Monday, January 3, 2022

Ninemile ramble, 2021

Fall splendor from Stark.

My longest fall outing was a link up of Ch-Paa-Qn, McCormick, and Stark mountains, each human powered from the Ninemile valley.  In order to get it all done, I was biking a very respectably early 5 am from the base of the Butler loop road.  The ride up to the trailhead was cold, slow, and included a (not scary) moose spooking in the dark.  The walk up Ch-Paa-Qn was nice.  There were a lot of down trees on the trail, and snow covered talus slowed progress, but it was spectacular to top out shortly after sunrise.  

Early morning on Ch-Paa-Qn.
After a quick descent, I drove to the base of the Josephine/McCormick road, feasting on pizza and cold coffee.  The bike up to McCormick was a really nice long grind, and the new to me trail to the peak was a treat.  It was great to climb a new summit.  After another quick decent, I drove to the base of the Rennic/Stark road, this time feasting on pizza and La Croix.  Stark was great.  I made a hard for me push and ran most of the trail to the summit, topping out to a warm fall evening and striking views.  I returned to the car legitimately tired but also excited for a challenging day spent entirely alone.  Final stats were 14.5 vertical feet and a bunch of miles in about 13 hours.
Near the summit of McCormick.

Final bits to Stark.

I drove between the base of each road, and the car supported nature of the day was fun, allowing for gear drop offs and a nice re set between peaks.  I'm excited for more in the Ninemile.  More bike run link ups, more long gravel bike rides, more skiing.  Especially in fall when the hills are full of golden larch.  Yes please to all of it.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Pintler ridge loops

I had two really nice summer days in the Pintlers that were quality enough to merit documentation.  

Cutaway to Warren loop

Closing in on Cutaway pass.

July 18th.  Right at the beginning of fire season, I rallied early to link up the ridge line between Cutaway Pass to the Porter Ridge.  I was also curious to suss out the route over steep terrain on 10,259.  The morning was delightful, and even with meager running volume under my belt, I was able to run the immaculate trail most of the way up to the crest of the range.  The ridge to Beaverhead and beyond had lots of slow talus, but it is a non-technical and fun enough.  I got completely stymied attempting to drop into the notch on the East side of 10,259, but after a short backtrack, I found a way down to the cirque below the South face of the peak for a much needed snow/water refill. 

Typical terrain North of Cutaway.
10,259 was easily climbed using the couloir on the South end of the East face, then up the South ridge.  The descent down the West ridge was way easier than I expected, and the climb up the East ridge of Warren was fast and really nice.  I don't know if I am the only one, but I have not found a clean way to get off of Warren in the summer.  I decided to try walking all the way out Porter ridge, but ended up bailing early to Tamarack lake.  From the lake, a big water refill and long slow trail run got me back to the car.  
The normal view from Warren.

I though this loop was good.  I do wish most of the ridge line sections were cleaner with less loose talus, but it isn't out of character for the Pintlers.

Haggin to Short loop

Haggin (background left), and Short (background right) from 10,282

September 12.  I rallied extra early in the beginning of fall for a loop around the head of Mill creek.  I parked off of the Twelvemile creek road and biked around to the base of Haggin, then made a long push to the summit up the East ridge.  The ridge from Haggin to 10,282 was so fun - one of the finest in the range I think.  I dropped off the ridge into upper Mill creek, found water, and boosted back up toward 10,378 with renewed gusto.  I bypassed the summit of 10,378 for time, and headed straight for the technical looking ridge line just West of Short Mountain.  

Closing in on Haggin
Starting the technical section near Short Mountain.

The technical section ended up being tricky.  It is definitely possible that I spent too much time monkeying around on the North side of the crest, but I ended up having to negotiate quite a bit of steep and rotten mixed dirt and rock.  I never really got stuck, so I just worked through it and was on top of Short Mountain soon enough.  The descent to the car was really nice. A fairly abbreviated scramble down lead directly to the CDT trail, and four miles of fast trail running was just enough to make the legs feel like they had a proper day.  I returned to the car about 12 hours after embarking.  I thought this loop was really good and am excited to to it again. I would consider bypassing the crags West of Short mountain on the South if I do this outing again.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

East Pioneer traverse

Sunrise on the Pioneer crest.

