Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Socializing at Marias Pass

A bright, warm day on Three Bears Lake with Little Dog and Summit in Glacier looking things over
Snow ghosts and extraordinary scenery on Big Mountain

As windswept and isolated as it is you would never expect Marias Pass to be much of a backcountry ski mecca.
I stopped there Sunday on the way home from a weekend at Whitefish where I enjoyed some telemark skiing on an unusual clear winter day, and where I attended the annual Glacier Mountaineering Society potluck gathering.
My plan was to kick out the kinks on a short stretch of the Autumn Creek Trail that runs across the southeast end of Glacier National Park toward Essex to the west and East Glacier Park on the east.
Over the next two hours we encountered three different parties of skiers and snowshoers we knew. Getting out of the car we met Bud Iszler of Cut Bank lashing snowshoes onto his daypack while preparing to ski as far up the Badger Two Med’s Flattop Mountain as he could go, at which point he’d switch to snowshoes.
After wishing him well, a party of Great Falls and Bitterroot Valley folks pulled up ready to snowshoe Autumn Creek. We had a nice conversation with Ginger Baran of Great Falls, her daughter and husband and her husband’s family. They were killing time while Ginger’s husband, Denny, was climbing Scalplock Mountain down the road from the Ole Creek Trail at the Walton Ranger Station.
On the Autumn Creek Trail, within sight of Little Dog and Summit mountains, we crossed Terry Sherburne, who runs the Mountain Pine Motel in East Glacier Park, with a party going west.
As we left several more backcountry non-mechanized parties arrived.
I’m used to seeing Marias Pass backcountry dominated on the Two Medicine side by snowmobilers, although I’ve had some great cross country ski trips up Flattop and Elk Calf peaks.
On the Glacier Park side, of course, snowmobiles aren’t permitted.
The socializing put a nice cap on a pleasant weekend.
There was a large crowd of downhill skiers on Big Mountain Saturday enjoying the sunshine and clear visibility, rarities in Whitefish during the winter.
On top the peak we could see the Glacier Park peaks and the Canadian Rockies quite clearly.
It was downright distracting to see Whitefish Lake below you when skiing down the mountain on such runs as Inspiration.
I spent much time just gawking the incredible views.
I hadn’t been so lucky just after Christmas when we dealt with rain and intense fog on this hill.

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