Sunday, July 14, 2019

Pintler rambling, pt 2 West Goat peak

West Goat peak.  Who wouldn't want to ski that?
My last full ski day was spent exploring around West Goat peak.  It is a shame that West Goat peak is about as far as possible from Missoula, but with an early start, I made the long drive around to the Big Hole and was walking by 7 am.  The trail is a bit hard to follow and pretty long, but I had all day, and was still on the high point of the Pintlers just under 5 hours into the day.  The Southeast face was too enticing to pass up, so I skied it and re-climbed to the summit.
Fun skiing on the Southeast face of West Goat peak.
I had a surprising amount of difficulty ascertaining a correct entrance to the West couloir, and with fresh slippery snow overlying loose scree and firm old snow, I also had to traipse around surprisingly gingerly.  But eventually I just started skiing and had a great, 2,000 plus foot run.  To my absolute delight, the first half was powder!  It was also pretty satisfying to ski such a long, quality, West facing run in mid-June.  I was a little behind schedule at this point, and I now had a lot of rapidly warming snow above me, so I kept lunch break brief.  Fortunately, the long push back to the top went more quickly than expected.
The West couloir of West Goat peak, taken from Warren a few days prior. 
Powder in the West couloir!
Looking up a satisfyingly long West couloir post ski and pre re climb.
I had hoped to ski the also spectacular Northeast couloir, but abandoned the plan when I was unable to find a safe entrance.  Stymied but otherwise happy, I bopped up to the summit, skied the Southeast ridge, then climbed East Goat peak for the first time.  I ended the day by skiing a nice run off East Goat's Southeast face.  Back in approach shoes, the bushwack to the trail and jog out were relatively straightforward and brief.
The ski run off East Goat peak provided a nice snow highway toward the car.
Thoughts  I would like to go back and ski the Northeast couloir.  Also, there are a few ridge scrambling days and obvious link ups around West Goat peak that would merit a return in summer.  I didn't track vertical very well, but around 8k vert, done in 10 hours car to car. 

Monday, July 1, 2019

Pintler rambling, pt 1

I had a trio of nice days in the Pintlers this spring.

May 12  Leah and I were able to get out for a day of exploring around Storm lake.  With good road access, Storm lake might be the most popular place to ski in the Pintlers, but I hadn't skied in the area at all.  The forecast was for a light re-freeze overnight, so we rallied from Missoula at 5 am.  We were able to drive to the beginning of the Storm lake road proper, roughly four miles from the reservoir.  We did most of the approach in running shoes, walking on pleasantly refrozen snow.  I was surprised at how good the skiing on the East face of Mount Tiny looked, so we changed plans and headed there first.  The climb was quick, and we were soon on the summit, roughly 4.5 hours into the day.  The run was really nice.  Steep and complex enough to be engaging, but safe with the excellent conditions. 
Leah on the North face of Little Rainbow peak. 
Skiing down into the characteristic alpine larch of the Pintlers below the North face of Little Rainbow peak.
From the bottom of Tiny, we took a quick break, powered up the West ridge of Little Rainbow, and had a great run down the central North couloir.  Super fun.  We had some extra time, so we climbed and skied the next obvious couloir system to the East.  Leah's skins fell off on the climb, but aside from that it was an easy and enjoyable addition to the day.  As forecast, the day had heated up a lot at this point, but we had already had a great day of skiing, so we took a generous lunch break and schussed lazily out to the car.

June 5  11th annual Warren Wallow! Leah and I were able to re-arrange our work schedules to get out together mid-week.  We rallied early again. This time, the goal was to ski Warren and make it back for day care pick up.  There road was just barely sufficiently melted to drive to the trailhead. The outing was standard Wallow fare.  Adequate re-freeze, 4.5 hours up, ski the North face with good corn, ski the exit couloir, swim in lower Carpp lake, and enjoy the relaxing hike out.  It was great to ski this fine peak once again.
Up, up, up.
Leah skiing Warren peak...
...and the exit couloir.
I am coming around to thinking that more ski time should be spent in the Pintlers in May in June.  The drive isn't all that long, they tend to have a better re-freeze cycle than ranges adjacent to Missoula, and the ski terrain is awesome.  Plus, I have a bunch of new link up ideas and so many unskied lines to investigate.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Grey Wolf peak, South couloir, fast

