Sunday, October 23, 2011

Black Mountain y-couloir

Winter is finally here. This past weekend Bridget and I chased the snow that accumulated high in the mountains of central Montana. We decided to climb the Y-couloir on Black Mountain (located east of Paradise valley). Bridget and I had been kicked off this peak with force this past spring by a strong snow storm that left us sprinting for the trail head, a rematch was in order. We figured that there would be ice somewhere on the peak and perhaps the Y-couloir would be in fine shape. We left Pine creek trailhead at 8:00am and made great progress to the beautiful Pine creek lake; one of the coolest high mountain lakes I have ever been to.

Bridget hiking up the 5,000 some feet to Black Mountain under perfect fall conditions.

Bridget on the approach

When we reached the lake we could just slightly make out the summit of Black Mountain as strong winds raked the summit and clouds swirrled around it. We climbed up snow covered boulderfields to the base of the route, passing beautiful blue marble (?) boulders that would be perfect to climb on in the summer. When we reached the base of the couloir we found the snow to be incredibly windloaded and a bit spooky. We decided to rope up, hug the rock to our right, and place as much gear as possible between us as we simul-climbed. We literally swam up the couloir as spin drift slides randomly cascaded on us. After looking at the left branch of the Y-couloir we decided to go up the right branch. We could see some ice bulges and the objective dangers didn't look as bad.

The bottom section of the couloir, spooky windloaded snow and strange pro.

Bridget is down there somewhere.

Bridget lead out as she got pounded by spin drift "slides". She climbed through the crux of the route over a fun 80' section of ice and neve. We topped the couloir out and both sat in the sun as we nursed the first screaming barfies of the year.

Bridget on the upper section on the couloir

just having fun

This whole section was composed of rock-hard ice, burried just under the powder snow.

Bridget nears the top of the couloir

Heading to the summit.

Bridget on the top

And this is why I love Montana.

This is another reason why I love Montana.

The only down side was the amount of trash we found at the lake, lame.

We scrambled against the wind to the summit then decended the North ridge back down to the lake. We hiked out to the trailhead in the dark and decended from winter back into autumn. The experience was about as good as it gets and a great reintroduction back to winter.

Cheers, Loren

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