Thursday, December 24, 2015

Lots of backcountry skiing in plentiful, if base-less snow

Icicles on rock above Sacred Dancing Waters of McDonald Creek in Glacier Park

Katie, with buttresses of Mount Edwards in Glacier in background

Plowing through thigh-deep powder near Izaak Walton Inn
Since my last post a week ago, I've gotten in six more days of backcountry skiing and snowshoeing in the Little Belts, Rocky Mountain Front, Glacier Park and Essex areas.
Almost without exception, we've encountered lots of powder, but sitting atop a sugary base, which makes for tough trail breaking and high avalanche potential.  We're going to need a thaw, followed by cold weather and more snow for the base to consolidate.
The snow was particularly plentiful in the Essex area, where we skied on the groomed and ungroomed trails and roads around the Izaak Walton Inn, where we stayed.  One night we got about 18 inches of snow!  We didn't stop and ski it, but could see Marias Pass west of East Glacier Park had terrific snow.
Clearing windows after 18 inches of snow fell overnight at Essex
One ski trip of particular note was the Deadman Creek 7-miler in the Little Belts along a ridgeline south from Kings Hill Pass. There was about 2.5 to 3 feet of snow along this course on Trail No. 746, but it hadn't consolidated yet, and was a tough breaking job, somewhat like we had encountered last week on O'Brien Creek.  We found a small avalanche above the steep gulch on a bend of the road in the first mile, and snow "whoomphed" many times during this ski.  We took an alternate off-trail run to the Deadman Road in an old clearcut.
The snow had settled a bit better in the Front, where we did the North Fork Waldron Creek trail into the bowl below Mount Lockhart.  We followed my son's skin tracks in.  He climbed and boarded off Mount Lockhart that day.  We saw a small slab avalanche off the north facing ridgeline in the bowl.
What can you say about skiing in Glacier other than it was wonderful for the scenery in the Sacred Dancing Waters area along McDonald Creek on the West Side.
I did one other day of yo-yo skiing on an off day at Showdown, just ahead of the groomers, getting great turns on green slopes.
The weather has been pretty cold, with the warmest in the Essex area and coldest near King's Hill.

Click here for Deadman route map, more photos, description

Ahead of the groomer making turns at Showdown

In the North Fork Waldron Bowl in Front

Touring on Deadman run

A glimpse at some deep powder on Deadman Road

No comments: