Monday, April 2, 2018

North Trapper new routes

Ned skiing Hidden couloir.
Ned was kind enough to join for an exploratory mission to the Trapper group.  It was potentially unwise to roll the dice on something new when good conditions in the Bitterroot will only last another few weeks, but fortunately we got lucky.

The approach up Trapper creek was worse than I remembered.  The trail is choked with downfall, and we completely lost it after the creek crossing.  The climb into the cirque is steep and complex, but we were able to nose (and routefind by map) our way remarkably easily.  To my dismay, freezing level was way up at 7,000 feet, but conditions were good and stable above there.

The stream crossing was just one of the many delights on the approach.
Our first line was the Northeast ramps off the Northeast shoulder of North Trapper.  This gully and face always looked too broken and complex to pique my interest, but it was great fun as a mountaineering objective.  After booting the 1,000' clean opening couloir to a showstopper ice bulge, we traversed west onto a hanging ramp system.  From there, it was a long wallow to the top.  We were stymied 20 vertical feet from the ridge top by nipple deep sugar and my lack of climbing head.  The skiing was great. A short 55 degree headwall got us down to the ramps, which were exposed but moderate, and the couloir was great fun, with good chalky snow.  Thanks to Ned for his competence in getting this line done safely.  At the bottom of the run, we stopped for lunch and made a plan for the remaining two hours.
The Northeast ramp line is in the sun/shade gully. Hidden couloir is in the,
you guessed it, hidden gully just right of the most prominent rock ridge.
Approaching the Northeast ramps.  Photo: Ned Gall
Ned climbing the ramps.
It's not all glamor. Ned slightly defeated in his wallow hole, putting skis on.
First steep turns above the moat at the top
of the Northeast ramps. Photo: Ned Gall
Turning the corner into the couloir.
Ned ripping the better and longer than it looks couloir.
Just coming off a terrible four weeks of pneumonia, I had made it clear that I would keep it mellow and head out after one run if necessary.  Fortunately I felt good enough to do another run, so we traversed to the next cirque west to "have a look". The traverse was interesting, but we eventually made it.  To my absolute delight, the cirque headwall was split by a clean 1,200 foot couloir.  Up we went.  The couloir was moderate enough that we were able to skin about half of it, and the booting was easy enough.  From the point of highest skiable snow, we walked up to the crest and were treated to a jaw dropping view of the Antonilli ridge on North Trapper and the Cave lake cirque.  Skiing Hidden couloir was a treat. So much fun.  The ski down below freezing line was OK, and the exit was slow and schwackey, but we made it.  About 7,000 vertical feet, done in ten hours car to car.
Ned climbs and marvels at beautiful granite walls.

Majestic North Trapper view.
Skiing Hidden couloir.
These are great lines.  Hidden in particular is one of the longer rock lined couloirs I can think of in the range. It is also moderate and objectively fairly safe.  I would probably ski the area classics like Sugarloaf, the Tin Cup Chutes, Trapper North Gully, North Trapper Southeast face, and the Goddess first, but after that, these lines are highly recommended when there is enough snow to get in and out.  It was delightful to get out skiing again.  Fingers crossed on a few more Bitterroot adventures before the low elevation snow melts.

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