1-28-2011 Sky Pilot Peak

January 28, 2011 at 22:28 | Posted in Backcountry skiing the Bitterroots | Leave a comment

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Colin and I headed for Sky Pilot at dawn from Gash after getting heinously stuck 4 wheeling in the Junuary, crusticy road.  After many hours of breaking trail through breakable crust and wind slab and exposed rain crust we dropped the south side to North Bear Lake. Contouring across the major south facing avy paths brought us to the climb to  the upper bench and thence onto the rollover face of the upper north face. More breakable crust, wind slab, and rain crust, slipping and hanging onto poles, with nothing but awesome blue skies to inspect it all. We summitted and dropped off the south side to take a better look at the east face. WOW! What a burly run, not for the anything but possessed and advanced skier…We lit some incense at the top of the mountain in a hollowed out snow ghost and thought  about all that backcountry skiing has given us and taken away…After what seemed like a descent of purely shitty snow, we wrapped to the south face and suffered some warmed up crusts, jumped a glide crack, and skied to the lake. Awesome. Long torturous slog back to Gash through thick timber, rotten snow, wind started blowing again, and a rare glimpse of two Pine Grosbeaks. Gash to the truck was a long moderate run, with a tail wind. We found some rare ankle powder in the trees where it had all blown and after 45 minutes of skiing more crusts, we  arrived in spring mash at the truck. What a great day, dawn to dusk, 9000 vertical feet of the crappiest snow of the year, yeaa!

1-23-2011 Gash Point

January 24, 2011 at 21:01 | Posted in Backcountry skiing the Bitterroots | 4 Comments

Colin and I headed up to the Gash Point trailhead and managed to break out the road again. We had plans to head for Sky Pilot for the day but faced with high winds, snow, and low visibility we opted for a big vertical day at Gash. After two runs on the south side with the first quite good and the second quite windblown, we opted for the tree triangle route up and took another 4 runs there. All in we managed to ski 11,500 vertical in 9 hours. While Colin was feeling good and ready for more, I was fatigued. I cut a small wind slab avalanche on a rollover in the trees and managed to have the head cam rolling capturing  the trigger moment and the rippling of the snowpack at my feet. It being small and I was skiing fast in anticipation, I was off the slab just after it released and the lower run was quite moderate. In reviewing the footage it looked again like other slides I have triggered where the bottom of the slide fails allowing the upper snow to escape the tension of itself and its own internal cohesion.http://www.youtube.com/user/johnlehrman?feature=mhum. Evaluating snowpack, ski terrain and choice, ski style and survivability makes for a complex set of circumstances on a ski day in moderate hazard with an increasing trend.  Of course the more I ski in these conditions and on avalanche terrain, the more I learn about stability and good/poor choices. Again thanks to Colin for today’s photos.

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