifying- I thought the teeth were going to chatter out of my jaw. Time to safety ski again…super. Luckily, midway down the face the snow began to soften and we got some of the steep, spring turns we came for.
In retrospect, it’d be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get the entire 4,000’+ descent in good condition. Had we waited for the top to corn up, I think we’d be in real trouble at the bottom- both in terms of snow quality and stability. I think in this case, being impatient wasn’t the worst thing.