|Eric near the summit of the unnamed peak between Bolle and Blackmore.|
This is the peak which juts up behind the Blackmore/Elephant saddle when viewed from town.
|This is where we turned around. It looks pretty tame, but just |
imagine a big whoomph coming out of the darkness.
Sunrise illuminated the peaks as we neared the base of Hyalite peak, and we were greeted to early morning light and brisk winds on the summit. We skied the north ridge of Hyalite and booted up to the next bump in the ridge north of the peak for a look down the North evil twin couloir (unofficial name - I'd be curious to hear if there is a conventional name for this couloir), to see if it had enough snow. As it turned out, it didn't, but we skied it anyway, traversing hard left at the bottom to bypass a snowless cliff band.
|Approaching Hyalite peak at sunrise.|
|Eric smiling for the camera at the top of the north Evil twin couloir.|
We had failed on this line 3 times between the two of us, so it was good to finally ski it.
The Pinner was awesome. I think it is one of the prettiest little couloirs I've skied around Bozeman. From the base of the Pinner, we made the long traverse through the beautiful Twin falls basin, and climbed up to a prominent unnamed peak just north of Mount Bolle. We skied it's hanging snowfield, then descended the peak's north couloir into the head of Cottonwood creek. There was a rock choke in the middle that Eric managed to sidestep in a display of sheer edge-dulling, rock scraping awesomeness. Of course, I had to do the same, albeit with a little less rock scraping due to shorter skis. From the Cottonwood basin, we skinned to the Blackmore/Elephant saddle and traversed windswept alpine grass to the summit of Elephant peak. We skied the Northeast face, which was marginal at best, with breakable crust on the mountain, and facets and downfall on the exit. We were back at the car 11.5 hours after leaving, tired and satisfied from another fun day in the hills. Not bad for plan B. 8,500 vertical feet according to the topo map.
|Eric downcliming into the Pinner couloir.|
|Alien invasion in the Pinner couloir.|
|Onward across the Twin Falls basin.|
|Eric's mantra for the day: "I think it goes."|
|It did, but it wasn't pretty.|
|Eric starting down the Northeast face of Elephant.|
|Descending through the thick forest back to the car.|
I think we made the "right" decision turning around due to avalanche danger. The full traverse is still alluring, but probably with a different approach route. The standard Hyalite/Blackmore traverse is highly recommended, and should be done as often as possible. It requires Moderate avalanche danger, but most of the descents can be arranged to avoid steep windloaded terrain, so it doesn't require absolutely bomber stability. Exiting via Elephanthead is a viable alternative to Blackmore, but it is a nasty avalanche path, so be careful.
For those who want to go there, our tour was: From Grotto falls, up Hyalite roughly following the summer trial the whole way; down north ridge; up to next bump north on ridgeline; down north Evil Twin couloir; up to west shoulder of Divide peak; traverse down and east to head of Storm Castle creek; up to ridgeline, traverse around the back of an unnamed 10,000' peak at the head of Maid of the Mist creek; drop valuables; retrieve valuables; down Pinner into Twin falls basin; across head of basin, up unnamed 10,000' peak; down north couloir to head of Cottonwood creek; up to Blackmore/Elephant saddle, walk windswept tundra to Elephant mountain; down Northeast face and out to car.
On a gear related note, I was skiing on Scarpa Aliens and Dynafit Broad peak skis with race bindings. There was a lot of faceted snow, and I think this is the first day ever that the Broad peak skis felt too small to be an effective tool. The boots, on the other hand, were amazing. They do have limitations, however. They are fairly soft in forward flex, and would feel a little undersized for driving skis wider than 100 mm or so at the waist. Also, I didn't use the supplied gaiters, and with all the gaps around the shell, the liners were quite wet by the end of the day.