St Mary Peak (Bitterroots) May 18, 2024

Date: May 18, 2024

Leader: Sean Colvin

Participants: Kaitlen ODell, Jay Osorio

We left Missoula around 6:45 and made it to the summer trailhead just after 8:00. The road up to the trailhead was almost completely clear, bar a couple small snow patches just barely holding on. By 8:15 we were headed up the trail on foot. A light dusting of snow from the night before speckled the trail, which was full of needle ice pushing up through the soil.

After about a half mile, the snow was consistent enough for me to put on skis. We continued up another mile to just below the ridgeline ~8000’ before Kaitlen and Jay donned snowshoes. Drawn by the views, we briefly tried to follow the ridgeline, but the intermittent rocks quickly pushed us back down to the summer trail for easier snow travel. At ~8400’ we diverged from the summer trail for a more direct ascent up the snowy southeast face. Following a quick transition to foot travel over a dry patch at the 9000’ plateau, we were back to snow travel for the final summit push, reaching the lookout at 11:15. After soaking in the views at the USGS marker and a quick summit pic, we retreated from the wind to the lookout for a nice long lunch in the sun on the east deck.

At 12:15 we started our descent. The snow was firm with spots of icy sun crust on the way up, but it had softened very nicely for some fun turns on the skis. Kaitlen and Jay took the summer trail down while I skied the same way we had climbed. We met back at our upward diversion point around 8400’. A few squalls and snow flurries blew out from the west keeping surface temps down just enough to stop everything turning to slush as we made our way down the summer trail from there. I managed to stay on the skis until about a half mile from the trailhead while snowshoes were minimally needed, if at all, for the full decent on foot. Back to the car by 3:15, we started the drive back to Missoula, stopping for some food & beers at Lolo Brewing. 5-star day on a classic bitterroot peak!

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