Thursday, March 8, 2018

Big Creek is for Big Tours. Glen to Heavenly

Heavenly Twins and my second run gully on the looker's left side of the bowl.
Looking glorious.
It was all but impossible not to scheme a few big link ups during our fabulous Glen lake tour last week, so with a mint weather day in the forecast, I went back mid week with the goal of ticking off a few more safe must-ski runs in the area.  I left the car, parked at the Big/Glen road intersection, at first light.  It was pretty nice to have a skin track for the first half of the approach, and I enjoyed watching the sunrise and getting caught up on a podcasts.  Fresh snow had covered our old track up high, but it was still able to top out on my intended variation into the peak to creek avalanche path behind Glen lake in about three and a half hours at my happy pace.
Pretty sunrise during the approach.
Snowmoblie tracks in the Wilderness.  Not acceptable.
I skied a northwest facing gully into the main path.  It is hard to see the whole line from the top, but I guessed correctly, and the ice choke in the bottom went without issues, so I was psyched.  Aside from a big water stop at the bottom of the run, the rest of the run was dreamy.  I also found a much improved stream crossing, so my emergency pair of socks spent the day happily stashed in my pack.
Through the choke on the first run and glad it went.
The first run.  Great skiing.
The goal for the rest of the day was to ski peak to creek runs, the bigger the better, so I headed up the open gully below the Heavenly Twins.  About mid-path, I struck out straight West and gained the top of my intended line,  There are two entrances, and I figured I'd try the direct one.  To my dismay, the pinch was not filled in well enough to ski, but a fairly straightforward 20 foot downclimb got me through the difficulties.  Unfortunately, the snow was quite poor, ranging from sun saturated slop to icy runnels so chunky debris.  Ah well, at least it is a spectacular line, done in good style from the top.
The second run, from the top, with feelings that it might not go.
A bit of schussing back down the summer trail had me back at the base of the Heavenly Twins avalanche path.  I was a bit mentally tired, but kept it together and started pushing up the 4,400 foot climb to the summit of the Heavenly Twins.  After a lot of grinding, I made my sixth lifetime summit of the Heavenly twins.  I downclimbed about thirty vertical feet of windblown talus before putting skis on and making the monster descent to the creek.  Snow was re-freezing, but everything was skiiable, and it would have taken something exquisitely terrible to wipe the huge grin off my face from such a physically challenging and beautiful day in the mountains.
Looking out at the upper half of the Heavenly Twins run.
The descent begins behind the summit cliffs and wraps into the visible bowl.
The upper part of the Heavenly Twins was a little sharky.  Still more skiable than it looks.
Turning the corner, excited to ski a lot of breakable crust.
Totally acceptable skiing near the bottom of the Heavenly Twins run.
The egress down Big Creek is kind of long, and I was quite tired, but a nut butter packet, half cup of water, lots of hollering to keep moose at bay, and a lot of double poling and sidestepping were all it took to get out to the car 2 hours and 20 minutes after summiting the Heavenly Twins.  Something a little over 12,000 vertical feet, done in 11 hours, 40 minutes.  It was a big day by my standards.
Bushwacking. Protect your eyes and face and get some.
The badness only lasted a hundred yards or so.
The Bitterroot peak to creek window is always narrow, and it was great to check a few more runs off the list.  At 4,400 vertical feet, the Upper Southwest to South face of the Heavenly Twins is one of the longest clean fall line runs in the Bitterroot range.  To my surprise, the bushwack was only about 15 minutes, and the entire lower gully was full of snow and fun to ski.  If it got skied more frequently, I might even go so far as to call it a Bitterroot classic!  A long but potentially rewarding day would be to climb the Heavenly Twins via the South face, ski any of the big Southwest gullies, then climb back up to the South ridge and ski the monster run out to Big Creek.  This tour would allow for a lot of high quality skiing, and would minimize the canyon slogging up Big Creek and Bad bushwacking in Beaver Creek.

On a technical note, I speculate that the Northwest couloir variation to the Glen lake peak to creek and complete Heavenly Twins Southwest to South face link up were both first descents.  I also believe the peak to creek west of the Twins was a first descent.  As always, I would love to hear of others skiing these lines, and am especially curious about the Heavenly Twins.  

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