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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Spring Skiing: Gash Point and Trapper Peak

The group on the summit of Trapper on a blue bird day.
During the winter, I did most of my skiing at the resort, but since they've all closed, I've been trying to get out into the back country once a week. Two weeks ago, I went up to Gash Point, which I snowshoed up two years ago. After summiting the peak, I skied mellow slopes down, saving the steeper bowls for a day with a partner. Then this past weekend, I joined a Rocky Mountaineers on a trip up Trapper Peak. Alden Wright has run this trip for over 15 years and turned 75 years old the next day. 

Getting up into the mountains this time of year is fantastic. Winter is still in full swing up high and the peaks are chock-full of snow, making them as beautiful as during any other time of year. The snow also stabilizes, making travel easier and avalanche conditions less worrisome. And it's great to keep getting in turns well into spring.

Summit bench mark.

Laurie Stalling reaches the summit.

Ed Stalling follows soon after.
The rest of the group approaches.
Summit chillin', literally, it was cold.

Dave Patterson and I are both Professors in the Math Department.
Heading down: Piquett Mountain in the background.

Gash Point summit selfie.

And Pudge.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

A Trip to Butte and Fleecer Mountain

Fleecer about a mile or two in from the car.
For the past several years, I've been thinking that I need to make more of an effort to visit my mom in Butte. It's a stages of life thing: my kids are getting older (this month Alex will be 20 and Ellie 17) and need me less, while my mom is also getting older (she's now 67) and would like me to visit her more. So last weekend, I took a quick trip to Butte, skied Discovery on the way over, hung out with Mom in the evening and the next morning, and then bagged Fleecer Mountain the next day before heading home. 

Fleecer is a high prominence (2000+ feet) summit to the southwest of Butte that you can see from uptown. It sits massive to the west of I-15 about a 20 mile drive from Butte. To get to Fleecer Road, get off of I-15 at the Feeley Exit and head west toward the peak. It's a nice place to go this time of year. I was able to drive, easily, to about 6400 feet on the Fleecer Road. Then the last 3000 feet to the summit took 2.5 hours on foot, then snowshoes. There was another group on the mountain, who had snowmobiled part way up and then switched to backcountry ski gear. I regretted not bring mine, but it was a great day nonethless, and an enjoyable trip to Butte. I look forward to more of the same in the coming years.     
The Highlands to the east of Fleecer.
Looking north toward Deer Lodge and the Flint Range from the summit. Mount Haggin is on the eastern edge of the picture.
The Pintlers from Fleecer.
The Pioneers to the south from Fleecer's summit.
A panoramic video from the summit.
Words to live by hanging from Mom's bathroom wall.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Spring Break in the Desert

Needles District of Canyonlands.
Jen and I first went to Moab, Utah together not long after we met in 1993, when we took a fall mountain bike trip with a friend from Butte. At the time, I was 19 and Jen was 18, and Jen had actually been to Moab several times previously while she was in high school in Salt Lake City. Since that first trip, we've been back to the Utah/Arizona desert most years, so by now it's fair to say that the place is in our blood. 

On this trip, since we had Ellie along, we tailored the trip to her. Ellie loves backpacking and hanging out with her friends, so we arranged a backpacking trip in the Needles District of Canyonlands -- a place we've all been multiple times -- and some time in Moab, where she had friends staying. 

While in Moab, Jen and I did two mountain bike rides: the classic Procupine Rim (which we did on that first trip long ago) and the exceptional HyMasa/Captain Ahab loop on the Amasa Back several miles down the Colorado River from Moab. Both rides were great fun, and we talked about future trips, when we would be on our own and could spend more time riding in Moab.

After a couple of nights in Moab, we headed down to the Needles District of Canyonlands and returned to Salt Creek Canyon, where we had last been nearly ten years ago. We spent two nights on Salt Creek, day hiking up to the amazing Angle Arch on our second day, and then on our return trip, we detoured up Lost Canyon for our third night. It was a great four days, with the  highlight being the relaxed family time together and conversations with Ellie.

All in all, it was yet another great trip. As always, it was bittersweet driving up out of Moab and beginning the long drive home. There's something about that spring trip to sun and heat that feels like home. I'm already looking forward to next year.

Porcupine Rim with Castleton Tower in the background.

Porcupine Rim riding.

Ellie hiking out to Salt Creek

This spot is off the beaten path. I found it on our last Salt Creek trip and was glad to return. Previous human left hand prints, perhpas marking the passage of time. This must have been a yearly camp spot.

