Saturday, March 19, 2016

This winter's last ski trip

Logging has altered the landscape in the Stemple portion of this run, opening up the landscape

Poofy, spring clouds

What happens when you miscalculate

Larry Dolan of Helena captures the scenery
Goodbye winter!
We took our last trip of that season on Friday, traversing the Continental Divide from Stemple to Flesher passes south of Lincoln.
This 11.5 miles backcountry ski on the Continental Divide Trail tests trail-finding skills while offering fantastic touring and tele opportunities on one of America's premier destinations.
Over the course of this undulating trail some 2,200 feet are gained and 2,500 feet lost.
There are tremendous views of Red Mountain, at 9,411 feet, the highest point in the Scapegoat Wilderness Area and the Bob Marshall complex.
Because of high winds, the snow is shoved around in spots, leaving ridges and humps, and is stripped off the trail.
We encountered new snow, about 3-4 inches, on a hard base, and when it warmed up it clumped on the bottom of our skis, making the going extremely tough in spots.
Keep an eye open for trail-marking signs such as slashes and cut branches and cut logs.  It is easy to get off course.
On this tour we attempted to bypass an avalanche chute at mile 9.7 by climbing the ridge above it, only to discover cornices and exposed rock.
We cut below the ridge line by taking off our skis and walking around it.
At the end of the trip we went off-trail because there was no snow on the trail, staying on a ridge line and then dropping down to Flesher Pass, and the trip's end.
Because of the pine bark beetle damage the looks of Stemple Pass, where we started, has been altered by extensive logging.
We made a new friend on this trip, Larry Dolan, of Helena, a skinny-skier, who joined us at the pass serendipitously.  We marveled at how well he did with his flimsy gear.

For a map and more detail, CLICK HERE

It may have seemed as though I've been inactive this past month, but the fact is I've been traveling, with trips to Portland, Seattle and Billings.
Below is a photo of my wife, Katie, on the 4-T Trail in Portland a couple of weeks ago, marveling at the scenery:

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