Monday, April 25, 2016


Before the heat wave crested over Missoula and washed the low elevation snow away, I took a last go at the Rattlesnake.  North-facing slopes still held powder, and morning clouds kept things cool enough for good skiing into the early afternoon.

From Point Six I crossed the upper part of the Grant Creek Basin and, after summiting Mosquito Peak, took my first run midway down its north ridge.  After sidestepping all the way down this thing in white ice conditions last year, I felt pretty cool racing my slough down to the bottom this go-round.  

Back up to the top, and this time a couloir further south on what I'm calling the Mosquito Chuting Gallery.  

Steep off-camber snice at the top gave way to settled powder in the main gut.

Mosquito's north face.  Tracks barely visible in the gully looker's right and the flaring chute at the center of the frame.  Brian Story and I skied the line from the top back in 2008 in foggy conditions before continuing on to complete a stellar linkup of north faces on a loop back to Snowbowl. 

With the temperature rising, I made tracks for the unnamed peak directly north of Mosquito.  After watching a group of mountain goats scamper away to the east, I skied a terrific run from the summit to a beautiful banana chute before climbing back into the basin and traversing my way out.

The central Rattlesnake doesn't offer the longest lines or the easiest access, but it's a beautiful spot, wilderness with access less than half an hour from town.  Beyond Murphy Peak, I've never run into another skier out there.  

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Darkest Evening of the Year

Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village though.

He will not see me stopping here,
to watch his woods fill up with snow.

(The only other sound's the sound's the sweep
of easy wind and downy flake.)

((with apologies to Messr. Frost))

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Summer Catch-Up

After a summer without regular internet access, what is there to report?  That I got more reading done than usual?  Watched fewer pointless videos?  Stared at my phone instead of my computer screen?  All of the above, I guess.  

Not that I was divorced entirely from internet connection.  My work required much computer time, much internet.  But home after the day's work, I was struck by how accustomed I'd grown to the sounds of netflix, youtube, even, occasionally, amazon prime.  

Even worse was checking the news--a slow, stilted scrolling through the overgrowth of 3G connection.   What's the point in a smartphone if it can't meet my attention span?  I want to know what's going on, and I want it now. 

Then, a low-tech solution: the radio.  Suddenly the house was filled with sound.  Even better, listening had me using my imagination.  Instead of watching a story, I pictured it.  Wow, how my brain was working.  I pictured it lighting up like fireworks.  I felt such a virtuous feeling.  

Then another thought:  wasn't radio once the hot new thing?  And then television?  And then color tv?  And next video games?  And now endless internet time.  

One hundred and fifty-odd years ago, rapt crowds would watch for three hours while Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas debated their way across the nation.  Think of that.  Three hours of intense concentration on two figures belting out arguments half a football field away.  

Could we do it now?  Of course we could.  Just take away our internet, tv, radio, and, as long as you're at it, our electric lights.  But before you do, there's a a cat video I want to be sure I catch.    

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Some days you end up taking the skis for a walk.  Woke up to clouds, hiked in rain, and found mush where I'd hope for an overnight re-freeze.  So it goes.

Was shooting for something new, not pictured here, but I like the photo, so it's going up.  

After making it to the lake I spooked a cow elk.  Tracks led me to believe she had been hanging out along the water's edge, and maybe this was why--a drowned calf, suspended as if in mid jump, in only a couple feet of water.  

The calf looked calm, and I had trouble coming up with a good story for how she got there.  Fell through the ice?  But the lake was ice free.  Jumped in and couldn't get out?  But the edge is shallow, an easy walk.  Just unlucky? 

More things in heaven and earth, Horatio...     

A few minutes later I stumbled upon a bear.  He ran off, and I hung around clacking my ski poles and hollering before continuing on my way.  Then there he was again.  Same story.  After a few minutes I started hiking once more, only to run into him a third time.  Now, instead of moving off, he began shambling my way, just a bit faster than I could trot.

I haven't heard much about black bear encounters, but I wasn't interested in becoming anybody's unusual cocktail story.  The snow was rotten, the omens seemed poor.  Better to head down and drink a beer in the sun.  Enough strange was in the air.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Spring is the time to be creative.

Linking snow patches is an unheralded art.  Look for grass.  If no grass, look for stumps.  If no stumps, aim for the round rocks.  If only sharp rocks, grin and bear it.  Keep a file and a stick of p-tex handy.

Some insist on always removing their skis to cross dry patches.  I remember clearly the day I learned better:   

We post-holed toward a ridgeline as an early June thunderstorm rolled in.  Our camp was on the other side--dry tents, cold beer.  The air tasted metal.  At the top, we threw on our skis in a controlled panic and made tracks for the basin below, only to find our way blocked by boulders and talus.  As we hemmed and hawed at the first transition, a bolt sizzled out of a dark cloud and smote with biblical fury the ridge where we'd just been standing.  Suddenly we found we could ski those rocks after all.  

Thus can pure fear inspire sudden ability.  But I try to keep in practice, just in case.