My big summer outing was a traverse of the East Pioneer range.  Having not spent much time in the range, I spent the week before the outing scouring maps and Google Earth, planning out a feasible route with contingencies, and psychologically bouncing back and forth between excited and intimidated by uncertainty with the terrain, the elevation, the smoke, potential injuries, and the overall magnitude of the outing.  I didn't think that a complete traverse was realistic, so I left the car at Mono creek campground, with plans to traverse about 2/3 of the range.  The bike shuttle on the Scenic Byway was quick and easy.  And gorgeous, with smoke-free views into the range. I started the approach to Baldy by early evening, and by dark I was at a nice timbered camp on the lower flanks of the mountain.  It was good to finally be rolling.

I awoke earlier than expected on the first full day, and was headlamp bopping up Baldy before first light.  I summited shortly after sunrise and pointed it North.  Goal number one for the outing was to stay physically intact, with a close secondary goal of staying in the moment and enjoying the experience, and as such, I took breaks when needed and kept the pace nice and mellow.  Alturas 1, Alturas 2, and Highboy each clicked off quickly.  Since this trip was in the dog days of one of the most miserably hot summers I can recall, one of my strategic decisions was to bring a full gallon of water capacity, and having already downed a gallon of water, I ducked off the ridge for a big refill at Anchor lake.  

Smokey sunrise on Baldy.

Nice terrain between Alturas 2 and Highboy.

On Highboy, looking at the afternoon agenda:  Anchor lake, Torrey, and Tweedy.

I regained the crest just North of Sawtooth and basin hopped North.  I had originally planned stay on the crest all the way to Torrey, but the terrain looked technical enough that I opted to drop off the ridge and instead climb the peak by the looser but completely non-technical South face.  A good push put me on top.  Multiple trip reports had warned of real climbing between Torrey and Tweedy,  so I dropped most of the way down to Torrey lake to bypass the technical connecting ridge. I was still ahead of schedule, and decided to fill the evening out by also climbing Tweedy.  So, I ground it back up to crest and enjoyed evening light on the casual Southeast ramp of Tweedy.  I summited buzzing with gratitude for the incredible day.  The descent was terrible.  Loose, loose, loose.  I made it to a comfy camp at North Gorge lake by dusk.  It was nice to relax and enjoy a dinner of real food and a sip of spirits before tucking in for the night.   

Nearing Tweedy's summit.

View from camp.
I awoke early on the second day, and was rolling before first light, refreshed and feeling surprisingly good.  I had decided to avoid this technical section of the crest, and instead basin hopped one basin before regaining the crest shortly after sunrise.  To my delight, the terrain all the way to Tahepia looked spectacular - clean and fun and fast.  And it was.  What a nice ridge line! I managed to get stuck in some easy 5th class terrain down climbing Tahepia, but I still arrived at the Tahepia/Waukena saddle way, way ahead of my original schedule.  As a result, it now seemed like a traverse to Black Lion would be possible, which would allow for a complete traverse of the alpine section of the East Pioneers.  

Really nice terrain on the way to Tahepia.
Glad to be through the technical bits below Tahepia.

Inspired, I made decent time to peak 10,357. The terrain became slower and more technical, and I dropped to Teacup lake rather than slowly working along the crest.  The jaunt through the Teacup lake basin and subsequent climb to the crest were both easy and fun.  I found the going on peak 10,060 to be quite slow and scrappy, and coupled with a few minor routefinding blunders and some mounting fatigue, the day started to feel real. Soon enough though, I was back in easy cruising terrain. After another quick water break at an unnamed lake above Lake Abundance, I made a good push out to Black Lion.  Even with plenty of fatigue, the climb of the South peak and traverse to the North peak ended up being really nice.  I topped out on the last summit by late evening.  Wildfire smoke had been moderate for most of the trip, but it really rolled in on Black Lion. I stopped for the night at a nice comfy camp well below tree line when it got dark, not really wanting to throw down and rally all the way out to the highway.  I was a little bit too tired to fully enjoy dinner, but was still grateful for the last of the chocolate chip cookies.  I was over tired and slightly irritated by the smoke, and didn't sleep very well the last night. 
Looking back from 10,357. 
Getting psyched for an afteroon of scrappier terrain.
Approaching the Black Lion massif.

