Monday, September 29, 2014

Calowachan - Missions

I was fortunate to spend a fine early autumn day on Calowachan in the Missions. I have skied on and around Calowachan, and it has always been a challenge. In summer, the peak is more accessible, but still a bit of an adventure. While the route and craggy peak were both engaging, it was the exceptional crew that made this particular outing so rewarding for me.

Kt regaled us with tales of the outdoor industry and filming powder skiing during the bushwack up the drainage. If you keep your eyes peeled, you will see Kt's images all over the ski world. The bushwack was not too bad, and soon we were on an intermittent climber's trail, heading straight up to treeline and the base of the Northwest ridge proper. We left the ridge a few hundred vertical feet below the summit, and scrambled the Northwest face to the top, which had a few moderate 4th class steps.
Bushwacking socks and gaiters at the trailhead. Photo: Beau Fredlund
Bushwacking. Not too bad.
Kt, high on the Northwest face.
Natalie was in her element during the traverse to the South summit, and it was all I could do to keep up. By teaming up to scout tricky spots, we forged a route on the crest or east of the crest which had a bit of stout 4th class chimneying and many steep steps to navigate. Natalie is director of the Wilderness and Civilization program on campus, and it was fun if not a bit overwhelming to hear how she keeps the dynamic program thriving through a magical combination of vision, collaboration, and sheer dedication.
An enthusiastic point and a high five on the summit of Calowachan.
Kt on the traverse.
Leah on the traverse. Photo: Beau Fredlund
Beau and Kt coming up to the South summit.
Beau arrived on the south summit a few minutes after Natalie, Leah and me. After another long break, Beau pointed it to the south face, and I followed him down through beargrass, thick subalpine shrubs, and a few cliff bands. Based in Cooke City, Beau is one of the most dedicated backcountry skiers I know, and his calculated approach to ski mountaineering is inspiring. His quiet, intense demeanor and love of jazz music are both qualities that I can relate to, and his eye for aesthetics is a quality I can only hope to emulate. Check out the yurts, or better yet, hire Beartooth Powder guides to show you around next time you are in Cooke.
Walking off the South summit.
The descent was probably the least enjoyable part of the day, but we did manage to see a grizzly bear down in the drainage, which is always a treat. Never mind the fact it was within 30 feet of the trail. Good spot Kt. We jogged the Eagle pass trail back to the car, yelling incessantly for bears. Back at the car, a quick dip in the canal rounded the day out nicely. Thanks for the great day guys!

Calowachan is a good outing, and I will be back to do it again. Unusual equipment included a reservation recreation pass, bear spray, and bushwacking socks.  I used gaiters and they were the envy of the group. We benefited from Dan Sexton's route beta. Thanks Dan. The day was around 6,000 vertical feet done in around 9 hours car to car, all from the Eagle Pass trailhead.


  1. The photo of Leah on the traverse--is that as steep as it looks?

  2. Thanks for the kind words Brian. Always a wonderful pleasure getting out with you.

    Genuinely looking forward to our next rendezvous.!