Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Trapper peak and Oh my god chute

Alpine.  Accessible.  Striking.  The Trapper cirque is a special place.  After bailing on the Oh my god chute the previous weekend due to uncertain wind slabs, I returned a week later with Kyle to ski the chute if conditions allowed, and continue up into the Trapper cirque and ski whatever looked good.
Kyle climbing to the highest point in the Bitterroot.
This is a big snow year at low elevations, and we parked on the highway.  By cutting switchbacks and sticking to the skin track from last week, the 9 mile road approach to the Baker lake trailhead clicked by in under two hours, and we were on top of Oh my god well under three.  The forecast was for clouds in the morning, but we the weather gods had another idea, granting us blue skies all day.  There were no stability red flags at the top, but I still played is safe, sidestepping in with an ice axe in hand, and stomping all around the starting zone.  It was solid, and we were soon on our way down the chute.  The chute was excellent – a worthy Bitterroot objective for sure.  We skied a few hundred vertical feet below the terminus of the chute and transitioned, preparing for a long push up to the Trapper/North Trapper cirque. 
Kyle at the to of Oh my God.  We entered from the exposed ramp on looker's left.
Slicing and dicing shallow powder about half way down.
Looking 2,000 vertical feet back up Oh my god.
The climb into the Trapper cirque was delightful.  With towering granite walls and larch which bear a vague resemblance to Whitebark pine, I found it reminiscent of the lower portion of Garnet Canyon in the Tetons.  Once in the cirque, we took a few longing glances at North Trapper, but opted out of giving it a go due to marginal coverage and a little more hanging ice and snow than we liked.  So it was on to Trapper, which we climbed via the North couloir. There were some fresh wind slabs up to a foot deep in the couloir, but to our delight, the slabs were never deep and isolated in tandem, so we were able to manage it with confidence.  With almost 8,000 vertical feet in our legs, I think we were both dragging a little on the final push to the summit, but a big lunch break on top had us both back in the game, ready for more skiing.  It is pretty cool standing on top of Trapper in the middle of the winter.  We skied the North couloir, which was great, and continued down to the Gem lake connecting couloir.  Stability was adequate for ascending, so up we went.  Kyle was pretty excited about having a look at the Gem lake couloir, and I was game as long as we could drop in from the top (not excited to climb from the bottom due to possible ridgeline slabs), so we bopped down to Gem lake and fueled up for the last climb of the day.  The climb to the top via the Gem Lake/Trapper ascent ramp was quick and surprisingly easy.
Kyle climbing into the Trapper cirque.
All cued up for the Trapper North couloir.
Kyle at the bottom of the couloir.  Great run.
From the top, it took about two seconds of inspection to determine the entrance was a no-go.  The skier’s right sneak is bisected by the cliff wall (this fills in later in the year), and there was no getting around the cornice.  Ah well, we had still put a big, fun tour together, and the ensuing run down ramps above Baker lake was quite enjoyable.  The shuss out was fast and easy, with good snow all the way back to the car.
Gem lake couloir and ramp from the top of the connector couloir.
Our run is out of sight to the left.
It is customary to ski Trapper in the spring when the road melts out, but strong parties should consider checking it out in winter.  In addition to longer variations, I still contend a Trapper tour via the normal summer trail is one of the best easy ski mountaineering outings in the range.  Also, there is no reason not to tack Oh my god onto a normal early spring Trapper tour.  Also, John Lehrman and Don Lange made the first known descent of the Oh my god.  It was done in a pre-texting era, and I will be disappointed if anyone ever calls it the OMG chute.

It is always a blast being out in mountains with Kyle.  In addition to having a nice laid back approach, our avy assessments align well, we share a love of moving around the mountains piecing fun tours together, and he is a trail breaking beast. For stats, right around 10K vert and done in about 9.5 hours car to car.  This was the best ski day yet this year so far. Good stuff.

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