Sunday, June 06, 2010

The Front: flowers, a bear and a scare

Climbing the north face of Fairview Mountain

On the ridge line moving toward the peak

That's Haystack Mountain as we head down
Seems really strange that a week ago we were cleaning a foot of wet, heavy snow off the car in East Glacier Park, and this week we’re marveling about the spectacular wildflower display on the Rocky Mountain Front.
I got up to the Front both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday, we did an exploratory climb of the east face of the North Peak on Fairview Mountain. On Sunday, Katie and I took a stroll up to the Lonesome Ridge off the South Fork of the Teton River and got to see a large black bear feeding at our ridgetop destination.
I had an unusual experience (for me) on Saturday’s climb.
As we were going up through some pretty steep and sketchy loose rock (I can’t even call it talus) I lost my footing and slid down about 20 feet. At first the slide was slow, but I began to pick up speed and had to flip over and dig my heels in to arrest my slide or I would have gone over the cliffs below.
Looking back on it now, it probably wasn’t as bad as I thought it was at the time, but it scared me so badly that I began to tremble and was literally paralyzed in place, toes clinging to unstable gravel and hands clutching the rotten limestone. I simply couldn’t move and was having great difficulty holding the precarious position I was in, fearing that any misstep and back down again I’d go into the slide.
My problem was that I had lost my confidence.
These bighorns were as curious about us as we were of them
Fortunately, Mark Hertenstein came down to where I was frozen and as I saw him walk above me my confidence was restored enough that I could proceed with the climb. I figured that if he could walk safely, I could.
I can’t help replaying the feeling I had as I clung there tense and breathing hard, unable even to have the confidence to sit down and collect myself.
I trembled all the way to the ridgeline where I finally calmed down.
Fairview Peak (elevation: 8,210 feet) is a limestone massif that I’ve climbed on two previous occasions, once from the ridgeline on a walk from Gibson Reservoir to Willow Creek Falls and another time from the east face in a place just between the highest South and North peaks.
All day the views were remarkable. There seems to be considerable snow still in the east facing Steamboat/Dearborn/Scapegoat country. West facing slopes are pretty dry.
The only wildlife we saw were bluebirds and some bighorn sheep.
Besides the great Front country scenery, what set this hike apart was the wildflower display. Glacier lilies predominate, but there was plenty of pasque flower, shooting stars, larkspur, and even fairy slippers.
A black bear we spotted on Lonsome Ridge walk
That’s what drew us back to the Front on Sunday. I had mistakenly thought we could walk the Ear Mountain trail but discovered it is closed until July 1.
So, we went up the road to Lonesome Ridge and got amazing views of the unnamed peaks above Rierdon and Green gulches, and Rocky Mountain Peak, that is so covered it resembles Mount Jackson in Glacier Park.
The flowers here weren’t as numerous as they were at Fairview, but still pretty nice.
The prairie flowers were spectacular bloom, with lupine and loco weed most numerous.


Anonymous said...

Glad your OK. Thanks for sharing your adventures and keep it going.

Mike R., Indiana

Anonymous said...

Tom, can appreciate the gravity of the situation you were in.
Perhaps freezing up is a self preservation instinct.
Stay around we like your adventures and your team of like minded friends.
WV highlands