Up at first light, I followed a blazed path for about an hour to the Boulder creek trail, and from there, a few miles of easy trail was all it took to emerge at the trailhead before 9 am.  Since I had extended the outing farther than planned, I dropped my pack and jogged about nine miles along the Scenic highway back to the car.  Although I was ready to be done, pavement running felt surprisingly OK.  The rest of the day was spent retrieving my belongings, stopping for a hearty lunch at Fiesta Mexicana in Dillon, and driving home through some of the worst wildfire smoke we experienced all year.  

Last hour of the trip.  Looking back up at Black Lion during the morning walk out.

The outing was so good - challenging for sure, but also enjoyable and extremely rewarding.  Physically, I was pleased to actually get through feeling good, and recovered in well under a week.  It was pretty awesome to spend so much time in new terrain.

I want to spend more time in the range.  So many things to do, from long day link ups to short backpack trips.  And suss out the terrain around Torrey and Tweedy a little better - perhaps it truly is not possible to link the peaks easily along the connecting ridge, but boy that would make for such a great link up.  

I packed just a few more comfort items than in previous outings, including a pillow, light mattress, warm sleeping bag, and a book, and it was really quite nice to have a few extra creature comforts.  The gallon of water storage strategy was was heavy at times, but it was worth it to be able to stay up high for hours, and staying properly hydrated was totally clutch given the extra toasty afternoon temps.  I didn't track my route, so statistics are approximate, but my best map estimate is 19,900 vertical feet of climbing, not including the shuttle.  I was out for 63 hours, but that includes three nights of sleep.  Yes, it could be done a lot faster.  Also yes, I am completely satisfied with the trip.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Missoula Horizon Peaks human powered

In summer 2020, I came across a list of sixteen Missoula horizon peaks assembled by our fine local mountaineering club, the Rocky Mountaineers.  There were several peaks that I hadn't done, and it seemed like it would be interesting to finish them off.  After mulling it over a bit, I realized that it would be more rewarding and fun to do all of them human powered from the house.  Here is a brief summary of the peaks, listed clockwise as viewed from town.  One interesting observation is that with the exception of Jumbo, University and Sentinel, every peak to house outing that I can recall has been solo.  Maybe I need to invite friends on my more random adventures.  For the record, according to the club, I am not the first person to complete these peaks in this style. Too many cagey local veterans getting after it.  I heartily recommend the project.

Point Six  Many ski outings on this fine local mountain, and I am actually excited to ski it house to house in the spring some time, but of the four house-to-house outings, the two most memorable were during the Furlough tour, and the first time I biked it from the house in August 2020.  Point Six is one of the best longer gravel bike rides in the area, in my opinion.

Heading down to the bike during a long link up of local peaks in November, 2013.

Stuart Peak  Only three house to house outings that I can recall.  The first one was a long run in summer 2012, when I was first getting into trail running.  I also did it for time in summer 2020, biking casually to the trailhead, biking fast for me to the Wilderness boundary, then running to the top before reversing the route.

Normal summit photo.

Sheep Mountain  I usually get lazy and drive to the Rattlesnake trailhead when running Sheep, and can only recall five house to house outings.  The most memorable was actually in early September 2021 when I biked the Blue point/Sheep/East Fork/Corridor kind of sort of as hard as I could, making the loop in 3.31.  I hadn't biked Sheep in many years, and was reminded how ridable the climb is, and how old-school awesome the loop is as a bike ride.

