Sunday, May 17, 2015

Missions - West Saint Mary to Lucifer Lake traverse

Thursday evening was fraught with indecision. I was registered for a running race, happily tapering and excited for a good beat down. Then I checked the weather. In the subsequent days since registering, the forecast had changed from dreary and grey (blissful running weather) to splitter clear and cold (blissful skiing weather).  So, after a few minutes of hemming and hawing, I texted the normal suspects about skiing, strapped on running shoes and went out for a hard run. By the end of the evening, my legs were shot and I had the Jeffs on board for a big day on Saturday. Viva la skiing!

Jeffrey skinning to the summit of West St. Mary's peak.
I suggested a wonky tour that was intended to hit some runs that I’ve been meaning to ski for a long time. Fortunately, Jeff and Jeffrey were on board, and we ended up piecing it together in good style. I slept the previous night at the Mission reservoir trailhead and biked out in the dark to our meeting point in the valley. We were hiking up the ESM trail at 6 am. With fast conditions and only one short break, were on the summit three hours later.  We bumped out to West Saint Mary and skied the convoluted Northeast face way down into Sonielem creek. It is an odd line, but a few inches of fresh graupel made for fun conditions and it is always a good time walking the plank out to WSM.
Approaching the ESM summit.
Jeff skiing on West St. Mary.
Next, we climbed around glide cracks to the crest of the Sonielem ridge and the entrance to the only clean run off the ridge.  I was hesitant dropping in on the face without scouting it on the way up, but the snow was perfect. We had a great run down the huge open face and through the steep exit couloir.  It was gratifying to finally forge a ski line down this complex and unforgiving face.  As we crossed upper Mission creek, we skied across numerous fresh grizzly tracks, which was pretty cool if not a bit intimidating.  We punched a short bootpack up to Lake of the Stars and continued straight north to an unnamed 9,.000 foot peak just west of Mountaineer.  I pushed out along the ridge to the proper summit, and we all skied down together. While not a classic, it was a big and interesting run, and I was once again excited to finally ski it.  A long second lunch break ensued at the bottom. 

Climbing to the Sonielem ridge.
Hey there grizzly. The tracks were only a few hours old.
Jeff climbing above the Lake of the Stars. Our Sonielem run
is the cleanest sunlit face up and left of Jeff.
After lunch, it was decided that we had enough gas in the tank for another run, so we motored up the big access ramp to Mountaineer and skied off the point of highest snow at the head of the ramp.  The ramp is a great ski line, and 2,000’ of cruiser corn was a perfect way to end the day.  We made a quick exit, staying well above Lucifer lake on the South side.  A long but uneventful shuffle down the trail had us back at my truck by early evening.

Looking up the bottom third of our fourth run.
What a day. I think the East Sonielem run was a first decent, but who knows. Also, with WSM in the bag, I managed to ski all of the major Mission peaks this year (with the possible exception of West McDonald, Peak Y, Kakashe and Flattop, but I don’t consider them to be major peaks). Pretty cool. It was great to spend another day in the mountains with Jeff and Jeffrey. Approximately 11,500 vertical feet done in a touch over 13 hours.

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