2012-2013 Ski Season Edit


I know, I know, the ski season is far from over and for me it is really just beginning as the steeps stabilize and access roads melt out. Nonetheless, I figure I should share the footage I collected over the winter in addition to telling the story of how I blew my knee out over a year ago with everyone. So enjoy some helmet cam footage of powder skiing in Southwest Montana.

Music by David Bowie (duh!)

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Out with the old and in with the new


Currently I am taking a brief break from the mountains to attend a workshop at the prestigious Harvard University. It certainly is interesting sitting in a room full of Harvard PhD’s and future Harvard PhD’s.

I was recently going through my website stats and besides closing in on 35,000 views (thanks everyone!) I have not updated any links on my webpage since its inception 4 years ago. So with that in mind check out a few new links I have added to the sidebar. I am also removing a few irrelevant (that sounds harsh) or old blog links as well (RIP Steve Romeo).

The new links include:
MT Splitski: A blog devoted to splitboarding in Southwest Montana and the Jackson Area.

Junkfunnel: This is an extremely handy site for any Bozeman based backcountry skier. Nicely formatted charts from various remote weather stations as well as new snowfall summaries. I particularly enjoy the temperature charts as you can get a good feel for diurnal temperature fluctuations (and thus the formation of facets) very easily.

Southwest Montana Avalanche Forecast: I don’t know how I missed this one.
Colorado Avalanche Information Center’s accident reports: This is a great resource for any backcountry rider, learn from other peoples mistakes so you don’t get flushed.

Sadly, I am removing the following links:
Oronaut: my friend Evan hasn’t updated it since 2009 so I figure it is time to stop sending people there.
Shawtann Outdoors: like Evan, Shawtann hasn’t updated this site since 2010.
Tales from the Mid-Country: Same as above, my friend Cisco hasn’t added any new content since 2010.
TetonAT: I hate removing this link but since Steve Romeo passed away last winter I don’t see a point in keeping it around.
The Road Before Us: A former coworker’s site, but their content doesn’t really jive with this site.
Aspen Snowmass: This was nice when I was traveling a lot to ski, but since I haven’t returned to my home mountain in 2 years or so, it is time to let it go.

Now, since we are done with some housekeeping, enjoy a few photos from the last few weeks of touring around the Bozeman area.

Milky skies in Beehive Basin.

Milky skies in Beehive Basin.

Former Backcountry Magazine editor Drew Pogge drops into a line in Beehive Basin.

Former Backcountry Magazine editor Drew Pogge drops into a line in Beehive Basin.

Drew Pogge

Drew Pogge

Attempting to get a little artsy up in Hyalite

Attempting to get a little artsy up in Hyalite

My older brother Zack popping a small pillow while exploring up Hyalite.

My older brother Zack popping a small pillow while exploring up Hyalite.

Zack practicing stabbing bears with his ski pole while carrying speed.

Zack practicing stabbing bears with his ski pole while carrying speed.

A few photos from December (and technically New Years day)


Here are few photos from a couple of tours in the Bozeman/Big Sky area over the last month. Snow has been pretty good though a recent dry spell starting to show its wear on the snowpack.

I have been exploring a little bit up Hyalite, where the snow is good on certain aspects but pretty rotten everywhere else.

East Face, Mount Blackmore

East Face, Mount Blackmore

Evan Johnson skiing some low angle pow

Evan Johnson skiing some low angle pow

I also had an early New Years morning mission with Patrick up Middle Basin above Big Sky. Best snow of the season for sure and the terrain is looking nicely filled in.

Sunrise in Middle Basin above Big Sky

Sunrise in Middle Basin above Big Sky

Patrick Lawrence airing a cornice in Middle Basin

Patrick Lawrence airing a cornice in Middle Basin

Touring on the Beehive Ridge

Touring on the Beehive Ridge

Montana’s Highest Point – Granite Peak (12,799′)


This past weekend I undertook the formidable challenge of trying to climb what has been speculated as the technically most difficult state high point to climb (I imagine Denali is up there too, but that’s what Tom Turiano says). I was invited last week to go with two friends I met in Montana but grew up less than an hour away from in Colorado and my other good friend and reliable partner, Rob. The plan was to leave Friday morning at 10 am and cross the Froze-to-death Plateau that day and camp at the saddle between Tempest Mountain and Granite Peak. But in typical Bozeman fashion we ended up leaving town at 2 in the afternoon on Friday. This late start resulted in leaving the trailhead after 4 pm to hike 3 miles to Mystic Lake then climb and cross the 5 mile long plateau.

