March 31, 2007 ski ascent
The road was clear up to the second-to-last switchback at 5400'. 11:00am. We strapped the skies to our backpacks and hiked up to the saddle northwest of point 6557' where the snow became consistent enough to warrant their use. While putting our skies on, we heard a wolf howl twice in low tones not far away. I started to second guess what I'd heard until 100 yards into our skiing we came across fresh tracks! (see pic) This was my first time to have a wolf encounter in the Bitterroots. What a treat!
Following the ridge upward, we experienced varying snow conditions. Good corn down low, a meltwater crust from about 7200' to 7800' (that proved difficult to negotiate on the downhill), a thin layer of good powder from 7800' to 8700', and a tough wind crust above that. Unstable weather conditions kept the sun off the snow for most of the day.
Crampons would have been nice for climbing over the steep, wind crusted drifts near the summit (but not necessary). Our boots barely penetrated when kick stepping. At the summit (4:00pm) the weather got worse. Limited visibility, snow and wind. Tom's hydration tube started to freeze up. We hid between a rock overhang and a snow drift to rest and eat.
The descent was quick and easy. The previous year's burn made for excellent tree skiing! The sun had come out only intermittently during the day and the result was great snow (except the meltwater crust section which didn't get any better). We made it back to the car at 7:30pm.
Anxious for the customary end to a great day in the 'Root, we made a bee-line for The Hamilton (in Victor). Fish 'n Chip's and Black and Tans.
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