Spring Skiing Idaho

May 3, 2013 at 12:20 | Posted in backcountry skiing Idaho | Leave a comment
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Skiing Central Idaho has been an elusive goal for me over the years. With a couple of great BC days in the Boulders around Sun Valley and Galena Summit and one trip to ski Mount Borah three years ago, I recently chased a good weather report with three friends to the Sawtooths and the Lost River Range.

We spent the first two ski days in the Sawtooth area, first on a long tour to Mount Heyburn, a craggy peak in the southern part of the central massif. An eight mile approach brought us to the the toe of a series of aesthetic couloirs. We skied the unskied western couloir, choked with cold settled powder and enjoyed views of the summit couloir which splits in two with the western line having already been skied likely by the yurt skiers based here. If we had started earlier we could have doubled up and skied the unskied eastern summit couloir, but as it was, time was slipping and we had another two days to ski and nine miles to slog out to the highway. Heyburn will be remembered for its long approach passed 6 or 7 lakes from Little Redfish deep in the valley mostly melted out and forested to the upper Bench Lake nestled below the Heyburn Peak summit. Anyone looking for the classic lake enchainment trip might consider this tour. Remember to bring your bikes for approach before May 1st gate opening.

Day two we opted for a short approach, and after driving to Galena Summit, we bowl bounced along Titus ridge in sunny hot wet slide weather. The tour was uncomplicated and relaxing. Amazing to see how much wet slide debris will gather and scream through treed terrain given the right conditions. Ski cuts always so important. Keep your guard up always. We enjoyed another soak in the hot springs along the Salmon River before motoring on to the Lost River Range where our main objective, Mount Borah was found basking in evening sunset. The western line looked thin but filled in from the highway using binoculars for inspection. We set a departure time of 7 a.m. and climbed steadily to Chicken Ridge where the going got stiffer, steaper, and slower. Another short booting traverse took us to the base of the summit ridge where we sucked limited O2 enroute to the summit alternating postholing and scrambling the positive rocky ridge. At 12,662 Mount Borah is the highest peak in Idaho and one of the higher peaks in the Northern Rockies, only surpassed in height by the likes of Granite Peak in Montana and Mount Robson in the Canadian Rockies among a few others I am sure especially if you include Wyoming’s peaks to be in the Northern Rockies.

This three day trip to Idaho followed a relatively relaxed pace with no alpine starts or headlamps used on approach. We enjoyed the camping, companionship, hot springs and a few beers. On Saturday, while the three others headed for a day soaking at Gold B Hot Springs, I drove the 3.5 hours home so I could work on the spring barrier protection project at the Downing Mountain Lodge.

Late Winter Skiing

March 28, 2013 at 17:42 | Posted in Backcountry skiing the Bitterroots, Backcountry skiing the Missions, Skiing at Downing Mountain Lodge | 1 Comment
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Since Skiing Blodgett Canyon and Sears Peak in February, there have been some exciting days out in the mountains of the Bitterroots, Missions, and Kokanee Range of British Columbia. Made a fun day of skiing some new terrain at Downing Mountain Lodge with a run off the southside down the Opportunity Gully, a sweet 2,000′ + line the follows a ridge feature to a rock lined gully. Not often skied, I can only find a report of one other having descended this great line at Downing Mountain Lodge. The Sawtooth Fire has helped open up quite a bit of terrain and this was no exception especially for the skin out.

Another day was spent approaching Gash Point in blue skies, with our eyes set on Sky Pilot Peak, only to descend to North Bear Lake into a multi hour long snow squall. We managed to summit in a whiteout and ski the north face, but it was not pretty, until we returned to powder skiing below the main rollover. Its always a treat to ski back to Sky Pilot as it is the iconic peak as viewed from Gash Point.

Then we were off to British Columbia for a week at Mount Carlyle Lodge in the Kokanee Range west of Kaslo. We lucked out arriving with close to two feet of fresh, light density, unwinded powder to ski. It snowed consistently about 6 inches a night and set us up for and amazing first five days. We managed to ski many of the highest quality lines there including the circumnavigation of Mount Carlyle, skiing all aspects from the summit of Misty Mountain, and skiing the west face of Whiteface Peak.

Returning home to blue skies, we skied at Downing for a couple days and then I put in a longer trip to Grey Wolf Peak’s west couloir. What an amazing ski venue that one is with fabulous couloirs to ski, stare at and a range worth the bushwhacking through the bottoms.

After the melt down week where we found time for a mountain bike ride on Little Sleeping Child Ridge and a couple days of climbing in Kootenai and Mill Canyons, the snow returned.

Finally our big winter storm arrived and another one to two feet fell in the Bitterroots. Another trip to Gash Point in deep snow conditions and an excellent day at Downing and the north face of Sugarloaf Peak up Chaffing Creek has wrapped up the end of winter. Hopefully spring provides its banquet of powder and corn snow, and I’ll be looking to ski throughout the summer as well. I finished this week off Mountain Biking Ward Mountain about a thousand vertical and then climbing at Mill Canyon. I enjoyed a fast lap at Downing while waiting for PVC glue to dry while fixing a leak in the hot tub. It took me exactly 60 minutes to skin from the lodge to the ridge at a solid intervals pace. I took a break at the top and enjoyed the fine weather and final powder day before schusshing a 2,700′ lap back to the lodge.

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