The initial thought was to head up to Gunsight mountain, the peak the dwarfs the chalet on its bench. However, we’d been at it for the two days previous, and our late arrival Saturday in Kalispell made an early start less appealing. So we found ourselves on the trail at a nicely agreeable hour, despite the dirt we walked with skis on our backs.
It proved walkable all the way to Crystal Ford (as of April 20th, 2014), so we stowed our boots in a tree and skinned on ahead.
Deadfall popped out a bit here and there–making interesting moves to do in the otherwise mellow trail.
The cliffs above the trail have been shedding hard this winter. Avie debris had come way down into the trees, making the trail a strange dirt shelf buried quite a ways under our feet. This continued for a quite a while, and both Steven and I remarked that it was unusually low on the trail, relative to our own experience.
It was a good wake up call. Wet slides have tremendous power, and even when the trees appear to be closely knit and outside of a slide zone, the snow had bowled on through unimpeded.
Traversing along the base of some clearings beneath the cliffs, we made good time into the upper basin. Of course, we made sure that the slope angle was ok in our given snacking locations.
Detouring through the rolling flats between the chalet and what the chalet employees call the Seven Sisters (the rolling ridge the comes down from Lincoln Peak), we made a quick trip up to Lincoln Pass to look over towards Mt. Jackson.
A set of fresh wolverine tracks wound over the moraines, straight up, and then over the pass. We took a few minutes for grandeur-taking-in. Glacier may not have the largest mountains, but this spring has reinforced that 7000ft of relief from the valley floors is plenty for me. Perhaps we get a bit used to being out there, but the refreshing feeling of looking out across the sea of triangles never looses its cool. There’s a peace there, a knowledge that it’s all so much bigger than who we are, yet it’s up to us to take care of it and the critters that call it home.
Skiing down to the chalet, I hopped over a little roll over, and managed to air the continuation of the gulo track completely by accident.
I’m always conflicted when people ask about my spirit animal. Most of me wants to be a wolverine–an athletic machine totally equal to the big mountains it inhabits, if only for a short time, wild time. But the reality is that I’m not that fast, and not quite that gnarly, so honesty demands the answer of mountain goat. Seems fitting that even my spirit animal wants to climb faster and travel further.
Swinging down to the chalet, the late spring snowpack decorated the roof of the hotel and had the dining hall mostly buried. It’s still snowing in the high country, which means great skiing, once it finally consolidates. A month has passed since these photos were taken, and we’re still waiting for that.
As the sun dropped lower, we ripped skins and headed on down.
Skiers have any number of expressions when they’re skiing, but I think Steven has it about perfected: the megawatt smile. Further testing will determine if he skis that way through fresh snow too.
Our traverse out was pretty unremarkable. Back through the avie debris, and gluey conditions left us in tour mode with no skins, pushing our way down the hill. The trail is under there, somewhere.
We milked it over several dirt patches, and eventually walked the rest of the way down. As we packed our stuff into the Subaru for the drive back to Whitefish, I slouched into the seat and thought about not much at all, which meant one thing: running around in these mountains can make me tired.
Thanks to Steven for his insight, jokes, base welding knowledge, holding my phone, and proper skiing attitude.