Get out and Ride

After living in Montana for most of my grown life, I have found myself always serching for new zones to snowboard and bike. Over the past few years alot of my adventrues were inspired by looking at mountain ranges on google earth, then getting online to reasearch access to them. I have found that the majority of my inspiration as of late, has come from blogs that I have stumbled apon. These blogs have not only inspired me, they consistently teach me of all the great areas of Montana I have not seen. On top of the inspiration, these blogs have kept me curiously searching for more. They have also helped me plan trips and access areas without a throw-away scouting trip. I hope that this blog can do the same for a couple more people in Montana. I hope that this inspires other to get out and REALLY see Montana. This blog is for all those who participate in the endless search for more....More mountain escapes, whiteroom apointments, after work bike rides, or persuit of personal progression, Most of us are in the constant serach for Gnarnia. Lets get out and Ride. What do you ride for? I made this blog to display my seach in hopes of inspiration, less solo missions, and more adventures with like minded individuals.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Cooke City Day #4-Abiathar Peak

Day four had us looking for a slightly shorter day. Our last day of the trip we had to check out and head home. Heavy weather was forecasted to move in late in the day so we wanted to do something a little shorter to avoid the potential weather.

Abiathar Peak located in Yellowstone Park and Wyoming is a unique peak I have been drooling over for a few years now. This Gothic line, unlike any others I have seen, does not top out, instead cleaving the massive cliffs dead ending in the heart of the rock. You can peak out via the line along the AC Traverse, which has been done but would be a spicy day to say the least. The line, although somewhat short makes up for it in the ambiance, feeling like you are riding out of the heart of a massive pile of interesting conglomerates.

The tour, one of many that does not require a snowmobile, is strait forward and we found ourselves in the basin at a relatively quick pace. Laying eyes on the couloir was very exciting, seeing the massive slash through rocks up close and personal.

Pushing on we skinned up the apron eventually making our way to the entrance. Looking up the hallway we had some concerns with wind slabs, especially in the lower portions dead center where it appeared the high winds had deposited a nice layer earlier the previous day or two.

Comfortable with the snow along the more sheltered lookers left side we pushed
on. Eventually nearing the top, the run increased in steepness and tightened into a box dead end with walls pushing up to the sky in every direction. Turning around and looking down was unreal as we strapped in ready to ride what visually looked to be out of the mountain as opposed to down the mountain, an experience you do not get from most couloirs.

The turns were great by couloir standards with some wind buff, and some powder turns as we made our way down and out. An experience I wont soon forget, and likely the highlight of the trip for me.

This was the end of our journey for this trip.  As always Cooke City is a magical place and I need to return more often.  It does not disappoint.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Cooke City Day #3-Goose Lake-Fox Peak

We found ourselves with the best weather of the trip forcasted for the third day. With 3 to 4 fresh inches of snow and ample wind for the past 24 hours we did not get our hopes up but decided to head back to Goose lake again. Our plan initially to check out the conditions of the lines on Wolf/Sawtooth peak. The hope was for some wind protected couloirs with possibly just enough fresh snow to make good turns. If not we would find something else to ride back there with ample terrain.

As we reached the saddle my hopes dropped. The wind that had been ripping the day before at elevation was still in full effect at mid to upper elevations. With no rhyme or reason to the direction, plumes came off the peaks and spin drift swirled visibly along the whole upper face. We pushed on to inspect the couloirs with low hopes.

We ended about half way up the main couloir dropping off of Sawtooth only to find isothermic snow on the true south facing sides of the run, frozen bowling ball sized westslide rubble and just enough reactive wind effected snow to be on edge. As we climbed the reactive windslabs became deeper and more concerning, likely to get worse with elevations based on our visual observations earlier in the day. So as hard as it was to do, with all the variables we scrapped it and rode out to go investigate another.

The second run we checked we had investigated the first day. To our surprise the exit of the couloir had collected a fresh 18 to 20 inches of windslab and was almost unrecognizable. A little more investigation showed lots of wind activity, snow variability, and wind slabs that were reactive and not healed enough to push forward.

Such is the game we play. There are a few walls in this state that once you lay eyes on you cannot un-see them. This wall ranks in the top 3 for me and with its proximity just out of reach from our neck of the woods it can be hard to time vacations with conditions. I do think with the complex nature of this wall and its south west facing aspect and from what I can tell a decent amount of wind, It’s got to be more challenging to catch it in good condition. I will catch it someday, but until then it will be in the back of my mind. You don’t know unless you go.

All was not lost however as we enjoyed nice turns back down to the basin and regrouped for a push to Mount Fox. A diagonal skin through some beautiful rolling terrain had us traversing to the top of Mount Fox. Switching over we enjoyed views from the top of Glacier Peak, and beyond however short lived due to the strong winds at the top. We enjoyed likely our best snow conditions of the trip down to Goose Lake from the top of Mount Fox before retreating to the sleds

Friday, April 5, 2019

Cooke City Day #2-Scotch Bonnet, Fisher, Henderson

With the fresh snow, ample wind picking up and fairly socked in conditions the second day we decided to keep it a little closer to town with a loose goal of heading over to Scotch Bonnet Peak to check out the new conditions we had.  We started the day out by climbing Scotch Bonnet Peak, riding the longest tree chute from the top.  The snow had bonded pretty well and the refresh made for some pretty good turns.  

