Sunday, February 05, 2012

Glacier Park heaven: Marias to East Glacier tour

A great start below Summit peak at Three Bears Lake

Great kick and glide on trail

Radian sun makes a great lunch spot

Climbing with a pattern
When I got a call to ski in Glacier Park from Marias Pass to East Glacier Park I was skeptical about the snow depth and its quality.
Heck, the temperatures have been near 50 degrees in Great Falls and there's been lots of snow-eating wind.
I was more than pleasantly surprised to find great snow when we skied that 15-mile stretch on Saturday.
We were treated to bright blue skies and winds to our back.
We had already skied in about a mile when we saw this buried park trail marker telling us we  still had 14.3 miles to go.
It must have been more than seven years since I've done this tour that starts at the pass, just opposite the obelisk on Highway 2, and runs the lengths of Summit and Dancing Woman (formerly Squaw) peaks back to the Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier Park.
There are dozens of drainages running off the faces of those two mountains, which means there is a lot of up and down skiing.
We figured we gained some 2,100 feet along the tour.
Because there are so many drainages there are many, many tempting telemark slopes.
Of course, I didn't pass them all up and added to the elevation and distance by carving some turns.
Several in our group of eight that went all the way through wore skinny "classic" touring gear that I hadn't seen in the backcountry for many years.  It turned out that their lighter gear (we wore backcountry tele gear) was a faster fit for the run.
Two more skiers who started out with us at Summit cut the trip in half by going out at the Lubec trailhead.
The snow was pretty protected and soft most of the way, although there were instances of a icy crust in spots and in the afternoon it got sticky, requiring everyone to apply glide waxes at least once.
Since it had been so long since I had skied this terrain I had forgotten some of the difficulties of following the Park Service's florescent red trail marker "tags" on the trees.  The incessant wind had sandblasted the red away.
Early in the trip we skied Summit's dark shadows, but the mountain itself was bathed in alpine glow.
Members of our group spotted many animal tracks including elk, moose, mountain lion and wolf.
While it was just above zero when we started, it got warm enough in the afternoon sun to take off hats and strip down to light shirts while we kicked and glided.
The trip was set up by April Carr and her husband, Gary, of Shelby.  When I got to the Two Medicine Grille, where we organized, I was surprised by many old friends who I had not expected to be on the trip including Bud Iszler, Brian Kennedy, Mark Haemig, and Laurie Littner.  It was great to make new friends like Ursula Mattson, an impressive skinny skier.

No comments: