In the middle of last week I had two surprise days off of work and I decided to meet my friends Kyle and Pete in the Beartooths. They were planning on either ice climbing, rock climbing, or skiing, depending on conditions. I tossed my ski gear and camping gear in the car and hopped in the car early in the afternoon. A few short hours later and I was standing at the trailhead, gaping at the obvious ski line that dominates the view from the lot. It was late in the day but I decided to take the skis and boots out for a ride on my backpack and check out trail conditions. I fell asleep on a boulder in the sun and woke up as Kyle and Pete were walking by me on the trail after descending from a wild climbing experience. We cruised out the trail to the cars, set up camp, made some food, and made plans for the next day. I was hoping to ski the line mentioned above and they were headed out to do some multi-pitch rock climbing.
I woke up a bit late, fried up some bacon and eggs, chugged some coffee, and hit the trail by 6:30. As I reached the snow in the couloir I realized that it hadn't even come close to freezing the night before, probably not for the past few days. I booted through 10" of isothermal glop until the angle steepened and the snow started to be baked by the early morning sun. I turned around and slopped my way down to the base of the snow, donned my shoes, and cruised out to the car. Pete and Kyle were still in camp so I decided that I might as well go climbing with them. A second breakfast of bacon and eggs and more coffee and we were off. Long story short we got thoroughly spanked and ended up doing a lot more talus hiking than climbing. I drove back to town that night disappointed with the outcome of both of the days adventures but psyched to have been able to spend time in such an amazing place.
Three days later, with another day off, I packed up the car and headed to the Pine Creek trailhead to go have a peek at Black Mountain. Another late start had me leaving the trailhead at 9:00. The trail was mostly dry for the first 2 miles and the snow past there was well frozen, particularly on north facing aspects. I cruised up to and past Pine Creek Lake, to the base of the Y couloirs in 3 hours.
After pausing briefly for some food. I skinned up to the confluence of the Y's and booted up the west branch through a foot of semi-consolidated powder. I took a sweet first run back to the bare rock where I had lunched. Skins back on. Coat off. Repeat. The east branch of the Y was also filled with good snow, making for some great turns on a gorgeous peak.
I stopped at the rock again and looked back up at the north face of the mountain and the exposed ski line that drops off of the summit of the peak. With great snow conditions and gas in the tank there was no way that I was leaving without at least taking a look at the line from the top.
I committed the line to memory and made one more quick trip up the west branch of the Y's and a few hundred feet of walking put me on the summit. I soaked in the view for a few minutes and then headed over to the edge to see what I could see. I ended up traversing west for a hundred feet and found a break in the large cornice that guards the face. When dropping into this line the exit is not very obvious. I was glad that I had studied my line on the face from the bottom. Trusting my memory, I made conservative jump turns down the face, navigating between rock outcrops to the top of the couloir that makes up the bottom of the line. From here the skiing is straight forward and I was crossing before Pine Creek Lake a few minutes later. Another hour and I was back at the car, 9 hours after leaving.
I drove up to Bridger Bowl and parked amongst a few other like minded skiers and snowboarders. It was sleeting hard as I put on my boots and packed up my backpack. I decided to start out by bootpacking, hoping to find some drier, colder snow up higher that I could skin through without soaking my skins. I forged a trail through 6 inches of saturated snow to a group of trees between the bottom of the Bridger lift and the midway station where I transitioned to skins. I found a skin track near the midway station and 90 minutes from leaving the car I was standing on top of the ridge.
I skied over a foot of thick, untracked powder in Sometimes down to the north bowl road, which I followed back to the skin track and up to the top of the ridge. A short skin put me on top of Hidden, which had close to two feet of wind blown, thick, sloppiness. A ski cut on top flushed out the top foot or snow, leaving the lighter snow underneath. Not too bad for April in a low snow year. 2:30 car to car.