Mount Jumbo Many times on this special mountain.

Woody Mountain I had skied from the summit on two previous occasions, but never human powered from the house.  I biked up from Bonner and walked to the summit on Labor day 2020 before descending Mittower and proceeding to tackle University, which resulted in a magnificent bonk and subsequent slow grovel to the summit.

University Mountain Many times.  University is still my favorite Missoula trail run, and biking up from Pattee is one of my favorite bike rides.

Mount Sentinel  Many times on this special mountain.  What a gem to have on the immediate outskirts of town.

Mount Dean Stone  On election day, 2020, I biked out to Miller creek, up to Legacy point, then climbed to the summit by linking up logging roads on Nature Conservancy land.  It's a nice 4 - 5 hour outing from Miller, but now that the amazing trail is in place directly from town, a climb from the house would be even easier and higher quality.

Heading up to Legacy point on the way to Dean Stone.

Miller Peak Three house to house outings.  The most memorable was in spring 2020 when I got absolutely crushed trying to keep up with some of Missoula's fastest on an informal group ride up Allen creek and down to Miller.  Everyone headed home for lunch, but after a long snack break to replentish my glycogen stores, I slugged it up to Miller, then navigated the faint Miller divide trail back to town.  
Big tower, little bike on Miller.

Lolo Peak I skied Lolo human powered from the house in June 2020.  It is really not a terribly difficult outing, and I made it to the summit in fine shape, and added some runs to make it into a tiring but excellent 10k ski day.  The bike home was surprisingly easy and not too long.  On Juneteenth, 2021, I drove out to the bottom of the Mormon peak road and did it as a bike to ski outing, which was excellent and highly recommended way to ski Lolo peak.

Blue Mountain Many times.  Not from the house, but the most memorable summit by far was when Leah went into labor on the summit, and a close second was biking to the top from the upper gate with Sam four years later.

Black Mountain  November 2020, the day the election was called for Biden.  I biked up O'brien creek and waked up from the trails above O'brien creek.  Not the best of outings, but enjoyable enough to do again for sure.

Fall mood on Black Mountain.

Petty Mountain  I have climbed Petty a half dozen times as a trial run from Petty creek, but that includes a 40-minute drive.  It is a great, seldom seen mountain with unique views.  It is also kind of a doozy to do from the house.  My only outing was in fall 2020 at the end of the Grave Growler bike ride.  I enjoyed the growler enough to do again, so hopefully I'll have many more house to house outings on Petty.

On the excellent single track section of the Growler and closing in on Petty.

Stark Mountain This was the last peak that I did, in no small part because it is so far from town.  I finally did it as a long bike-run-bike outing on a rainy day in June, 2021.  I managed to get a terrible flat on my gravel bike only about four miles from the house, and Leah graciously brought my mountain bike out for a bike change.  It was kind of a grind all the way out to Ninemile on a mountain bike, but I made do.  I did manage to get terribly chaffed, so the return run and bike was a bit stingy, but I wasn't going to let that get in the way of finally completing the Horizon peak project!

Last downhill of the last peak of the project.

Ch-Paa-Qn  In early September, 2019, I biked to the Reservation divide using the Sixmile road, ran the peak with Jeffrey, then biked out the Butler loop and back to town.  I was pretty surprised at how moderate the outing was.  I think that doing the peak as an extension of the Butler/Sixmile bike loop is a top notch local outing.

Charity Peak  I forced this one into a chilly December afternoon in 2020.  I wasn't very excited to throw down with heavy traffic on Highway 89, so I biked out to Mill creek, up the Black Cat road, then slogged it out through shin deep snow to the top.  Said shin deep post holing took some time, and I may have biked all the way back from Frenchtown in the dark, but fortunately the biking is actually pretty safe thanks to the frontage road bike path.  This is definitely one mountain I would have not otherwise ever climbed. 

On top of Charity!

