Monday, January 28, 2013

Just Off the Beaten (Skin) Track

The slopes of granite creek.

Few things compare to the feeling of skiing untracked snow down into a valley you've only studied on a map. The joy of making turns in powder is accentuated by the certainty that no one has been there in a while and a vague sense of dread at the prospect of hiking back out. This feeling is what motivates me to work on Hillmap.

Unexpected powder.

We had low expectations for Sunday. There hadn't been a storm in weeks and the forecast and snotel showed a smattering of recent wet snow. We headed out anyways to one of the areas at Lolo Pass we hadn't explored yet, the G-Spot/Pleasure Bowl 2 miles on the Montana side of the pass. On the skin up our apprehension turned to dread as we skinned through an icy breakable crust. We considered turning back but figured we could ski down the road if conditions didn't improve. The snow got a bit better around 5800 feet and we met a few other paries lapping pleasant if tracked out powder on the upper slopes of a 6200 foot hill. 


I was tempted to join them but, having studied maps, satellite photos and slope overlays on hillmap the night before, Jen had a better plan. We traversed East for a bit, quickly finding ourselves breaking trail through untracked powder and skied some pleasant low angle trees into the bowl Northwest of the 6200 foot hill. We then skinned up to point 6504 and skied a long, stellar run of untracked powder though open trees down a Northwest slope into the Granite Creek drainage. This run was perhaps our best of the season so far and the silence of the valley despite the nearby highway and snowmobile trials made the valley feel more remote then it was.

Stellar glades in the granite creek drainage.

Jen finds a line through some pillows.

We finished the day by skiing back the way we came and enjoyed another excellent run on untracked powder on the Northeast slopes of point 6504. It started to snow heavily as we skied off point 6200 limiting visibility but the crust below turned out  to be not as bad as feared. Our car was the last one in the parking lot and we were ecstatic to have pulled off an unexpected big day with plenty of untracked powder.

Starting the final descent back to the car.

Gpx track overlayed on Caltopo USGS maps with slope angle shading. green = 20-27°, yellow = 28-34°, red = 35-45° and blue > 46°.


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