Before Hans Saari died in a ski mountaineering accident on May 7, 2001 in the Alps, he mentioned to me that he and Alex Lowe had skied a very steep and exciting couloir on Peak 10,031 (1988 Mount Blackmore quadrangle) in the northern Gallatin Range. This rugged volcanic peak sits between the forks of upper South Cottonwood Creek about 1.5 miles southwest of Mount Blackmore.
(Learn more about Hans Saari at http://www.exumguides.com/news/hanssaari.shtml
I didn't ask him any details because I was focused on the "Select Peaks." Saari told me only that he had named it "Hellmouth Couloir," so I have always wanted to learn more about their descent.
When I climbed Blackmore on October 7, 2001, I looked across at 10,031 and saw the long couloir that graces the north face of the mountain and I immediately assumed that that must have been what they skied.
I assumed that they had skied the red line. (Photo courtesy of Terry Cunningham.)
Recently (July 2005), I have been corresponding with Terry Cunningham of Bozeman and Kris Erickson of Livingston. Cunningham has been actively petitioning the USBGN to officially apply the name "Alex Lowe Peak" to Peak 10,031, and Erickson was one of Saari's main ski partners. Together we have come to a very interesting conclusion about what Lowe and Saari actually skied that day in May 1997.
Based on clues and ideas that came mostly from Erickson, it appears instead that they skied the blue line in the photo above and below.
(Photo courtesy of Terry Cunningham.)
Some of the clues that led us to this conclusion are as follows:
1. Erickson remembers Hans mentioning that the Hellmouth Couloir wouldn't appear to be a "skiable feature" to most people. The red line certainly appears skiable, while the blue is much more radical.
2. Hans told Kris that he and Alex first noticed the feature from Elephant Mountain, which provides a better view of blue than red (purple would not even be visible at all).
3. Erickson remembers that Saari had told him that they had to rappel over a chockstone at the bottom of the couloir. There is a giant chockstone visible along the blue line in the photo above. There are other chockstones in the immediate area (For example, the purple couloir in the photo above has a chockstone at its bottom.), but they are considerably smaller and most likely buried by enough snow to not be enough of an obstacle to force Lowe and Saari to rappel.
4. Erickson pointed out that the blue line is much more of a ski mountaineering feature as opposed to the red line, which is more of a "butter run." Lowe and Saari would have been more intrigued by the technicalities of the blue line.
Kris Erickson added: "I'll be interested to see if anyone has anything else to add to the equation. I by no means consider myself to know all on the issue, but am just trying to shed some light on what now seems to be an intriguing mystery for us all. Amazing how time can allow little details to slip away. Its a good thing there are guys like you writing it all down. Kudos!"
Thanks to Erickson and Cunningham, and of course Lowe and Saari, I feel pretty confident now which couloir is "Hellmouth Couloir." Hopefully, with help from the USBGN, Peak 10,031 will be forever known as "Alex Lowe Peak." The U.S. Board on Geographic Names is slated to make a final decision in September or October of 2005. At the time of this writing, there still are a few issues that Cunningham is corresponding with the USBGN about, but the decision is mostly in their hands at this point. If you would like more information about Terry Cunningham's petition to the USBGN, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Read the sequel to this at: http://www.thomasturiano.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?t=84