Friday, March 14, 2014

Skiing Printz Ridge, Blodgett Canyon

Posted By on Fri, Mar 14, 2014 at 10:16 AM

It was a beautiful start with sunshine and a light breeze as we toured Blodgett upcanyon. I was touring my newer skis, the Voile Vector BCs a backcountry all terrain ski with scales on the bottom to mimic skins but enhance glide, inline classic style. Blake who regularly is faster than I am could not keep up on the uphill tour into the heart of Blodgett. They were so good to me all the way upcanyon to the steeper skin track. After a couple miles we left the postholing dog walkers tracks behind and had the henceforth smooth trail to ourselves. Before the bridge, we cut fresh coyote tracks and after we crossed the bridge the tracks of moose abounded on and off the trail. Another mile or so later and we cut the first sign of wolf and within half a mile we were on the trail of at least two wolves maybe more. It's one of my favorite parts of long canyon tours in the Bitterroots. Leaving the dog walking kingdom of humanity behind and entering the realm of the wild, where the animals live by their own rules: everyday the wolves testing the moose, the moose testing back. "hey Moose how ya feelin' today? You want to play tag, you strong today, can you fight back or is it chow time?" "the Hell you say wolf, come and play, I want to tap you with my hoof, just a little tap, come a little look hungry wolf, I'll just grab a willow snack here by the trail. Thanks for the wake up call, but I think I'll just rest here awhile longer... eating." Anthropogenic conversations I make up in my head as I tour upcanyon imagining and seeing through tracks the live and die drama of the Wilderness.

Looking South from Printz Peak, Blodgett Canyon
With one of only a couple bluebird days forecast, we set off for the upper reaches of Blodgett Canyon and the amazing skiing deep in the wilderness.

We heard one plane. No helicopters. If we did not have the Wilderness act, the Bitterroot might have become a heli ski mecca, as it is, a dedicated ski tourers delight. We headed up canyon through burned over second growth, back into second growth forest and finally at the High Lake junction a dedicated half mile or so of beautiful old growth spruce forest. High Lake is near the junction for the turnoff to Sears Peak a soaring south facing gully ski run that descends over 3,000' vertical from a rocky summit to Blodgett Canyon. But you can't really see the approach or ski run from the trail. You have to sniff it out like a wild, skiing human, peeled eyes looking through the trees; having cheated a little by studying the maps, there is a layback to the west that allows gentle access to the Sear's Lake pass after a grunt climbing the initial treed face. From there it's a ridge climb to the summit of Sear's Peak. I skied this line Feb 10, 2013 in powder and it was excellent.
Sears Peak South, 2013
  • JL
  • Sears Peak South, 2013
Printz Peak, Sleeping Giant
  • JL
  • Printz Peak, Sleeping Giant
Happy Climber on Printz Peak
  • JL
  • Happy Climber on Printz Peak

This year with the fresh new sun and real entrained avy possibility in the Sears gully, we opted for Printz Peak another mile upcanyon and across from Looking Glass Peak? the prominent spire west of the High Lake basin. With numerous avy paths running both sides of the canyon, it is a ski tourers delight with open lanes and bountiful terrain choices. Not today. With most north faces having run big wet slides during the warming trend last week, we ascended Printz Peak avy path east, passed old and new slide debris, to a knob on the ridgeline at 8,500'. From there great views north to Castle Crags and upper Fred Burr Canyon basking in the sun were worth every bit of energy to reach this distant spot 9 miles and 4,500' from Blodgett Canyon trailhead. The air was cool aloft and windy, perfect corn snow in the making. The upper mountain was still settling out powder mush and it was not until 7,000' that we ran into high quality corn snow which lasted to the creek where we dined and watered and basked in the sun that is now gone again today.
North to Castle Crag across Mill Creek Canyon
  • JL
  • North to Castle Crag across Mill Creek Canyon

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