Purple Mountain UpSki Mission April 06 2015

Marble's Yule Creek Drainage

We nailed it yesterday in the Marble backcountry!  Tucked in on my secret list for the last few years, I’ve been waiting for the right opportunity for a shot at Purple Mountain - the most remote of lines on the list. We would circumnavigate all the mountains visible in the distance - and still be back to the car before dark!

This wasn’t going to be just a little UpSkiing jaunt, but instead a ski mountaineering and navigational challenge.  Big ski descents, long skins, steep booting, corn, powder, rocky down climbing - We’d blend it all together into one big day (still pretty casual at <12hrs car to car)

Doug looks into our first big descent of the day

By 10am we had logged 4500ft of ascent, 1500 of descent, and were at 12,000' on our 3rd up-down transition.

Following Doug down our 2nd big descent of the day  

From here we skied corn for 2000ft off the backside leading even deeper (literally) into the b ackcountry.  At 10,000’ snow turned to dry ground on the south facing slope.

With great anticipation to finally see with our own eyes the lusted Purple Mountain bowl, we continued downclimbing through steep & loose rock for another few hundred feet into the bottom of the Dark Canyon/Purple Mountain drainage. 

Just as I’d dreamed, the bowl was looking good and the wind was at my back as we rested a few minutes. With UpSkiis out and anticipation high- the wind died and our hearts sunk. We didn’t come all the way out here to skin the nearly 3000’ to the saddle…  so we waited another five minutes, and just before the UpSkiis were repacked – the wind recharged.


In a seemingly VERY SLOW 45minutes, I climbed from 9600’ to the distant 12,500 saddle. Slow – like 2mile per hour… but ascending at an average pace near 4000ft per hour – not so slow after all! Doug, (this being his first UpSkiing outing) had fallen behind. I skied back to find him 1200ft below me and a little frustrated, but his words  “I think I’ll put my skins on” was like pressing the ‘GO’ button,  and he reached the saddle shorly there after.

I lost track of how many laps we put into the bowl in the next 1.5 hours but at least 5000ft worth of play time. At 3pm snow was still feeling great, but it felt like it was time to go home. We packed UpSkiis at the saddle and dropped off the north side into excellent powder turns for 1500+ ft.  A few miles, another 500ft skinning, and another 2500ft of descent got us back to the car still feeling good!