Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Mill 2 to Mill 3 tour

High on Mill 2
With good coverage, adequate stability, and great snow quality, skiing in the Bitterroot is about as good as it gets right now. Jeffrey and I headed out for a long day with the twin objectives of finding good snow and having a good adventure. We found both in abundance. Some friends had skied the East face of Mill 2 the previous day, so we just followed their track all the way from the trailhead to the summit. Even with the track, the upper traverse and climb on the West face was a good technical excercise, and we surmounted it with technical skinning, ski cramponing, booting, rock scrambling, and a little bit of tree climbing.
Jeffrey getting after it on Mill 2.
On the summit, the sun broke through the clouds as I replaced the prayer flags for Chris.
The East face is steep and engaging, but it felt relatively casual since the snow was excellent. We had a fabulous run on this little Bitterroot steep skiing test piece.  From the base, we climbed to the edge of the south gully on Mill 2. We opted out of the long traverse back to the summit, and instead skied straight down to Blodgett Creek.  3,000 feet of excellent skiing later, we were down in the canyon.
Jeffrey in the powder in Mill 2.
More skiing on Mill 2.
Skiing down to Blodgett.
I was less than excited about wind slabs on the west side of Mill 2, so I suggested we tour up canyon about a mile and climb the south side of Mill 3. We had a major false start trying to find the way, but soon enough we were back on track, slowly making our way up the 4,000 vertical foot climb. We used ski crampons again on the climb, and they saved us big time. I'm not afraid to throw a little Spanish in with my German, so Viva la harcheisen!  We were both ready to see the top, and I was excited for a new summit. We skied the low angle northeast face of the multi-named Mill 3/Hauf peak/Printz Ridge HP before nosing our way down into the Mill 2/3 basin and skiing out to Mill creek. Of note, the south facing peak to creek run off Mill 3 that we climbed is moderate, open, not too far back in the canyon, and needs to be skied soon. Our noses were sound, and we found the passage through the cliffs on this otherwise mellow run first try. The exit to the creek had plenty of snow for good skiing all the way down. With beautiful light, we make a triumphant exit out Mill creek. It was a great day, but did't want to leave. 9,300 vertical feet.

Jeffrey on the last climb, with upper Blodgett creek in the background.
Jeffrey on the home stretch.
Back on the trail, about to point it home in Mill creek.

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