West of Hamilton, Mill Point is a prominent peak with a pyramidal shape and forest, albeit partly burnt, to the summit at 8600 ft. With a trailless approach and numerous ski opportunities, the point requires time to summit and days to explore the possibilities. Approaches are from the canyons south and north of Printz Ridge, Mill Creek to the north and Blodgett Creek to the south. From either trailhead expect about a four hour approach to gain the 4500 vertical or so. The ridge emanating from the summit to the east provides a great approach that allows great views both north and south. This ridge is gained only at the end after the initial few thousand vertical. From the summit there is a fantastic view to the west of the fine advanced ski run due east off the second point of Printz Ridge. Ski runs include glades on a north to east aspect down into Tag Alder Lake. There are long runs south into gullys that descend to Blodgett Canyon. The first one is prominent as a large southeast apron that descends from the summit for 4000 feet to the Canyon. Except for during the most filled in years expect hiking out the final 1000 vertical. The 3000 is worthy. Cross the creek to the trail via logs or wading or walk talus east to the campground for not more than a mile and a half. The next gully west is more sustained, typically more melted out and requires skiing off the summit in the main run and then traversing over the subridge to gain this gully. The next gully west ends at Blodgett Falls and is protected by cliffs at the top as well. I do not know about this one. The final run off Mill Point descends southwest from the summit down a face then gully between Shoshone spire and Flathead Buttress. This requires a bit of a downclimb on the north side to gain the entrance. The above mentioned second point of Printz Ridge has a fine looking east facing gully/bowl run that is quite advanced in its approach and descent. I have not attempted this one yet. It is also possible to ski a variety of runs on the faces that descend back to the Bitterroot Valley. There are some openings in the forest and good snow generally above 5500 feet. The ski runs to Tag Alder Lake being north and east facing are probably the best powder runs for midwinter while the south and east aspects to Blodgett Canyon are great springtime descents.
Friday April 3rd we skied up Mill Creek and climbed the north facing mountain about three miles up canyon and skied some nice east faces. We had one large cornice collapse which took me off the ridge but failed to initiate a slide on the 35 degree slope below. We skied a few laps here before I had to head out for an appointment with the accountant. My ski partners stayed and summitted afterwards and dropping in off the steep 45+ degree east facing peak initiated a slab avalanche that ran most of the way to the toe of the 1500Õ slope. The skiing proves to be very good still, but the ability of the heavy load to adjust has been marginal on all aspects. In the passed cycle since the high snowline event on Monday and Tuesday March 23-24th there has been considerable loading. The snow that came in March 25th and 26th was very light density and with the various slabs on top of this there is the sandwich effect of slab on top of light density snow on hard bed surface. No wonder we have experienced slides on south, north and east aspects.
top two left photos by Don Lange, others by John Lehrman
January 20th- We pulled off a great link up today of the east face of Alaska Peak (Mill 2) and the direct south face of Mill Pt. Alaska peak's east face was not as heavily clad with snow as we had hoped, and once we dropped into this 50+ degree slope, we realized there were a couple rollover rock bands that needed our FULL attention. We made the moves, felt lucky for the warmed settled powder snow staying well put(except for one wet slide we kicked off about a third of the way down) and moved on to Mill 1 where we skied a peak to creek non stop 3800 vertical run from bright sunshine into the ice fog canyon. What an incredible day ski of these two fine peaks in Hamilton's backyard. The south approach to Mill 2 while difficult is straightforward and offers a good alternative to reach the summit with a minimum of rocky ridge fuss. To link the east line to the south line of Mill 1 was an extraordinary tour that gave us about 5600 vertical skiing for the day and seven hours on the trail.The south faces have seen so much sun settling that they seem to have stabilized nicely, however the east faces are still in the process of settling and therefore allowed for a pretty good loose snow wet slide to break under foot and propagate and run another 800 vertical or so. There was sun warmed powder, settled powder and full spring slop on this day tour.
January 18th- We skied another fabulous line today from Printz Ridge south off Alaska Peak. With its sunny 3500+ vertical well softened, we skied top to bottom non stop in about fifteen minutes. It was a thigh burner. This peak to creek really excited my season with many more looking somewhat filled in with snow. With the valleys filled with fog and temperatures hovering about 15-20 degreees colder in the canyons, the south face was a scorcher of deep reflected solar gain and we sunglass and t-shirted it up to the summit in about 4 hours. The run is a long undulating steep run with quite a difficult and exposed approach ascent. There was lots of week old avalanche debris piles and snow rollers. All variably refrozen snow on the approach, we were happy for the harscheizen and whippets. The narrow gully splits a thousand or more feet up from the bottom and the descent route is in the steeper eastern chute. At the top, below the rocks of Printz Ridge the face is a 35+ degree steep broad canvas broken by the occasional tree clump and rock outcropping. We sideslipped into this face from a notch in the ridgeline, before laying into continuous linked turns down the headwall, passed Douglas Fir, around corners picking up side gullys, rolling over slab rock faces, pinching through narrow gullys and chokes,, and spilling out into the valley through an open thicket of talus and willow all the way in the shade to Blodgett Creek. The descent run, then obscured behind turns and rolls, trees and rocks rose far above into the sunshine we quickly noted was missing. Donning parkas for the inversion cold we skied back east toward the valley hiding under a dense fog. The sunny side of the Bitterroots have elegant patchy old growth Ponderosa and Douglas Fir and Sub Alpine Whitebark glades nicely open for ski runs. With the wide open bowls, steep chutes and lanes generally stretching directly from Peak to Creek, there are hundreds to explore in the Range.
January 16-17th- We opened the lodge for fine dining over the weekend to great success and enjoyment of our dinner guests and the chef. I am learning the restaurant business for the first time and enjoyed the opportunity to present the lodge to diners in this unique environment. With a set menu and a view of the valley most of our guests hiked in the 1.5 miles and revved up their appetite. With the fireplace roaring and the courses flowing, we were told by many that it was one of the best meal of their lives. Hopefully we can entice enough people to come for this destination dining opportunity to make a successful go of this part of the business model.We plan to open the restaurant again for the weekend of January 30-31. please take a look at our menu for the weekend.
January 15th- I made a trip up Blodgett Canyon today with two others and we crossed into Mill Canyon via a bowl east of Sears Lake. The snow was warm and sunbaked on the southfacing approach with increasing avy hazard. The ascent was gorgeous with views of High Lake, Blodgett Peak and the whole canyon below our feet. We stuck with the plan of descending the north face to Mill Canyon via a steep headwall, followed by a mellow bowl ski, to a treed traverse to the outer east face which we descended on challenging hard packed variable conditions. We found nothing more than two inches of powder blown here and there and in the trees. Today was the day for this tour and hopefully others. There have been some slides on the south sides and rather little noted today other than some probable ice fall noise and a southeast facing pocket had pulled out high on the ridge west of Castle Crag. On the tour out Mill we ran into wolf sign after about two miles and the moose the pack had been following. Blodgett Canyon in better shape for skiing than Mill as found last year as well.