Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Pinball Wizard Gully, fast(ish)

With a Sunday afternoon to spare, I made a speedy go at the Pinball Wizard gully.  I went in to it well rested, and with a skin track in all the way up, was optimistic about fast conditions.  After a few minutes of warmup, I started pushing at a reasonably hard pace.  The climb went quickly for the first two thirds, although snow squalls did lower morale a bit, and reports from a ski party about cold wind on the summit had me wishing I had brought a second pair of gloves.  The upper mountain greeted me with surprisingly cold and biting wind, and I had to stop several times to layer up and deal with frozen fingers.  In any case, I only lost about 10 minutes to clothing and cold finger shenanigans.  From the summit, I took advantage of stable conditions to safely use the quick route, which takes a detour around the N. side of the last gendarme.  From there, one can rip skins and make a big downward ridgeline ski and traverse to the head of the Pinball wizard.  My fingers finally warmed up, and I was served a full helping of screaming barfies, but they eventually subsided, and it was time to ski.  
Your classic ski shot from near the top of the Pinball Wizard.
The skiing was great for the upper two thousand feet, and reasonable for the lower thousand.  On the ski out, I passed Andrew and Jeffrey, who were deproaching from adventures further up drainage which included a lot of skiing, one broken pole, and two broken skis.  Otherwise it was an uneventful exit.  I made it back to the car in 3.21, ten minutes faster than my previous fastest time.  It would be reasonable to cut ten minutes off, and I can't help but wonder if a sub-3 hr loop is possible with good conditions and some fierce suffering on the climb.
Back at the car.  Wearing my pink hat from the Women's march in Helena the previous day.
I am about as pessimistic as anyone about the next four years, but it was rewarding to participate in
the march, showing solidarity with the movement, and sending a clear message of resistance to the new adminstration.
splits for future reference: First road crossing: 15.30, trailhead: 44; upper saddle 1.24 summit 2.00; Start skiing 2.35. Car 3.21.30.


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    1. Denis - Yeah, so access from the bottom (creek crossings, etc) is never a problem, and with good elevation snow, it is probably as good as it gets. As for exits to the trail, the standard/only feasible exit from below Crown point is probably in, however it is definitely not a place to take a group of mixed abilities, as the ice bulge is difficult to pass, and one is quite committed at that point. It is kind of a battle, but I would speculate climbing from the bottom into the cirque below Bass creek crags proper is reasonable now, as would be anything farther up drainage (Lappi and beyond). I also think you might be better off skiing around Kootenai point (still an adventure, but less committing than the Crown point exit). Hope that helps?

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