Skiing during the offseason?


A frosty Mount Shasta in October

A major bonus of living so close to the Cascade Volcanoes is the fact that they hold snow late into the summer and get new snow fairly early in the autumn as well. This lets me ski year round and I tried to take advantage of this over the past few months.

Jason and Nick hiking around Emerald Lake

My “offseason” started in June with a solo mission up the East face of Lassen Peak. I climbed to about 8500′ where I turned around to ski before the morning sun turned the snowpack into mush.

East face of Lassen Peak in June

In late July and early August I made it back up to Lassen National Park to ski a couple more times. In the summer Lassen National Park offers amazing pass skiing, but unfortunately the always “adept” National Park Service decided to close Lassen Peak to skiing and climbing for the next 5 years or so. There are still plenty of good, albeit short, lines off some of the craggy subpeaks, which offers some summer fun.

Brokeoff Mountain

Lassen Peak

Pilot Peak and Brokeoff Mountain

After a September spent traveling to Colorado, New Hampshire, and Montana, I returned to Mount Shasta in October to get some turns in after the first snow of the year. It has become a bit of a ritual for me to get out skiing after the first snowfall of the year, and this year was no exception. Instead of heading to the Hotlum-Wintun Ridge like we did in August, we headed up the closer and more popular Avalanche Gulch.

Lenticular clouds forming over the summit.

This was my first trip up Avalanche Gulch proper. I had dabbled on its lower flanks in February and March, but this time we made it to Lake Helen and had a great 1500′ ski.

The Casaval Ridge, this looks like it would be a fun but difficult climbing route

Jason gaining elevation

Jason topping out for the day

As always Mount Shasta’s scale was deceiving. I had expected to ski a a somewhat narrow gulley of rotten snow, but it turned out to be a football field wide, creamy, ramp. We had about 1000 feet of really good skiing, then we had to dodge rocks at the lower, less, snow covered elevations.

Mighty fine skiing in October

The new ski season is drawing more and more close and I cannot wait for the next storm!

A day on Handies Peak (14,048′)


After a summer of hiking for a living, I finally got out for a nice pleasure hike up the mellow 14er, Handies Peak, located south of Lake City and right off of Cinnamon Pass. The hike starts around the 12,000 foot mark and climbs out of American Basin mellowly. After passing a beautiful alpine lake, you begin the climb switchbacks several times before gaining the summit ridge. There is a nice trail all the way to the summit making this a nice easy mountain to climb, but it was fun to hike without all my work equipment. My younger brother Jon and his girlfriend, Sarah, rallied from Denver to take on this enjoyable fall hike.

Sloan Lake, at the base of American Peak (13,806).

Sarah Brown hiking with Handies Peak behind her.

Sarah Brown begins the climb up Handies Peak, with the ominous face of American Peak looming behind her.

Quickly gaining elevation.

Jon Jay and Sarah Brown, approach the summit ridge of Handies Peak.

Jon nears the top with Jones Mountain (13,860') behind.

The Wetterhorn (14,015') and Uncompahgre (14,363') Peaks from the summit of Handies Peak.

Stoked on the summit.

Also, a couple weeks ago Jon came down for another visit where we did some climbing and rode the Monarch Divide Trail. The trail is pretty awesome as you ride nearly 10 miles above treeline. It is certainly a unique experience.

Jon enjoys the view of Mount Aetna (13,746') from the Monarch Divide Trail.

Jon riding on the Monarch Crest.

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

Back in the States


I’ve been back home for the last couple weeks. Haven’t been skiing much other than a quick dawn patrol up Mt. Ellis. I have however been doing a fair amount of rock climbing as the temperatures have been warming up a bit.

Enjoy these European Panorama’s and climbing pictures!

View from the Brevent Ski Area

Chamonix...what else can I say?

Aguille Verte

Steve Gilson photoing the Swiss Alps

The view from Chappelsiberg

The Wetterhorn Massif and the rest of the valley below Haslital Ski Area

Sunset on the Italian Riviera

Patrick Lawrence slashes on Mt. Ellis... my first day skiing back in the good ol' USofA

Sara Jay, rock climbing at Revenue Flats, west of Bozeman

Cool fire effect, camping at Revenue Flats

Sarah Eshback makes her way up a 5.7 on her first day ever climbing.

Myself, looking for holds. Photo: Sarah Eshback

Climbing at the end of the day. Photo: Sarah Eshback

One more night of camping in beautiful Revenue Flats...

