Saturday, March 26, 2005

Exploring the Little Belts backcountry

Great signs on Deadman route;  Weatherwax tele slopes
This is overdue, but I want to thank the Forest Service for the excellent signs posted at the backcountry ski trails in the Little Belt Mountains.
The signs inform snowmobilers that the trails are out of bounds.
 As I’ve written before, the snowmobilers, despite having more than 90 percent of the trails in these mountains during the winter, have consistently violated the cross-country trails, tearing up tracks and ruining the backcountry quiet and ambience.
The Forest Service has set up barricades and put up more signs at the boundaries. There is no doubt that these areas are now out of bounds to snow machines.
Despite that, I did note some snowmobile tracks on the Deadman trail this past week, but nowhere near as many as in the past.
Through the Easter weekend we had the best backcountry snow of the season from the storms of the last two weeks.
I’ve come to the conclusion that backcountry skiers in the Little Belts have been unnecessarily limiting themselves to the Silvercrest area and the three designated trails.
With my snowmobile map in my pack over the past several years, I’ve ventured out into some new territories and realize how silly it is to stay out of areas that snowmobilers have claimed.
If you can tolerate the noise and the machines, you’ll find there is plenty of snow out there for both snowmobilers and backcountry skiers.
A good case in point is the heads of Weatherwax and Cleveland creeks just east of Kings Hill.
They are easily reached by proceeding uphill about 650 feet from the pass by way of the Deadman trail. When you reach the top of the ridge ski north to the head of Weatherwax Creek. You’ll know you’re there when you see the power lines. You can drop right over the side from the power lines into the Weatherwax bowls. Yes, the snowmobilers sometimes hammer this area ---- but there is plenty of snow on both sides of the creek for good 200-400 foot runs to the bottom.
Or ski further north to the ridge that runs between Weatherwax and Cleveland creeks and look for the open slopes.
Last week I dived down a 600-foot powder run off this ridge and then skied back up Weatherwax.
I kicked myself for having not done this kind of exploration in the past.
You can get to good telemark skiing within 45 minutes of Kings Hill Pass this way! On the way back ski the power line down 800 feet straight to the pass.
I urge my backcountry enthusiasts in the area to start looking around and to explore this high country.
The ridges run at about 7,800 feet and are flat and go for miles.
If you like to climb there’s always Grendah Mountain between Cleveland and Weatherwax creeks. Or, take the road out toward Big Baldy. Lots of kick and gliding here.
Unfortunately, the last five winters we’ve had to wait until March and April for our best snow.
Now that it’s here, make good use of it before it goes.

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