Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Blodgett canyon peak to creeks

Skiing powder in upper Blodgett creek.

John and I teamed up on Sunday for an exploratory day in Blodgett canyon.  We hit the trail a little before first light, with an agenda to head up canyon until the skiing looked good.  The lower canyon has plenty of snow on the trail, but the skiing doesn't become acceptable until hitting Mill 3.  Having skied Mill 3, the Blue Ice bowl, and the smaller avalanche patch sandwiched in between, we continued up past the pinch into the upper canyon.  We skinned about a half mile past the High lake trail junction before heading up to the north with plans to look at the Sears lake couloir.  A long climb put us on top of the couloir, but the entrance wasn't filled in, so we skipped it.  This is a little unfortunate, because the couloir is one of the better lines in the Bitterroot.  We continued up to near the summit of what we are calling Sears peak.  From near the summit, we skied the excellent peak-to-creek avalanche path which had powder for it's entire 3,200' drop.
John steep skinning up to Sears Lake peak.
John in the upper half of the Sears peak south gully.
Cruising the lower half of the Sears peak south gully.
Back on the trail, we ventured about half a mile further up canyon to the intimidating north-north west face on the back side of the Caesar's Palace buttress.  We climbed up into a broad couloir on the left side of the face, hoping to find a sneak line through a prominent cliff band.  The sneak didn't materialize, so we switched plans and climbed a semi-hanging snow ramp in the center of the face, turning around at a convenient point about 500 vertical feet below the summit.  The ensuing run was fantastic, with shallow, stable powder all the way down to the creek.
John at the top of our second run.  My final run
is the obvious looker's left gully in the background.
John at the bottom of our second run.
We had hoots, hollers and high fives, and John settled in for some blister treatment before skiing out to meet family obligations.  I couldn't resist one more run, and took a spin on an excellent peak to creek run directly across canyon from Caesar's Palace (Plum bob left?).  The run ended up harboring perfect powder all the way back to the creek, and I arrived back at my pack giggling with delight.  I had no idea these avalanche paths existed before today, but with the consistent fall line and clean runouts, I think the twin plum bob gullies are among the very best peak to creeks in Blodgett.

It is uncommon to be able to catch the big south facing peak to creek runs with good powder from top to bottom, and I was excited to find such exceptional conditions, and to be able to share the day with an exceptional partner.  The ski out was fast, and I was back at the car well before dark.  About 8,700 vertical feet with 12 flat trail miles, and done in 11 hours, 20 minutes car-to-car.  For future reference, the approach trail took 3 hours at a bright pace, and the exit took 1 hour and 40 minutes at an average pace with tricks (kicker skins to the bridge, normal schussing from the bridge to the car).  I think the effort is similar to the approach to Bass lake in Bass creek.
Powder and sunshine on my final run.
Looking back to Caesar's Palace and Canyon peak.
3,000' of stable powder from the ridgeline to the creek..
Remote, wild, and beautiful.
This is why I ski in the Bitterroot.
Opening turns on my final run.
Motivation for the ski out.
As a side note, Joshua, Leah and I attempted Greywolf peak the previous day.  As is the tradition for Leah and me, we got skunked by weather, and spent an hour sitting around shivering on the lower flanks of St. Mary's peak waiting for some visibility before skiing powder on the way out.  It is worth noting that the road to St. Mary's lake is plowed all the way to the trailhead.
Joshua skiing powder in the Missions during a failed attempt on Greywolf peak.

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