The Prison Shower – Mission Creek, Montana


I awoke to my phone ringing at 4:25 am, it was Shawtan, I silenced my phone so I could get 5 more precious minutes of sleep before my alarm would go off at 4:30. 4:28 my phone rings again, this time I groggily answer and tell Shawtan that I’m still down to ski and to pick me up in a half hour. I gear up, eat breakfast and slam some coffee before Shawtan picks me up, we make a brief stop to pick up Chris Shafer and take off for Livingston.

We arrive at the trailhead around 6, and Chris realizes that he can’t hike in Birkenstocks or his alpine boots as the snowline has risen well above the trailhead. He dons Shawtan’s slippers and we head up the trail. About 1/4 mile in we experience our first challenge, swollen creek crossing. Shawtan and I just walk through the water in our AT boots but Chris’s clogs are no match for the rapids. His first log crossing attempt nearly ended the trip 15 minutes into it.

Chris Shafer clings for life after nearly going for a swim.

We continue to hike in and out of snow patches for about a mile and a half before we put our skins on and start skiing towards and through a large burn zone. Concerned about the warm conditions, it didn’t really freeze the night before and it was going to be almost 70 degrees, we opted for an obscure and well protected couloir.

The Prison Shower from afar, maybe a first ski decent?

We skinned up to the base of the couloir where we switched to crampons and ice axes. The snow was “tricky”, a 1-3″ ice crust on top of mashpotatoey snow. Not the best ski conditions to say the least.

Climbing into the Prison Shower

The couloir was pretty short, 500-600 feet long, but it was steep and extremely narrow. At the crux of the couloir we discussed if our skis would even fit through the narrow slot. Snow conditions were too horrible to do any straightlining, so Shawtan with his long skis had to turn around. Before turning around Shawtan measured the slope angle and it measured in over 40 degrees steep. Chris and I continued climbing and the couloir got steeper. I finally topped out of the couloir and took in the stunning views of a Montana morning.

The Crazy Mountains from the South

Mission Creek headwaters, the peak on the left is known as the Elephant Head.

Chis reached the top of the couloir shortly after and put his skis on in the steeps. A precarious place for sure.

Chris Shafer gears up at the top of the Prison Shower Couloir.

I skied into the couloir and found extremely sketchy snow conditions. The thin ice crust was just enough to grab a ski.

Peering into the Prison Shower

I sidestep/sideslipped/survival skied the couloir and was only able to really get about 3 or 4 turns down the whole couloir. On the apron snow conditions did not improve and I slowly skied to Shawtann who had been waiting for us. Chris dropped in shortly after me and essentially skied it the same way as I.

Chris Shafer just above the crux of the ski.

Shafer entering the crux, it was less than a ski length wide, and I had to do a little airwalking on my skis to get through it.

Chris Shafer skis out of the Prison Shower unscathed.

We skied a little bit of corn on the way out before sitting on some rocks to eat lunch and watch wetslides peel off southfacing cliffs.

Chris Shafer enjoys a little corn on the way out.

We hiked out the last mile on dirt and had to cross more streams, we made it back to the car and had celebratory beers. Chris dubbed the run the Prison Shower because it’s so steep it makes you clench your butt while you ski it.

Shawtan jumps over a creek on the way out of Mission Creek Valley.

One other side-note, I’m moving to Gunnison, Colorado at the end of the month. So soon I will be skiing back in my home state!

Some summer, some winter. Ah, springtime in Montana


Classic springtime in Southwest Montana this year, a little bit of sun, a little bit of snow and a whole bunch of fun. When the sun has been shining I’ve been getting out on the rock and starting to do a bit of climbing. This has been nice especially since we’ve been in the 60s a couple times this year.

Scotty Davidson climbing in Bear Canyon


Scotty being lowered after a nice lead.


Sarah Eshback going vertical in Bear Canyon.


Then it snowed… a lot. A dawn patrol up Bridger surprised all of us with nearly 2 feet of fresh having fallen, and us breaking trail up the mountain to get first tracks. Needless to say, it was a pleasant late April surprise.

Shawtann Whitson showing that even April can bring face shots.


Shawtann getting his powder pants on


Breakfast on April 29, 2010. Skier-Shawtann Whitson


Still gettin' the goods nearly a month after the ski area closed. Skier-Shawtann Whitson


We took a few laps, smiling the entire time about the great snow. Skier-Shawtan


The storm total was somewhere around 3 feet. Skier-Shawtan


And people complain about spring snow... weird. Skier-Shawtan