Mystic Lake

Mystic Lake

We put our heads down and cranked out the climb getting to the saddle between East and West Rosebud drainages before sunset. We then set out for another two hours of hiking across the plateau at night with no trail to follow.

Sunset on Froze-to-Death Plateau

Sunset on Froze-to-Death Plateau

We arrived at the base of Froze-to-death Mountain, cooked dinner, drank a little whiskey, and went to bed in sustained 35-45 mph winds.

After a poor night of sleep in the wind, I was the first one up (typical) and decided to go for a short side hike up Froze-to-death Mountain (11,760′). This was nice because we had hiked in the dark and we weren’t 100% sure where to go. I quickly scrambled up some scree to the summit in howling wind (it almost blew me over a couple times) and scouted the route to Granite Peak.

Granite Peak from Froze-to-Death Mountain

Granite Peak from Froze-to-Death Mountain

I returned to camp to find a mountain goat only a few yards from our tents. Apparently, the goat had been there all morning and in my sleepy stupor I walked right past it without noticing. After my hike I was starting to wake up and realized that it was my 25th birthday. What a place to spend a birthday!

Rob Wudlick makes a friend with a mountain goat

Rob Wudlick makes a friend with a mountain goat

The goat was hanging out right next to camp when we woke up.

The goat was hanging out right next to camp when we woke up.

He was still there after we packed up and left.

He was still there after we packed up and left.

We packed up camp and hit the road. We circumnavigated Froze-to-death Mountain and headed directly for Granite Peak.

Rob crossing the Froze-to-Death Plateau

Rob crossing the Froze-to-Death Plateau

Arriving at the final saddle between Tempest Mountain and Granite Peak a little before my comrades I made the quick jaunt up Tempest Mountain (12,486′). From there I could see the East Ridge, our intended route.

Granite Peak from the summit of Tempest Mountain

Granite Peak from the summit of Tempest Mountain

I returned to my group, who was resting near a cairn, and we scrambled down loose scree to the low point between Tempest and Granite. Here we cached our camping gear and set off up a steep scree slope, staying near the ridge. We topped out of the scree field where we had a short scramble to the so called “snow bridge”. This late in the season it wasn’t much of a bridge as more of a narrow sliver of ice 45 degrees steep. There was a fixed line luckily to hold on to, but nonetheless, Chris managed to slip on the slippery ice and was only saved by holding onto the fixed line.

Chris Gold takes a scary slip crossing the snow bridge

Chris Gold takes a scary slip crossing the snow bridge

We then continued to climb a maze of boulders, chimneys, cracks, and ledges to the summit of the mountain. We free climbed the whole way, but it was some of the scariest, most technical climbing I’ve experienced and would rate it with Capitol Peak in Colorado and The Grand Teton.

Rob getting ready for the first pitch

Rob getting ready for the first pitch

Our leader and route finder, Rob, free climbs a section on Granite Peak

Our leader and route finder, Rob, free climbs a section on Granite Peak

Our crew on the summit

Our crew on the summit

Looking sout from Granite Peak's summit towards Yellowstone National Park.

Looking sout from Granite Peak's summit towards Yellowstone National Park.

After a nice break and snack on the summit of Montana’s highest point we began the first of five rappels to get off of the mountain. This was nice because rappelling is relatively easy and you get to just hang out and enjoy the view while you wait for others to rappel down.

Rob on the first Rappel

Rob on the first Rappel

Rob takes a break on the way down.

Rob takes a break on the way down.

Chris Gold takes in the beauty of the Beartooths and Northern Absarokas

Chris Gold takes in the beauty of the Beartooths and Northern Absarokas

Rob on rappel

Rob on rappel

After the rappels came perhaps the biggest challenge of the trip. Our plan was to hike down to Avalanche Lake and camp on the western shore. However, the scree below Granite Glacier was perhaps the worst scree-field I have ever experienced. It took probably two hours to go half a mile where we camped on the eastern edge of Avalanche Lake. That night winds were extremely strong gusting perhaps 50-65 mph, and at one point my tent was blown completely flat by the winds and my tent poles paid the price.

