Ski touring the first week of February

February 6, 2012 at 20:46 | Posted in Backcountry skiing the Bitterroots, Skiing at Downing Mountain Lodge | 2 Comments

As many realized after last weeks wind events and the now deep snowpack in the high and low mountains, touring season is upon us. I took the opportunity this passed week to ski two new peak to creek lines, one in Blodgett Canyon and another into Sawtooth Canyon. Both are superlative lines for the upper 3,000′ or so of vertical. They both had a classic choke at around 5,800′ elevation and below were snow covered talus and some brush and trees. Last Wednesday I toured up Blodgett and climbed the south gully/face of Mill Point #3, the high point along Printz Ridge at 8,807′. It was a laborious climb of 3,847′ with alder belays at the choke, an open creek running on bedrock to climb passed before opening into a delightful upper ski gully and thence to a gladed face that held windblown powder on a firm crust. Skiing only with the dog, I skied to just above the choke without stopping for a 10 minute descent in mixed powder conditions and lightly snowing. I let the the dog catch up with me and then skied through the choke and then ski/bushwhacked to the trail for the five mile ride out to the trailhead. The trail was in good shape downcanyon to the bridge but from there it was post holed by the full variety of travelers wild and human.

Yesterday, I had the good fortune of a skiing partner and blue skies and calm high pressure all day. Ben and I decided to tour out along the Downing Mountain Ridge from the Downing Mountain Lodge, where I am the proprietor, to the true summit of Downing Mountain. With a talus walk descent passed the Crown Bowl and a few other descents onto the south and north faces of this splendid ridge tour we made out way out to the final approach to Downing Mountain, 8,690′ along the southside of the ridge. This advanced ridge tour had sublime kick and glide moments in the sun as well as more technical moves around gendarmes and short descents to find snowy sidehill paths around the cliffs. Eventually we made it to the skiers summit just west of the true summit and scouted our descent line to the south. Having dropped off the east facing cliffs, there was plenty of wet slide debris in the west portion of the gully run  so after cutting a long easterly descending traverse with no propagation, we skied the cleaner snow on the eastern side of this spectacular gully, skiing passed the gathering of gullies, numerous free standing gendarmes, and into the pit of the bowl, tree free and moderately pitched. From aerial recon I knew that the lower choke could only be bypassed on the west. When we reached the rocky gully and cliffs we followed goat tracks around the cliffs and skied down into the final apron toward Sawtooth Creek. We had taken a nice sunny rest on the cliffs, where despite the hot sun and still weather the inversion held cold air and eventually we had to puffy up and carry on finishing the 3,570′ descent for what turned out to be a surprisingly nice downcanyon schuss, to the eventual overland trek to the car at Roaring Lion Creek. What a couple of excellent descents can do for making me eager for seeking out and skiing other near 4,000′ Bitterroot descents. I have a few new ones in mind.

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  1. I love the pictures and the video.Nice place to ski.

  2. The POV on that is awesome, great perspective.

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