A good friend from out of town was visiting for a week, one day of which we carved out this classic Mission Mountains tour.
With an unexceptionally early start at 8:30 at the trailhead, we climbed the south ridge of St. Mary's negotiating the blowdown and feeling the burn in our legs on this steep ascent of 5,500'. Snowline was around 7,000' and the frost of the night before had firmed up the pack nicely. We made it to the summit of St. Mary's Peak without incident or wind and enjoyed the incredible views of the west face of Grey Wolf Peak. A long moderate perfect corn snow run later found us over the pass and into the basin dropping into the Swan Valley. Bowl bouncing our way south passed the high frozen lakes of the east side of the MIssions, the weather held flawless blue skies as we wrapped around the wolf's tail and approached the return climb to Scenic Lakes. A steep climb out of a bowl to a snowy plateau and ridgeline brought us as close to Grey Wolf as we would get that day and a good look at the summit run which looked steep and scary from that angle. With only one thin chute to connect our route to the basin below, it lay hidden to the south and was invisible until upon it. We squeeze skied through the break in the cliffs and skied to scenic lakes under the impressive east face of Grey Wolf. One more pass climb brought us to the ridge above Ridell Lakes and we skied moderate terrain to the lakes enjoying the sunshine and views of this next and final face of the mountain. All aspects and gullies of Grey Wolf were well runnelled and did not appear very inviting as enjoyable ski runs. Knowing we had a potential tortuous trail to negotiate downfall, I did not allow passion to draw me to ski the south gully. We skied the south trail ridge for all it was worth, made the required west traverse to the small secondary ridge and encountered what I had heard about-massive blowdown which has obliterated the trail for about a half mile. Happy to be thrashing down the route rather than up we circumnavigated large piles of lodgepole blowdown, keeping the trail close until it opened up and we were able to proceed in a more civilized fashion along what was an excellent approach trail to this incredibly scenic and skitastic area. We walked the final 3 miles of road back to the car with the tired glow of a beautiful ski tour dancing in my mind.