Chasing Alpine on 11,308′

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Couloir and cliffs. The south face of 11,308′

The south aspect of 11,308′ in the Lost River Range has always inspired me. I’ve returned to this face many times over the years to be immersed in craggy alpine terrain. The south side offers a couple of interesting mixed rock/snow/ice climbs and several impressive couloir features. It was these couloir features that prompted a visit on Saturday the 15th of March.

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Contrasting landscape en route to the south face.

Approaching the south face is relatively strait forward and quite fast most of the time. That is unless you wander up the wrong drainage on the west side of the 11,308’/Elkhorn Peak complex. In just over an hour, one can be standing in the bowl below 11,308’s south face. Much of the walking is through open sage with occasional clumps of gnarled trees.

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Firm snow and crampons in steep couloirs!

Heather, Chad and I had hopes of skiing the main south couloir and then if time and conditions permitted, we wanted to ski the White Line Couloir from below the upper crux pitches.

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Heather climbing above some exposure in the south couloir. This was our intended ski descent.

Despite the southerly orientation, the sun was no match for the cold temps and left the snow surface extremely icy and not ideal for skiing in narrow and steep terrain above cliffs.

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So good to be in the alpine with bluebird skies and inspiring scenery!

We knew it was a gamble to find desirable conditions this early in the spring season, but we wanted to get up high in the range and have a look at the snowpack and spend the day climbing and wandering in alpine terrain.

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Open terrain! Time to let the skis pick up speed.

After a bit of down climbing and traversing to mellow terrain we clicked in and started our descent. Snow conditions were variable but we hadn’t expected anything more than what we got. It’s my opinion that skiing in the Lost River or Lemhi Ranges isn’t about skiing the best snow — rather, it’s about skiing a particular feature or from the summit of some desirable peak. If you plan to ski good snow; likely you’ll come away very disappointed most of the time.

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The playful nature of skiing with sharks in the alpine. Heather milking all the vertical she can as we head toward treeline.

We skied many slow and controlled turns avoiding sharks poking their sharp fins through the snow. It was a blast! Having a very low bar for what is quality snow and fun skiing; it was engaging and exciting — mainly due to having sharp edges on our skis!

The snowpack structure is rather poor which is no surprise; however, the coverage is quite good compared to last year. I think we’ll have several fun adventures in these mountains this spring.

Onward!

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