The Beartooths                                                   March 7, 2015

Excalibur from a neighboring couloir.
Earlier in the year Brendan and I got a good look at Excalibur.  From then on it was 
determined we should give it a go sometime this season.  We passed on it one time because
we thought there might be too much new snow.  Now seemed like a good time since it had
not snowed in days.
Brendan skinning the lower apron.
On the walk in it became apparent that the area had not received much snow fall since the
last time I was in the area.  Brendan found some gummy LifeSavers and I found a glove.  
Both belonging to my friend Sam who I came out here with last.  No wildlife had gotten into
the LifeSavers so Brendan and I enjoyed them ourselves.
Old Debris
Excalibur is large, 3500 vertical feet straight up.  But the thing that gets me is the snowfields
on both sides of the upper half of the couloir.  This area gets lots of wind and then given
its aspect gets intense sun in and above the couloir.  Factors like this boggle my mind when 
thinking of how to hit it great condition.  I think the best way to get this line in great condition
is to be lucky.
Still a long way to the top.
We did not hit it in great condition.  What we found was mostly edge-able textured
styrofoam, which was good enough.  On the bright side the snow was stable and the
only activity we encountered were a few small ice chunks rolling down the couloir.
Brendan front points up the last stretch.
On top we were treated to warm sunshine and no wind.  But our time in the sun was short
lived and soon the settling sun motivated us to get skiing.  It was almost 5 o’clock.
Go on, have a Hopzone and relax.  You earned it!
I was a bit more anxious to get skiing than Brendan.  After all I was on some beat up 
skis and Brendan was sporting his new skis for the first time.  Excalibur is not that steep
but the hardpack conditions made it more intimidating today.
Come on Brendan this skiing stuff is serious.
Hey, your new skis match your backpack.  Nice job Brendan.
Trying to take pics and not get nailed by the chunks Brendan is sending down.
Lots and lots of leapfrogging.
The descent was long and slow.  Most of it consisted of controlled turn after controlled
turn.  The search for the best turns on the way down was slightly amusing.  Maybe that
smooth section of harpack will ski good or hey that breakable crust may be fun.  Better
yet maybe that avi debris with be softish.  
In all honesty I did hit one good section and was able to link up some real nice turns.  
It was on some fine textured avi debris no less.  
Kinda looks like the clouds are moving.
Pleased to be at the bottom I cracked the beer Brendan had so graciously carried to the top
and then I carried down.  The light was fading fast now, but there was no rush to hike out.
Hiking out in the dark was almost a given with our nonchalant start to the day.  We
figured you either start in the dark or finish in the dark.

Blacktail Mountain, South Gully

Blacktail Mountain, Bridger Range                  February 22, 2015

We had big plans for big things but it seemed our objective might have too much snow.
Making it riskier and more of a wallowfest than we were looking for.  So we got up early
and sat around at the Ranger Station for a few hours as we decided what to ski
and let the temperature warm up a bit.
Some how I managed to convince the others that we should go on a highly questionable ski
mission.  I knew Brendan wanted to ski this line but we had trouble finding the right day
earlier in the season.  Conditions would be far from ideal but exciting to check it out.
Sam and Brendan sage brush walking
After a little research we found a bit of public land for access and we had a game plan.
No surprise that we started with dirt walking, at least it was fast and easy.  Also the weather
was nice and cold with no wind.
Brendan checks out a big tree on the hike up.
Sam and Brendan glad to be skinning.
At first it seemed pleasant on the summit, but the cold came back in no time and motivated
us to get going.
Sam high up in the South Gully
The entrance seemed straight forward.  But there was a little confusion getting into the gully
because the trees were thicker that expected.  After some unnecessary traversing we were
in the gully proper.  Being a low snow year there were lots of features but the line went
clean.  Well, “clean” as in no major obstacles.
Sam and Brendan navigate as best they can.
Unfortunately we ran into some refrozen avi debris with a couple inches of snow on it that
was difficult to ski.  The gully ended up being tighter that expected and the snow did not
extend down as far as we hoped.  We skied as far as we could then found a spot in the
sun for lunch.
Now we had to do more dirt walking.  Because of the private land in the area we could not
just go down the gully into the valley.  Instead we had to go back a couple ridgelines to get
back to our approach route. 
Well shit.
Once we gained the ridgeline we used to ascend we were able to ski for a bit.   Which
involved lots of log jibbing.  At one point we found a field of snow that we thought
might offer a better exit so we proceeded down.  Soon the snow ended and revealed
the view in the picture above.  Not wanting to explore the unknown we decided to go
back to our approach route.  From here Sam and Brendan went down to the left and
I chose to go up to easier ground for walking.  I followed the cliff line and at the top
were I intersected the approach route realized it was the same spot we had dropped
in a few minutes ago, haha.
Sam enjoying the last of the shreddable snow.  It may not look it but this skied fine.
Thirst motivated us to hot step it back to the car.  We had enough of walking around in the
woods caring our downhill sliding toys.  We made it back to the car and enjoyed a sunset
over a frozen landscape on the drive back.
The line.

It’s All About The Ambiance

Beartooths,  Montana                                            January  17, 2015

Rocks and trees and snow and ice and sky and . . . .
Nothing in particular caught our eye.  So we decided to try this one.  Maybe it’s soft?
Ben found a picturesque place to do some stretching.  I love me some behind the scenes photos.
Can you spot the two tiny skiers?