Joined: Sat Dec 15, 2007 5:44 pm Posts: 696 Location: The Magic City
The first week of summer class is over, and I’m now a Billings resident, meaning you should see a lot more trip reports from the Crazies (like this one), Beartooths, Bighorns, Tensleep, and Devils Tower.
Unfortunately I had to make a mad dash back to Bozeman over the weekend since I had no time to “move out” after Ryan and I returned from our awesome Gros Ventre trip. Thankfully, the Crazies provide a perfect halfway point between Billings and Bozeman. I rallied Ryan and he recruited two other Bozemanites, Patrick Lawrence (nomad) and Josh Gage, to join in on the fun.
This was my first trip into the Crazies this year, and the contrasts from the megawinter of 2010-11 were apparent immediately. Based on my few trips last spring, the snowpack seems to be deteriorating about a month faster than last year. Although the coverage is incomparably worse, there is one slight advantage to the lower snowpack and warmer temps: the snow that remains seems to have fully undergone the transition to summer snow. Stepping out of skis/boards onto snow, even at 3 PM, found you on top of the snow rather than sinking to your thigh. Kind of nice.
Our party made pretty good time to the basin below Crazy Peak’s North Face, following an approach route we had sussed out on various skis of the lines just east of the north face last season. Finally coming into view of the face, however, brought some disappointment. The cherry line (“direttissima”, if you will), was not in, lacking adequate coverage in at least two crucial spots. Too bad, but the beauty of the Crazies is its vast skiability. There are a number of lines and aspects to choose from in the core of the range, all concentrated pretty well.
Josh and nomad climbing below Crazy Peak’s North Face.
Continuing up and over a ridge into another basin put us right at the base of the Northwest Face, which looked to be good and rideable. We began charging upward on a super-firm freeze surface. At times it was difficult to plunge the shaft of our axes inward, but never quite steep or firm enough to require front-pointing or using the pick.
Josh Gage gets a special mention for the day for climbing this shit without crampons. Nice work bud.
The foreshortening effect of the Crazies came into play once again as it took us about twice as long to ascend the face as I’d thought it would. But I’m OK with that- it simply means more skiing! Along with the skiability factor, the big vert you get on these runs is truly unparalleled in southwest Montana.
Gage topping out on the NW Face, with a tiny Ratman visible on the talus lower in the photo.
Knowing we were in for a long wait, we settled in on top of the face for a solid 2 hours. At a point where maximum antsy-ness was reached, we decided the face was as soft as it would get and we strapped in. The descent that followed was the most gripping of the season for me. Things had not softened much (if at all) in the two hours we’d waited, and each turn required focus and tenacity. Ryan and I talked about this some after the descent and thought that if the face had be even 2 degrees steeper or the terrain any narrower, we probably would have downclimbed. As it was, however, the angle was just mellow enough to allow us to remain in control and shred comfortably, albiet tentatively, down the 2,000′ entirety of the face. Kudos to nomad for leading the way and riding things as well as they could’ve been ridden.
I was too gripped to bust the camera out on the face, but managed a couple of photos once through the crux and onto lower-angled terrain.
Josh in the choke at the bottom of the face. Foreshortened NW Face above. Turns barely visible, just “scratching the surface”.
Once we hit the apron below the face proper, the lower angle and slight change in aspect provided some excellent corn skiing for the remaining 2000′ out of there.