Sunday, June 22, 2014

Trapper Peak Northeast Couloir - Cap to the 2013/14 Season

I haven't posted for quite a while, recent move, along with other life events has put a damper on outings this season. Until next season, I'll leave this map here with some of my favorite outings posted on it as a 'geographic archive...

Vertical: ~5,600ft
Distance: ~9.5mi

The iconic Trapper Peak, the tallest peak in the Bitterroot at 10,157ft. The trail is very well maintained, additionally, its TH is accessible by most cars once the snow is gone. More details about this Bitterroot hiking mecca can be found at:

Joe joined me today in an effort to tag the northeast couloir from the summit of Trapper. Not much to say, as the tour went off without a hitch; aside from accidentally climbing the wrong [much more difficult] out couloir into the Gem/Middle/Baker Lake valley on our way out, but eh, it built character. 

I avoid calling any tour "the best yet", as there always seems to be something that stands out from each tour that I love, and didn't experience on another. This time it was the thrill of skiing the main couloir and into the valley of East, North, and West [true] summits of Trapper; the ~10k ft peaks towering overhead was amazing, something I hope the pictures below can bring just a hint of justice to what the views looked like in person on such a gorgeous Montana day.

Side note: the previous week, I took a trip to Squaw [professionally speaking, "Cha-paa-qn"] Peak. Nearly nothing to report here, except the snow is nearly gone, requiring some minor downclimbing to get into the north facing bowl. Immensely cloudy as well. This would make for a fun, fairly easy summer hike, and if anything like McCormick Peak (~2 points west), one should be able to see Flathead Lake from the summit on a clear day.

Peak looming through the clouds

North side.

Now onto the Trapper Peak tour...

Boulder Peak at 6am

Solid view of Boulder Peak to the south.

Making a b-line to East Trapper Peak for a vantage point of the NE couloir from the true summit.

South east, just below the east summit.

Our first beautiful look at the couloir in question.

Probably not the best place to get vertigo. 

Taking a gander east from the east summit, Gem, Middle, and Baker lakes.

North Trapper Peak

Joe making the final push to the true summit.

Had just a few clouds blow in and trip over the peak, very fun to see.

The valley to which we'd ride into.

Last look back from where we'd come.

Looking west.

South west.

North, and Cave lake just visible.

Looking north over the beautiful Bitterroot Range.

Eyeing the route. :)

The entry, I suspect that within a week one will have to do some minor down-climbing to get into the main portion, that is until the cornice directly above breaks down a bit more.

Joe making light work of what the couloir had to offer.

Hip-hip, hurray!

Photos looking back up don't always do the steep justice. 

Gazing back up at the eastern summit.

Hazardous slide not too long ago from the northern summit. 

View from our lunch spot.

The very small couloir out, to which we would later discover was the wrong one; but it still worked in a 'pinch'  <-- See what I did there? :)

Topping out of the character building exit route into the Gem Lake area.

The character building downclimb.

Found this beaut on the downclimb; exit route we meant to take in the first place.

The business end of an old tree.

A few weeks ago, this would have made for a fun little run to Gem Lake; now... not so much.

Gem Lake

The next little out route.

Gem Lake couloir looking suave.

Trapper Peaks

The route, love love doing loops. Adds so much to the adventure

Thanks for looking! This will probably be the last post for a while...

11.5.2014 - Did a guest post on another blog about best of craiglist ads:

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Little St. Joe: A "big" tour cut short.

Vertical: ~3,800ft
Distance: ~6.25mi

When I say "big" tour I mean relative to my own ability. I said a while back that if I logged a 7,000ft tour I'd be happy; well, I've been happy but I meant to deliver on that 7k today. I had Wednesday off, and before I began a two week dry spell, I plotted out a tour just over 7k. This would have entailed Little St. Joe, along the ridge, off the north ridge to gain the north ridge of St. Joe itself, then back the same way. The forecast was "partly cloudy". I was hoping A) Cloud cover would be above 10k, or B) "Partly" enough that I could catch glimpses of the planned route.

Turns out neither occurred.
Top of Little St. Joe

I was off to a great start, feeling good and ready to log this 7k finally. The skies also seemed to be shaping up nicely for partly cloudy status. By the time I reached the cabin toward the bottom of the SE bowl on Little St. Joe I began having doubts as I worked into the clouds/fog. As I topped Little St. Joe, there was no sign of clouds lifting. Undeterred I scurried along the ridge which sucked an entire hour worth of rock scrambling to get to the intended ridge to drop north.

Part of the ridge along the way.

After getting to the ridge, I sat... and waited. Being solo (and not quite adventurous enough), I wasn't quite sold on dropping off into an abyss I had never seen before outside of Google Earth. I waited an entire hour, just waiting for some little open space in the clouds that would allow me to scope the intended route. Nothing. By this time, the tour was scrapped. I stood there pouting; trying to place my misguided frustration towards something. This didn't last long though, you can't stay angry long in the mountains. :)  At least now I have a better understanding of the immediate area behind Little St. Joe. I also skied the NE bowl, which was a nice experience, think I'd still prefer the SE bowl though.

This was my waiting spot for about an hour. (Bear tracks btw, he just goes straight down the mountain.. zero f#$ks were given by this bear.)
Kept getting glimmers of hope.

Little crags along the ridge.

And this was about as good as it got on my way back out, then more clouds blew in.

Didn't take a picture, but got eyes on Lappi Lake for about 10 seconds.

Exhilarating descent in whiteness.

Sorry this lacks scenic pictures. Even though the weather didn't allow great views, being out in the mountains is always a great time. I imagine this ridge on a clear day would be amazing! I'm lucky to have my health, and confidence (for the most part) to explore new areas, feeling like a kid in a playground. Taking up trail running to help condition for longer tours next year.