Ben and I made a great trip to Trapper Peak on this gorgeous bluebird day. After climbing up through the lakes basin and heading up the bowl to the ridge we summited and skied from there down to the north on perfect corn. Stopping to take some photos I managed a great series of Ben coming down through the crux rollover, but being away from the home computer I have nothing to share today. We booted back up the left hand climber’s gully east of the summit and proceeded to the Gem Lake couloir which we dropped into from the top over the slumped cornice. It was a bit of a steep entry but with soft snow all the way to Gem Lake proved to be another great day skiing summer snow in the Bitterroots. There should be good skiing for another few weeks here at least.
After the two days skiing in the Pintlars, I drove back to Missoula and headed north for Glacier Park. I spent a great evening on the beach at Finley Point and a rest day at the Columbia Falls waterslides. First up there Geronimo free fall slide with a bunch of kids all having a blast. What a belly drop if you have never done it, I ran it twice, others were doing three. After dinner in Columbia Falls at a nice Grille downtown on the east side of main street. They had some good food and the kids did some coloring, while Jenny and I sat happy with our posse of 4 teenagers.
I drove over to the east side of Glacier Park and arrived in time for sunset by Marias Pass and a beautiful evening driving the east side road to St Mary’s. Always a treat to drive up through the dense western forest of the west slope and juxtapose it so blatantly with the prairie and aspen drier east side. I took photos of Rising Wolf Mountain and of the upper Cutbank Creek area and rolled into St Mary’s at dark. I paid the entry fee and set up a tent at Rising Sun campground.
When I rolled out 5 hours later dawn was just breaking and I made a beeline for the car after a quick pitstop. I took a minute or two to shoot some photos at Wild Goose Island overlook, all in the shade still of clouds and Going to the Sun Mountain. I biked up to Siyeh Bend where further travel was forbidden, dropped the bike and hiked east up a snow filled gully to the bench below the west face of Going to the Sun Mountain. Traversing northeast took me across the creek and into Preston Park and eventually to the base of Siyeh Mountain. There I cramponned up and boot stomped it to the summit through a steep lower runout, to a cliff band west-most disect of three routes to the upper mountain. From above the cliff band the slope eased for a thousand feet before steepening below the rocky summit of Siyeh. A three thousand foot climb takes awhile and during the ascent I watched a southern storm carrying virga converge over Mount Stimson and move on east. From beyond where I could see to the north of the hulking Siyeh, I could hear the occasional crack of thunder, sometimes loud enough to cause a jump. With sun on the south slope and no winds to speak of I carried on to the summit after leaving my skis at the end of the snow. The summit is a table top with a jutting northern tooth with some moderate climbing to ascend. I reached the ridge and shot some photos of Cracker Lake gleaming Glacier blue four thousand feet below.
The sideslip off the near summit gully was steep and had a rock, but was manageable. With a traverse right onto the summit snowfield I schussed onto the slope making long arcing turns on the moderate pitch. With plenty of room, the run started with hero snow. Below it thinned and I dodged through a few thin patches and barely filled in talus slopes before steepening into the series of channels through the cliff bands. Cranking down on the turns I spewed some snow down below me to encourage sluffing and had limited success. I stopped above the crux and let the loose snow run through and into a rockside hole, acting much like slurry. With a warm day and a south face I was pleased the snow was as consolidated as it was. After straightlining the crux and swiping the slope again I was able to loosen some snow and enjoy it chasing me down the slope as I made long turns to the left to avoid become debris myself. Stopping again before the finale I watched the loose snow cascade down into a scree slope and slowly come to an excited rest spraying summer snow. Down to the creek for another deep drink of water and some lunch.
As it was only 1 pm. I took some time enjoying the mountains watching the ground squirrels and mountain goats and trying to listen to what the mountain had to say about the rest of my day. The obvious draw was towards Piegan Pass and Pollock Mountain. Having downloaded the maps to the media device I pulled it out and spun the top which said I had only 2.5 miles as the crow flew to reach the summit of Pollock Mountain on the Continental Divide. After a descnding and then ascending traverse west I made the pass and the backside bowl. It was partially melted on the west aspect and I walked for awhile admiring the small flowers already in bloom at 8000′.
But most of backcountry skiing is movement and I needed to press on further, to see over the next ridge, and the next and it never ends. So when I made it to the next ridge I could look down to the hanging gardens and across to Mount Jackson and Comeau pass and Heavens Peak and others. But I was just on the ridge below the rocky summit. After putting crampons on again, I headed up and north to try to gain the summit couloir. With glide cracks abundant below the cliffs and the snow over boot top depth and soft and a steep 40 degree slope, I had to bail, especially after going in knee deep next to one of the cracks. The ski run down was marred only by the helicopter who had been a bit of a distraction all day. All hail the Wilderness! But I am glad for people to see what us mountaineers see every day. For them it might be a once in a lifetime view that we seek out every trip.
And then it was gone leaving me to carve simple turns down the east face into the gully and jump the crevasse at the rollover cliff band, jump another small crack, and stop on the alpine carpet next to a gurgling freshet and drink some more cold fresh mountain water. I lounged there for a time thinking about bears, and family and why was I alone on top of the Crown of the Continent. What a day this had been so to end it off after climbing to Piegan Pass a second time, I hit a couple mile long descending traverse below the cliffs of the Piegan face. As much rock debris as snow at times, with strong and ephemeral waterfalls crowding the crumbling cliffs to my immediate right, I made the descent in thirty minutes to Siyeh Bend and onto my bicycle and out to a hot meal of Annie’s Bunny Noodles. I drove to Holland Lake that night and made it home the next day. I had hoped to stay another day, but with a worsening forecast, tired body, and chores in Missoula the next day I headed out for one of my favorite places to chill, Holland Lake, where I slept in my bivy with the bug net up. Swimming in the morning there, biking Lake Inez and swimming there rounded out the trip before the immersion back into civilization. Five Guys Fries was pretty good first time and the band in Caras Park was having fun as were the boaters and kids and dancers.