Tom (SE chute)

Mount Tom is huge, with chutes and canyons descending from its long summit ridge in all directions. I had already been up Elderberry Canyon, probably the most popular ski line on Tom, and partway up the East Chute (“Dingleberry Canyon”). This time I came up the steeper Southeast Chute and face, a line leading directly to the summit from the desert nearly 7000 feet below. Unfortunately conditions were poor, with blasting wind and sometimes dubious snow. This led to indecision, and ultimately forced me to turn around near 12,800′, still 600′ shy of the summit.

I got another early start from slightly higher on the Buttermilk road, this time remembering my poles. I followed the road until the sagebrush was snowy enough to be skiable, then took off straight for the mouth of the Horton Lakes drainage. I eventually rejoined the road, and followed it to the Sonny Boy Mine cabin. From there, an undulating bench continues around to the mouth of the southeast chute, which is guarded by an old lateral moraine. Earlier in the season, it would be better to approach across the desert and into the lower end of the moraine, but it would now require too much bushwhacking.

I carefully booted down the moraine and a short distance up the chute, then put my skis back on to skin up the messy old avalanche snow. As the chute turned north and opened up around 9500′, the wind picked up from the north.

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