3-13-2011 Grey Wolf Peak

March 14, 2011 at 18:41 | Posted in Backcountry skiing the Missions | 4 Comments

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photos courtesy of Ben Brunsvold and Colin Chisholm

Colin, Brian, Ben and I made the grunt up to the shoulder of East St. Mary’s in the Missions for the spectacular view and mild descent to the west face of Grey Wolf Peak. With blue skies, light winds, and stable conditions we bootpacked the west couloir with Colin and Brian taking the lead. The col enjoys a nice aspect and it was sunny and still with plenty of room for the four of us to rip skins and get ready for a descent. But where to? With the east couloir beckoning strongly to me, I dropped in and enjoyed good skiing on warmed up, firm, old powder. Watching the others descend was quite enjoyable and we shared a quick lunch before taking off to bootpack the east couloir back to the col and descend the west couloir which was in good, firm, old powder condition as well. We noted a few old tracks in the run and wondered who had been there recently. Brian and Colin reascended the next couloir south of the main west to its rocky endpoint while Ben and I headed up out and over the shoulder of East St. Mary’s and back down the approach ridge for the final 4500′ descent! What a great 10,000 vertical day  in a special place with good people and partners.

3-9-2011 Mill 2 Peak

March 10, 2011 at 14:59 | Posted in Backcountry skiing the Bitterroots | 2 Comments

Colin and I reached the summit of  Mill 2 Peak  via Blodgett Canyon just passed Flathead Buttress. Reaching the second high point on Printz Ridge is a difficult proposition from every direction. From Blodgett Canyon it is a grueling 3500′ + grind from the trail to the summit up talus, a steep waterfall gully, steep slopes and ridges and a final ridge traverse below the high quality, vertical, granite gendarmes. We were out on what turned out to be quite a spicy day of wind slabs. First noted at about 7500′ on the sub ridge we were following to the summit ridge we kicked off a few small slabs and had some good shooting cracks on steeper rolls. Increasing winds had replaced blue skies around 11 a.m. Reaching the summit through a notch and final scramble put us at the very top of the peak and the summit run to the east on the Alaska face. We tentatively stepped down and around the corner to the northwest gully dropping towards Mill Creek. The top of the wind drift was beautifully sculpted into a shark fin which we stomped to see about hazard. It was cracking but not failing so I stomped around the entire entry to the gully before committing to a ski cut left to right. Starting almost at the top of the drift, I skimmed a rapid descent and got a release up to a foot deep to propagate in the upper wind slab and run a couple hundred yards down the gully without subsequent releasing.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Cc4tFeNIyY. I skied the debris when nervous about the new snow and only occasionally skied left into the fresh powder which was quite exquisite. I released small subsequent slabs three times, which was scary but manageable due to the thin slab and good soft snow edging below. Not recommended, today was a high commitment outing. I videoed the run and posted to Youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Cc4tFeNIyY. The bottom of the gully pitches over slowly to a twin gully finale that empties the skier into the upper basin below Mill 3. We skinned up to the cliffs below in a nice snow bowl on edge and spread out on this potential avalanche slope. We heard a very strange and quite distinct settlement crack without settlement but the continued warning was enough to set us over the edge riskwise and we bailed on the tours objective of Summitting Mill 3 and skiing the south face. Skiing down and out the basin to the west of the gully proved to be the ticket and we had a good run in good powder to about 6000 feet. The bottom 1500 was mash and big snowrollers but a good line to the creek and crossing to the trail which was in fairly dismal shape with blowdown; however, ther were not many moose post holes, snowshoe tracks or wolves! Ending at Mill creek required a car drop and we were very grateful for Jenny, Erin, and Kes for helping us out of that fix.

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