Wednesday, January 02, 2008

New Year's Day on the Front near Route Creek Pass

Heading up Middle Fork Teton on beautiful New Year's Day

The pass is off to the left

Mark Hertenstein pulls turns in heavy snow
The New Year brought a bright, clear day on the Rocky Mountain Front.
The weather was crisp and cold (9 degrees) as we headed for Route Creek Pass up the Middle Fork of the Teton River trail on the Teton River Road at the 7 Lazy P Guest Ranch.
This 12 mile roundtrip is in a tight valley with the Lonesome Ridge to the South and Cave Mountain to the North. It begins where the Choteau Mountain massif begins and ends at the boundary of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area.
When the trail ascends the scree slopes it becomes difficult to follow.
Ultimately, because of that we did not reach the pass itself. I figure we were about a half-mile short. We had climbed to high when we should have stayed on the river bottom.
This run is in spectacular Front country. The pass is at the base of the second highest mountain in the Bob Marshall (Old Baldy) and to the north that same ridgeline leads the climber to Teton Peak.
The snow was pretty good this day. There were a few spots where we scraped rock, but for the most part we were in good powder all the way.
The powder was good enough that we were able to find nice telemark slopes that we used to their full advantage.
As various avalanche advisories had indicated, we found the snowpack somewhat unsettled. All along our ski the snow would settle with a “whompf” as we would pass, and cracks would appear.
When we finally ventured off the trail to our final high place I became most concerned and turned back as we began to cross a broad avalanche field. My partners continued on, however, without incidence.
We had an unusually calm day. The wind usually ventilates this canyon that takes full advantage of the prevailing south winds. The west slopes had been blow bare as well.
Although we didn’t see any animals, we saw plenty of tracks. There were lion tracks on the trail, and many elk and deer sign.
Because the elevation is somewhat lower than most trails in the area this Route Creek Trail can often be icy. It wasn’t on New Year’s.
Great way to begin a new year.

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