The Tusk, Elephant Mountain

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The Tusk, Elephant Mountain

Post by TomTuriano »

3/1/10 email from Ryan Minton:

Thought I'd drop a line and fill you in on some of our findings on Elephant Mountain in the Northern Gallatin from this past weekend. We got a wild hair on Saturday morning and decided to go investigate the skiability of The Tusk, a line which you report on in Select Peaks. In the report, I recalled you saying that Saari had talked about the feature, and that the skiing was a "fun little puzzle." Curiosities piqued, we climbed Elephant and got to the top of the Tusk gully, only to find it scoured and full of rock. Not to be deterred, we downclimbed the rock to a point where we reached a vertical rock step, and after a short rappel, we put our skis on and descended a short section of the couloir before being forced over to the skiers left of the ice climb on a shallow snow bench. We then encountered an increasingly narrowing chute with an ice bulge in it, and opted to rappel the bulge, which brought us to the looker's right of the Tusk pillar. From there we skied punchy snow down to the trail. My amazement came at trying to comprehend how Lowe and Saari descended the Tusk, and what conditions were like when they did it...if the gully filled in all the way, it would have potential to be a classic descent, and I wonder if they were able to ski more than downclimb/rappel...because we certainly were not able to. In Saari's reference to "hopping backwards down a narrow chute with skis on," I'm assuming that took place on the narrow chute we rappelled at the bottom. The ice bulge made it feel unsafe for skiing, and again, makes me wonder if conditions were better on their descent, or if Saari was just that good. Is there anything else in their report that sheds light on this? I'm curious...

Ryan Minton
Bozeman, MT
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