Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Short Tours and Dawn Patrols



As I've mentioned, February was an incredibly busy month at work for me. I ended up working more weekends and evenings then I can generally stand. The only thing that kept me marginally sane was the ability to slip away occasionally for a few hours and squeeze in a quick tour on the lower slopes of Ward mountain near our house.



The unusually heavy snowfall we've been getting made for excellent, convenient dawn patrolling. Past attempts to ski on Ward have usually involved hiking to the snow but for the last few weeks it has been possible to ski to and from the car.



The down side of all this snow is that the avalanche danger has also been elevated. Recently a slide even destroyed a home in Missoula. To mitigate risks, I've been practicing obsessive terrain management. I've been studying slope layers on hillmap, carrying an inclinometer and acting under the assumption that anything that can slide will. There are a few small roll overs on the east face of Ward you need to be aware of but it is also possible to find routes through the lower meadows and treed north east ridge line that avoids all terrain steeper then 28 degrees yet offers enjoyable skiing.

Looking down the steep north face.

Snow conditions on these mellow slopes have been generally excellent offering up cold smoke powder. This won't last long and I'm looking forward to skiing some corn on the same slopes. Sunday there was a bit of an inversion with warm pacific air moving in up high. I turned around when the snow began to stick to my skins and a warm breeze could be felt choosing to lap the lower slopes where cold air and powder still lingered.

Lone skin track.


Photos by Jen, motion by Google+
A textbook safe track up a ridge.

Somewhere in the lower meadows. 





Skis on to the car. 

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