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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Saint Mary Peak, Bitterroots

Pudge on the summit, looking south.
I was telling Jen today that I feel a bit adrift. The semester was so full, and now suddenly there's much less going on. To fill days with work, I've got to be self motivated, whereas during the semester, there was always something that needed to be done, and soon.

A while back, on a bluebird day, I went and skied St. Mary Peak in the Bitterroot with Pudge. It was a beautiful day, a straightforward ski, and only took about 1/2 day. 

Then yesterday, after the snow storm dumped over a foot of snow in the mountains nearby, I went and skinned up Snowbowl after a half day of work. I made my own skin track up, and tuckered myself out, the snow was so deep and wet. 

Needless to say, I've been enjoying the heck out of the spring skiing this year. I do, indeed, love the back country ski gear and the ability to travel in the high country in such a beautiful way this time of year.
And again looking north.

And yet again looking east.

And north toward the Missions.
Pudge at the top of Snowbowl.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Butte: Jack Mountain, Chancellor's Medallion, and Mountain Biking

The family up at Montana Tech.
I got an award last weekend from Montana Tech, called the Chancellor's Medallion. Many Montana Tech graduates go on to huge success in the oil and mining (and other) industries, but the current Tech Chancellor, Don Blackketter, wanted to also award people like me, who've achieved success in higher education, so he created the Chancellor's Medallion. It was an honor to get the award. I found out after the fact that one of my old Butte High/Montana Tech/Montana State classmates, Becky Johnson was behind nominating me, which makes the award even sweeter. Thanks Becky!

I went over to Butte for the festivities Thursday afternoon. In between engagements on Friday, I went and climbed Jack Mountain outside of Basin, Montana. Jack is a P2000 (2000+ feet of prominence) summit. I'd never been in this area before, and it was cool to see it. The route to the summit followed a road and was on snow, but it was a hot day, so the snow was unconsolidated making the outing strenuous and the skiing poor. Still it was good to get out and bag another P2000 summit.  

Finally, after commencement on Saturday, and a barbecue with an old friend, who happened to be there for the graduation of his son, Jen and I rode the Beaver Ponds and Toll Mountain from the top of Pipestone Pass. Butte has such great mountain biking, and the Beaver Ponds are where I got my start mountain biking back in the early 90s, so it was nostalgic to be back. 

Jack Mountain behind me.

Pudge on the summit. It was a tough day for him.

Jack Mountain summit, looking southeast, toward Bozeman.

Jack Mountain summit, looking northeast, toward the Elkorn Range.

The climb up Toll Mountain.

The Highlands from Toll Mountain.

Happy mountain biker on cherry Butte single track.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Spring Skiing: Sweeney Peak, Bitterroots

Pudge on Sweeney's summit looking at Lolo Peak.
In my quest to keep skiing deep into spring, this past Saturday I went and skied Sweeney Peak, while Jen did the Montana Hell Ride and Ellie was hanging with friends. It's the right time to ski Sweeney, as you can drive to the trailhead, where the snow begins. Because the trailhead is high, the elevation gain isn't too monstrous, at 3500 feet. The route to the summit follows the summer hiking trail to a saddle, at which point you head off trail and follow the east ridge to the peak. Along this ridge, there's tons of great looking skiing in the north facing bowls, but I was alone, so I skied the ridge back down, saving more interesting skiing for a day with a partner.

Selfie with Little St. Joe (left) and St. Joseph Peak (right).

And the peaks again without me blocking the view.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Spring Skiing: Gash Point and Trapper Peak, Bitterroots

The group on the summit of Trapper on a blue bird day.
During the winter, I did most of my skiing at the resort, but since they've all closed, I've been trying to get out into the back country once a week. Two weeks ago, I went up to Gash Point, which I last visited two years ago on snowshoes. After summiting the peak, I skied mellow slopes down, saving the steeper bowls for a day with a partner. This past weekend, I joined The Rocky Mountaineers on a trip up Trapper Peak. Alden Wright has organized a spring trip up Trapper for over 15 years and turned 75 years old on the day after this year's outing.

I love getting up into the high mountains this time of year. The peaks are chock-full of snow, making them as beautiful as during any other time of year. The snow also becomes more stable in the spring, making travel easier and avalanche conditions less worrisome. And of course, it's great to be making turns well into spring.

Summit bench mark.

Laurie Stalling reaches the summit.

Ed Stalling follows soon after.
The rest of the group approaches.
Summit chillin', literally, it was cold.

Dave Patterson and I are both Professors in the Math Department.
Heading down: Piquett Mountain in the background.

Gash Point summit selfie.

And Pudge.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

A Trip to Butte and Fleecer Mountain

Fleecer about a mile or two in from the car.
For the past several years, I've been thinking that I need to make more of an effort to visit my mom in Butte. It's a stages of life thing: my kids are getting older (this month Alex will be 20 and Ellie 17) and need me less, while my mom is also getting older (she's now 67) and would like me to visit her more. So last weekend, I took a quick trip to Butte, skied Discovery on the way over, hung out with Mom in the evening and the next morning, and then bagged Fleecer Mountain the next day before heading home. 

Fleecer is a high prominence (2000+ feet) summit to the southwest of Butte that you can see from uptown. It sits massive to the west of I-15 about a 20 mile drive from Butte. To get to Fleecer Road, get off of I-15 at the Feeley Exit and head west toward the peak. It's a nice place to go this time of year. I was able to drive, easily, to about 6400 feet on the Fleecer Road. Then the last 3000 feet to the summit took 2.5 hours on foot, then snowshoes. There was another group on the mountain, who had snowmobiled part way up and then switched to backcountry ski gear. I regretted not bring mine, but it was a great day nonethless, and an enjoyable trip to Butte. I look forward to more of the same in the coming years.     
The Highlands to the east of Fleecer.
Looking north toward Deer Lodge and the Flint Range from the summit. Mount Haggin is on the eastern edge of the picture.
The Pintlers from Fleecer.
The Pioneers to the south from Fleecer's summit.
A panoramic video from the summit.
Words to live by hanging from Mom's bathroom wall.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Spring Break in the Desert

Needles District of Canyonlands.
Jen and I first went to Moab, Utah together not long after we met in 1993, when we took a fall mountain bike trip with a friend from Butte. At the time, I was 19 and Jen was 18, and Jen had actually been to Moab several times previously while she was in high school in Salt Lake City. Since that first trip, we've been back to the Utah/Arizona desert most years, so by now it's fair to say that the place is in our blood. 

On this trip, since we had Ellie along, we tailored the trip to her. Ellie loves backpacking and hanging out with her friends, so we arranged a backpacking trip in the Needles District of Canyonlands -- a place we've all been multiple times -- and some time in Moab, where she had friends staying. 

While in Moab, Jen and I did two mountain bike rides: the classic Procupine Rim (which we did on that first trip long ago) and the exceptional HyMasa/Captain Ahab loop on the Amasa Back several miles down the Colorado River from Moab. Both rides were great fun, and we talked about future trips, when we would be on our own and could spend more time riding in Moab.

After a couple of nights in Moab, we headed down to the Needles District of Canyonlands and returned to Salt Creek Canyon, where we had last been nearly ten years ago. We spent two nights on Salt Creek, day hiking up to the amazing Angle Arch on our second day, and then on our return trip, we detoured up Lost Canyon for our third night. It was a great four days, with the  highlight being the relaxed family time together and conversations with Ellie.

All in all, it was yet another great trip. As always, it was bittersweet driving up out of Moab and beginning the long drive home. There's something about that spring trip to sun and heat that feels like home. I'm already looking forward to next year.

Porcupine Rim with Castleton Tower in the background.

Porcupine Rim riding.

Ellie hiking out to Salt Creek

This spot is off the beaten path. I found it on our last Salt Creek trip and was glad to return. Previous human left hand prints, perhpas marking the passage of time. This must have been a yearly camp spot.

Petroglyphs again at Peekaboo Camp.

Walking up Salt Creek.

Salt Creek.

Angel Arch.

Hiking up out of Salt Creek, heading to Lost Canyon.

Our Lost Canyon Camp. 

Heading out of Lost Canyon on our last day.

The beginning of Captain Ahab, which we road on the day we left Moab.