Sunday, March 15, 2015

Swan Peak

“It looks like you can ski a huge run off Swan peak all the way to Sunbeam Lake in the Bob. We should go do that sometime.”
Chris Spurgeon

Swan peak adorned with ski tracks.
I cast off alone in the dark for Swan peak, inspired by Chris' vision and informed with approach beta from Steven Gnam (Thanks Steve). It was a dark and confusing few hours at the start of the day navigating logging roads and a faint climbers trail, but I persisted, emerging at base of the peak shortly after sunrise. Without a good topo map, I started up the incorrect cirque, but a short hop over the ridge to the north put me back on track at lower Squeezer lake. Travel conditions were surprisingly tricky, but I made steady skinning progress on the long climb to the base of the high cirque tucked on the west side of the peak. From there, the standard summer route revealed itself, and I scampered up steep snow and rime and rock to the summit.
Tricky skinning on the climb up Swan Peak.
Looking out to Swan glacier, the Missions and beyond.
I skied directly off the summit, which, after a short section of wild knife edge ridge trickery, opened up to almost 4,000 vertical feet of delightful skiing down to Sunbeam lake. The snow quality was fair, and it was great to ski continuously for what must have been ten minutes or more.

It is pretty awesome to be alone way back in the Bob Marshall Wilderness in winter. I soaked in the sun and the solitude and the mounting fatigue during the long climb back up to the divide. The original plan was to take a shorter route over the north shoulder of the peak, but that way looked tricky, so I decided to make it a double summit day. After topping out and navigating a short downclimb through rime on the upper face, I clicked in about 100 feet below the summit and skied the Northwest ridge and west face down to treeline. The exit was long but enjoyable, filled with tricky climber trail skiing, jogging down snowless switchbacks, and digging into my shallow bag of nordic skiing tricks on the long road out to the car.
Ski tracks on the East face.
Starting down the West face.
I have been acutely feeling the loss of my mother lately. The healing process is slow, and almost a year after her passing, I am still reminded of how much I miss her almost daily. 

Shortly after my grandmother passed away, I skied a wild and unforgiving run in the same mountain range which I informally named the Maola face. 

Similarly, the majestic East face of Swan peak will for me always be the Catherine face.

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