Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Mary Cirque link up

The day.  Run names are informal.  I did not ski the Goddess.
I have been a little obsessed with the skiing in Boulder creek this year and couldn't resist one more trip.  The drive to Boulder is long, but the skiing is amazing.  I started the day by bike shuttling from the trailhead to the normal east ridge approach in the dark.  Starting at 6 am, I hiked for a little over an hour before exchanging running shoes and a headlamp for ski boots and sunscreen.  The morning was beautiful, and I summited a windless East Boulder point just over 3 hours after leaving the road.  The first order of business was to ski the couloir that Leah and I bailed on two weeks prior, and after about 10 turns I was back into the unknown.  There was a bit of technical skiing around a rock step, but the run was fairly moderate overall.  At the bottom, I set a 20 m rappel from trees and lowered to safety.  The bowl below was firm corn, and I skied to an arbitrary point about 400 feet below the rappel and ditched a bunch of weight.  April Fools couloir done.

Starting down into the April Fools couloir, with our
exit boot tracks still visible from two weeks prior.
The small rock step in the April Fools couloir
I am usually not in favor of yo-yo laps, but was this yo-yo skiing on a grand scale.  And it was great.  A steep skin track, short bootpack, and short rock scramble had me back on East Boulder Point.  I was already tired and made an oath to spend the rest of the day loping along at a moderate pace.  I skied the next ramp/gully to skier's right of April Fools.  The snow had softened adequately, and the run skied quite well.  I used the same rappel.  Monkey on a rope couloir done.  The ascent couloir was warming up more than any of the other lines in the cirque, so I climbed and skied it.  The snow was marginal, but the line is quite good, and would make a logical second run for ropeless skiers looking for more after skiing the Mary couloir.  I loped back up to East Boulder peak and linked a series of chutes and snowfields near the center of the Mary cirque.  Once again, I was pleased to find an interesting route which skied quite well.  At the bottom, I took one last ride on the rope and pulled it.  Tarzan couloir done.
Starting down Monkey on a rope.
Starting down Jane.
Starting down Tarzan.
I was tired at this point, but Mary is one of my favorite ski runs in the Bitterroot, and I couldn't pass it up in good conscience.  So, eat some food, drink the last of my water, and lope up the skin track once more.  Mary's entrance is guarded by a large cornice this year, but I was able to sneak in via a steep leftward traverse, ice axe in hand.  The upper couloir was excellent.  The lower couloir was terrible, alternating between slippery bed surface ice and grippy roller ball ice.  I checked my ego at the door (easy to do when skiing solo), and sideslipped all of the scary ice.  Soon enough I was cruising corn down to the creek.  As expected, the trail out was terrible.  It was good to see the trailhead.  I did  notice two nice looking ski tracks in the Goddess.  Strong work Stephen and Jerod!
Starting down the aesthetic upper Mary couloir.
Tired, but still rocking the mullet/mohawk combo.
Stats:  13,200 vertical feet according to the topo map, and done in 14 h 10 min bike to car.

Gear:  Standard Broad peak/race binding/TLT 5 ski setup, 2 whippet poles, 1 Petzl Aztarex ice axe, 7mm x 60m accessory cord and tat for setting an anchor, light CAMP harness, one CAMP aluminum crampon (did not use), helmet.

Gear note: The skinny Broad Peak skis held an edge like crazy ice, so another big thumbs up for a great pair of skis.

Food note:  I brought 2 L of water, which is about 4 times as much as normal.  The extra water was crucial to staying happy throughout the day.

Conditions note:  I think most of the Bitterroot trails are pretty well melted out, which is too bad given the excellent snow coverage up high.  


  1. lookin' good in the mullet and red suit...some kinda backwoods santa claus.

  2. Nice day! I like the one crampon. I've done that before when I didn't think I'd really need them. A buddy and I split a pair but we each had axes.

  3. Thanks Andy. I brought the crampon in case I had to get near ice for a v-thread anchor. Ended up rapping from trees and staying well away from the ice. The wisdom of bringing just one crampon is certainly debatable though!