|Middle and West Como from East Como, with El Capitan lurking|
in the background. I skied the sunlight south faces.
Unfortunately, the execution phase was not as lucrative as I had hoped. The comedy of errors got rolling early when I got lost. On the wrong side of the creek. In the dark. Fortunately only 15 minutes and a few expletives were all it took to find the trail, but I was promptly dealt another low blow in the form of falling off a slippery log and into the creek. In the dark. Completely soaking my boots. Soldering on, I still made it to the base of the peaks in reasonable time. The approach from the trail to the mid-slope bench is complex, and I went about half mile too far on the trail before giving up and attacking 1,500 vertical feet of steep brushy/rocky/icy terrain. I made it to the bench surprisingly tired and took a long break to wring out my socks and boot liners, re fuel, and reevaluate the day.
From the bench I skinned, then booted firm ice up the Southwest face of West Como before skiing the face, which was icy but otherwise spectacular. This was my first time skiing the west peak, and it is possible that this was also a first ski descent of the peak. About an hour behind schedule, I stopped on the first bench about 1,000 vertical feet below the summit. This is where I noticed a faint trickle along the base of my spine and down the back of my pants. After further investigation, it became clear that a can of Pepsi had exploded in my pack, soaking my clothes and leaving sticky residue all over my back and legs. Nice. So I took another short break to wring things out and rest my already fatigued quads.
|Looking down an icy but otherwise perfect West Como peak.|
|Looking back at the fine Southeast face of West Como.|
|Skis harvesting corn in front of the Tin Cup chutes.|
|Looking back down from the summit of East Como peak at my stashed skis|
and the 4,500 vertical foot South face.
|Brush on the return to Tin Cup creek. I love this stuff.|
|The Tin Cup chutes in poor condition.|
|Aliens out for a swim in the creek.|
By the numbers, this was an 11,700 vertical feet tour, and done in 13.5 hours. The peaks themselves are spectacular, and link up logically, and this would be an all time classic Bitterroot tour if it were not for the long drive from Missoula and the problematic approach and egress from the bench below the peaks. As it stands, a single Como peak tour is a fantastic outing as long as coverage is adequate, and the full link up it is still very much worth doing for a strong party. Adding on the Tin Cup chutes is not at all necessary, but if you still have energy to burn at the end of the day, why not?
I was unable to determine the best approach to the bench below the peaks, but if I go back, I will probably head up the drainage just past the Tin Cup chutes, as John Lehrman recommends, or head up the talus opening another 2,000 feet up the trail.
On a gear related note, this is the first day I have used the Plum 165 race heel pieces. I want to add some rise to the heel elevators, but they otherwise appear to be exceptionally sold and functional bindings.
And in other news, I want to give a quick shout out to Blake, who recently made the fifth descent of the East face of El Capitan. Nice job Blake! He patiently waited for good conditions, and his execution was flawless, both of which speak well to his emerging status as an accomplished backcountry skier well beyond his years. So if you see him around town, give him a big congrats. And tell him to stay safe!
|El Capitan's East face, the day before Blake's ski descent.|