Fadgen's Adventures

Fadgen's Adventures
Green Creek Lake

Monday, June 6, 2016

Leatherman Peak (12,228') Ski

Saturday afternoon I scooted away from the IS spring outing as soon as I could, to meet up with Dylan and his GF Bailey, at Amy Lou’s, in Mackay.  After a nice bacon cheeseburger, we loaded their gear into the truck for the drive to the Leatherman Peak trail head, on the West Fork of the Pahsimeroi River.  After the long, bumpy drive, we reached the trail head and set up camp in the dark.  Without much negotiation, we settled on a 5AM departure and tried to sleep. I’m not sure if it was being dead tired (me), the anticipation (Dylan and me) or the creek (all of us), but sleep was hard to come by.

Dylan woke me out of a sound sleep (huh?) at 4:30AM, and after a quick bite we were heading for Leatherman peak with our skis on our back.  We found the two log “bridges” in the dark and were soon moving quickly up the trail.  Well, he was moving quickly.  I was struggling to keep up with his pace, but was doing my best.  Knowing how bad the snow was on yesterday’s climb, we were hoping to be off the mountain by noon.

As it lightened up we came to the only other creek crossing.  Unable to find a way across in the gloom, we headed to our right and started to bushwhack.  As we moved up we eventually hit snow.  And wouldn’t you know it, as the wet mushy snow became thicker, so did the trees.  Nothing beats bushwhacking, except bushwhacking with skis strapped to your back in snow!
Yours truly bushwhacking
After 30 minutes or so, we gained a rocky ridge, and then I heard him shouting with glee.  We had reached the upper cirque and were out of the trees!  At this point Leatherman was towering above us with the top in bright sunshine.

We took a short break at the base.  I was feeling pretty puny at this point, as the bushwhack had taken a bit out of me.  Looking up at the scree that needed to be climbed made me feel more tired. I didn’t want to say anything to Dylan as he was really feeling good, so good he was hooting and hollering about the views.
Dylan heading up
Looking back down the valley
We started up, zig zagging through the steep scree before we eventually reached the snow.  Surprisingly, this snow was relatively solid and allowed us to move upward a little easier. 
Transitioning with Leatherman lit up
Once we reached 10,000 feet it appeared that the snow was more contiguous, so we transitioned to skinning.  Skinning up the mountain was much easier than walking up and we made good time. 
Dylan starting the skin
As the slope steepened at about 10,800 feet, Dylan told me that he had a problem with the heel riser on his binding.  Apparently, it had been bent for some time, but now wasn’t usable.  So he MacGyvered it with a rock and a ski strap.  We headed onward and upward.
Dylan working on his binding
The end result!
Looking good!
Dylan skinning
Me catching my breath
We eventually reached a point where it was too steep to skin and transitioned to booting.  Dylan took the lead as I struggled to stay behind him.  Unfortunately, the warm temperatures the past few days hadn’t allowed the snow to set up, and we were sinking to our knees as we booted up the final 1000 feet.
Looking up

Dylan nearing the summit
The bright sunshine and lack of a breeze made it feel like we were in an oven, but we eventually reached the summit at 10:30AM.  The views from the top were phenomenal with Mount Borah and Mt Church looking like you could reach out and touch them.
Hero shot!

Mt Borah (high point on right)
Mt Church
We took a short break, snapping photos and pounded out a platform to transition to skiing mode.  After getting all our gear in order, we shouldered our packs, clicked into our skis, and smiled at each other.  Afterwards, we talked about how both our hearts were beating in anticipation and fear.  The mountain wasn’t too steep, but we knew the conditions weren’t too good either.
One last look down
With a, “WooHoo!”  Dylan was off for his first turns and they didn’t look too good with the sloppy snow. 

After he stopped, it was my turn and I pushed off.  Yep, the snow definitely wasn’t in too good of shape, but this is what backcountry skiing is all about.  You take the good with the bad, and being out with my boy on a gorgeous day in the Lost Rivers at 12K feet, skiing in June is a pretty damn good day!

We yo-yo’d down the mountain, doing our best to stay on our feet in the mash potato snow.  At one point I caught an edge, lost my ski and did a short roll down the mountain.  Thankfully, I couldn’t go too far in the mushy snow.

Dylan way down there
We quickly made our way down to where we had left our hiking boots, loaded them in our packs and then picked our way down the remaining snow patches.  We eventually ran out of snow at about 9400’ feet.

We were all smiles as we transitioned back to hiking boots and loaded our skis back on the packs.  Looking back up the mountain, we could just make out our tracks, they weren’t the prettiest, but they were ours!

We followed the trail out and found a great log to cross the stream, seeing where we went awry during the hike up.  We made it back to camp and Bailey at 12:40.  Smiles still on our faces!

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A team of adventurers consisting of John, Tamara, Taylor, Dylan, and Shadow Fadgen