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+  Turns All Year Trip Reports
|-+  2018 Backcountry Trip Reports
| |-+  August 2018 Backcountry Trip Reports
| | |-+  8-7/8-18 Whitetail and Castle Peak, Beartooths MT.
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Author Topic: 8-7/8-18 Whitetail and Castle Peak, Beartooths MT.  (Read 1858 times)

Posts: 9

8-7/8-18 Whitetail and Castle Peak, Beartooths MT.
« on: 08/19/18, 11:06 AM »

I first heard of the iconic Whitetail couloir when working at Lifelink in Bozeman back in 1999. The stories held a firm grasp in my mind for the last 19 years. I had wanted to go there over Memorial Day weekend but a poor forecast had me heading to Baker and the North Cascades (good choice!) With the abundant snowfall in the Beartooths this year, and a college friends wedding in the beginning of August in Bozeman, I had decided to bring my skis, and see what happens.

I started up the 8.5 mile approach to base camp slogging away eating fresh raspberries. After running into some backpackers who told stories of lots of snow lingering in the high country, my pace quickened hoping to make some turns that afternoon. I set up camp around noon, and took off shortly afterwards setting my sights on Montana’s 4th highest peak-Castle peak and its NE couloir. Rounding the corner, I could see I might be in luck, with a snow bride sneak around the bergschrund. I was able to top out on the plateau, sneak in the summit and make my way back to the couloir. Decent turns at the top eventually led to dirty, sun cupped, rock filled snow-but I really didn’t care was just pumped to be in the alpine making turns in an amazing setting! I made my way back to camp sat and stared at the what I had come for-the whitetail couloir.

Camping at shadow lake, you have a direct view of the couloir. I could see from camp it had a runnel in it, likely ice at the top, and looked scary as f$*k. This time of year it is typically considered a climbing route rather than a ski descent. I spent an hour debating about attempting it the following day. What am I trying to prove? Why do I want to go up there? Just go ski the other couloir that looked to be better skiing. You are solo, don’t take the chance etc... I ultimately decided I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t at least try it. I was a 12 hour drive and 4 hour hike away. Just climb till you hit ice and turn around I told myself. No expectations. Skiing is supposed to be fun right? I wasn’t there to “peak out” but to ski.

The next morning I began the climb up the couloir enjoying the solitude and firm snow. It was an enjoyable snow climb but I was being conscious of the ice that was creeping in on both sides. I never measured it, but the couloir is steep-close to 50 degrees and sustained.  Near the top the ice connected from both sides. I only had one ice axe and a whippet so I set my ego aside and found a place to chill waiting for the snow to soften. After a half hour I became restless and put my skis on. My first few turns felt good, but then the snow became inconsistent with ice lingering underneath the surface in spots. I just was having a hard time trusting it, so again, checking my ego at the door, I began sidestepping down the crux (between the runnel and rock wall). Arrive alive I told myself and focused on each individual movement.  Once through that I crossed the runnel and began making turns letting the tension in my body free. Nice snow-cleanish, relatively smooth, and soft had me linking turns exclaiming “now that feels like skiing!” This lasted for a bit till the apron area where it became dirty and sun cupped but skiing is still skiing. I made it back to camp, packed up and began the trek out. What a wonderful experience! Close to 2000’ of skiing both days.

I live in McCall, Idaho and haven’t ever fully completed a TAY, but am hoping to do so this year. Thank you to everyone for your trip reports, wealth of information, and endless stoke!

Whitetail couloir and Ne couloir of Castle respectably in the photos.

* IMG_8534.JPG (141.65 KB, 640x480 - viewed 722 times.)

* IMG_8531.JPG (88.78 KB, 640x480 - viewed 718 times.)
« Last Edit: 08/19/18, 09:37 PM by clubber » Logged

Posts: 2433

Re: 8-7/8-18 Whitetail and Castle Peak, Beartooths MT.
« Reply #1 on: 08/19/18, 03:06 PM »


Posts: 1006

Re: 8-7/8-18 Whitetail and Castle Peak, Beartooths MT.
« Reply #2 on: 08/19/18, 09:08 PM »

Great report! Thanks for the photos. Looks like a totally worthwhile trip.  Sounds scary on day two though.

Posts: 797

Re: 8-7/8-18 Whitetail and Castle Peak, Beartooths MT.
« Reply #3 on: 08/20/18, 10:39 AM »

Spectacular looking terrain.

Posts: 361

Re: 8-7/8-18 Whitetail and Castle Peak, Beartooths MT.
« Reply #4 on: 08/21/18, 04:39 PM »

Great report, and appreciated the insight into your thoughts and decision making process.  That NE couloir of Castle looks nice, the Whitetail a little too sketchy for me in those conditions.
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