(Last Updated On: June 18, 2019)
Chances are, if you’re a backcountry skier who spots enticing lines, you’ve spotted Mount Guyot’s south face from US 285 as you pass near Fairplay. From this viewpoint, the modest 13,370 foot peak commands the skyline, and begs to be skied. The south face requires just the right conditions to be skied, and is not always “in”. But, the hidden behind on the north side of the mountain lies more moderate and ski-friendly terrain. The most popular of these is the Swan Dive, a northeast facing gully that plunges into the Swan River below.
“Guyot” is actually a geologic term that refers to “an isolated underwater volcanic mountain (seamount) with a flat top more than 200 m (660 ft) below the surface of the sea.” Though Mount Guyot does have a flat topped ridge line at the summit, it clearly is not below sea level. The peak, and the geologic term itself, are actually named after a 19th-century geographer from Switzerland, Arnold Henry Guyot.
There are a few ways to approach this mountain. But, one of the easiest ways to access Mount Guyot is from French Gulch Trailhead, and Little French Gulch drainage. Luoking at Mount Guyot as we ascended Little French Gulch.
Looking back down Little French.
Nearby Bald Mountain was still looking quite good.
We were able to skin most of the vertical, which means conditions were great for mid-June. But, eventually, we started bootpacking.
The ridge finished with a bit of scree.
Frank making his way across the flat-topped ridge to the summit.
Boys on the ridge, though they blend in.
After a short time on the summit, it was time to drop in. Larry.
The snow was very much summer-conditions, meaning it was dappled with the beginnings of runnels and suncups, but with smooth sections on the sides. Frank.
Near the end of the line.
A look back at Mount Guyot’s north face.
Though partially hidden, the Swan Dive juts from the summit toward the left side of the photo.
We went up and over an saddle to make our way back to Little French Gulch. There are two obvious saddles on Guyot’s north ridge. The first one, closest to Mount Guyot, was too sloppy and wet, with a hanging cornice. So we opted for the safer saddle, a little further north on the ridge. Skiing back into Little French from the saddle.
We spotted this cozy cabin on the way out.
As we made our way back to the road, thunderstorms swarmed around us. A look back and the northwest face of Mount Guyot.
All in all, the Swan Dive is a fun moderate backcountry ski with relatively easy access from French Gulch all year. However, I’d say the snow conditions on this line are a little further ahead than the surrounding areas – meaning we found summer snow whereas nearby peaks still hold late spring corn. Now, we just need to go back and hit up that south face when it’s prime!
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