Thursday, February 08, 2018

Deadman, Nugget, Flesher, Dr. Elton Adams

Wayne Phillips on the snowy Flesher Pass area CDT

Great snow on CDT
Despite not having posted the past several weeks, I've not been idle.
There have been a couple of trips on the Deadman run with a climb of King's Hill, a trip down the spectacular Nugget Creek, Trail's Day at Silver Crest winter sports area to assist fledgling skiers with a side trip to the top of Porphyry Peak and a tele down, and a lovely trip from Flesher Pass on the Continental Divide Trail toward Stemple Pass and back.  There was also an aborted trip to the Front, blocked on the Teton Road at Clary Coulee by unplowed and impassible snow.
The most unusual of these trips was Nugget Creek.
We've done this trip a couple of dozen times, climbing Porphyry and Mizpah peaks and skiing the ridgeline up and down to Milepost 23 on U.S. 89 in the Little Belts ---- a 10 mile run with 3,000 feet of elevation loss.
We've often struggled finding route toward the end of the ridge.
But this hike we found ourselves lost and circling back on ourselves not once but twice!
I've never inadvertently crossed my own tracks in 45 years of backcountry skiing.
There were four of us, all highly experienced skiers who had done this trip before.
Wayne Phillips, the trip leader and discoverer of this route, told us as we were going in that others had lost their way at this point.  I scoffed at this.
I was amazed it then happened to us.
We were in a total white-out and that may have had something to do with it.  The clouds enveloped us and snow began to furiously pelt us.  Our usual landmarks, small rises in the ridgeline, were no longer visible.
Other landmarks did not appear as we skied on, inadvertently and incorrectly adjusting our route.
We were all shocked to ski across our  own tracks.
We adjusted, skied confidently ahead, and crossed our tracks again!
We took compass and GPS measurements and were astounded that we had difficulty determining which way was south, the direction we had hoped to travel.
Eventually, Wayne suggested that I take my GPS away from the group about 100 yards and determine the direction it tracked.  That did show us where to go.
Wayne was not surprised this had happened to us, just that it had never happened before.
I was amazed and confused and realized that I had not been reading my GPS correctly.
So much for my pride in my ability to handle that fairly complicated gadget.
The snow this winter had been unbelievably good powder, particularly in the Little Belts, and deep, but full of heavy moisture on the Continental Divide.

R.I.P Elton Adams

Dexter Hale photo of Elton Adams ice climbing

The Great Falls climbing community lost one of its most distinguished climbers Feb. 4 .
Dr. Elton Adams, 74, fell to his death ice-climbing on Cataract Falls up Elk Creek on the flank of Steamboat Mountain Feb. 4.
Adams had introduced a generation of climbers to the sport of ice-climbing over the past 25 years, me included.
I climbed with Adams on these very falls in 1993, and did a Tribune feature story on ice-climbing then.
Adams was energetic and ethusiastic beyond his 74 years and always fun to talk to about his climbing adventures around the world, that included Aconcagua in South America and Kilimanjaro in Africa.  He was also a beloved physician at Benefis.
He was a force who will be missed.