Finally, be sure to check out Steve Gilson Photography for more (and better) pictures of my recent Europe trip as well as other great pictures from around the west!

Eurotrash Update 4 – And a couple huge thanks!!!


Sorry about not posting in so long, have had limited internet access which has made it difficult post.

Before I go any further I need to send a huge thank you the Steffy and Matthias Albert-Arnold in Seedorf, Switzerland. They showed us some great hospitality, fed us well, and let us sleep at their house for a week. So thank you Steffy and Matthias!!

The very gracious Arnold family, from left, Steve Gilson, Cory Arnold, Claudia Arnold, Steffy Albert-Arnold, Me, Matthias Albert-Arnold. Thank you guys so much!!

Also thanks to our friends Leif and Katie, they let us crash at the chalet they were watching all winter and showed us around Meiringen-Hasliberg. Leif even let me use his helmet cam for a run!! (I will post the video up when I make my Meiringen-Hasliberg post)

After a final day at Andermatt, we hopped on the train to go back to Disentis and stay at a cool Swedish hostel. We had an excellent day at Disentis before clouds moved in and the light got super flight. One drawback about skiing Europe is that so much of it is alpine that if the sun isn’t shining you can’t see anything.

Looking down and Andermatt line

Steve G drops into a chute in Disentis, Switzerland

After the second day of skiing we returned to the hostel to be told there had been a misunderstanding and we didn’t have a room. Not sure what to do, we called Steffy and Matthias who graciously let us stay last minute at their place. The next day it was raining in Seedorf, so Steve and I took a rest day and checked out Seedorf. The next day, Steffy’s dad Cory arranged for Steve and I to go on a gravel barge across Lake Luzern, it was an early morning, we were up at 4 am but a great crew and plenty of coffee, led Steve and I on a awesome personal tour of beautiful Lake Luzern. The next day Steffy and Matthias took us to Lugano, in southern Switzerland to do some Via Ferrata (it was still stormy in the Alps so no skiing to be had).

Via Ferrata in Lugano Switzerland... a fun down day activity.

The next day the storm broke and there was 40 cms of blower pow to be skied. Steffy and her parents took Steve and I up our first Swiss peak, The Rossstock, and then we lapped deep snow the rest of the day.

Matthias Albert-Arnold shreds some Swiss pow at Chappelsiberg

Cory Arnold getting deep

Steffy Albert-Arnold showing us Americans how to ski pow

Steffy and Matthias working it

Steve and I lingered on more day to ski more powder at Chappelsiberg, which is a funky tiny 4 person tram that Steffy’s uncle built in 1964, but for 7 swiss francs takes you to a touring paradise. Steve and I explored a new drainage which led to some really fun faces to ski, and all of them untracked.

Steve skinning in Chappelsiberg

Steve slashing above an alpine hut in Chappelsiberg

Mountainman Steve

Untouched Pow, Steve Shredding

It was tough to leave Chappelsiberg after so many runs like this

After two days in Chappelsiberg we headed to see Leif and Katie in Hasliberg, which I will post about soon.

Grand Teton ’07


It is a beautiful autumn day here in Bozeman and unfortunately I am stuck in my office working diligently to finish my Master’s thesis with hopes I can graduate this semester. Sitting and waiting for my computer to process data leads me to day dreaming about this upcoming winter and I realized that I have not posted the trip report from my first ski mountaineering trip I went on in January 2007.

It all started with a phone call from my good friend and climbing partner Patrick Lawrence. It was Thursday morning and I had just returned to Bozeman from my annual trip to Colorado.

“What are you plans for this weekend?” asked Patrick.
I had my typical response, “Probably skiing.”
“Want to ski the Grand Teton?”
“I guess… but I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.”
“That’s cool, I’ll help you.”
“Well if the snow is in and you think I can do it, I’m down.” I answered.

We met that afternoon and geared up. I was borrowing ice tools and a pack and was excited to try out my new crampons. After getting our gear together and making a plan of attack (Patrick mostly planned I just went with whatever he said) we made arrangements to stay in Driggs, Idaho Friday night. We left Bozeman Friday afternoon and stayed at my friend Evan’s parent’s house and caught a couple hours of sleep. We left Driggs around 11:30 P.M. (that’s not a typo it was actually 11:30 at night) and drove the hour to Grand Teton National Park.

