Sunday, December 28, 2008

Deadman ---- the backcountry --- finally!

H. Wayne Phillips clears the treacherous gully on Deadman approach

Getting ready to plunge over the side
I finally got a full day in the backcountry on Sunday.
We skied Deadman run off Kings Hill Pass, about an 8 mile run that heads south from the pass.
We’ve had lots of snow, but we don’t have a great base. So, tele turning wasn’t too easy. Skis kept diving into several feet of powder. At the bottom of the powder was frozen ground and rock. Tips were tough to keep afloat. Breaking trail was lots of work.
The temperature was warmer than two days ago when I had skied the Showdown runs.
But, the southwesterly winds blew at gale-force and they blew steadily without any let-up.
I figure that while the air temperature might be 25 degrees the wind chill was closer to minus 15. Where there were trees the powder was deep and packed. The snow exposed to the wind was beginning to slab.
We observed that when it warms this plentiful snow will provide a great slab base bonded to the ground. What falls atop it will be skiers gravy.
We skied a pretty standard route across the top of the Deadman Ridge that runs south on the east side of U.S. 89 above Kings Hill Pass.
We varied from the route above the last two-mile part of the trail that becomes a logging road down Deadman Creek. We dropped straight down a drainage strewn with blow-down and littered with low ground-cover such as juniper bushes to the highway, cutting off about a mile.
On the way home we encountered rain at Monarch that accompanied us all the way back to Great Falls where the temperature was in the mid-40s!
Seeing that temps were nearly 30 below a week ago, this is a remarkable warm-up.
The rain cast an unusual late-December rainbow just west of the Highwood Mountains, painting a memorable post-Christmas picture I won’t soon forget.

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