Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A fine afternoon in the Missions

Lowary Peak, East couloir.
Despite the early demise of winter at lower elevations, the skiing up high is nothing short of fantastic at the moment. I of course had to take advantage, and spent Easter Sunday in the Missions, savoring the cold, powdery conditions and checking out a few runs that have been on the list for a long time. I slept in a bit, and it wasn't until late morning that I left the car. I climbed straight up to St. Mary's peak via the normal climber's trail and East ridge. It took the full three hours to summit, and I topped out ready to take a look at some new ski lines.
Greywolf from East St. Mary's. The mini west is the short couloir
North of the main craggy summit.
I quickly schussed the nondescript northeast ridge of ESM, slapped skins on, and climbed to Lowary peak's north summit. I was able to ski frozen rime directly off the summit to the entrance of the East couloir. To my surprise, the couloir was guarded by a big cornice, so I put the steep skiing game face on and worked the tricky sneak around entrance on skier's right. Since the top of the couloir harbored some shallow slabs from the few inches of overnight snow, I kept my game face on, strategically ski cutting and working through two steep convex rollovers. Fortunately, things mellowed out quickly and the rest of the run was good old fashioned fun dust on crust couloir skiing. I sat down for a few minutes on the shores of Grizzly lake to eat a curry chicken sandwich and plot my next move. I wasn't super excited about the slabs, but headed north toward No Fish lake anyway to have a look at the west side of Greywolf.

Good skiing in Lowary peak's East couloir.

Schussing down to No Fish lake to see what kind of trouble I could get into on Greywolf.
Encouraged by more consolidated snow on the west aspects, I headed up a short couloir on the northwest shoulder of the peak - the mini west (my informal name). The climb was quick, and in an hour, I managed to climb it, ski it with great powder, and convince myself that I had time and energy to tack on the main West couloir. I traversed out from the base of the mini west, took a double shot of GU, and started climbing. It was great to be back in the West couloir of Greywolf. I contend that it is the most aesthetic line around Missoula, and one of the best in the state. After working through debris in the fan and runnel ice in the lower choke, I punched to the top in boot top powder. The run was excellent - boot top powder in the top half, a manageable runnel, and warm settled powder at the bottom. I was psyched to catch it in good condition.  I took another double shot of GU and started back up to St. Mary's shoulder and out to the car, enjoying the fatigue at the end of a day well spent.
Good snow in the mini-west. 
Good snow and coverage in the West couloir of Greywolf. 
More skiing in the West couloir.
The West couloir from No Fish Lake.
Of note, coverage in the adjacent couloirs is excellent.
Conditions and coverage are good in the Missions. It was great to be back. 10,200 vertical feet, done in 8 hours, 36 minutes. I fueled intensely and kept the effort pegged at hard aerobic all day.

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