Tuesday, May 14, 2013

McDonald Peak, South face

Party on the summit of McDonald peak, Mission mountains.  Photo: Joshua Phillips
Shortly after 4 am, Leah, Joshua and I rendezvoused to ski the mighty McDonald peak.  I've been up there a few times this year, but couldn't resist the urge for another trip into the heart of the Missions.  Using my pickup, we drove to the base of the steep section on the Ashley lakes road, and were hiking at first light.  By cutting the normal switchbacks, the hike to the trailhead was quick, and we proceeded to Ashley lakes, conveniently transitioning from running shoes to skis at the outlet.   The climb into upper Ashley creek was not too bad, and from then on the day was nothing but pure joy.  We took our time enjoying the jaunt through upper Ashley creek to the base of McDonald before skinning and booting the South face.  Joshua took off and put in the booter, while Leah and I followed, grateful for his hard work.  Intermittent clouds blew out while we were on the summit, and we were treated to the incredible view from the top of the Missions.  The South face was still icy, but turned to corn near the bottom, and the entire schuss down Ashley creek was on good corn.  We took our time on the exit, treating ourselves to long breaks filled with iphone dance parties, ballerina stunts, and laughter.  We scored a ride down the last part of the road, and were soon back at the car, happy and successful.  After multiple failures, this was Joshua's first McDonald summit, and it was Leah's first attempt and first summit.  This is my 8th McDonald summit, and I hope to have many, many more summits of this beautiful, commanding mountain.  A little over 7,000 vertical feet and done in about 11 hours car to car.  
Starting around lower Ashley lake with Sheepshead looming above.
Leah styling upper Ashley creek.
Touring in upper Ashley creek.
Leah nearing the summit of McDonald peak.
Joshua skiing under the watchful eye of the southern Missions.
Leah skiing off the summit, with the green Flathead valley in the background.
Leah working the ice on the south face of McDonald.
Skiing out of upper Ashley creek.
Cutting switchbacks on the hike out.

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