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

10 x 10k ski days, 2021

Since I couldn't ski in February or March due to a foot injury, it was a mad  scramble to get to ten 10k ski days this year, but I managed.  The 10 x 10k goal has been a fun multi year challenge, pushing for earlier starts, farther reaches, and an expansive mindset in planning and executing outings.  I think that my watch might have been a little bit off on the Sweeney loop tour, but as a fitness replacement, I did do a mid-February 10k day on the bike, so I'm sticking to my claim of pulling off a 10 x 10k ski season.

Blackmore:  Fun day lapping the most popular Northeast shoulder with Kyle.  Great snow, and the 10k goal made for an engaging day.

Whitefish Mountain resort:  Two early laps and three afternoon laps with family lift skiing in between.

Gash North bowl:   We didn't take a turn with good snow all day, but...  Really nice to get out with Ned, get to know the North bowl of Gash proper a little better, continue to find evidence of good deep stability, and appreciate 2,500 foot long runs in early January.

Ned climbing back out of the North face of Gash proper.

Snowbowl and Point 6:  Mid day Martin Luther King day family obligations necessitated a wicked early start, but motivation was high, so I rallied from L2 around 4:30 am.  To my shock, I ended up crossing Justin Angleman and Seth Swanson's headlamps after the first lap, and we took a couple of short runs at their blistering pace.  Once the ski resort opened, I headed out to Jenny bowl, put a skin track in, and hammered out runs in perfect boot top powder.

Good skiing in Jenny bowl.

Eagle Pass:  On a forecast hot April day, I was sufficiently motivated to rally proper early to beat the forecast warm up.  The goal was to ski the big South facing avalanche path off of point 8,623 near Eagle pass.  The logistics of accessing the path and climbing out out are a bit weird, but I am pretty confident the Eagle pass approach is superior to the bushwack from Post creek.  I lucked out, catching the first run with perfect firm corn, and the second with good, slightly over ripe corn.  Really glad to finally ski this run and catch good conditions.  

OK, this is going to be fun.
Climbing out under the watchful eye of McDonald.

Note:  It appears that public access to the Eagle Pass trailhead has been cut off from the Eagle Pass road.  However, it is still possible for the public to access the trailhead from the Mollman pass road by taking the west canal road all the way South to the normal trailhead.  

Calowachan:  It seemed a little bit crazy to go for 10k with a not-crack-of-anything 1030 am start, so I headed out from the Eagle pass trailhead with a plan to just see what happened.  

Panorama of the view down the Southeast face of Calowachan out to the
South Calowachan summit, Summit Lake, McDonald, etc.

To my surprise, temps were cold all day, and the skiing was delightful.  I summited the South peak four hours from leaving the car, and jumped right into an excellent run down the steep upper Southeast face and down through a long couloir directly to Summit lake.  From which it was quick to bop over to the rolling South face of the primary North summit.  I skied the South face from below the craggy summit block.  Another great run!  On the climb out to Eagle pass, there may have been a short throw away lap to get to 10k, but then it was on to the fast ski and slow Mission-lite bushwacking walk out to the car by late evening.  With cold temps and great skiing, this was a really really good day.

Great conditions in a hidden Missions gem of a ski line.

Sweeney: After deciding that the suspect forecast for the Missions might not allow for good skiing (plan A), Jeffrey and I set out early from Missoula with plans to ski in Bass creek (plan B), but to our surprise, the trailhead was closed for prescribed burning.  So we resorted to plan C and back tracked to Sweeney.  I have wanted to do a circumnavigation tour for a while, and it seemed like the day to do it, regardless of the plan letter.
Jeffrey starting a fine long corn run on the South side of Sweeney.

We were on the summit less than three hours from leaving the car.  A bit of routefinding and icy down climbing put us on top of the Northwest gullies, which we skied on firm but edgeable ice.  Then, we climbed out of One horse creek to the top of the big Southeast bowl just past the main Sweeney summit.  The ensuing corn run was perfect - long, fun, with great snow top to bottom.  Definitely the run of the day and honestly one of the corn runs of the year.  We climbed back to the summit, then took a normal run on the Northeast face before exiting.  Nice day and fun to finally get out with Jeffrey again.