Nearing the running shoe/ski boot transition at Riddell lakes on Grey Wolf peak.
I have been meaning to try for a fast go at the iconic South couloir on Grey Wolf for a few years now, and finally made it happen.  The outing was fairly predictable for a long hard effort.  I went out at a responsibly hard pace and held it through the road, and through the early bits of trail.  I had packed a fairly light kit of race skis and boots, with no spikes, two bars, no extra clothes, and only a half liter of water.  It was nice to have a light pack.  Soon, I was working through moderately heavy downfall, and I spent about 45 minutes in the thick of it, alternating between trying to move quickly and swimming over, under, and around tree after tree.  I topped out on the flat pitch well behind my time goal, but made some time up on the melted out traverse into Riddell lake, and on a quick climb to the lake proper.  After a shoe to boot transition, I pushed as hard as I could to the top of the couloir.  I topped out well behind a 3-hour outing pace, but seemed on track to go sub-3.30.
Ready to negotiate the tricky entrance and ski.
The skiing was quick and quite enjoyable.  What a classic run!  I was soon back at my shoes, and within a few minutes, was back across the traverse and on the trail.  I made reasonable time on the trail back to the car, but didn't venture too deep into reckless tree hopping territory to make time up.  As such, I made it back to the car in 3.27, very happy, pretty tired, and a bit wondering if I should have pushed harder in a few places.
Nice early morning skiing below the couloir.
Thoughts  By memory, splits were: leaving saddle: 35 minutes; beginning of South traverse, 1.20, climbing from Riddell, 1.45; top 2.15; done with South traverse; 2.40; saddle inbound 3:15; car 3.27.  My time is pretty soft, but I wouldn't be surprised if it is still a FKT.  I think that I could have dug a little deeper and pushed into race and risk-of-blowing up territory and shaved up to 10 minutes.  I also think that I lost about 20 minutes to downfall, and I think that it would be possible to do this outing faster earlier in the season with more coverage.  That said, I had a lot of fun, and it was really nice to get back to this classic.  

Thursday, June 13, 2019

11 x 10k for 2019

I was able to get out for eleven 10,000 vertical foot plus days this ski season.  With a reasonably efficient approach, I have found these longer days are quite doable.  However, almost every time pushing to "get to 10" challenges me to do a little more with my cherished long ski days.  So it continues to be a rewarding challenge.

Interestingly, all but one of my longer days were solo, since I tend to prioritize chilling out a bit more and finding higher quality skiing when out with partners.  This is my second 10 x 10k ski season.  I am going to try to keep the streak going as long as it remains a fun.  A quick summary:

6/2 Southern Swans.  

Bonus day!  I had planned to do another Pyramid to Crescent traverse, but there wasn't enough snow to connect the runs.  I got a respectable 6:30 am start, but even with that it was a hot day skiing consolidated but unfrozen summer snow.  Instead, I approached West Marshall by the new-to-me Crescent lake trail and skied five shorter runs on it's nice Northeast face using a bootpack to avoid skin transitions.  With the rest of the day, I did another shorter run off the South shoulder of Crescent, then skied the South face of Crescent to snowline.  I dry land hopped back across to Marshall and skied a nice steep gully on the Northwest face down to the trail.  To my immense glee, I was able to jog back to the car in about 45 minutes from the base of the ski run.  I will definitely be back to explore more running, skiing, and backpacking options using the Crescent lake trail. A hair under 9 hours.

4/30 Mission Traverse.  

Best day of the year.  See separate post.

4/21 Snowbowl.

Another 10k Sunday. I wasn't feeling as motivated as earlier in the year, but did four top to bottom Snowbowls.  By memory, well under 7 hours with race skis.

4/18 Bitterroot, Hidden lake peak.

See separate post.

4/11 Snowbowl.

I had hoped to do a short out of town ski trip, but the weather was way too wet to do anything, so I ended up working instead.  I did get out for an over sized helping of interesting, half frozen snow at Snowbowl though. Arduous trailbreaking slowed me down a bit.  The tour was something like: Far East, West bowl, East bowl, A few Jenny bowls, and a mellow Paradise cruiser at the end of the day.  By memory, 8.5 hours.

March  Wasatch, Porter Fork powder skiing.  
We spent a day in Salt Lake city on the way back from Spring break, and I went skiing.  Avalanche danger was too high for me to ski anything steep, so I went exploring in Mill creek.  I started off by skiing Gobbler's knob, then did five runs in Porter Fork and dipped into Neff's.  I definitely botched some of the climbs and runs, but it was fun to nose around without much beta in this amazing powder skiing.  It was a spring day, and finding shaded powder was challenging.  My fitness was a little off at this point in the ski season, and kind of had to slug it out to get to 10k by dinner time.  about 9 hours out.

I took a big break in February and March to ski peak to creeks.  It is really hard for me to get to 10k peak to creek skiing since at least four hours are dedicated to creek slogging with almost no elevation change.

2/2  Blodgett, storm day with Jeffrey.

See separate post.  I think this was the most physically challenging day of the year.

1/11  Sky Pilot attempt.

Did't like stability, so did not ski Sky Pilot.  Still skied an excellent South facing gully to Bear Lake.  A worthwhile day of furloughing, and nice to get this far back after doing morning day care drop off.

12/23, 16K at Gash.
Yo-yo skiing just before leaving for Mexico.  See separate post.

12/5 Greywolf West couloir plus more. 

One of the best days of the year. See separate post.

11/25, Snowbowl, LaValle.
I skied eight Lavalles on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.  Building fitness for the ski season.  I paced for a hard but even effort and did it in a little under 5 hours.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Don. Legend.

Our local television news outlet ran a story on Don Gisselbeck's long standing ski-every-month streak.  Don knows the local late ski season haunts as well as anyone, and his dedication and ability to ski safely for so many years has been an inspiration.  We are lucky to have his musical dedication, meticulous ski and bike tech wizardry, sharp wit, and genuinely upbeat and humble personality in the community.  And who else donates a goat to NPR, rails eloquently about the downfall of the predator class, and recites Shakespeare sonnets on bustling city street corners?

Here's to many more years of skiing to come!

Link here.