ADVENTURE JOURNAL

Malamute Peak (13,348ft)


After having seen the incredible spires that line Malamute on three or four occasions skiing in the Cathedral Lake area of the Elk Mountains and having had some discussions with my friend Adam Moszynski over the last two seasons we elected to give the summit a go on Tuesday the 7th. Adam has done a bit of recon on the peak in the past and having a very similar approach as previously skied lines on Cathedral Peak, a good freeze thaw, nice breezy conditions keeping the snow cool, we were pretty confident we would reach the summit.


Malamute Peak from the Cathedral Lake Trail.

Malamute Peak from the Cathedral Lake Trail.


Malamute is a  unique peak because it’s often dwarfed by bigger surrounding peaks like Cathedral or Castle Peak. It’s east facing couloirs are also well hidden from view when approaching using the Cathedral Lake summer trail, with just one or two spires being visible, thus the peak doesn’t necessarily attract a lot of traffic in the summer or winter. However, the series of spire based couloirs that encompass the peak, which itself is a tall tower, and the backdrop provided by Castle, Cathedral, Star and other bigger peaks, makes this line extremely picturesque.


 

Adam takes in the view, knowing we have a few more hours of walking before we reach the base of the peak.

Adam takes in the view, knowing we have a few more hours of walking before we reach the base of the peak.


With temperatures being cold and having great breezy weather to help keep our snowpack cool, we were really happy to leave the truck in the early morning sunshine on Tuesday morning. Climbing in the dark is always an ambitious task, often a little creepy with limited sight, and it’s truly great to be able to have an entire approach in the daylight. We took full advantage of the views. Dreaming of our line as we climbed closer to the peak.


 

As we stretched out on our approach, the couloirs and spires began to emerge. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

As we stretched out on our approach, the couloirs and spires began to emerge. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

TJ Skinning with the valley in the background. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

TJ Skinning with the valley in the background. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

The Rolling Approach often kept us from getting that full view of the Peak. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

The Rolling Approach often kept us from getting that full view of the Peak. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

Adam getting within reach of Malamute.

Adam getting within reach of Malamute.

The approach to the base of Malamute took us roughly 3 hours at a moderate pace. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

The approach to the base of Malamute took us roughly 3 hours at a moderate pace. Photo by: Adam Moszynski


With the weather and time on our side we gradually fell into a moderate pace ascending from the valley to the base of Malamute in about 3 hours. It was nice to not feel rushed on this day, with the snow still being firm when we began prepping for the summit. Only a few transitions between skinning and climbing was necessary lower in the valley and this certainly aided in our calmness before the climb.


 

Ready to take on the summit.

Ready to take on the summit.

Skinning with Malamute Peak in the background. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

Skinning with Malamute Peak in the background. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

TJ skinned up to the base of the couloir where we transitioned to our ice axes and boots and started kicking steps. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

TJ skinned up to the base of the couloir where we transitioned to our ice axes and boots and started kicking steps. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

 


A soft, wintery snow allowed us to skin up to the base of the narrow couloir in the photo above. This saved us a lot of time and energy on our approach. The couloir, however was too steep to skin, well shaded with harder snow and it was time to transition.


 

Adam continuing the climb up the steep couloir.

Adam took the lead, kicking steps after I put in the skinner.

Adam took the lead, kicking steps after I put in the skinner.


Adam took the lead, kicking steps after I put in the skin track. The good dynamic allowed both of us to conserve our energy on the climb.


 

I followed Adam up the steep couloir. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

I followed Adam up the steep couloir. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

Adam nears the top of the couloir enroute to the summit.

Adam nears the top of the couloir enroute to the summit.

Adam reaching the top of the couloir.

Adam reaching the top of the couloir.


I followed behind and Adam was able to look back and snap a few incredible photographs as I reached the top of the couloir.


 

In the shadows of the narrow couloir, our approach beneath us. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

In the shadows of the narrow couloir, our approach from the valley floor beneath us. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

Adam heading toward the ridge.

Adam Moszynski heading toward the ridge.


At the the top of the couloir we had several options to the summit. A steep ramp sat above us, an obvious path, or swing out to the climbers left to ascend the ridge. We opted on leaving the steep ramp for our descent and headed out left. 


 

I hiked above the couloir with adam leading the way to the ridge. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

I hiked above the couloir with adam leading the way to the ridge. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

Adam took the line to left toward the ridge.

Adam took the line to left toward the ridge.


Following the ridge line we continued our ascent around the back of the peak in order to continue on snow. We looked for a suitable, skiable line from the summit as we ascended. 


 

I made my way up from the ridge, some mixed climbing certainly dominated the last part of the climb. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

Adam in the icy choke just beneath the summit.

This was the steepest, iciest part of the climb. No falling here. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

This was the steepest, iciest part of the climb. No falling here. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

I continued to climb, undistracted and totally focused despite the incredible backdrop. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

I continued to climb, undistracted and totally focused despite the incredible backdrop. This was the last move back to the skree and the summit Photo by: Adam Moszynski


With some great relief after the last couple moves, we both made the summit! We were greeted with incredible 360 degree views of Elk Mountains and settled in to enjoy and rest. 


 

Adam and TJ Summit Selfie

Adam and TJ Summit Selfie

Adam was stoked! Malamute Summit (13,343ft)

Adam was stoked! Malamute Summit (13,348ft)

I enjoyed the view of Castle Peak from the summit of Malamute. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

I enjoyed the view of Castle Peak from the summit of Malamute. Photo by: Adam Moszynski


There was barely enough snow to make a ski descent from the summit, but with a little rock to snow to rock to skree stepping we were able to make a successful ski from the top.


 

Adam took it from snow to skree to snow to get his descent off the summit.

Adam took the most picturesque line of the day.

I slowly descended into the choke after my snow to skree to snow descent off the peak. Adam stood guard below. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

I slowly descended into the choke after my snow to skree to snow descent off the peak. Adam stood guard below. Photo by: Adam Moszynski


Once situated above the ridge and steep ramp of snow we opted not to climb on our ascent, we settled in. With an incredible vista beneath and in front of us, we were stoked to finally get to ski within the spires. Adam dropped first.


Adam dropping into the spires!

Adam dropping into the spires!

The steep ramp that Adam descended from below. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

The steep ramp that Adam descended from below. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

Perfect corn and even some wintery powder awaited us. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

Perfect corn and even some wintery powder awaited us. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

Adam in the second pitch down the spires.

Adam in the second pitch down the spires.

TJ sending it toward the valley. Photo by Adam Moszynski

Adam snuck into an adjacent couloir to finish of the descent.

Adam snuck into an adjacent couloir to finish of the descent.


Oh what a day! These mountains will never disappoint. For us, today was the demonstration that the best turns don’t always exist on the highest peaks, in the most exotic, far away places. That maybe if you venture just a little bit farther you might find a line that takes you away. And you’ll all but forget where you really are. 


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