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The FIFTY Episode 25: McGown Peak, Idaho

Cody Townsend sets out for another line and reveals the logistics behind his missions.

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This week marks the halfway point in the Fifty Project. Joined by Tucker Patton, guide and owner of Triple Point Expeditions, along with photographer Ming Poon, Cody Townsend attempts McGown Peak. 

McGown Peak, Idaho
McGown PeakPhoto Credit: Bjarne Salén

This episode is a little different than most. Like in every other episode, Townsend sets out to bag another line, but he also reveals the logistics of the Fifty Project, from how they pick the lines to making evaluations on the mountain ensuring safe and successful days. 

Townsend’s Trip-Planning Checklist

Cody Townsend skins up McGown Peak
Townsend is constantly monitoring the conditions ahead. Photo Credit: Bjarne Salén

Check Avalanche Conditions 

The first thing Townsend does before any expedition is to check the Avalanche app looking for nationwide trends. “Essentially what this app does is it takes every single avalanche forecast from around the nation and then color codes it so I can see where is generally stabilizing versus where is generally unstable,” says Townsend.

Observe Weather Trends

Then, Townsend looks for weather trends so he can narrow down his destination. He checks the website spot.wx to look at different forecasts in order to single in on specialized regions that are forecasted to have good weather.

Get Local Intel

Reaching out to people from the zone is next. Whether it be avalanche forecasters, athletes, or friends, “These people are pretty essential in making our decisions,” says Townsend.

Check Avalanche Conditions, Again

After that, Townsend takes another deep dive into the avalanche forecast by looking through observations and old reports from the region before deciding to pull the trigger and heading out. 

Scope the Line and Make a Plan

The day before any expedition, a visual observation of the line they want to ski is vital. First, they scope the line looking for any signs of texture and sluffs or other indicators of potential dangers on the route. Using mapping technology, they then must determine how much vertical feet they’ll cover in order to plan the day and determine the length of the expedition and when to start.

Gather the Gear

The last step before a tour consists of packing the gear and figuring out what will set you up for success. Then the alarms are set while the anticipation builds for the day to come.

Line #25: McGown Peak

Cody Townsend skiing powder in Idaho.
The pow was plentiful in Idaho. Photo Credit: Bjarne Salén

With stable conditions and local support, Townsend and his crew decided to send it to Idaho, driving 9 hours to the heart of the Sawtooth Mountains to attempt McGown Peak. After running through the entire trip planning checklist, all signs point to giving the summit a go, and the crew sets off through the frigid morning on snowmobiles before skinning the last 3 miles to the approach.

As they make their way up, Townsend is always observing not only the line, but the surrounding snowpack. Seeing heavy wind effect on the couloir, Townsend keeps an eye out for fractures and texture throughout the climb, constantly monitoring the conditions.  But after a rocky entrance into the couloir, the crew enjoys untracked powder all the way down the narrow chute.

“One of the raddest things about Idaho is just how big and empty it is,” says Patton looking over the vast range of the Sawtooths. “You get out here to the top of this and look around and there’s one out here.”

Watch Episode 25: McGown Peak

Tune in every two weeks to follow Townsend as he attempts to ski 50 Classic Lines in North America. You can also follow the project via Instagram.