Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Rattlesnake Ski Traverse

Posted By on Tue, May 15, 2012 at 6:48 AM

Saturday dawned bright and bluebird and Brian and I were on the trail to Stuart Peak. We were attempting to complete a version of the Rattlesnake traverse that would take us from Stuart Peak to Mosquito and onward to Murphy Peak with a few other high points enroute. I had never tried this tour before; Brian had done it already a few times, so I was in good hands for the steep north facing sections.

Stuart Peak south ridge
  • JL
  • Stuart Peak south ridge

Summit of Stuart Peak
  • JL
  • Summit of Stuart Peak

We summitted Stuart in decent time and peeled skins for the first descent. There had been a fair bit of fresh snow last week, and we encountered plenty of refrozen roller balls and debris. This warm descent was nice as the next descent after a short 600 foot climb took us out of the sun after the first couple hundred vertical into the shady part of the Eagle Chute. It was icy and challenging. Shuffling off to the water hole, we watered up and began the climb to the north and Mosquito Peak.

At Mosquito, there were clusters of lady bugs on the summit rocks where we ate again and I iced my feet and changed to thinner socks, as my feet were swelling and feeling quite hot and uncomfortable. It worked and after booting up again we skied down the ridge a bit to a north facing chute bisecting this cliffy face. Brian started down the nice corn snow at the top, but soon encountered ice and debris at which point it became a side slip for a bit. I talked myself down this chute, telling myself to relax and side slipping passed the rocky choke to begin making some turns down to the lake below.

Mosquito Peaks North Face
  • JL
  • Mosquito Peaks North Face

A hot sunny climb to the northwest gains Sanders Peak and we skied this fabulous line in good corn snow. Starting as a fairly steep upper face it narrows down and enters a gully before descending to Sanders Lake below. This run lifted my spirits as the skiing was challenging, but good fun compared to Eagle and Mosquito which were strictly challenging survival conditions. Not that my spirits were down. I had gotten really hot on the final climb up Sanders, a boot pack in full sun, and was decompressing from the two icy runs and the long distance tour.
Heading South from Sanders
  • JL
  • Heading South from Sanders

After Sanders, the route arcs southwest and we traversed a high point before descending a short sweet corn pitch to the basin behind Murphy Peak. We worked up in the wonderful shade to the summit ridge and made our way to the high point of the trip at Murphy Peak. Good views of the Missions had been a hallmark of the tour and we looked out over the Jocko Valley and the St. Mary’ Peaks and Grey Wolf in all their precipitous glory. Murphy Peak’s south gully run was in a good shape and not too steep and we enjoyed another round of good corn snow skiing. Catching a high traverse south and then east we wrapped around Burgundy Peak and began our final climb to the pass leading to SnowBowl.

Our final descent down the east bowl of SnowBowl was late afternoon corn in good shape, but quickly thinned to beargrass. We hugged the gully eventually and made it to within about 500 vertical of the lodge before having to take to the sneakers. We hydrated at the grate and headed down to the parking lot where Brian had stashed the bikes the night before. Biking down SnowBowl Road was a fun high speed pedal in the glow of a Western Montana sunset and we were back at the interstate in quick time. A most excellent tour highlighted by the diversity of terrain and snow conditions, a long distance tour, and a variety of tracks: human, goat, bear, and moose? I look forward to returning to this one, thanks Brian!

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