Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Canyon Peak/Downing Mountain Link Up

Welcome to Sawtooth Canyon - trail to nowhere.
I left the Sawtooth Canyon trailhead at 5:46 am, psychologically armored for the long, delicate hike into the canyon on the icy trail.  About an hour and many slips later,  the ice turned to snow and approach shoes were exchanged for ski boots and skins.  I got lost a couple of times, and the trail took about an hour longer than anticipated.  The climb up Canyon Peak's impressive south avalanche path was enjoyable and fast.  The upper face is steep and avalanche prone, but I was able to stay on fairly scoured snow for most of the climb.  About 200 vertical feet below the summit, an unfortunate and unavoidable wind slab convinced me to turn around.  The ensuing run was fabulous, especially the upper steep south face of the peak.  I will have to return some day to ski it in good style.
The mighty south face of Canyon Peak from about half way down the avalanche path.
 From the creek, ski down canyon for about an hour before starting back up a nondescript avalanche path to the Sawtooth/Canyon Creek divide.  The climb went quickly, and I was soon sniffing a passage way through the cornice that guarded access to a short run into Canyon Creek.  A quick, powdery run and low angle skin in a blustery storm put me on top of Downing Mountain.  I quickly ducked into the south gully, forgoing the craggy true summit. I had a great time following John and Ben's tracks down the south gully of Downing Mountain.  The snow was good, the wild gendarmes were cool, the downclimb around the cliffs was interesting and safe (skier's right), and the length (3,550 vertical feet) was memorable.  The sub-2 hour exit was not too bad, and I was content with only one full out crash and burn during the icy jog back to the trailhead.  Approximately 8,500 vertical feet, and done in 11 hrs 10 minutes car to car.  Sawtooth Canyon is not terribly user friendly, as I expected, but there is quite a bit of good ski terrain, especially on the south side near the top of the canyon.
Cool gendarmes and good snow in the South
Couloir of Downing Mountain.
Content after 26,000 vertical feet of ski
touring over the past three days.
The route.

1 comment:

  1. Great blog and stoke Brian! I'll add it to my blogroll. I don't know if you remember me, but I met you probably back 12 years ago. I worked for the Forest Service and did some work with you dad, who was a hydrologist I believe? Anyway, good to see you getting after it. I believe we also have a mutual friend, Ben Brunsvold. Stay safe and have fun.