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 Post subject: Whitetail Couloir, Beartooth Range, MT
PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2012 6:33 am 
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Joined: Sat Dec 15, 2007 5:44 pm
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Location: The Magic City
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The phrase “iconic line” gets thrown around perhaps a little too much in the climbing and ski mountaineering worlds, but it still never fails to elicit an immediate response from me. Images of the Ford/Stettner on the Grand, the Skillet Glacier on Mount Moran, and many others flood my mind, including the site of our most recent adventure, the Whitetail Couloir on Whitetail Peak, close to home in the Beartooths.

My original plan was to do it car-to-car on Monday, using my four-day-weekend schedule to take advantage of a good weather window. However, an almost coincidental mentioning of the trip to my friend Simon (who I assumed would be working on Monday) got him pretty fired up. He managed to get Monday off work and come along, as well as convince me to do the trip as an overnight. As always, the blessing and the curse of the overnight is the giant pack, burdening us on the way in but allowing for a more leisurely pace on the 10 mile approach and sparing us from a 4 AM start time the next day. And more time spent in the mountains is never a bad thing.

Preppin’ at the West Fork trailhead
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Simon and I left the West Fork trailhead at about 1 PM on Saturday. We quickly made it to snowline above Quinnebaugh Meadows, where we battled isothermic snow and rock walking on the skis to a more consolidated snowpack about 2 miles below the base of Whitetail. As an aside- special props to my friend Ben ( who’d been in the drainage the day before us. He’d forgotten his skins and postholed through isothermic shit an incredibly demoralizing distance towards Whitetail. We kept seeing the tracks and thinking it must’ve been some crazed fisherman, looking to “get away from it all” or something. Anyway…

Snowline near Quinnebaugh Meadows, near first views of the line
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Further yet…
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Skinning into the upper reaches of the West Fork of Rock Creek blew my mind as the ski terrain kept revealing itself. I’d never been in here before and was amazed to find that once you get into the basin below Whitetail, the peaks open up and become less plateau-like and more reminiscent of terrain around Goose Lake. As with most areas around here, I arrive with one line on my mind and leave with 5 more added to the list. We found a nice little melted out hummocky area to throw down on, made some dinner, drank a bit of tequila, and crashed out under a beautiful starry sky.

Camp
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Temps felt good on Monday morning. Things had definitely frozen at our camp elevation of 9500′ and the day dawned clear, so Simon and I were fired up about our prospects in the couloir. A strong wind blew at all elevations. I noticed white plumes dancing along the high ridgelines, indicating cold temperatures but also windloading of the new snow from Friday and Saturday.

After a quick oat breakfast, we began rallying up to the base of the couloir. The firm surface saw us transition from skinning to crampons almost immediately, and we made good time up the first 1500′ of the couloir.

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Terrain near Castle Mountain, lots of great lines visible
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Simon climbing
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At a certain point, we began to punch through an obvious windslab. This was disappointing to say the least, and we pulled off to a sheltered alcove to assess things. Our results indicated an active windslab varying from 6-12″ deep poorly bonded and actively propagating on the melt/freeze crust below it. Not overly important if you’re in a 600′ line in Hyalite, but certainly more consequential 2000′ up a giant, exposed Beartooth gully.

The problem
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A small sluff from above ran past us as we were contemplating our options, indicating rapidly warming temps and seeming to affirm the decision to bail. With the crux (the essence of the line in my opinion) and about 500′ of beautiful couloir still above us, the decision was not an easy one, but our observations made the reasoning clear. Besides, as my friend Ryan Minton likes to say, ski mountaineering is a lifelong pursuit. As long as you come home safely, there’ll always be another shot. We chopped out platforms to strap in and rallied 2000′ of windbuff and corn back to camp.

Always psyched
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Excellent riding conditions
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Heading out truly tested the limits of our “Teton Style” approach (wearing boots car-to-car). Probably not a decision I’ll make again.

Can’t wait to revisit this beautiful valley.

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 Post subject: Re: Whitetail Couloir, Beartooth Range, MT
PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2012 10:14 am 
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Joined: Tue Jul 13, 2010 2:09 pm
Posts: 330
Location: Colorado
Way to stay safe, but still looks like a fun day! MT looks sweet!


