Monday, April 22, 2013

Sugarloaf Peak

Posted by on Mon, Apr 22, 2013 at 2:38 PM

In keeping with the idea of a highlights season, touring to Sugarloaf Peak made the cut. An excellent approach, very aesthetic line, and a lovely canyon with great views to the south of Trapper Peak and Boulder and Mount Jerusalem distinguish and characterize the Sugarloaf Peak tour.

Sugarloaf Peak from the north

We had a fairly casual morning start and made the drive all the way to the trailhead. It was cold and clear and we had received some new snow two days previous.

Mid Canyon, Chaffin Creek
  • Mid Canyon, Chaffin Creek
It is about a five mile approach to the bottom of the peak, fairly standard for many of the great ski peaks in the Bitterroot Range. From the creek to the peak is another 2,590' climb which under good travel conditions, only takes another couple hours. The initial climb is via a small north facing bowl, in which no trees grow.
Sugarloaf from the bottom
  • Sugarloaf from the bottom
The bowl pitches up after 1,500' or so and leads to the entrance to the slot couloir which deeply incised into the surrounding cliffs becomes a freezer no matter the outer weather. Bootpacking the narrow couloir was fairly easy and we emerged from the womb of the mountain and onto the upper face in brilliant sunshine.
The freezer couloir
  • The freezer couloir
So we found ourselves resting in the sun and calm at the summit in the early afternoon. Looking north brings the Shard and the Como Peaks into distinct viewing and south gives way to the vast expanse that is the Trapper and Boulder massifs. With perfect weather we lingered at the summit enjoying the spectacle.
The Southern Bitterroots, Mount Jerusalem
  • The Southern Bitterroots, Mount Jerusalem

Descending the run is a three stage process. First the skier must navigate the snow/talus field at the summit, before traversing to the west and the top of the couloir. This year we had to walk the traverse. From the snowfield above the couloir, the skier is presented with a descending slice into the mountain and with care must drop over the drift and into the line. The first ten turns are in a very tight couloir and it barely widens below until exiting to the apron and fine powder skiing on the NE aspect.
Hop, Hop, Hop
  • Hop, Hop, Hop

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