It was again time to attempt the summit of MacDonald Peak.
We set off early again for the heights of the Mission Mountains and made the trailhead and the approach ridge by 7:00 a.m. On the summit of Sheepshead by 11:30 via the west ridge and cramponing the west face gullies which were in good booting shape.
The ski along the east ridge was performed carefully and safely to the east face where we enjoyed good snow into the northwest basin of MacDonald Peak. There had accumulated between 6-15" of fresh snow from the cold front and we broke trail to the summit in flawless skies and breathless winds. Taking a short run back down into the basin felt obligatory and we stopped at the cliffs and returned to the summit in our skintrack. I had never skied the broad and beautiful south face of MacDonald Peak, only approached on it, and was very pleased to find it in good ski shape despite the fresh snow and strong midday sunshine. The views south into the heart of Ashley Creek Basin and over and into Mission Creek and beyond are spectacular and close. The further views east and north to the Swans and Glacier Park are long and inspiring as one stands at the southern end of the Canadian Rockies. Missoula sits in such a unique location a crossroads of sorts between various geologic and biologic areas from the granite Bitterroots and central Idaho desert ranges and the Canadian Rockies, northern plains and the western wet mountain ranges of heavy cedar and larch country. Throw into the mix the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Great Lakes and the multitude of rivers of different character and Western Montana shines with more diversity than most any other place in the Rockies. There is no lack of interesting terrain and geology and biology in our area.
The south face of MacDonald Peak splits into two drainages west to upper Post Creek and East to Ashley Creek. We skied the divide, veered towards Icefloe Lake, then veered back to the pass and the head of the long groove tube that runs in a continuous moderate run all the way to Ashley Lakes. We met an interesting solo tribal member on snowshoes and armed against the Griz who reign supreme in this area. He regaled us with stories of being in these mountains his whole life, encounters with Griz and Goats and accidents that had happened on the mountain. Up at the lakes for a fun day of hiking he was hoping to catch some big avalanches coming of the west face of Sheepshead. He was not disappointed as one ripped down the main gully west of the main face and then that was followed up by two more that thundered down the main face and rocketed off the cliffs into a slurry of slush before slowing down at the edge of the Lake. An amazing day at an amazing place.
- West from the summit of MacDonald Peak
- The South Face of this massive mountain