Venus sets over Granite Peak, not a bad way to spend my 25th birthday.

Venus sets over Granite Peak, not a bad way to spend my 25th birthday.

I slept under the stars that night and slept relatively well. I awoke to the sunrising on Granite Peak and enjoyed the spectacular morning in my sleeping bag.

After sleeping under the stars, this is what I awoke to.

After sleeping under the stars, this is what I awoke to.

We started hiking early and “enjoyed” many more miles of scree. At least the views weren’t bad.

Nonstop beauty on the way out.

Nonstop beauty on the way out.

A little oasis we found.  This lake was not on any maps we looked at, but is beautiful and was a great spot to rest a little bit.

A little oasis we found. This lake was not on any maps we looked at, but is beautiful and was a great spot to rest a little bit.

A poor attempt at black and white of a creek just below treeline.

A poor attempt at black and white of a creek just below treeline.

We bypassed some lakes by cutting a corner but ended up dealing with some steep scrambling. We bushwhacked our way through thick forest along Huckleberry Creek and around several lakes before emerging at Mystic Lake.

The Hague towers above Mystic Lake

The Hague towers above Mystic Lake

Rob and Michael are stoked to be back at Mystic Lake

Rob and Michael are stoked to be back at Mystic Lake

We made the hike out fairly quickly enjoying the scenery and the smooth trail. Interestingly, Mystic Lake is also a reservoir that powers a hydroelectric turbine at the West Rosebud Creek trailhead. The system was built over two years and was completed in 1924. Quite an amazing feat for the 1920s, especially the tram, as I have never scene anything like it.

Hydro-power pipeline from Mystic Lake

Hydro-power pipeline from Mystic Lake

The pipeline drops down to a turbine at the trailhead.  Pretty impressive feat for the 1920s, especially the tram that runs all the way to Mystic Lake.

The pipeline drops down to a turbine at the trailhead. Pretty impressive feat for the 1920s, especially the tram that runs all the way to Mystic Lake.

It’s Coming…


I can’t wait!!!!
My new Garmont Radiums came in the mail last night!
Last season’s highlights…

Sending it early season style Photo: Evan Johnson

Sending it early season style Photo: Evan Johnson

Early season deepness Photo: Evan Johnson

Early season deepness Photo: Evan Johnson

Early Season N. Bridgers  Photo: Evan Johnson

Early Season N. Bridgers Photo: Evan Johnson

No Name Bowl

No Name Bowl

The Crazy Mountains

The Crazy Mountains

North Bridger Mountains

North Bridger Mountains

Evan getting some North Bridger action

Evan getting some North Bridger action

Alpenglow on the Crazies

Alpenglow on the Crazies

Absaroka Mountains

Absaroka Mountains

Alpenglow on the Absaroka Mountains

Alpenglow on the Absaroka Mountains

Teton Pass

Teton Pass

Approaching the top of Edelweiss Bowl

Approaching the top of Edelweiss Bowl

Pat Owen gets some Teton Pass blower

Pat Owen gets some Teton Pass blower

Sketchy early season avi conditions...

Sketchy early season avi conditions...

The little bro is getting deep in Aspen

The little bro is getting deep in Aspen

Aspen pow day. Skier Jon Jay

Aspen pow day. Skier Jon Jay

Inverted in CO.  Skier: Jon Jay

Inverted in CO. Skier: Jon Jay

Nighttime at Big Sky

Nighttime at Big Sky

Reilly Anderson, Beehive Basin

Reilly Anderson, Beehive Basin

Simon Peterson ripping Beehive

Simon Peterson ripping Beehive

Steve Gilson getting some

Steve Gilson getting some

Beehive Basin

Beehive Basin

The crew

The crew

Reilly Anderson ripping

Reilly Anderson ripping

Charlie Noone getting deep at Snowbird

Charlie Noone getting deep at Snowbird

Eric Newman, Snowbird

Eric Newman, Snowbird

Snowbird Sunset

Snowbird Sunset

Dylan Brown, Snowbird

Dylan Brown, Snowbird

Kirkwood California from Carson Pass

Kirkwood California from Carson Pass

Mark Welgos on Carson Pass

Mark Welgos on Carson Pass

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe

Sonja Lercher on Carson Pass

Sonja Lercher on Carson Pass

Sonja Lercher skiing Carson Pass, California

Sonja Lercher skiing Carson Pass, California

Nick Devore scouts his finals run at the North American Freeskiing Championships in Kirkwood

