Tags: Bitterroot Backcountry skiing, Montana backcountry skiing, Skiing Trapper Peak
Late last week, Blake and I headed up to Trapper Peak intent on at least one more ski day at the end of June. We took the Trapper Peak Trail approach as the route up from Baker Lake was closed due to logging and thinning on the approach road. We left the car about 0700 and headed up the ridge in fine early morning sunshine, surrounded by the cacophony of morning birdsong and the exceptional views west into Boulder Creek Canyon. If I had to choose one canyon and two ridges to frame it, for all the Bitterroot to be, it would be this one. With an incredible array of hiking, skiing, climbing and adventuring, what a place. Fortunately we do not have to limit ourselves to the one canyon and have about 29 to choose from in this part of the Bitterroot Range.
After a couple hours hiking, we switched over to skis and I made the standard “shoes” waypoint on the GPS. We summitted the East Peak first intent on locating the skinny couloir there. It appears the entrance is down and up a short drop to another sub peak where it probably begins, but this day we were focused on the main run from the true summit. Along the south facing slope here high in the mountains the snow had melted back and exposed a beautiful carpet of alpine meadow with quite a few flowering plants and a hoary marmot surveying our every movement in its pasture domain. We made the talus walk to the summit with no broken buckles and after a short few moments there, we clicked into the skis and began the descent. The pitch directly from the summit was melted out, so we skied the ridge down to the standard entrance and I skied first to the rollover where I waited and watched and photographed Blake ski from the ridge. It was a great descent with the snow in perfect shape, large refrozen grains that looked just like corn kernels. Parts were frozen corn others just melted an inch deep and we enjoyed the full descent into the upper basin.
Sunny and hot I donned some more sun block and began booting back up the twin couloirs to the east making a quicker return to the ridge. The western twin necked down and cruxed out with a little rock climbing move onto a ledge and then back onto the snow. Steps were not kicking very deep and crampons would have made me feel more secure, but whippet in hand and taking our time we ascended through the crux and up passed the steep headwall and off the no fall zone.
The ski down the exceptionally moderate south face was better than expected with truly summer snow supportive until only about four inches deep. We skied the mile or so back to the “shoes” and made a fast pace down the steep trail back to the car passing folks from Iowa and meeting folks at the trailhead from Florida. Highest peaks in mountain ranges have a way of drawing a crowd whether they are impressive or not. Fortunately the views from Trapper are stunning, the hike fairly moderate, and opportunities vast. It looks like there will be a couple more weeks of decent skiing on the north side of the mountain. I am thinking about visiting Glacier Park again!