Complete Mystery tour: I had some other ski ideas, but Ned and made a compelling case to ski all of the Mystery chutes at Gash, and I'm glad he did.  The day was forecast to be warm and wet, but we headed out extra early anyway with Jeffrey with hopes that the weather would work out by luck. Sure enough, we found ourselves skiing directly off of Gash proper at 8 am with good enough weather and a reasonable re freeze. 

Gash proper from the top.

We made great time climbing to the top of the Mystery chutes, and skied the central chute first.  I put a steep but efficient (if I do say so myself) track back up the chute, and we climbed all the way back to the top and picked our way into the West chute.  Ned had to ski cut heavy snow, and we had to scrap around an ice step, but it was still a fun run.  We took one last jaunt up our skin track, climbing only to the top of  the East chute.  None of us had skied the East chute, and we were delighted to find a relaxing tree lined run.  

Jeffrey in the West Mystery chute.
Ned in the mellow but excellent East Mystery chute.
We took a pretty good break in light rain before rallying up the scrappy rock lined shorter chute on the East edge of the face. Most of the climb was scrappy, but we got it done efficiently, and the skiing was also scrappy but  fun.  The climb out to Gash got a bit long.  We were way over 10k feet, it was snowing and gloppy, and I think that everyone kind of hit a low energy patch at some point.  But we persevered, and were soon making our way out to the car.  This ended up being the biggest elevation day of the year for me - something north of 12k vert I think.  
Ned climbing the last couloir of the day.

Kakashe: Keeping with the spring theme of exploring some of the lesser (i.e. not McDonald, Grey Wolf, or East Saint Mary) Mission objectives, I had a really fun day exploring the Northwest chutes on Kakashe in early May, and when another perfect weather window appeared, I was back, this time with an early enough start for a 10k day.  The goal was basically to ski around the compass on Flattop before it got too warm.  There is enough downfall that getting to and from snow line took a long time and sucked some soul, but the time spent in the alpine was delightful.  I took the short entry run, then climbed to the top of Flattop.  

Up to the summit of Flattop.

I was able to scout a safe way through the pervasive ridge line cornice and skied a good run on the East face with OK warmed powder.  Hot sun motivated a quick transition, and climb back to the summit.  Next, I skied the long Northwest couloir from the summit.  The traverse into the couloir was really steep and very much heads up, no-fall with variable snow and some tricky ridges to ski over. I took it one slow sidestep at a time, and was soon on top of the main couloir.  To my surprise, there was about foot of settled spring powder in the main couloir, and the skiing was outrageously good - probably the run of the season.  I skied all the way out to the base, then kept descending until I reached a point where it was possible to weave up through scrappy Mission terrain back to the summit.  Then a great run down the big open West face visible from the valley.  Then a short North couloir to get to 10k.  The a short up, short scrappy ski, long bushwack exit had me back at the car.  Another really really good ski day in new to me terrain.

Ready to ski the East face.  What a back drop!

The traverse into the Northwest couloir.  Can you tell that I was intimidated?

Great skiing in the Northwest couloir.

Warren + biking. 

Mini down climb in the middle of the North face ski run on Warren peak.

Justin and Jeffrey were game to rally extra early for the many-th annual (I'm thinking 12th or 13th) Warren Wallow.  We had time to do a little bit of extra skiing, so we started the day off by climbing to the top of the East couloir, which was super fun, then headed back up for the customary North face run from the summit.  The exit was kind of a blur, but we were back to town by early dinner time.  We bumped into another party of long time friends and enjoyed seeing them off and on during the day.  For some reason, I was really dragging on this outing, so thanks to Justin and Jeffrey for driving, setting the bootpacks, and generally taking up my slack.  In order to get to 10k, I biked a few road/gravel Marshall canyon laps.  I had a pounding headache and was generally feeling terrible, but I got it done, and I'm glad I did because a dry spring followed by a very warm July resulted in an unusually early end to ski season 2021.