Sometimes, you might imagine that you don’t have enough time to go skiing. ‘I have to go to work because I already used up all my vacation time going to Moab,’ you might say, and this may in fact be true. But couldn’t you find the time for a little half day of skiing? Yes, you will have to wake up early, and probably drive too fast on dirt roads. It’s fine. It’s worth it.
Murphy Peak – South Face, 5000′, 7h.
With friend Perry in town, I was not able to withstand the draw of a day of skiing in the Snowbowl backcountry, especially with the ski resort now closed. We met at 6 at the last pullout, and started skinning up Paradise (legally of course). This went quickly as always, and we were soon skiing across Burgundy Ridge, then ascending the south ridge of Murphy Peak. We acquired the summit at 8:30. This was good, because the hot sun was already starting to generate point releases on the cliff bands, and the proper runs off of Murphy were very likely next.
|Getting weird, early AM, Murphy summit.|
After some summit headstands with the Missions providing a suitable backdrop, we skied the south face of Murphy, in good conditions, with the exception of icy point release remnants towards the bottom. A quick schuss had us at the top of Jenny Bowl, which was terrible, then to the top of the Hourglass Chute in the closed cliff area at Snowbowl. It’s unfortunate that it’s closed, because it’s the best in-bounds run around. Back at the car at 1, back at the office at 1:30. Half Day!
Greywolf South Couloir. 5000′, 6h.
With friends in town once again and myself obliged to drive to Idaho that evening, we opted once again for the half day tour. Greywolf’s south couloir is perfect for such a venture, especially now that P-5000 has melted out, meaning that you can drive there directly from Arlee, skipping the lengthy diversion through St. Ignatius necessary earlier in the year. Casey, myself, and Mr. Burger left Missoula at six, and were skinning by 7:30 (we didn’t yet know the shortcut was snow-free). We were quite thankful for the climber’s trail, and it’s in good enough shape right now that utilizing it saves alot of time.
We made reasonably quick work of the approach to the Grizzly Lake basin, though we took a fairly inefficient high route trying to avoid exposure to the avalanche prone sidehill immediately before attaining the upper basin. As soon as we started skinning across Grizzly Lake, it was apparent that new snow had formed a deep-ish wind slab that would have to be monitored closely as we ascended towards the south couloir.
While the apron was a little spooky, once we skinned into the more protected couloir, we were happy to find that the wind slab had dissipated into settled powder (though still a bit punchy in spots). We skinned to the obvious safe zone, then transitioned to booting. The snow was deep and the walking tough, yet we had only a few hundred feet to go, and were soon climbing through the magnificent cornices guarding the divide between the south couloir and Grey Wolf’s craggy western aspect.
|The top of the south.|
I hate going first on steep runs, because I’m not very brave. But with Casey taking photos, and Burger insistent that it was improper for him to precede me, I was left with no alternatives. It was great fortune to find the south couloir in good condition in April, and the steep turns off the headwall were fantastic. In fact, the skiing all the way back to Grizzly Lake, 1500′ below was of good quality, excluding the occasional point release ice chunk bomb lurking here and there.
|Burgermeister ripping full tele turns down the south couloir.|
|Wilcox on the mellow apron above Grizzly Lake.|
The ski down through the forest was uneventful (as ever), through good corn at the top, and catchy slop at the bottom. We barely got lost, and made it back to the rig by 2. Beta from a moderately sketchy guy at the trailhead prompted us to try the return via P-5000, and it went easily, and made for a quick drive home. Though not a true half day, this tour certainly could be given faster travel conditions, an earlier start, and the knowledge that P-5000 is open (and a less casual travel strategy) (and better fitness).