We skinned through the night and approached Garnet Canyon. We got to the base of the Tetons and began climbing towards the canyon. After a few hours of constant climbing something didn’t seem right. We should have been in a canyon with relatively mellow climbing, yet we were climbing a very large face. It turns out we missed the cutoff to Garnet Canyon and instead we were climbing too far North and towards Amphitheater Lakes. We quickly traversed to the south and dropped into Garnet Canyon losing the majority of the elevation we had gained climbing all night. On the flats of the canyon we made good time and saw a couple other groups also heading to The Grand.

We climbed towards Tepee Glacier just as the sun was rising and suffered through what seemed like a never ending bootpack.

Sunrise while climbing out of Garnet Canyon.  Photo: Patrick Lawrence

Sunrise while climbing out of Garnet Canyon. Photo: Patrick Lawrence

In case anyone doesn’t know this, the Grand Teton is a BIG mountain. The steep climb out of the canyon only put us at the base of the peak and we still had several thousand more vert to climb. I was feeling the burn already (I was still new to this whole earn your turns, mountaineering style skiing) and looked up the steep face above Tepee Glacier and wondered if it was such a good idea coming on this trip.

Just a few more steps.... Photo: Patrick Lawrence

Just a few more steps.... Photo: Patrick Lawrence

After climbing for what seemed like forever we arrived at the bottom of the Stettner Couloir. The Stettner Couloir is really just a thin band of snow and ice that clings to the side of the mountain. This section provided the most technical climbing and most breathtaking exposure. Having never ice climbed before I was quite nervous looking up at several 10-15′ tall ice bulges. We roped up and Patrick led. We made it up the first pitch without incident. There was a bottleneck at the bottom of the next pitch and we had to wait for some other climbers.

Climbing the Stettner Couloir.  Photo: Patrick Lawrence

Climbing the Stettner Couloir. Photo: Patrick Lawrence

Past Teepee Glacier things are pretty exposed and steep for the rest of the climb and ski.

Past Teepee Glacier things are pretty exposed and steep for the rest of the climb and ski.

A climber negotiates an ice bulge in the Stettner Couloir.

A climber negotiates an ice bulge in the Stettner Couloir.

We finally had our turn to climb and just as we were setting belay, a random solo climber came up behind us. Considering the exposure we offered him a belay which he greatly appreciated. Everything went well until the very last ice bulge. The difficulty came topping out which involved very thin unsupportive snow, as well as plenty of unsupportive rotten ice. Finding good spots for the ice tool was difficult and as inexperienced as I was I struggle quite a bit. Finally I just went for it and sure enough my ice tool came loose and I fell. Patrick quickly caught me and I made it over on my second attempt only a little shaken.

Climbing the Stettner Couloir after a scary fall.  Photo: Patrick Lawrence

Climbing the Stettner Couloir after a scary fall. Photo: Patrick Lawrence

The Middle Teton

The Middle Teton

After the technical section came more bootpacking, this time only with more exposure. We climbed, and climbed, and climbed the the Ford Couloir and finally topped out to the summit ridge. We had set a 2 P.M. turn around time and it was around that time now. We decided to try and push another 30 minutes but I was bonking pretty hard. Finally 500′ from the summit Patrick decided to turn around, it was 2:30 and we still had to repel the 6 pitches we had climbed. I stopped and ate lunch and geared up for the down.

Patrick Lawrence gets ready to ride the Ford Couloir with the summit in the background.

Patrick Lawrence gets ready to ride the Ford Couloir with the summit in the background.

Don't fall Patrick

Don't fall Patrick

Patrick snowboarded down to the repel point and I followed behind the solo climber we helped belay. The snow was chalky and edgy, and every turn I had to think “don’t fall, don’t fall”.

Don't fall, don't fall, don't fall.... skiing the Ford Couloir. Photo: Patrick Lawrence

Don't fall, don't fall, don't fall.... skiing the Ford Couloir. Photo: Patrick Lawrence

We repelled out, which was miserable as wind was blasting up the couloir and we had to wait for other groups to finish rapelling before we could go. We finished the repels as the sun was getting low in the sky. Skiing one more exposed section before skiing down to Tepee Glacier provided one last bit of excitement as well as good snow. It was dusk by the time we dropped off of the glacier and into Garnet Canyon. The snow was rock hard and ultra icy. We skied out to the flats where I discovered my skins were frozen and I would have to sidestep the remaining 4-5 miles. On the way out we lost the trail and had to bushwhack for several hours. Exhausted and in agony from being in my alpine boots (this was pre-AT boots for me) for 18 hours I was ready to bivy for the night in the woods. Goaded by Patrick I continued towards the trail head and arrived back at the car around 11p.m. for a total of nearly 23 hours on the mountain. I was perhaps more exhausted than I had ever been in my life, but I was suddenly addicted. I still hope to make it back out to the Grand and ski from the summit some day.

