Monday, May 17, 2010

Sunday School: Skiing the North Face of Mt Church

Aki and I headed over to the Lost Rivers again last weekend. The truck was packed with climbing, biking and ski gear; we were ready for anything! When friends bailed on our planned bolting adventure, I knew it was time to go skiing.

It's not often that the conditions, weather and road openings converge to make skiing the high peaks in the Lost Rivers a possibility.

We began by driving over Pass Creek in route to the Upper Pahsimeroi Valley. Even though this way involved more driving on dirt roads, we were already in the Pass Creek area and I hadn't done the drive in a decade or so. At Pass Creek Summit Aki encouraged me to ski this 200' wind roll. The reward, more than the ski, was the view from the top! To the north vast amounts of alpine terrain covered in snow!

The Little Lost River Valley, Bell Mountain and Butte County.

After hours of dirt roads and rough driving, we arrived at the East Fork of the Upper Pahsimeroi. Aki relaxes in the evening sun while I run around like mad looking at all the alpine terrain!

We could see Mt Church from camp and I began packing my kit for an early morning start. I had been through this area on a 6 day solo backpack trip 12 years ago and it felt great to return. The terrain was even more spectacular then I remembered!

Entering the alpine after navigating several miles of dense trees in the lower valley. We camped at 8200' and after a mile hike I was able to put skis on at 8400'. Not bad for skiing in the middle of May!

The summit of Mt Church: 12,200, the third highest peak in the state. It was 4000' and just under 4 miles from camp. I was fortunate enough to skin to about 11, 600' before booting the rest.

My boot pack along the ridge with Donaldson and Brietenbach in the background.

3, 2, 1... dropping!

I skinned up the large ramp (green) on the left, booted through the "keyhole" near the large rock band, to the summit ridge. I skied the central ramp right off the summit (red) down through the lower rock band. The top was a little wind effected and my first 10 turns were firm, then it was cold, boot top pow to the dogleg, then slight sun effected snow for a bit before turning to perfect corn on the lower portion of the face. From top to bottom it's about a 2400' foot run! Has anyone skied this line before? I'd like to hear what conditions you found.
What a line!

Thanks to the Lost Rivers and Aki for such a fantastic weekend!


  1. Great line, Marc! And damn, sorry we missed you! We were camped at the head of the West Fork. Shoulda let you know our plans! It was a busy weekend in the LRR - someone skied Leatherman from the west side on Saturday; we skied it Sunday after skiing a great couloir above Merriam Lake on Saturday. br

  2. Very nice work! If my Shwankle is up for it, I may head over that way (maybe the Lems) very soon. Seems like everyone is skiing over there! That is awesome.

  3. WTG Marky Mark. Erik and Lundy were the leaterman skiiers on Saturday. I am jealous of your single footloose and fancy free lifestyle.

  4. Hey Mark, Steve Romeo at Teton AT puts lines on his photos so we know where he skiied.

  5. Damn!! Nice! Ive heard a lot of "big talk" about skiing one of those narrow North side slivers. Ive not heard of anyone else picking that plump but I run in a pretty small crowd.
    I've been up the central ramp, pretty smooth and steep. I dropped off the ridge from Bad Rock so I don't know how bad the bushwhack thru the trees is. Also, if I go, I'll probably ski the East edge of the face where you booted up. How was the snow on that part of the hill?
    No helmet cam?? Grrr!

  6. Blase- Sorry we missed you too! We ran into your friends from Driggs as they were driving out. They told us you were up the West Fork. I was tempted to come say "Hi" and have a beer, but I know that road! So close, yet so far! Yea that was Erik and Chris that skied Leatherman on Saturday. Do you have photos from Merriam? -would love to see them!

    Matt- Single? Well, not quite single, but we don't have the dependents that you have! Ours rides in the back of the truck! Yea, it's a bummer my tracks didn't show up in the photo, so I went ahead and photoshopped some lines in for clarity. Thanks for suggesting it. How are the knees? Off crutches?

    Wes- Thanks Wes. Check the photo again now that I've drawn some lines on there for reference. The bushwhack wasn't all that bad, just challenging on the exit when things were getting punchy! I think you'd probably find good skiing on the line that I ascended. Have fun! Sorry no helmet cam... I was trying to go fast and light!

  7. Ralph- your photos from hells look pretty cool! Looks like you had a great weekend too!

  8. Yup, that's the line! No doubt some of those left hand turns looked pretty airy and the right turns felt a little boxed in. Thanks for the info!

  9. Nice work Mark. That looks awesome. We went up Kent and got our butts kicked. Six hours of hiking and still didn't summit. Although we did get some pretty sweet corn like you mentioned but no boot top pow. Would love to meet up and go ski. Get in touch with me.

  10. CHris-
    Good to hear from you! I take it the North Fork road wasn't open? Eril L. and I skied Kent a couple years ago and were ago to drive to Camp Manapu. It was a beautiful early June day. We hiked on firm snow along the ridge ony to drop into 1000' feel of perfectly breakable crust- the whole way down! Oh well, we made our tracks look good anyways!

    I'm off on TCS Senior Quest this weekend, then to Colorado for my AMGA Alpine Course, Skiing might be over for me this year, unless this weather continues through June! We all have to try and make an effore to get out more often!

    Have a great spring,

  11. ^^^Sorry about all the typos... it was late and it as been a long week!^^^

    I meant we need to get out together more often!

  12. I sure do love the Pahsimeroi. It's my favorite place!