Printz Ridge, named for a packer and woodsman who operated a sawmill in the vicinity, is one of the more dramatic east west running ridges in the central Bitterroot Range.
With craggy peaks running for miles to Idaho, famous rock climbing spires via Blodgett Canyon, and more obscure ski runs both south and north, Printz Ridge could be a stand alone mountain range of acclaim if it weren't surrounded by 30 other ridges. Alas without a high point jutting above 9,000' and fickle south facing snow conditions and remote bushwhacks to other ski runs on the north face, Printz Ridge does a good job of shedding traffic, allowing the solitude seeking ski tourer a good mountain trip.
A small group of three of us set out to summit Printz Ridge via Mill creek on a bluebird cold morning last week. All went well as we found deep snowfilled canyon trails and easy creek crossings. The climbing was arduous with slippery dust on crust and no old track to follow. For awhile in the midsection of the climb it became quite nice and comfortable, sidehilling on moderate terrain with a soft base. With great views up canyon towards Castle Crag and into the basin below Hauf Peak, we enjoyed the last of the easy skiing uphill. The ridgeline approach becomes a gendarme of rock with keyholes forming arches throughout. Pushed to the west and sidehilling below the crest, skinning became very slow and arduous as we climbed trees with skis on and over snowy wind ridges. But its always like this....an hour for the final 300' vertical. The final crux is to cross the starting zone of the skinny northwest gully run. Its inevitable and scary crossing the 45 degree top of a crossloaded feature deep in the rocky crags, but it was stable and safe and we made the summit in brilliant sunshine. Looking east to Mill Point and south down the impressive south face towards the Blodgett Creek bridge, all terrain falls abruptly away from this perch.
The downhill skiing is a committing 45+degree face of terrain with rolls and a glide slide bergshrund, but the snow was soft and forgiving and the skiing sweet as we spooned into deep powder turns off the summit of Alaska Peak one more time. Lunching at the bottom and regarding the artwork always a favorite pasttime, we took a few photos and launched north downcanyon for the exit run: larch and subalpine glades followed by a rollover talus gully that skied nicely to the edge of the canyon thicket, where we bashed a line through filled over debris and new growth back to the trail.
- Dropping Into the east face AK Pk.
- The East Face, Alaska Peak