Headed up to the Sphinx yesterday and was excited to see ice, but a little disappointed not to climb any. Chris and I decided to go for the Lowe Direct and after dropping down and around the corner we got our first glimpse of ice. The direct was not it and the upper Lowe was looking thin. The crux pillar was not formed but could be bypassed by the WI3 variation to the right.
We decided to venture up to the base by going up directly from where we were instead of heading back to the saddle and were greeted with deep snow wallowing and small cliff band climbing. Snow conditions were fairly stable. Snow amounts ranged from mid-calf to waste deep depending, but was fairly uniform throughout. The occasional thin wind slab (1-2inches) was found but things didn't seem to be moving, nor were there any signs of previous activity. I did get one whoomph which was a great reminder to be cautious.
This direct approach to the upper traverse proved quite time consuming and as we got closer to the route also realized the upper pitches didn't seem to be climbable (at least by us). The Earl Trimble looked good up high, but from our vantage point the ice didn't come down to the ledge.
We ended up retreating via the upper ledge traverse and headed down.
The snow was very dry and didn't seem to be doing much melt/freeze, but perhaps another week or two and things will be in better shape.
The approach trail was muddy and clear of snow until the upper switch backs. We approached to the saddle in running shoes and switched to boots there.
Regardless it was a great Alpine day with fun snow wallowing and rock scrambling.
Post up some pics Chris!!!
Here's a couple pics of the Sphinx from yesterday (10/30). The ice is forming up nicely as Kev mentions but we could use a bit more - things could be good though in another week!
This first shot is from the approach to the Lowe Direct. Not seeing ice here, we scrambled up to the standard traverse and the upper climbs. Both the Lowe and Earl-Trimble appeared to be smears in spots. We suspected that there wasn't quite enough to complete the routes without some sketchy rock climbing.
Thanks for the reports
Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center
Glacier Country Avalanche Center
West Central Montana Avalanche Center
Montana Department of Transportation
Wyoming Department of Transportation
Idaho Transportation Department
Composite Hyalite Snotel Sites (by Junkfunnel)
Lick Creek Weather Station
Shower Falls Weather Station
Cooke City Area- NE Entrance Weather Station
All Montana Snotel Sites- Map of Montana SNOTEL sites