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 Post subject: Re: Whitetail Couloir, Beartooth Range, MT
PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2012 10:45 am 
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Joined: Fri Jun 03, 2011 10:39 am
Posts: 107
Location: Helena, MT
The Beartooths are just so damn pretty- and what a great line.
For another day!

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 Post subject: Re: Whitetail Couloir, Beartooth Range, MT
PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2012 1:40 pm 
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Joined: Mon Feb 22, 2010 10:17 pm
Posts: 280
Nice TR--thanks for posting!


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 Post subject: Re: Whitetail Couloir, Beartooth Range, MT
PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2012 3:36 pm 
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Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 10:28 am
Posts: 87
wow. that line is another one of "the most beautiful things iv'e ever seen"


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 Post subject: Re: Whitetail Couloir, Beartooth Range, MT
PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2012 8:21 pm 
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Joined: Sat Dec 15, 2007 5:44 pm
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Location: The Magic City
Thanks guys!
brainsteak wrote:
wow. that line is another one of "the most beautiful things iv'e ever seen"

The quotes around that crack me up for some reason... :D

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 Post subject: Re: Whitetail Couloir, Beartooth Range, MT
PostPosted: Fri May 25, 2012 9:32 am 
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Joined: Sat Jun 16, 2007 11:18 pm
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Location: reiter hills
Yeah.. that is gorgeous!

Iconic for sure.


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 Post subject: Re: Whitetail Couloir, Beartooth Range, MT
PostPosted: Fri May 25, 2012 12:11 pm 
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Location: Colorado
Nice Nick, always nice to see folks making informed decisions based on the specific conditions. Beautiful spot!

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 Post subject: Re: Whitetail Couloir, Beartooth Range, MT
PostPosted: Fri May 25, 2012 1:29 pm 
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Joined: Wed May 05, 2010 11:08 am
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Location: Calgary
Great TR and great decisions. Way to get after it :thatrocks:

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 Post subject: Re: Whitetail Couloir, Beartooth Range, MT
PostPosted: Sat Jun 02, 2012 4:19 pm 
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Joined: Sat Jan 08, 2005 12:26 pm
Posts: 351
Location: bozeman
Nice! easily in my top 5 lines i've ever ridden. And no runnel!! How did the cornice look? I can't imagine doing it one day car to car unless there was a better skin to booting ratio, and i totally agree on the "teton" style, my feet were pretty rough for a couple days after we did it and i love my boots.


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 Post subject: Re: Whitetail Couloir, Beartooth Range, MT
PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2012 7:28 am 
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Joined: Sat Dec 15, 2007 5:44 pm
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Location: The Magic City
Hey man! There is no cornice this season, which is apparently rare. No runnel at all when we were up there, but I imagine that's changed with the recent warm weather. I had a pal up there this past weekend and am waiting to hear back from him. I think car-to-car would be doable if you didn't have to transition much and had frozen snow to skin on. Would be a huge day though!

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 Post subject: Re: Whitetail Couloir, Beartooth Range, MT
PostPosted: Fri Apr 26, 2013 10:14 am 
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Joined: Fri Jun 03, 2011 10:39 am
Posts: 107
Location: Helena, MT
This year, would you say late May/early June is a good time to attempt this one?

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 Post subject: Re: Whitetail Couloir, Beartooth Range, MT
PostPosted: Mon Apr 29, 2013 12:44 pm 
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Funny you should bring this up Cody as we were just in the area over the weekend. I don't think this will be much of a year for the Whitetail couloir. Nomad and my friend Ned climbed & shredded the SW couloir of Whitetail (I opted out due to crampons falling off my pack earlier in the trip :banghead: ). The southwest is basically the analog to "the" Whitey couloir and you can look down into it from the top of the former line. They did and took this photo: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid ... =1&theater

Like Ned says- at least 100' of blue ice in the top. This seems to be pretty uncommon, so might be worth choosing some other beartooth lines unless you feel like getting technical/bringing screws & tools/rapping...

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