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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  1. Bill, I appreciate the response. I had a similar response on top of Borah Peak to a full sized American Flag there. But after waving and some photos and carefully repacking the flag and pole in the snow, it became a good memory. Fortunately these prayer flags are windegradable vanishing in the sun shortly and permanently. Pack it in and out is the best we can do. Don’t worry you are not a downer, thanks for breaching the subject. These flags are flown in memory of a good friend who died in the mountains, somehow it helps to connect with his memory and spirit, and hopefully these flags will vanish as quickly as we all can.

  2. I know that to some the prayer flags are very important spiritual icons, but to many they are merely trash flapping in the wind in our wilderness and forest. Sorry to be such a downer, but “pack it in, pack it out”.

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