Sugarloaf Peak as approached from Chaffin
Creek has an amazing north face with a sliver couloir that splits the face on
the north and allows the skier access to the summit snowfield and the peak. A
committing tour for the advanced skier there are plenty of moderate options in
the lower basin and around the lakes. The trail approach is good when well covered
with snow with a steady climb and therefore a quick exit.
April 20, 2008- Yesterday
saw me skiing again and despite the snowy weather the limited visibility held
quite well and Brian Story and I were able to navigate up Chaffin Creek to ski
the Sugarloaf. After skiing the Tin Cup Wall aka the Fortress, and getting a good
look at the north face it has seemed like a great destination with its bold summit
snowfield, thin western couloir and fine apron. The drainage climbs quickly so
that once at the base of the Sugarloaf there is no more than 2500 vertical to
climb. The fresh snow provided good dust on crust and we skinned to where edging
became difficult and then commenced fairly easy bootpacking. The climb up through
the couloir was beautiful and the exit out onto the broad face was a nice juxtaposition.
We skinned and hiked to the summit where I spent no more than two minutes with
limited views except to the run ahead. Skiing the upper face was nice powder and
the abrupt end to the face below on the cliffs gave an eerie sense to hanging
on a snowfield. Entering the couloir was tight and required some sideslipping
but once into the line, the hop turns were quite fun and pleasant. The apron was
4" dust on a bomber crust and after a second run there we shussed out the
canyon in little more than an hour. An excellent tour with good options on the
north side of the creek on south faces as well.
Sunday April 5th found
the sun shining brightly as we approached Sugarloaf Peak in the southern Bitterroots.
With cold temperatures, we had high hopes that the north face of this splendid
peak would hold good stable powder. Following another party’s broken trail as
far as the toe of the western peak approach chute, the snow was perfect as we
broke trail to the summit.
by amazing views of the north face of the Trapper Peak Ridge we basked in the
sunshine and perfect high pressure weather. The descent from the summit was superfine
in well settled powder on the upper face and good conditions in the narrow western
chute. Below in the exit bowl the snow held fast and afforded great skiing to
the flats below.
We headed back
up the trail and headed into the eastern chute to explore this fine looking line.
Bootpacking as high as the skiing would stay good, we had another fine couloir
descent before schussing out the canyon.
During the day
of sun, most of the steep south facing terrain of Chaffin Creek across from the
Sugarloaf peeled off wet slabs running hard and fast to the toes of the slopes.
Every ten minutes we would stop and watch as another flume of wet snow would hurtle
down the steep mountainside. By the end of the day all steep slopes had coughed
debris and the conditions had settled down.