Trip Leader: Fintan Maguire
Date: March 1-3
Attendees: Joshua Phillips, Carl Sunderman, Peter Gorza, Ted Morrison, Forest Dean
Originally the plan for this trip was to camp/ski in the southern Mission mountains. However, an extremely cold forecast along with increased avalanche risk from a recent storm convinced us that a cabin with access to more mellow terrain would be a safer choice. So on Friday March 1st Fintan Maguire, Joshua Phillips, Carl Sunderman, and Peter Gorza met early in the morning for a weekend of backcountry skiing on Little St. Joe mountain in the Bitterroot mountain range. We drove to the Bass creek trailhead and skinned up to the Rocky Mountaineers cabin. Due to a massive snow storm earlier in the week ( 3 ft of snow in parts of the Bitterroot valley) the skinning up to the cabin was slow going. We arrived at the cabin by mid-afternoon and after unloading our packs we skinned up to about 8400 ft and dug a snow pit to evaluate the local avalanche conditions. Joshua who recently completed his Pro level 1 avalanche course was a great resource for helping us interpret the snowpack and estimate the avalanche risk. We then skied down to the cabin and enjoyed the warmth of the wood stove. The next morning Ted Morrison met us at the cabin and we all headed up to the summit. Our first run was down the NE slope on low angle terrain to about 7000 ft elevation. The first 500 ft drop felt like skiing on a groomer and then transitioned to amazing 1 foot deep powder. The conditions could not have been better and we did not observe any obvious signs of snow instability. As we skinned back up from that first run we met Forest Dean who came up for the night. He had timed his visit so perfectly he didn’t have to break even one foot of trail. We then skied a couple more runs and headed back to the cabin. Forest redeemed himself by resupplying some of the necessary cabin staples. The next morning we again awoke to more spectacular weather – cold, crisp, blue skies, and no wind. We headed back up for a couple more runs and then skied down to civilization for a celebratory dinner and beer at Lolo Peak brewery.