Monday, February 15, 2010

Presidents Day Weekend: three good runs

Wayne Phillips leads the way down South Fork Poorman off the Continental Divide Trail

Brad Hagen of Lethbridge tests the snow pit he's dug on Deadman bowls

Lisa Howard of Lethbridge pulls turns

Katie leads Sally Lydon and Wayne Phillips on South Fork Poorman
We celebrated Presidents Day weekend and Valentine’s Day with some great touring on the Continental Divide Trail with a run down the South Fork of Poorman Creek off Stemple Pass and two trips to Deadman Creek in the Little Belt Mountains.
On all three trips the weather was warm enough that I picked up lots of snow on the bottom of my skis, and on Monday snow mixed with rain, giving the Little Belts a decidedly Pacific Northwest feel.
The highlight of the weekend was having guests from Lethbridge, Brad Hagen and Lisa Howard, join me for some tele turns in the south bowls of Deadman Creek on Sunday. Some two feet of new snow had fallen in the Deadman bowls area in the past week.
Saturday was a very social day as two groups split up at Stemple Pass, with one going down Poorman and the other using the loop system. Without much planning we both skied for about three and a half hours and were able to finish together.
It had been years since I had done Poorman. We had set out to do Rooster Bill off Stemple, but upon asking one of the landowners found that the end-point and parking is still under dispute from the landowner at the bottom, who chokes off access.
At the head of Poorman an old clearcut had grown considerably since I last had seen it. The route down Poorman is a ski west of Stemple for three miles, just beyond the Granite Butte Lookout Trail. This part of the trip is slightly uphill and offers expansive views of the high the heavily timbered Continental Divide with an occasional peek at the Blackfoot Valley west of Lincoln in the far distance. Then the trail takes a sharp drop to the creek bottom, offering some telemark possibilities while passing some old mining camps.
The big surprise on Poorman are the three crossings near the end of the trip without adequate snow bridges. Our group took off their skis and walked across.
I learned a lot on the Deadman bowls trip with my new Lethbridge friends. Normally, if we test the slopes it is after we’ve dug a pit with a snow column and do shovel taps.
Brad was much more thorough and we dug a much larger pit while Lisa filled a stuff sack with 10 pounds of snow. Using a snow-saw Brad created a column and systematically tested the column with the bag of snow. We could see the two-feet of fresh powder would slide immediately, and that the older snow below it would go, too. The pit revealed a large layer of hoarfrost at the bottom that made all of the snow questionable because it might slide.
Sunday was a bluebird day, and we all hated to pass up turning in the fresh powder on the steepest and longest slopes.
So we tried some tentative turns in an area with some trees. We made five wonderful runs although the snow was deep and our skis had a tendency to dive.
On Monday the snow was like a steady drizzle and I got wet.
Luckily, Jasmine Krotov had broken the trail all the way through, so I benefitted from her tracks. I still clumped up, though. Before I got to the long, last flat stretch on Deadman, I pulled off the skis and tried applying some glide wax, hoping it wasn’t too warm and exacerbate the sticking.
Lucky for me it worked and I finished my weekend of skiing on a positive, happy note.

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