Friday, February 29, 2008

Bad or Good Luck?

Set out this morning to ski a couloir in the Mission mountains that I've looked at for years. Unfortunately for Patrick and I, temps didn't drop below freezing last night and left us with horrible snow conditions. After 4 hours of bushwhacking and slogging in crotch deep snow, we finally gave up.

Patrick on the approach ice

Our approach wasn't all horrible though. We got to do some ice climbing with ski gear on our backs for the first time. It was a fun moment, but followed by a scary reality. Like I said, temps hadn't been freezing that night and probably hadn't for several nights. We climbed the approach ice, but moments after we crossed underneath some rotten looking ice, it cut loose. Not sure how much, but it definitely had to weight tons.

Just one more incident to add to a long list of close calls.

Crossing under the rotten ice/ The aftermath

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Gray Wolf Peak

Thursday, my buddy Chris Spurgeon and I headed into the Mission mountains with plans of skiing the West face couloir on Gray Wolf peak. I had seen the face once before, but it had been about 7 years ago so I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew it would be serious, especially for me with my lack of experience. Other than Chris, I knew of only one other person to ski the couloir. That's not to say others haven't.

West face of Gray Wolf Peak (Couloir is just right of center)

We left the car by 8:30 and began the painful approach up East St. Mary. After 4,000 feet of bushwhacking and skinning, we reached the ridge plateau and the West face of Gray Wolf came into view. "Oh fuck me! I'm planning on skiing that!" It looked more difficult than what I thought my experience could get me through. I figured I could always down climb the couloir so might as well check it out.

Chris kicking steps up the couloir.

We dropped of the ridge and had a wonderful run 1,750 feet to the base of the couloir. Skies went on the packs and we began to kick steps up the couloir. The snow was firm, but with some soft stuff on top. Chris seemed to think it was perfect. There was one icy section, but we figured the sun would come around and soften it up by the time we were descending. 1,700 feet of kicking steps later, we reached the top.

Chris mid-turn.

Still very nervous about what to expect I decided to give it a shot. I wasn't confident that I could ski it, but I was confident that I could self arrest in the event that I fell. We clicked into our skies and I watched Chris make a few turns to a safe point where he could keep an eye on me. Chris is very experienced skier so watching him didn't build any confidence for me. Now it was my turn. I pointed my skies down the couloir, planted my pole firmly and jumped into my first turn. For that brief moment in the air, I wondered what would happen when my skies touched the snow again. Would I land in soft snow or would I start rag-dolling down the couloir? My skies entered the snow with the feeling of firm yet soft snow! "Oh shit, this is money!" The snow was perfect.

Chris continuing down the couloir.

Chris and I leap froged our way down the couloir having a blast with no fears of falling. With the snow conditions the way they were, it was actually quite easy skiing. He opened my eyes to an entirely new style of skiing. Now I can't wait to ski more lines like that, and with spring around the corner, everything will be coming into shape soon.

New Glass

After having several photos published, I was finally able to justify buying a new piece of camera equipment. A new 10-20mm wide angle lens. Since most of my photography has been "close and personal" through hang gliding and climbing, this lens is what I need. It is also awesome for landscape shots.

The sun has just started to come back to Missoula, so of course it took advantage of our beautiful sunsets for photo opportunities.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Superbowl Sunday

Sunday was a good day. While most people were preparing to watch the Superbowl, I was out ice climbing. Without an available partner, I left town anyways with hopes of learning something new about myself. After 2 hours of driving, 4 miles of hiking, and 800 feet of climbing all in 7 hours house to house, I felt once again I had a new understanding of myself.

Mission Falls and the routes I climbed