Petroglyphs again at Peekaboo Camp.

Walking up Salt Creek.

Salt Creek.

Angel Arch.

Hiking up out of Salt Creek, heading to Lost Canyon.

Our Lost Canyon Camp. 

Heading out of Lost Canyon on our last day.

The beginning of Captain Ahab, which we road on the day we left Moab.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Friday, February 24, 2017

Hal Kanzler's Mission Mountains Map

I was given the above map last week by Lois Crepeau of the Rocky Mountaineers. I've hung it up in my office at the University of Montana and have been finding myself regularly inspired by it. The author of the map is Hal Kanzler, the patriarch of a family that is legendary in the Montana climbing community. Hal Kanzler was a WWII veteran, who found his solace in the mountains and was sufficiently obsessed with the Missions that he made the above map. According to the description in the upper-right corner, the research -- consisting of many climbing trips -- was done by Kanzler from 1954-62. 

Two more consequences of Hal Kanzler's obsession with Montana peaks are his sons Jerry and Jim, who grew up in Columbia Falls and from grade school on climbed with their dad in the local mountain ranges. It is noted in an excellent Flathead Beacon article by Tristan Scott that Jerry and Jim climbed Mount St. Nicholas -- one of the most difficult peaks in Glacier, requiring 5.9 climbing -- with their dad at ages 12 and 15 in 1963 (an astounding feat), the same year that the Mission Mountains map above was published. 

The Kanzlers moved to Butte when the brothers were in high school, and continued climbing. They pioneered routes on several local crags, the most prominent being "The Wedge" in the Humbug Spires (a regular haunt of mine during college), which they named and were the first to climb. Tragedy struck, however, when Hal Kanzler committed suicide in 1967. I lost my father when I was 25, and given my experience with that tragedy, I know that the Kanzler brothers' were traumatized and that their super-charged climbing ambitions were partly a product of this awful event. 

In 1969, at 18 years old, Jerry Kanzler attempted the north face of Glacier Park's Mount Cleveland, one of two of the tallest rock faces in the lower 48 and a dangerous climb. He and his group died in an avalanche on the attempt.  Following his brother's death, Jim Kanzler became obsessed with climbing the north face of Mount Cleveland, which he did succesfully with Terry Kennedy in 1976. The pair then set their sights on the even more dangerous and difficult north face of Mount Siyeh (the other tallest rock face in the lower 48 and also in Glacier), which they successfully climbed, after several years and their fourth attempt, in 1979. In Tristan Scott's article, linked above, Kanzler is quoted as calling Siyeh a "death route" and "the most serious and dangerous climbing I have ever done." Jim Kanzler died in 2011, at the age of 63, which Scott's article says was also a suicide. Terry Kennedy wrote a stirring tribute to Jim Kanzler after his death for the American Alpine Club, which can be linked to here, and he also wrote a story about Kanzler for the magazine Explore Big Sky, which can be linked to here

The story of the Kanzler men is fascinating, inspiring, and tragic. And it has at least some of its roots in the creation of the 1963 Mission Mountain Map. It's easy to imagine Hal Kanzler exploring the Missions doing 'research' for the making of the map, with his young sons in tow, each of them honing their climbing skills along the way, and setting the course for the rest of their lives.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Little Saint Joe's Peak and Ski, Bitterroots

Looking off into the Bitterroot: Saint Mary and Heavenly Twins are on the horizon.
All photos were taken by Matt Roscoe
This past weekend, I went backcountry skiing for the first time in a long time, and for the first time with my new backcountry gear. Matt Roscoe, Paul Jensen, and I skied up Little Saint Joe's, which is on the east-west facing ridge, also containing Saint Joseph Peak, just south of Sweeney Peak in the Bitterroots. We had great skiing and a rejuvenating mini-vacation. I'm stoked to get out into the backcountry more this season and hopefully bag a few peaks along the way.

So far it's been a great ski season. During the week before last, we had a two day storm, on a Monday/Tuesday, yielding a fantastic couple of Snowbowl days. I extended the great powder skiing into the following weekend by hiking TV Mountain a bunch of times. TV is my favorite area at Snowbowl to ski, but it gets good only when it stays cold and snows, as it has this year. The last time TV skiing was any good was three seasons ago.

Anyway, I've been doing my best to enjoy the pleasures of winter.
Morning skinning.
Paul Jensen, a Missoula backcountry skiing/climbing legend.
On the summit
Great snow in the Little St. Joe east facing bowl.
Matt, the photographer, under a bluebird sky.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017