Saturday, April 19, 2014

Sweeney Peak - A revisit is required!

Distance: ~9.5mi
Vertical: ~4,500ft

The last little bit to the summit.

I was nearly left going solo, until Joe told me his meeting was moved to 6pm, enough time to work with! We set out for Sweeney Peak and found ourselves basking in a gorgeous Montana day, and this time I remembered, or rather Joe reminded me, to apply sunscreen. Due to a snafu at the start involving what may or may-not include misjudging the amount of snow, led to a extra little 3/4-1mile hike to the trailhead. In conjunction with that, the time limit, and another small issue, we opted to just hit the summit and take a treed run down, thus bypassing the two NE bowls. (I would say 3, but the one off of the summit is straight wind-spanked to a high degree. )

All is well though, like I said before, I'm finding about 80% of my enjoyment from traipsing around anyway, and Sweeney Peak summit served to provide some outstanding views. Word of advice though; if you have split-boarders in your group take the 45minutes and skin back up to the top of the knob just before the first bowl, otherwise you are in for a long-long side hill experience that is atrocious on a split-boarder I found. :)

First bowl says hello.

Working around the first NE bowl

On top of first bowl.

Second NE bowl.

St. Joe peaks looking dapper.

Nearing the top of second NE bowl/ false summit.

Left the skis near the top of the second NE bowl, and began a rock/snow hike along the quarter-mile spine to the true summit.

A destroyed third bowl.

Looking SW from summit w/ Pyramid Buttes slightly right.

Looking NW at Lolo Peak proper and false summits - Could see all three lakes back here.

Looking directly West from Sweeney Peak

SW view

South view again at the St. Joe Peaks.

Joe coming up along the spine.


Probably let the snow melt out a bit from the road which was very spotty/impassible in places, and bare in others. Can't wait to revisit the two lower NE bowls later this spring!

Thanks for looking!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sugarloaf Peak Couloir - Chaffin Creek... "Chute City"

Vertical: ~4,800ft
Distance: ~11mi

For more information about Sugarloaf Peak and other great tours in the area, visit John Lehrman's site, here. Included in the list of tours on that site is Sugarloaf Peak Couloir, on its north side. For this tour a new partner in crime, Joe, joined me. Around 7:30 we found ourselves at the Chaffin Creek trailhead, to which as of 4.12.2014, is JUST obtainable via a 4wd w/ ground clearance. 

The trail is melting quick, the first two miles required a skinning/walking alternation. 

Some wildlife along the way.

I was surprised at the amount of chutes/couloirs along the way. Mid winter seems like the South facing lines would be fantastic, a near surreal experience I'd imagine skiing a couloir with 200-500ft rock walls on both sides. We didn't take the time to investigate them, but looking on Google Earth it does seem like these fingers progress all the way into the upper valley heading north.


First glimpse of Sugarloaf Peak (east face)

And finally, about 4 miles in, the couloir shows itself.

We dug a pit part way up the apron, and found lots of layers but none were failing until ECTP15+ with the exception of the 10cm failure below the ice/snow sheet at ECTP11.  First worth mentioning was @ 20cm Q1, and then @ 30cm Q2 (ECTP18) and finally 100cm (ECTP30) Q2, but that didn't even attempt to slide until helped with a small shovel pry from behind. 

Looking south from the base of Sugarloaf apron

The snow was hard, nearly ice quality in most places making for slow going on the boot pack up. It was rather comical after we had snacked at the bottom, looking up and expecting to skin at least a few hundred yards, maybe 1/4 of the way up; only to find we made it ~100ft up before our skins would no longer hold. Joe didn't have crampons so I left mine at the car, but luckily with a few kicks, the 'ol ski boots punched through and we were on our way, slowly but surely. The ice at the bottom did slowly begin transitioning into more and more snow mixture, so that was nice.

Once we entered the narrow "freezer" we found about a foot of packed powder and decided to continue. (No way I was going to press forward if it was the snow/ice in the wider part of the chute.)

NE from the top of the couloir.

NW from the apron base.

Last look at Sugarloaf before ducking into the forest abyss. 

Snowed a bit towards the end, better than rain!