El Capitan May 4-5, 2024

Little Rock Creek (Bitterroots)

Date: May 4-5, 2024

Leader:  Forest Dean

Participants: Brent Maier, Carson Ramsden, Sam Lashley

This trip was billed as a ‘Little Rock Creek Adventure’ as we didn’t have a true objective.  We wanted to see how the snow conditions and weather were before deciding what to climb and ski.  The four of us met on south side of Missoula on Saturday morning at 7am and headed south to Lake Como.  The road up to the Little Rock Creek trailhead was totally dry and in good shape (a 2wd car would have no issues).  We attached ski’s and boots to packs and started hiking under cloudy skies at 8:45am.

The trail down into and then up Little Rock Creek to Little Rock Creek Lake was actually fairly dry (this trail is one of the worst in Bitterroots).  We started to encounter snow about a mile before the lake but booted easily all the way there.  At this point we had decided to get into upper part of drainage and give El Capitan a go (and maybe do the Como Peaks on Sunday).  We hiked around north side of lake and then up onto south facing slopes as we made our way up and back to the upper lakes.  Finally transitioned to skis about a mile before upper lakes.  Arrived at lakes at about 1:45, set up camp, then decided to head up to El Capitan.  We skinned part of the way up the easternmost of the two ridge access couloirs, then kicked steps in fairly soft snow up to the ridgeline.  Angle at top was around 50 degrees.  We then donned ski’s again and skinned to about 400’ below summit.  Icy surface here so decided to boot it up to the top.  Arrived at summit (9983’) just before 6pm.  A couple squalls had come through on our way up, but actually not too bad when we topped out.  Took a picture then descended.  Ski back to the top of the couloir was awful as a breakable crust had formed.  We booted down the couloir about half was until past the crust layer, then enjoyed a nice ski back to camp.  Dinner with a great campfire ensued.  Into tents around 10:30.

Sunday morning we awoke to a mostly gloomy day with the pitter patter of rain upon our tents.  Being that the weather was inclement and we were all tired from the previous days climb, we ate breakfast, packed up and began ski out around 9am, deciding to forego a climb of the Como’s.  Sam and I made the mistake of trying to get a few extra turns in and descended into the bottom of the drainage on the way out to Little Rock Creek Lake.  Don’t do it!  Brent and Carson stayed high and enjoyed wet rock and beargrass on the hillside instead.  Better?  We continued out and got back to the trailhead around 2:00pm.

It was a fun trip with a good group!  About 7.5 miles back to our camp gaining 3000’.  Another 2500’ up to the summit from there.  Great area back in there!  Forest Dean

Pictures are from Sam Lashley.

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