West Warrior and Swanholm Peak


We skied to the top of West Warrior Peak, but missed Swanholm Peak by about 300' because it was late and we were exhausted.

Note: click images to see a larger version in a new window

I had been poring over the maps looking for a big loop with several possible summits that would be relatively safe from avalanches, and also completely skiable. I settled on West Warrior Peak, with a loop around the drainage that includes Swanholm Peak. As the crow flies, it's about 15 miles with a total elevation change of about 4500'. Todd said he'd join me. He forgot to tell me he had been on a lazy streak recently. Here he is at it again.

It was a beautiful day, unseasonably warm, sunny, and not a breath of wind. As we worked our way up the drainage, we finally got a peek at Swanholm. Todd noted that it looked a long ways away. I explained that we were actually turning up the drainage to the right, and that the "long way" constituted a major shortcut to our route.

After we swung off into the eastern drainage, we got a look at West Warrior Peak. It didn't really seem much closer.

We pulled the sleds for another mile, then we had to shoulder our packs. Uggh.

The ridge we followed was primarily southern exposure, so there wasn't a ton of snow. We labored up to about 7600' and set up camp. We were lucky enough to find a mostly flat area without snow that was big enough for the tent.

That night at 10pm, I checked the thermometer in my watch- it was 48 degrees in the tent. Weird.

The next morning we climbed higher up the ridge, to about 7800'. Then we traversed around the false summit, gaining the actual ridgetop at 8100'. It was about 10am. We were running late.

The day was heating up rapidly as Todd approached the summit of West Warrior. That's Steel Mountain in the left background.

We sat only briefly on the summit- it was already almost 11:30, and we had a longgggggg way to go. Still, it made more sense to finish the loop than posthole back down the ridge, which would have been unskiable because it was steep and no room for turns through the alder.

The view on top was outstanding. Again, warm, not a breath of wind. Click on the picture to see the Rakers and Monte Verita ridge.

As the day wore on, I got too tired to pull my pack off for pics. From West Warrior, we followed a long, curling ridgeline toward Swanholm. As we dropped off the shoulder of the ridge to avoid another false summit, we were forced to climb back up to clear a giant, north-facing avalanche bowl. Regaining the ridge, it was too narrow and corniced to ski, so we walked. With a full pack on, I fell into a tree well right up to my armpits. The traverse to Swanholm took too long, and as we traversed about 2 miles of steep bowls, the south-facing slopes were getting suspiciously slurpy...making me nervous. We finally found the jeep trail off of the west ridge of Swanholm, but we were moving slow and had to stop to melt water. We finally hit the main road just as the sun set and it turned dark. At least I finally knew where we were. Sound good?

Not when you consider how far it still was to the car. We snowplowed down those icy snowmobile trails for a full 7 miles in the dark!

Mr. Natural Home | 2005 | Back to top of page | Questions :: e-mail to splattski