Thursday, February 25, 2016

Mission Range Uber-Loop

During last April's Missions traverse there was one line in particular that caught my eye.  That line is the west face of Glacier Peak.  In fact calling it a mere "line" hardly does it justice.  The west face of Glacier Peak is stunning, its triangular shape hosts a planer, smooth, and sustained pitch in the mid 40's for nearly 2000' before descending through a series of gullies to the Lucifer Lakes valley below.  All of this while skiing off  a true summit with surrounding views of six different mountain ranges including the tall mountains of Glacier National Park. 

The go-to Mission Range tour for me has typically been climbing the west ridge and face of Sheepshead, descending its east before climbing the northwest face of McDonald and finishing with the awesome south run.  If I feel good and conditions are right I'll even throw in a lap or two on the northwest face of McDonald as well.  Last year though while traversing with Jeffery and Inge we discovered a nice passage to Glacier Peak to the south from Icefloe Lake, that tour though did not lend time to ski its west face as we worked our way south for the traverse. 

That traverse is probably not worth repeating, for me.  There were a few convoluted down climbs that broke up the flow just enough to bother me.  I'm sure there is a traverse route that goes smoother for our next try.  Alas, I will have to return for another epic adventure. 

Adding Glacier Peak to the standard Sheepshead - McDonald routine is a worthwhile route though.  This, will be the new uber-loop for me!  The skier gets to descend directly off the summit of three amazing peaks, with no down climbing or convoluted skiing involved.  Much country is covered, and each climb has its own unique character.  And to top it off this is a true loop beginning and returning from the same trail head, only seeing the same trail for a hundred feet.

No matter the snow conditions, completing this loop on a clear day is sure to bring a sense of accomplishment to even the most adventurous skier.  It goes so smooth and seems to make sense.  Catching the final run west off of Glacier Peak in alpenglow is not out of the question and would add style points for sure.  Be fit for this one!

Sheepshead in full rime conditions (Photo: John Lehrman)
JL Photo
Descending towards McDonald Peak - Swan Mountains and Bob Marshall Wilderness behind (JL)
Sheepshead East ridge descent visible behind (JL)
Glacier National Park visible to the north
McDonald East in suprise pow (Daniel Soupir Photo)
Nice conditions coming off of McDonald.  And Daniel practicing powder conservation... in the wilderness? (JL)
Mc Donald east run (DS)
Finding the saddle to Glacier Peak west face (DS)
John pushes on to Glacier Peak summit
Glacier Peak, we'll find it in corn next time! (JL)
On the apron, with summit visible to right (JL)
Who need a full nights rest, when you can nap in the alpine. (DS)

Glacier Peak euphoria (JL)

Whats in the pack:
- Camp XLC aluminum crampon 
- 1x BD whippet
- Dynafit ski crampons
- Voile Vector 180cm
- helmet
- Julbo glasses, no goggles
- 1L water plus Jet Boil
- two midweight jackets plus softshell
- two buff facemasks (wool, synthetic)
- lightweight and mid weight glove
- first aid and misc. emergency gear

13 miles
9,300' climbing
11 hour


Click here for conditions and avalanche report. And here for Hillmap route.

Thanks for the support from sponsors Big Sky Brewing, Voile Skis, Julbo, Omnibar, and most importantly all the awesome friends who keep the skiing stoke high!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Madison Range Traverse - Taylor-Hilgard Unit

Last week Inge and I ventured into the Taylor-Hilgard Unit of the Madison Range.  It was my first time in the area, and what a pleasant 18 hour walkthrough it was.  A fresh blanket of powder kept the skiing soft, and allowed us to use mountain goat tracks as guidance while looking back on our own.  Despite what would seem to be hours among hours of slogging up mountainsides, being our third traverse together Inge and I have come to enjoy these long days.  Adventure routes such as this are very engaging as there is always some uncertainty in just how the topo will translate into the terrain, we are constantly making on-the-fly re-routes and terrain decisions.

Our route gained the southern tip of the range via a sagebrush bushwhack from the highway and continued just to the west of the divide as we tagged saddles and peaks along the way.  Notable peaks included Dutchman, Echo and Imp.  We were both slightly disappointed in not bagging Kotch Peak to make it a true and complete south to north traverse, but having arrived home at 4am with the early egress I think it sits as the right decision in my mind.  Next time we will come in more fit and fluid to ski it all!  This traverse would go great as a multi-day adventure with all of the fine terrain to explore.

Skiing north...

...skiing north...

...and skiing north again

The author enjoys morning-pow on the slopes of Hilgard,  Echo Pk in distance (Photo: Inge Perkins)

Dutchman Saddle Run, our most technical descent of the day

Hilgard Peak behind

Nearing Echo summit looking back on route, Duchman Pk / saddle run with Hilgard Pk behind

Inge skis north off the summit of Echo Peak.  My highlight run of the day.  Imp and rest of traverse visible to the horizon.

Echo Peak

Painting lines on Expedition Pass run

Looking south to Expedition Pass

Echo and Hillgard visible behind 

Goat tracks for guidance on Imp's summit ridge

(Photo: Inge Perkins)

13k and ~14hr into the day... feeling quite tired

Sunset from Imp Pk while looking south on the days work.  The route started in the horizon lookers left.

- Hour 17 - 

See: This map for detailed route.

-18 hours
-13,000' vertical climbing
-22+ miles