Thursday, March 1, 2012

Leap Year Day celebration - Skinning the Bald Sheep

Although the Leap Year day 2008 was a bust for skiing (worked in the office), I spent Leap Year Day 2004 winter backpacking and skiing some of the deepest backcountry powder of my life with Bob D and a crew of MSU students in the Crazy Mountains of Montana.  I made a compromise this time around, working a full day, then spending the precious few pre-dark post-work hours skinning and skiing powder.

Mount Baldy
After the normal quick skin to the base of the peak, I pretty much botched the bushwack between the trail and the open ski slopes of Mount Baldy.  I  was moving a bit too slow, and turned around about 300 vertical feet shy of the summit due to impending darkness.  The skiing was excellent, however, with up to 6" of powder and well frozen snow all the way to the car.  Will have to return and try to go faster with a better bushwacking plan (3,600 vertical feet in 2 hours 40 minutes).
Ready to ski good snow on Bald Mountain well after sunset.
Sheep Mountain
I made a similar pre-dark effort the previous day on Sheep Mountain.  The skiing was fairly good up high and marginal/brushy down lower.  I skied the most northerly east ridge, but in retrospect some of the ridges farther south might avoid some of the unpleasant brush bashing.  The tour went quickly (3,800 vertical feet in 2 hrs 9 minutes).
Starting down one of the East ridges on Sheep Mountain.
I recommend Bald Mountain as a good, accessible, off the beaten path ski option for Missoula area skiers.  It doesn't receive as much snow as the rest of the range, so can be a good option during higher avalanche danger periods despite the steep terrain.  For directions, look at a map - Dry Creek near Superior.  Look for an old signed road on the left just before crossing the Dry Fork and re-entering private land. There is a good trail which is steep enough to be fast on the way out.  The trailhead is at 2,800 feet, so it is only recommended on good snow years like this one.  Linking Sheep and Bald mountains would involve some unnecessary bushwarking, but skinning the Bald Sheep is such a catchy name for a ski tour it might be worth doing it just for the bar talk.

For gear, I took a new pair of spandex pants and touring shirt for their maiden voyage(s), and am pleased with how both are working out.  So Missoula skiers take note - I have an extra spandex ski touring outfit which I am willing to loan out.  Try it out.  You won't be disappointed.   

No comments:

Post a Comment