Monday, March 3, 2014

Missoula Foothill Diaries

Missoula experienced a series of near record snow and wind events that have allowed for good skiing in the foothills above town. Unfortunately, the good skiing has been overshadowed by the tragic avalanche on Mt. Jumbo. Check the Missoulian and for more information and updates. Please be careful out there, and abide by any restrictions that the city places on Sentinel or Jumbo. I have been able to have a great run of powder skiing, getting out for at least a quick spin on skis at least 5 days a week for three weeks running. 

Wednesday, Feb. 26  I skied one lap on South Sentinel, biking tp Maurice, and ascending just north of the fire road and Pengelly trail. I skied the tree strip between the North and South summits before traversing south back to the fire road for a rock free exit. The snow was thin, but the skiing was surprisingly good and I only hit one rock. 52 min. bike to bike.

Nearing the top of Sentinel at sunset. The father and daughter
below are about rip turns back to town.
Thursday, Feb 27 I skied the south face of University Mountain from the Pattee Canyon cross country parking area before work. I approached via the Deer Creek sneak road, then went straight up to the top. The snow was plentiful, and a biting wind on the summit ridge made it feel like a genuine mountain experience. It was good to see a crew of friends heading up for a shot at the north face all the way to the Clark Fork River. Rumor has it that the skiing was pretty good, if not a bit sparky for the last 1,000 vertical feet or so. 1 hour 3 minutes car to car.
Closing in on the Beacon from the south.
Friday Feb 28 I toured out from the house, and skied the north edge of Sentinal, climbing the M trail and skinning just south of the summer trail in full blizzard conditions. I saw a lot of cracking and fracture propagation in fresh new wind slabs, and modified my route accordingly. The skiing was great. No time, but it was a slow outing, probably about 1 hr 10 min or so from the bottom of the trail.

Urban approach to Sentinel.
Saturday, March 1 I toured up the Sentinel fire road again. The biting wind was too much for all of us, but I was stubborn and proceeded to the top. Fresh wind slabs were sensitive once again, with shooting cracks, whoomphing, and fresh avalanche crowns in wind loaded pockets. I threaded a line down Sentinel that avoided steep terrain above houses, but in retrospect it would have been better to avoid skiing above houses on Sentinel altogether. On the ski over and back through town, I stopped to help push five cars out of wind drifts. The remainder of the day was spent excavating our vehicles and digging snow around our house.

Leah skiing from the back porch.
Skier triggered avalanche on the south side of Sentinel.
The crown was 2-3 feet deep, but the terrain was not steep
enough for it to run like the avalanche on Jumbo.
Nipped by the frost on Sentinel. 
There was about 2 feet of settled snow here before the wind hit. 
3 foot drifts in our front yard.
Sunday, March 2  Nipple knob in the Bitterroot with Leah. Not a foothills day, but a great moderate tour. Up to the top from the County highway, one 1,200’ powder run into Sheafman Creek, and back up to the top for the 4,000’ run down to the valley, which had good snow the whole way.
Leah ripping at the top of a great powder run into Sheafman creek from the top of Nipple knob.
Excellent powder skiing at the bottom of Nipple knob.
Monday, March 4 I headed up Marshall after work with intentions on venturing out to Woody Mountain. Unfortunately, the rain had turned the snow to mush and glop, and it became immediately obvious that Woody was a little too far out given the slow conditions. I took a short run north off the top, then skied out the normal ski runs. The skiing was slow, but it wasn't too crusty or knee wrenching, so no harm no foul. No photos, but just imaging to move uphill after tying a bowling ball to each foot, and you get the picture.

Skiing may be put on hiatus this week if it rains. To be continued...

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