Nick Devore scouts his finals run at the North American Freeskiing Championships in Kirkwood

Mike Reveal at Bridger Bowl

Mike Reveal at Bridger Bowl

Reveal shredding

Reveal shredding

Steve Geiger skiing Saddle Peak

Steve Geiger skiing Saddle Peak

Steve Geiger powder skiing on Saddle Peak

Steve Geiger powder skiing on Saddle Peak

I have to include downtown Bozeman exploding on a powder day

I have to include downtown Bozeman exploding on a powder day

Explosion aftermath

Explosion aftermath

Steve Gilson convinced that the explosion seeded the clouds

Steve Gilson convinced that the explosion seeded the clouds

Ben Kinsella wheelies through "Sometimes" at Bridger

Ben Kinsella wheelies through 'Sometimes' at Bridger

Sequence of Eric Newmans front off of Papa Bear... ballsy

Sequence of Eric Newmans front off of Papa Bear... ballsy


IMG_3134
IMG_3135

Late season epic up Black Mountain

Late season epic up Black Mountain

Pine Creek Lake Basin, Absaroka Mountains, Montana

Pine Creek Lake Basin, Absaroka Mountains, Montana

Climbing Black Mountain

Climbing Black Mountain

Ryan Walters slashin' and dashin'

Ryan Walters slashin' and dashin'

Scoping our tracks

Scoping our tracks

Another late season challenge, The Hanging Garden

Another late season challenge, The Hanging Garden

Climbing Beehive Peak in the Spanish Peaks, Montana

Climbing Beehive Peak in the Spanish Peaks, Montana

About to drop into the Hanging Garden

About to drop into the Hanging Garden

Steve Gilson dropping into the Hanging Garden

Steve Gilson dropping into the Hanging Garden

Steve G. shredding

Steve G. shredding

Rob Woodlich climbs Gallatin Peak

Rob Woodlich climbs Gallatin Peak

Ready to ski Gallatin Peak

Ready to ski Gallatin Peak

Rob rips Gallatin Peak

Rob rips Gallatin Peak

Adventures on Hwy 212 – Beartooth Pass


The last few years it has become a bit of a tradition to head to Red Lodge and ski Beartooth Pass when it opens. Had great weather this year as well as some really good skiing.

Airing the top of Gardiner Headwall - Photo: Pat Owen

Airing the top of Gardiner Headwall - Photo: Pat Owen

A little pig ripping... Bearcreek Saloon Pig Races

A little pig ripping... Bearcreek Saloon Pig Races

IMG_3872

mmm... bacon

mmm... bacon

Davis skiing the crux

Davis skiing the crux

Pat Owen skiing in Gardiner Headwall

Pat Owen skiing in Gardiner Headwall

Steve Gilson and Zack on the top of Gardiner Headwall

Steve Gilson and Zack on the top of Gardiner Headwall

Pat Owen dropping in

Pat Owen dropping in

Enjoying the scene on the Hwy 212

Enjoying the scene on the Hwy 212

Camping up Rock Creek

Camping up Rock Creek

The Hanging Garden


In my last post I had a picture of a line called the Hanging Garden on the backside of Beehive Peak. This last weekend Steve Gilson and I went and made an attempt for the line.

The Hanging Garden seen from Gallatin Peak

The Hanging Garden seen from Gallatin Peak

The line is north facing so we did not need too early of a start. We left the trailhead around 9:30 and made good time up Beehive Basin.

The sheer south face of Beehive Peak, the Hanging Garden is off the backside

The sheer south face of Beehive Peak, the Hanging Garden is off the backside

Arriving at the bottom of the Southwest Couloir around eleven, we cached lunch and crampons and rested up for the climb up the West Ridge of the peak. While resting we watched several wetslides release off Southeast facing slopes as the day warmed. We climbed quickly keeping a close eye on the snow conditions and watching out for wetslides.