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

Getting Closer… Black Mountain


I have had a bit of an obsession with Black Mountain in the Northern Absarokas since I saw a sweet winter picture of it. While there are plenty of hearty lines that are particularly steep (e.g. Y-couloirs) they get skied fairly often, and I’m always looking for the way most people don’t go. Thus enters my affair with the North Face Direct route. The line was first climbed by Alex Lowe and Hans Saari, but they couldn’t ski it due to poor snow conditions. The first recorded climb and ski was done by Bobby Downs and Anjin Herndon in 2005. I spied this line hoping that it was a first decent but I was directed to a trip report on Tom Turiano’s website that proved that Herndon and Downs were the first down it.

Black Mountain North Face Direct route, we climbed and skied the green line the red line is the full route

Black Mountain North Face Direct route, we climbed and skied the green line the red line is the full route

Last winter Dave Repnik, Ryan Walters and I headed out to make an attempt on the line. Unfortunately about half a mile from the bottom of the route my Naxo binding exploded into a million parts. Obviously, we had to turn around. Since then I have wanted to go back and make another attempt. Today Ryan and I made that attempt.

Ryan and I headed out of Bozeman Saturday night and camped at the Pine Creek Campground. Once again the 4 a.m. alarm clock came much too early and Ryan and I whipped up some breakfast and coffee and hit the trail shortly after 5 a.m. The first 2 miles or so we had to hike as the snow level has climbed substantially with the recent warmth and rain. Struggling to climb the refrozen snow with our skins we made slow progress up the drainage. Passing where we had to turn around last year, Ryan and I scrambled up a small ridge and caught our first glimpse of the peak.

Our first view of Black Mountain.

Our first view of Black Mountain.

With the temps warming up we were able to skin a little more quickly and made good time to the bottom of the climb. We started booting up the exit couloir but ended up just wallowing in weird grapple-like snow. We put our skis back on and skinned up to a shaded area that provided better boot packing snow. We then trudged upward hoping the snow wouldn’t warm up too much.

Ryan booting up the exit couloir

Ryan booting up the exit couloir

The chute topped out to a nearly sheer 400 foot cliff. We traversed the top of the couloir to our decision point where we had planned to decide whether to continue or not.

Ryan traversing the top of the exit couloir with the summit of Black Mountain looming above.

Ryan traversing the top of the exit couloir with the summit of Black Mountain looming above.

We were on a wind lip that split the face, one side the fall line went down the exit couloir, the other side the fall line fell straight down a huge cliff. Here we had to decide to leave the safety of the chute and get out on the steep face that was an absolute no fall zone. Temperatures were warming very quickly and we watched small snowballs roll down and off the cliff. The snow was mashpotatoey and getting rotten. Because of the extreme exposure and quickly deteriorating snow we played it safe and stopped there. Right when we were making this decision we got a shower of slushballs releasing from the rocks above and this just confirmed our fears about climbing higher on the face. We down climbed a short distance to a less steep slope and geared up for the ski. The snow was chalky and responsive, very fun skiing. Ryan went first and threw a sweet slasher right on the edge of the giant cliff.

Ryan tempting the void with a slasher on the edge of a 400' cliff

Ryan tempting the void with a slasher on the edge of a 400' cliff

... and making it look like it's all in a days work

... and making it look like it's all in a days work

Not feeling as ballsy as Ryan, I opted to ski the gut of the line and had a blast making solid, big, arcing turns. Both of us were amped on the run and felt like we had made the right decision not to climb higher.

Looking back at our mountain graffiti

Looking back at our mountain graffiti

We then had to traverse out and cross Pine Creek Lake. We took our time enjoying the gorgeous mountains that surrounded us.

Ryan scoping our tracks

Ryan scoping our tracks

Plenty of options above Pine Creek Lake.  Makes me wish I had a helicopter

Plenty of options above Pine Creek Lake. Makes me wish I had a helicopter

One of the most beautiful drainages I have ever been in.

One of the most beautiful drainages I have ever been in.

Ryan and I continued the slog out and soon we were crossing creeks with our skis on and linking tiny slushy snow patch to tiny slush patch.

Ryan fighting willows on the ski out.

Ryan fighting willows on the ski out.

While we did not reach the peak nor ski the entire line we were happy with our decision. It’s better to play it safe and come back when snow conditions are better, the mountain isn’t going anywhere soon….