Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Scapegoat - Red Mountain

Jeffrey walking to the summit of Red Mountain.
I have always wanted to spend more time in the Bob Marshall, so it seemed fitting to explore the area around its highest peak on skis.  My first trip was on a cold, blustery day in mid May, hoping for a reasonable morning weather window that never materialized.  As such, I used a wonky low elevation approach to Red mountain before climbing the Southeast face to a point just below the summit ridge. Stymied by a blustery, miserable whiteout, I bailed, and the remainder of the day was spent skiing various shorter runs on the way back to the car.
Time to head back to the car after getting shut down by weather.
Tail firmly tucked between my legs.
A week later, much improved weather allowed a direct climb to the summit.  The approach route is somewhat convoluted, but it isn't actually too far, just a bit bush wackey and awkward in spots. With nicely refrozen snow, Jeffrey and I climbed to the top of Red mountain in under three hours via the south ridge.  We rallied an early start, so snow on the Northeast face was still frozen, but it was not too steep or scary, and I had a blast.  Firm conditions made for a quick walk back up, and we traversed to the next peak south (Blonde mountain?) before dropping into the cleanest couloir on the Southeast face.  The run was great. The face has four nice couloirs, and a return trip is warranted.
At the bottom of the Northeast face of Red Mountain.
At the bottom of our second run on Blonde mountain.
The couloirs in the cirque are better than they look in the picture.
We followed bear tracks to the top of our short third run, which would have been better if we had enough time to extend it another few hundred feet to its logical terminus.  Instead, we exited stage right for a final climb to the basin which would most cleanly deposit us near the car.  One last enjoyable run was followed by a long shuss to the end of the snow, which was remarkably smooth.  We were both feeling relaxed at the end of the day, and just walked back to the car in about an hour from snowline in running shoes. It was satisfying to return to this nice high corner of the Scapegoat and have such a remarkably effortless day.
Climbing to our fourth run, with our third run in the background.
Looking down our fourth run.
Our egress route is visible along the bench on the skier's right side of the basin.
End of the snow.
Between the long drive, shorter runs, and slightly awkward approaches and egresses, the Copper creek area a little off compared to other Missoula spring skiing locales.  In addition, about half of the skiiable terrain is open to snowmobiles, and it appears they hit it pretty hard well into the spring.  However, there is a lot of terrain, and the climate (drier) and spring snowpack (more wind consolidated/better potential for good corn) are reason enough to keep it on the radar, especially as the road opens up in May, and on days when conditions closer to Missoula are sub optimal.  Finally, while Red mountain is the technical high point, the skiing is no better than more easily accessible options closer to the car.  For stats, a little over 6k vert, done in about 7 hours car to car.
Grizzly tracks.

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