Skiing the White Stripe Gully

February 19, 2012 at 10:59 | Posted in Backcountry skiing the Bitterroots | Leave a comment

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Kevin and I headed out Friday up Ward Mountain. I had an obscure tour in mind that was all new and we were pretty excited about that. We summited Ward after 3 hours and with a shallow cloud hovering over the summit we began our first descent of the day down the south face of Ward to Camas Lakes. Ward being a large rollover it was tricky trying to find the exact line I was after and we erred a bit left into a good alternative descent line. We arrived at the second lake intact and under a glorious sun. The views of Camas Ridge on the descent were spectacular and we took note of the two nice looking gully runs to the west of the main summit.

We ate and began touring up canyon. I was counting on water, but we found no more than a stagnant looking pool. I believe between the first and second lakes would have been some open water but we were not headed that way. Next time I will detour. Climbing to the pass between Ward 2 and 3 seemed like the best way to approach Ward #2 on the map but as we skied by it looked like a rocky, cliffy summit ridge so after making it to the pass we backtracked/traversed east to a firm snow patch and began bootpacking. From the summit of Ward #2 the views of both Ward Mountain and Ward #3’s east face were really good showcasing Ward’s alpine west face and Ward#3’s great ski lines. We ran a long descending traverse to the north end of the ridgeline of Ward #2 and skied up to the edge for a look at the White Stripe entrance. Not bad, we had a short descent climb to make it through some talus before getting to consistent snow where we strapped into the skis for the 3,600′ vertical descent. Aptly named the ski line starts a s a small snowfield and then descends into a perfect concave gully run for 3/4 of the descent. With good settled powder, we encountered no sluffing or instability and skied the run to the choke with only one stop. With good glade skiing on both sides of the upper gully there would be room for a few people to ski this line but the ensuing gully was really just perfect for the two of us. The choke consisted of two icefalls only the lower one which may have been skiable. We bypassed both on the left ridge and then into a second gully. From here the breakable crust and brush was substantial, so we whacked out of the gully to the east below the cliff band and skied the talus slope to the creek. Roaring lion had only a set of Coyote tracks and maybe a small Moose in it. With its rambling uphills and occasional steep descents it is no fine trail ski. But we were back at the car in an hour or so celebrating with Olympias. Another great backyard exploratory ski day- 6,500′ vertical and 9 hours with a great new terrain feel to the tour.

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