Top 10 in 10 – Lisa Falls

| January 21, 2009

#8 – Lisa Falls

With a vertical drop of 5,000′, Lisa Falls is the biggest of all the magnificent south facing couloirs that line Little Cottonwood Canyon.  When I first skied it roughly fifteen years ago in knee-deep sub 5% powder on a clear, sunny day, it was such an incredible experience that it sold me on the virtues of backcountry skiing and I’ve hardly been back to the resorts since then.  A trip down Lisa Falls is an epic adventure, with a headwall, upper couloir section, middle aprons, lower couloir section, a rappel (most likely), then a tight lower that suddenly spits you out right onto the LCC road.  Being south facing, it is hard to get in powdery conditions, but the skiing is almost secondary to the overall experience anyway.

Noah Howell pointing out the big gal from across the valley.
Noah Howell pointing out the big gal from across the valley.

Lisa Falls starts right at the gap between the two peaks that form Twin Peaks and slithers all the way down.  When conditions are right, my approach of choice is to go up the Tanners slide path, then drop a nice north-facing powder shot before climbing back up to the ridgeline and over to the summit of Twin Peaks.

Jared Inouye booting up Tanners at first light.
Jared Inouye booting up Tanners at first light.
Bart Gillespie following my "Lost Again" line.  This is avoidable if you remember to look around and follow the ridgeline.
Bart Gillespie following the “Lost Again” variation.We climbed until the earth fell away in all directions around us.

A cool aspect of Lisa Falls is that it is so huge that at some point you are likely to find good skiing.  Today’s outing had everything from bullet-proof ice to chudder-mank avalanche debris, wet slop, rocks, powder, running water, corn and breakable crust.  It is all just part of the package. 

Noah digging into some yummy debris.

Jared entering the middle couloir zone.
Jared entering the middle couloir zone.

Part of the appeal of skiing Lisa Falls is that it takes every trick in the book to make it down in one piece.  There’s climbing, sideslipping, rock hopping, rappelling, great skiing and crap all rolled into one.

Noah Howell leaping for joy in Lisa Falls.  Ironically, he stuck the landing,

The rappel in Lisa Falls is almost more of an annoyance than anything.  It can be avoided by skirting hard left, but you are trading lots of little miseries for one big one.  I prefer to just set an anchor (a piece of wood as a deadman backed up by a sketchy willow tree) and get it over with.  I’ve misunderestimated (see you W – have a nice life) how long it is twice and ended up leaving my ropes both times as I’ve had to tie them off full-length and leave them.  Such is the price of having fun and there is more rope where this came from.  :)

Tomorrow:  Looking for a little love…
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Category: current conditions

About the Author ()

Andrew McLean lives in Park City, Utah and is a gear designer, writer, photographer, ski mountaineer, climber, Mountain Unicycle rider and father of two very loud little girls.

Comments (12)

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  1. Ten in Ten Notes at - Backcountry Skiing & Beyond | January 26, 2009
  1. d3 says:

    (See you W – have a nice life)

    Bwah ha ha

    Most excellent writing, as usual! Gack that I forgot about your website and there I was, the 2nd registered user EVAR! I bookmarked it.

    Where’s the flippin’ snuh?

  2. Andrew says:

    Hi D3! I’m glad to see that that little bit of snark didn’t go to waste. I think we were on top of Twin right at the Inauguration, which was a fun place to start a new chapter in history.

    Speaking of, I hear there’s a party at the U of U Hospital planned for sometime around mid to late Feb. I’ll be there.

  3. Photo-John says:

    That stuff is way over my head. But it’s inspiring to read about it. And I love the photo of the skier hucking off that rock. That is sweet!

  4. Derek says:

    Nice Andrew. Heard Noah had fun on the rap again;)

  5. Bob John says:

    Can u take that last comment off? It sounds retarded


  6. Andrew says:

    OK Bob John, but just this time. ;)
    (it sounded fine to me – nice job on Tanners!)

  7. Andrew says:

    Yeah, I guess the rap just isn’t exciting enough for Noah so he has to add some blood and a near fatal drowning to it to spice it up. I thought the .25″ diameter twig we used for an anchor would be enough of a thrill, but no.

  8. Colin (aka SCUTSKI) says:

    ^^^ Holy chit! Sounds like a ton of fun.

  9. Pondsy says:

    Heart of Darkness coming up next?

  10. Derek says:

    Heart of Darkness is Heart of Choss right now.

  11. Jim says:

    I just descended this couloir today (Memorial Day Weekend) using crampons and an axe for the top half, and picking my way over and around at least 30 waterfalls. I can’t believe it’s skiable with only one rap. The chokes did look like they’d be pretty fun to ski though, especially in powder. In the Spring it’s a great combo experience. A nice hike up from Broads, mountaineering up and over, and then a full-on canyoneering experience going down through the waterfalls. It does go without a rap in the Spring, which is good, since I didn’t bring a rope.

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