Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Skiing St. Mary's in June

St. Mary's is one of the most recognizable peaks on the Bitterroot skyline.  I've been staring up at it all winter, watching the snowfields grow and shrink.  Ryan and I finally skied out one glorious ridge of corn snow this weekend.

The very long and windy road to the trailhead at almost 7,000' was dry, as was the beginning of the hike.  It was one of those spectacular days when the sky is clear enough to see the Bitterroot Mountains stretching out to the horizon.  Just a bit of brown haze in the distance, probably due to smoke from prescribed burns.

After the first mile we encountered patches of snow on the trail ranging from a couple feet wide to almost long enough to tempt us to put on skis and skins, but the top was mostly bare scree. 

The fire lookout near the summit is still closed up for the season, but provided an excellent wind break for our lunch stop.

We shared the summit with a multitude of ladybugs swarming in crevices in the rocks.  Do you think these same ladybugs will visit my garden later in the season or are these of a heartier alpine stock?

We traversed out the Southeast ridge to ski an unbroken field of snow that we scouted from the summit.  The Northish facing slopes still hold enough snow to make it worth the trouble of lugging skis and boots up the scree. The photo at the top of this post shows a couple of descent options.

We skied about 800 feet down to a beautiful alpine lake that is seen by many on the trail to St. Mary's, but I bet it is rarely visited due to bushwhacky forest and steep rock.  I was glad to be able to skin back up a snowfield rather than bushwhack with skis.

The snow was good corn, fast and sticky.  

The map below shows our approximate path.

More photos from this and a trip to baker lake the day before can be found on flickr.


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