After the first run we decided to head over and ride the fall line off of the adjacent Fisher peak which looked to harbor slightly better snow.  As we climbed the clouds came in and out with winds picking up substantially as we neared the top.  The run off of Fisher was better than Scotch Bonnet, although the flat light challenged our eyes as we rode it all the way down. 

We then pushed on to Henderson Peak and spent a good amount of time looking at all the cool old mining structures near this beautiful peak.  The people that mined these mountains must have been some tough bastards and I was blown away by the size of lumber and steel they hauled above 10K.  It appears that one of the buildings had been blown off its foundation or knocked over somehow.  I guess in my mind I wonder if it was from an avalanche with all the hang fire above it.  Pretty neat to see and something I am not used too in our local ranges.  We pushed on as the clouds began to break later in the day and eventually enjoyed the best turns of the day riding the upper bowls down the prominent avalanche chute back to our machines.  

It was a great low key day of just wandering around and we were happy with the snow conditions, however the wind was somewhat concerning.  A quick sled ride out and we were enjoying dinner back at the hotel wondering what the next day would bring. 

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Cooke City Day #1-Goose to Sawtooth and North Fox

Skiing new areas is a lot of fun.  Although I have been to Cooke City once before back in 2014, Every trip is slightly different, and this area is almost overwhelming at first when you start to try and process the plethora of amazing ski lines.  You really cannot go wrong on any given day.  The size and scale of these mountains combined with the ease of access in comparison to other ranges in Montana sends your mind spinning.  You could get lost in these mountains for years and still probably barely scratch the surface of the potential.

For this trip we would be engulfed in the mountains four days. We decided to live luxuriously by getting a hotel in town as opposed to my last trip out of a camper.  I would say it was worth it from the gear management standpoint although we did not spend much time in the room.  That being said we had very loose agendas as we rolled into town one late evening it was decided we would just head out the next day and get a handle on conditions and aspects. 

For this day we decided to take the snowmobiles back to the wilderness boundary near Goose Lake.  The two days prior to our arrival had been sunny and warm with good refreezes, but we had hopes for soft north facing snow, or potential warming south facing terrain.  The weather was forecasted to be warm, however I am not sure weather forecasts in the Beartooths can be trusted 100%.  The snowmobile ride into the area was just as stunning as I remember, rubbernecking at peaks and lines in all directions making it hard to operate and navigate to your destination.

We eventually parked at the Wilderness boundary and set off over Goose lake back to the surreal basin below Sawtooth and Wolf Peaks.  The sun and views were out of this world as you navigate over the flat rolling terrain of the Beartooth with jagged peaks jutting up out of nowhere. It is beautiful, unique terrain unlike anything we have in Western Montana.  I mentioned to Curt that I remember thinking on my last trip back here that it would be terrifying to be caught in this terrain in a whiteout with no point of reference as we walked in, but more on that later.  

As we dropped into the basin we opted to go check out some north-ish facing terrain.  The south facing terrain had developed a sun crust and frozen wetslide chunder, without ample sunshine it had not softened quite yet.  So we set off to climb the beautiful north east facing run off of the peak across from Sawtooth that drains directly into Cavity Lake.  Skinning up the run we soon found out that our conditions for the trip were likely to be variable.  Alternating from crust to powder to windslab within short distances it became apparent that this basin had experienced a lot of wind or a wind event which moved around a lot of snow before it got warm.  We pushed on regardless in hopes of soft snow up high.  Although variable the snow in the shadows was still soft and we plotted out our decent through the softest of patches.  The run down to Cavity Lake was pretty incredible with the view across the valley during the decent being the highlight.  From Cavity Lake we continued the run to the north down towards Glacier Green Lake.

By this point the clouds had moved in and periodic snow storms spitting.  We slapped on skins and headed  up and out the basin.  On our way out the sun broke through the clouds and rapidly started warming the snow.  With enough time we decided to roll the dice and go check out a sweet little couloir off of Sawtooth Mountain in hopes the sun would stay out for a while.  As we climbed the apron excitement grew as the snow started to soften from its frozen state.  We soon reached the mouth of the couloir which had wet slide prior in the week and began booting up it.  It was still pretty locked up but we climbed in hopes the sun would stay out long enough to soften it.  As we made our way up the clouds eventually rolled back in tightening the snow right back up to its hardened state.  We bailed mid way up the couloir and made some scrappy turns to the apron from where we enjoyed some still soft turns back down to the basin.  It was a good thing we turned because as soon as we started switching over to skins a storm blew in eliminating our visibility and dumping an inch and hour of snow. 

We blindly navigated out of the basin with help from a GPS and then followed the arrow on my watch to back track close to two miles across Goose lake with no point of reference in sight.  By the time we had returned to our sleds just under 2 miles away it had snowed 3 to 4 inches. It was an eerie feeling, and quite frankly the technology saved our asses.  This confirms my theory that this terrain would be hard to navigate in a white out. Eventually we made it back to town and a couple of beers, a stark contrast to blind navigation a few hours earlier.