Saturday, February 9, 2019

Pinball Wizard Gully for time

An ongoing post about trying to ski this local classic fast.

A fine morning for fast Pinball Wizarding.
Jeffrey was motivated enough to rally at 5:30 for a fast go at Pinball.  The gully is in incredible condition right now.  We parked out at the Larry creek parking area and warmed up on the half mile skin to the trailhead before pinning it up in the dark.  I went out at an optimistically fast pace and pushed with all I had all the way to the top.  Evidently sunrise was really pretty, but I was hurting a little too much to appreciate it as much as I should have.  I lost a lot of time on my previous splits, but it was a beautiful morning, and we started making time up above the saddle by not having to stop for cold weather.  I gave it all I had on the climb, and the last few hundred feet were a grind.

From the top, we made the downhill krumholtz skin in great time.  With low avalanche danger, I also on the fly found a much faster way to traverse to the top of the gully by making a longer traverse all on the South side of the ridge.  We started down the gully proper in good time.  The gully was just fantastic.  Firm, fast, smooth skiing.  Perfectly clear, cold morning.  We had a few bobbles on the exit, but neither cost us much time and we zipped out on the icy trail, emerging in 3.15, a new best for me time.  I still think this is a FK(S)T.  Would love to hear of others doing it faster though.  I went up as fast as my fitness will allow right now, but I think I could shave another 10 minutes with perfect execution.  It is of course hard to wonder if sub-3 is possible.  

splits for future reference: First road crossing: 18, trailhead: 55; upper saddle 1.35 summit 2.06; Start skiing 2.25? Trail: 2.40; Car 3.15.

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 administration.
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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