Skiing The SE Couloir On Emigrant Peak In The Absaroka Range Of Montana
Location: SE Couloir, Emigrant Peak, Absaroka, Range, Montana
Starting Point: Emigrant Creek FS Road 3272
Distance: 8 Miles
Time: 8 Hours
Top Elevation: 10,921′
USGS Maps: Emigrant, Montana
Ever since spotting the SE Couloir on Emigrant Peak in Turiano’s Select Peaks Of Greater Yellowstone, I’ve wanted to ski that line. Finally after years of having it on my tick list, everything lined up for a mid April mission into the western Absaroka Range with Ben Werner, author of Bozeman and Big Sky Backcountry Ski Guide, to ski Emigrant Peak’s SE Couloir.
The SE Couloir on Emigrant Peak is far from a secret line. Besides being one of the mountains featured in Select Peaks, Emigrant has also been in the spotlight lately because a Canadian mining company purchased the mining rights around Emigrant Peak. There’s a great article about this featured on AscentBackcountry.com. Luckily, The Obama administration blocked the mining claims, leaving the issue mute for the time being. So lots of people have been trying to ski Emigrant while they still can.
To access Emigrant Peak, you can go up Sixmile Canyon on the South side of the mountain, which is the standard route in the summer. For winter access, it’s best to head up Forest Service Road 3272 along Emigrant Creek on the north side of the peak. To reach this 4WD road, you cruise right past Chico Hot Springs and drive toward White City. Four wheel drive with decent clearance is mandatory. You can drive as far as you can make it depending on snow and rockfall. We made it to about 6400′ and found a place to turn around and parked in a pull out.
Donning our ski gear we started walking up the road toward our mountain destination. There are several mining claims and lots of private property signs. It’s imperative that you know where you are going. Please treat these signs with respect and navigate accordingly. Once you pass the private property, it’s time to start climbing.
The skin is very straight forward. As you climb, you’ll be looking directly at the Northeast face and the Jungst-Conway ski route. At around 9000′ you’ll pop out into the main cirque. There are some stellar north facing lines that look appealing, but our destination was the SE Couloir.
Staring up the SE Couloir on Emigrant Peak was a bit intimidating. The line runs roughly 1900′ and there’s a spooky, monster cornice right at the top.
We managed to skin for about 1200′ before we transitioned to crampons for a healthy bootpack to the top. Right before we transitioned another group skied the line. We watched from a safe spot tucked behind some rocks. Snow looked good.
Finally we made it to the summit at 10,921′. The views from the wide summit of Emigrant were out of this world. The Paradise Valley stretched out below. The Gallatin Range, Crazy Mountains, Madison Range, Absaroka Range, Beartooths, and even the distant Tetons were visible. We could spot Lone Peak and wondered what type of shenanigans people were up to on closing day. It would be easy to spend hours up top, but it was time to ski.
We ripped skins and got ready to click in. That’s when we learned a valuable lesson – always watch your skis and don’t let them accidentally slide down the wrong side of the mountain. I got to enjoy the views a bit more, while the missing ski was retrieved from about 500 feet down the SW face. Half an hour later we dropped into the SE Couloir on Emigrant Peak.
The skiing was great and we leapfrogged down to the apron. From there we party skied back down to the 4WD road. After a short walk and a few high fives we were back at the truck. Soon we were rolling on down the rocky road heading home. Only thing we forgot was a swimsuit for a dip in the Chico Hot Springs.
Let spring ski season begin!
See a map of Emigrant Peak with the SE Couloir highlighted:
Here are additional photos from skiing the SE Couloir on Emigrant Peak in the Absaroka Range of Montana:
This trip report from skiing the Se Couloir Emigrant Peak in the Absaroka Range of Montana is from April 16, 2017.