Steve Gilson climbs the Southwest Coulior.

Steve Gilson climbs the Southwest Coulior.

I had climbed Beehive Peak in the summer a while back and I thought I remembered the West Ridge of the peak not being terribly technical but when we topped out of the couloir there were two possible routes to get to the top of the Hanging Garden. One was a tight slot that was sort of technical up top, the other was a larger chute but with lots of exposure and windloading. We opted for the tighter and more technical slot that was out of avie and exposure danger.

Steve Gilson gets technical on the West Ridge of Beehive Peak

Steve Gilson gets technical on the West Ridge of Beehive Peak

This decision ended up putting us above some large cliffs on very thin, unsupportive snow. We traversed a ways out on the face where we had to make a decision whether to turn around, attempt to keep traversing a very steep face with only a couple inches of snow on loose rock, or down climb to an exposed ledge, put our skis on and traverse into the large chute we were nervous with at the bottom. Making matters worse was a fog was beginning to drift in and we could see a weather change was coming. We decided that down climbing and skiing across the thin snow was the best option. I down climbed first and carefully put my skis on (I was on a thin rock ledge above a 50 foot cliff to run out rocks to a 2000 foot vertical tumble down a tight rocky chute… I was a little nervous) and traversed across a breakable crust to a less steep spot. After watching me, Steve decided he could down climb and traverse without putting his skis on. We climbed the 100 feet or so to the top of the face where we could see the bottom half of the line. But we were still unsure we were in the right spot on the mountain.

Gallatin Peak from the top of the Hanging Garden

Gallatin Peak from the top of the Hanging Garden

We scouted around the top of the ridge and even tried calling my friend Patrick, who had skied the line before, to see if we were in fact above the line. I knew there were only two possible entrances into The Garden, a lower one which is the skiable entrance, and an upper entrance which ends in a large cliff. I was about 85% sure we were in the right spot, so I skied down the entrance a ways to see if the line went all the way through. It did. Steve skied down to the safe spot next to me and we got ready for the line. There was one more blind rollover to worry about, but I was now about 95% sure we were on the right line, so I dropped first.

Getting ready to drop into The Hanging Garden

Getting ready to drop into The Hanging Garden

The first turn was extremely exposed, it was a 10-20 foot wide hanging snowfield that went over a sheer 500 foot cliff, the line then went into the main chute where exposure was much less severe but still present. The snow was amazing, my first two turns were over the head pow, it was hard to enjoy though because I still wasn’t sure the line went all the way through and I was extremely wary of my slough carrying me over the edge. After, getting past the first exposed section the gut of the line was really fun, powder skiing, at the bottom of the line, it opens up again over smaller but still dangerous cliffs. Skiing carefully and taking my time I made it out the bottom of the line extremely stoked. I pulled out my camera and watched Steve drop in.

Steve Gilson drops into the upper section of the Hanging Garden

Steve Gilson drops into the upper section of the Hanging Garden

Steve Gilson in the gut of the Hanging Garden.

Steve Gilson in the gut of the Hanging Garden.

Steve skied the line carefully as well, but in the lower section above some large cliffs he fell. He felt his slough starting to push him towards the cliff so he quickly recovered and straightlined out. When he finally got to the bottom he realized he had skied the entire line with his boots in walk mode. Glad we had made it out we began the climb back into Beehive Basin.

Looking back at our line

Looking back at our line

As we skinned up a fairly steep wide open face I looked up and saw a wetslide coming down the same face we were skinning. Because we were switchbacking I was in a safe spot but I yelled down to Steve who was almost directly below where the slide was coming from. Since it was a wetslide it was moving fairly slowly and Steve easily avoided it. We topped out and dropped back into Beehive Basin and made the slog back to the car.

Steve getting to the top of the East Ridge of Beehive after almost getting taken out by a small avalanche

Steve getting to the top of the East Ridge of Beehive after almost getting taken out by a small avalanche

Me with the summit of Beehive Peak in the background.

Me with the summit of Beehive Peak in the background.