Thursday, December 28, 2017

Frigid, windy Deadman tele trip

Frosted trees 

Returning after a tele turn
The snow we didn't see last year has finally arrived.
The powder is spectacular and promises to get better.
The only mitigating factors were the wind, which continues to pummel us, and numbing cold.
Two of us, Gordon Whirry and myself, showed up Wednesday for one of Wayne's Wild Walks minus an ailing Wayne.
Since Jasmine Krotkov had already broken trail part-way up the Deadman trail and about a foot of new powder had fallen in the past week, we decided to take advantage of her work.
What we hadn't counted on was that winds had drifted in much of the track and even drifted in our own new track before the return trip.
In town the temperatures were struggling to reach zero and had been in the minus 20 degree range for a couple of days, so we were shocked when on the way our temperature gauge shot up to 29 degrees above between Monarch and Neihart in the Little Belts.
However, by the time we reached our trailhead at Kings Hill Pass, the temperature was about 15 degrees and icy winds cut through us and threw up wind devils and white-outs which accompanied us on the trip.
The sky hung dark, threatening clouds over the Showdown ski area, shrouding Porphyry Peak.  With the wind and cold I couldn't imagine hanging on a chair lift.  I don't care how good the snow was.
The trees were frosted with snow and limbs hung heavily under the weight.
The snow was about perfect;  deep and set up on a great base.
When we reached the open meadows just east and north of the Deadman bowls we stopped and played, practicing and taking turn after telemark turn.
Including the yo-yo turns, we covered 5 miles and gained and lost 1,700 feet.
I'm glad we resisted the urge not to confront the cold and wind.
Earlier in the week I set down classic cross country tracks in the Mountain View Charlie Russell Park and skied three other times in great powder on bluebird days in sunlight that made the snow sparkle like diamonds.
Climbing out

Climbing the Deadman trail

Monday, December 18, 2017

Exploratory in Mizpah Creek headwaters

Skiing up the abandoned logging road paralleling Sheep Creek 
The Mizpah bowls come into view

Mark Hertenstein took the opportunity to cut turns
Sunday was a gawd-awful windy day in the Little Belts.
But, there had been a fresh dump of snow in the Kings Hill area and the sun was shining.
We were looking for any kind of shelter from the wind we could find.  So, that ruled out the ridge lines.
We opted for an exploratory in the Mizpah Creek headwaters below the bowls, just south of Showdown Ski Area.
Some 40-50 years ago there was extensive logging in this area and it has grown over, but sketchy roads exist, many of them obliterated by some open enough to ski.
The winds were howling, but we got into the Sheep Creek drainage that parallels U.S. 89 and skied to its Mizpah tributary, dodging snags and large trees cut across the "road" to make travel difficult. 
We found the travel difficult.
Where open to the wind the snow was scoured.  Wherever sheltered, the snow was a rich powder with a great base, just as we found on the Mizpah bowls a week previous.
It became tiresome stepping over the downed trees.
This will be a great place to ski after more snow buries them.
It was a short day, 3.5 miles and about 850 feet of elevation gain, but we were out nearly four hours and the area, where snowmobiles are banned, was quiet and gorgeous.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Snow holding up

Good snow cover on the trail at least

Approaching the Deadman bowls

Gordon Whirry gave up trying to ski the sun-exposed slope that was icy and rock-strewn
Despite our near-record warmth in Great Falls this December, the snow in the Little Belts is holding up well.
Our Wednesday hiking group did the Deadman run Wednesday and with the exception of about a mile the trail was in great shape.
The temperature was in the mid-20s, no wind, and there was a little snowfall while we skied.
Where it was bad was on the downhill side where the trail enters the trees from the ridgeline.  There we found a thin icy layer and some sharp rocks.  Glad I brought my rock skis.  The going was so rough that two of our three skiers took their skis off and walked.
All of us took a tumble on the icy slopes.
When we returned to the shaded side of the ridge the snow was perfect and we enjoyed the 3 mile ski back to the car at the bottom of Deadman Creek.
There were some problems with deadfall across the trail, though.
You can tell that no one is clearing this run now that the Great Falls Cross Country Ski Club went defunct.
This portends problems.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Snow better than all last season

A gorgeous days to do tele turns in the back country in the Mizpah Bowls.
It was worth the wait.
I had put off skiing after Monday's snow dump and was amply rewarded on Saturday with a terrific day of back country skiing and some terrific tele turns in the Mizpah Bowls in the Little Belts.
On a bluebird day without much wind we hiked up Showdown Ski Area to the top of Porphyry Peak and then south down the ridge to the bowls and Mizpah Peak.
The snow had a new hoarfrost and sparkled like diamonds against the deep azure sky.
We hadn't planned to do any turns, but when we found the new 18 inches of powder had a solid base, the downhill pull was irresistible.
The pull wasn't exclusive.
We met two Lewistown skiers on AT gear who followed us to the bowls and dropped considerably lower than we did.
Later, I wasn't surprised to find they were a couple of back country hikers I had met years before.
We did six runs, covered 2,200 feet of elevation gain and loss and 8.5 miles on this beautiful day.