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Snow Climbing and Glacier Travel- Field Days!

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Dates: April 21-22, 2018 Leaders:Quentin Rhoades, Forest Dean Participants: Tom Herwerden, Lou Herritt, Diana Diakow, Andy Coe, Cali Caughie
This past weekend we held a two day practice event at Snowbowl.The goal was to work on skills pertaining to steep snow climbing and glacier travel, as well as help introduce those with little or no prior experience to these important parts of mountaineering.We had an outstanding group and it seemed to be a resounding success for all involved!
We began both days at the Snowbowl parking lot at 8:00 am.Saturday we reviewed footwork and techniques involved in ascending steep snow then split into two rope teams and practiced team travel on glaciated terrain as we walked up 900’ into the Bowl.Once up on a steep ski slope we worked on building anchors, placing snow protection, rappelling and finally self arrest.Even got some nice glissades in on the way back to the parking area.Wrapped things up at 4:00pm with a few refreshments at the vehicles.
On Sun…

Sweeny Peak, Bitterroots

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Date: April 23, 2018
Trip Leader: John Bardsley
Attendees: Fintan Maguire and Leland Earle

We lucked out with a bluebird day on this climb of Sweeney Peak. The road to the Sweeney Creek Trail Head was open up to the switchback at 5100 feet, where we got started at 8am. We followed the ridge, gained the official trail, and then followed it as it traverses across the south face of point 7692. At the saddle and spring on the map, we left the trail and followed the ridge on up to the summit, enjoying spectacular views: south at Big and Little St. Joe and the Sweeny Creek drainage, and north at Lolo Peak and the One Horse drainage. We reached the summit at 1:30pm and spent some time relaxing before our descent. There wasn't time and energy for a lap in Sweeny's enticing northeast bowl, so we just skied our skin track down, returning to the car at 4pm.

The traverse across the south face of point 7692 was tedious both on the way in (due to Leland's poor fitting skins) and on the…

Mink Peak Spires (Attempt)- Bitterroots

Date: April 15, 2018 Participants: Dan Escalante, Tom Herwerden, Forest Dean
Three years ago I climbed the 9363’ high point on the ridge west of Trapper Peak.This point is known as “Mink Peak” due to the fact it sits just north and above Mink Lake.Upon reaching the summit I looked to the east at the nearby rock spires and had a strong feeling that the highest of these was clearly higher than “Mink Peak”.Over the last two years I have ascended some peaks both to the north and south of this area and each time, when observing these spires, have felt that one of them is really the actual high point of this mountain.Thus I hatched a plan to go climb it to find out!After making plans for a date for this attempt, I was turned on to an article by a couple of guys who climbed these spires a few years ago.They essentially confirmed what I suspected- Mink Lake “Spire” (which they dubbed “Illusion Spire”) is the actual high point (exact elevation to be determined).I needed to climb it!
Dan, Tom…

Woodman School Hike

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Date: April 15th, 2018
Trip Leader: Julie Kahl
Participants: Lois Crepeau, Steve Schombel, Dave Roberson, David Kahl, Julie Kahl 

Despite the weather this turned out to be a delightful hike. It had rained a bit in the morning, but as we met at the Wal-Mart parking lot the sun was trying to come out, there was blue sky at Lolo, and only a few miles up Lolo Creek the road was dry. There was still some clouds and moisture lingering over the higher peaks all day, but our trip was dry. The best and worse parts of the trip happened as we found the public access point, just to the east of Woodman School. There were some cow elk bedded down at the tree edge of the field, as we parked and got ready to hike they came out into the field and milled around like they wanted to cross the highway, but there was a car stopped, watching them, instead they started single file towards the school, then started running - it’s not good for cow elk to be running this time of year. As we walked the roads above t…

Gash Point, Bitterroots

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Date: April 7, 2018
Trip Leaders: Joshua Philips and Susanna Girolamo
Attendees: John Bardsley and Fintan Maguire

This turned out to be an unusual day in the mountains. The four of us met at 7am in the Cabela's parking lot, then drove to within a couple of miles to the lower Gash Creek trailhead. During the previous night, temps must not have dropped much (if at all) below freezing, because the snow was wet, and temps stayed warm, from the truck all the way to the summit. After skiing a run into the north bowl, the forcasted storm finally hit, and it started pucking snow. We skinned out, then headed back down into Gash Creek, at which point high winds kicked in, and huge, healthy ponderosa pines started falling. We figure that between the four of us, we saw or heard 12 big trees fall. It was spooky, but the day was a great one! 

Text by John Bardsley, Photos by Susanna Girolamo 







East St. Mary’s Peak (Mission Mtns)

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Date: March 25, 2018 Participants: Forest Dean and Tom Herwerden
This trip was originally scheduled for the previous Sunday but bad weather forced a change.Tom joined me on what turned out to be his first snow climb.We started up the Southeast Ridge route from the St. Mary Reservoir (4000’) at 8:00am under nice sunny skies.There is a nice trail (unofficial) that marches straight up the steep, wooded hillside and we slowly ascended to 5400’ where we encountered enough snow to strap on (ski’s for me, snowshoes for Tom).The snow was very icy after strong winds and cool temps the day prior.Another 3000’ of climbing got us to a relatively flat and wide plateau that circles around to the northeast before the final narrow and steep ridge to the summit.This plateau area was nearly devoid of snow in places, so we both opted to just hike to the final ridge.This last bit of ridge gains about 600’ to the summit.We strapped on our crampons at the base as there were sections of steep hardpacked sn…

Ward Mountain, Bitterroots

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On March 10, a solid crew of 6 headed up the northeast ridge of Ward Mountain for a multi-purpose outing: the search for fresh turns, and to "poke our noses" in the snow to investigate stability.  Along for the adventure was Susanna Girolamo, Joshua Phillips, Fintan Maguire, Lindsey Egelston, David Swanson, and Leland Earls.  Though the NE ridge has little objective hazard, folks came well equipped with beacons, probes, shovels, and we even had three radios in the group.
We got an early start, so there was no need to push a break-neck pace.  We took short breaks and mostly stayed together the whole way to the summit.  It was a bluebird day in the truest sense of the term, calm conditions without a cloud in the sky.  We stopped about 200' below the summit and dug a snow pit to search for weak layers as the advisory from Missoula Avalache reported "Considerable".  We found about 20" of new snow and only minor stability issues within the top 6".  We com…