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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Alex Leaves the Nest

And they're off.

A huge emphasis is placed, in our culture, on the job of parenting little ones, with magazines, countless books, etc., on the topic.   The same attention isn't given at the other end, when kids leave the nest. This is probably because the process is so much less controllable and uniform: some kids go to college, which seems the easiest route on parents of our socio-economic class (and maybe also on our kids), providing a relatively smooth transition from the dependence of childhood into the independence and responsibility of adulthood; others flounder for a year or more without direction; and still others have something specific that they want to accomplish outside of the realm of school. Alex is in the last class of kids. He's driven to make a life in Denver, coaching dirt jumping and making a go at being a professional cyclist. I'm proud of him for making the leap; I know that I didn't have anywhere near the same level of guts when I was his age. But it's also scary as a parent to watch your kid drive away, knowing you won't be seeing him for quite a while, and that in the mean time he's going to have to be providing for himself. You also realize the level of attachment that you have toward your family. What Jen and I have constructed in our family is the best thing in my life, and it's hard to accept that it's now changed for good. On the other hand, this is what is supposed to happen, so it's a reason to rejoice.

Yesterday, we drove to Fairmont with Alex and his girlfriend Lindsey. Grandma Sally bought us all breakfast, and then we said good-bye. It was hard to do, but awesome - go Alex!
The family at Fairmont.

Bardsley men at the Bike Doctor at Alex's Going Away Party.

Alex and Ellie

Another family shot with Lindsey.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Holland Peak from Holland Lake with Matt: A Swan Range Ridge Walk

Matt with Holland Peak and Buck Peak (closer) in the afternoon after walking the ridge. 
The week after bagging McDonald Peak with Al, I took an overnight trip into the Swan Range with another wilderness brother, Matt Roscoe. Matt and I are both professors in the Math Department at UM, and Jen and I have been friends with he and his wife Monica since we first moved to Missoula. We started the hike at Holland Lake, made the long climb to Holland Lookout, and then followed the excellent ridge heading north along the Swan Front. At Rubble Lake, we dropped off the ridge and setup camp lakeside, then continued on to Holland Peak, skirting Buck Peak through the bowl to the west on the way. The last ridge up to Holland is unique, striking, and fun. I'd seen pictures and descriptions of it online and so was ready for it, but the fun class 3 trip up the north ridge, and down the south ridge, of Buck Peak on the way back was a fun surprise. There's also a couple of other spots of class 3-ish climbing on the other two 400 feet of prominence peaks (8485 and 8450) between Buck and Holland Lookout. All in all, the ridge between Holland Peak and Lookout is excellent and fun.       

The overnight was excellent, with fantastic and little-visited country and great company in Matt. It's remarkable that such a trip, which took only about 24 hours total, is so close to Missoula.

Walking the ridge in the misty morning

Matt and Holland Lake from the ridge.

Rubble Lake.

Heading on to Holland Peak in clouds.

Walking the bowl below Buck, on the way to Holland

Matt and Buck Peak

Me and Buck

The final, awesome ridge walk to the last slope to Holland Peak.

A bit further along.

Looking back south from near the summit.

Summit shot. Rumble Lake (right) and Buck Peak on the left with the rest of the Swan ridge stretching south.

Heading off of the summit.

Rumble Lake.
Back along the ridge. Matt's shorts matching the lichen nicely.

The north ridge of Buck.

Buck summit shot looking south.

Descending the south ridge of Buck.

Flowers and Buck Peak. 
Beautiful evening.

Descending to camp at the end of a great day.

Monday, July 13, 2015

McDonald Peak with Al: Mission Mountains

Al on the summit ridge, just steps from the top of McDonald after 6 hours hard walking, with Sheep's Head in the background. 
I've been asking myself lately why I am so drawn to doing long, hard days in the mountains. Part of it is passion, and its close relative obsession, but there's also a spiritual quest that's involved. Such days bring me as near as I can get to a place of pure-awareness, where I am simply a human being, alive and 'moving upon the earth'.

About a week ago, I climbed McDonald Peak with my Bozeman friend Al, a fellow seeker of wilder-spiritual inspiration. It's the hardest peak I've done, not in terms of technical difficulty - as far as that goes it's not too hard - but rather in terms of the shear effort involved to get there and back. Amazingly, Al left Bozeman at 2am the day of our outing. I met him at Orange Street Exit at 5:15am, and we headed on up to the Ashley Lakes Trailhead, which requires a 4 wheel drive vehicle to reach. We were on the trail by 7am. 

The route starts on the ridge on which you park at the end of the road, along a trail that leaves the Ashley Lakes Trail immediately on your left. From here the route description is pretty straightforward; the difficulty is in the long, hard day required to execute it. First, follow the ridge to 7000 feet, at which point you traverse around the huge bowl below Sheep's Head, staying approximately at 7000 feet through the cliff band about half way round. After what seems like endless steep sidehilling, which only seems to get more difficult the further you get, you begin the climb up to spectacular Duncan Lake. Once at the lake, cross the outlet and ascend the climbers trail immediately ahead of you, to the saddle above the lake. Then contour around (or drop down the creek below as we did) to the base of McDonald. From here the climb to the top is straightforward, though if the snow fields are full, you may want an ice axe. This is a seriously strenuous, entirely off-trail outing into seriously rugged country, so if you do it, do your homework, get an early start (I would suggest leaving the trailhead at 6am), take a friend, go on a day with decent weather, and note that it's closed for Grizzlies July 15-October 1. My GPS track, and another short trip report, can be found here.

NOTE: alternative routes from the same trail head include going up and over Sheep's Head, which involves class 4 climbing, or traversing at 8000 feet, rather than 7000 feet, which is a shorter traverse and might be the best option, but it requires a significant elevation loss to Duncan Lake and analogous gain on the return. Others approach the peak from lower Post Creek to the north (see Cedron Jones' Peakbagging Montana) or upper Post Creek to the east (accessed from the east side Turqoise Lake trail). There's no easy way to do this great mountain. 

Al on the ridge to Sheep's Head. You park on this ridge and walk it up to 7000 feet.
A snack before the long traverse.
Pudge and Skila on the traverse, Ashley Lakes below.
Al on the traverse in the upper-right hand corner. The traverse was the most physically punishing part of the trip for us.

At Duncan Lake. This is an amazing place.
On the saddle above Duncan Lake, Sheep's Head in the backbround in the second photo.
Another shot from the saddle, looking southwest. A magnificent place. That might be Flattop in the background.

Two shots looking different directions. Looking south in the first and north at McDonald in the second one.
Looking south from a bit higher up than two photos ago. Here you can see Icefloe straight ahead and Mountaineer to the left.
From the summit. Lake of the Clouds (I think) with Daughter of the Sun Mountain in the distance.

Skila on top.
Al Looking West. Sheep's Head on the right.
Pudge on the McDonald snowfiled. Kakashe and Flattop in the top-center of the picture.

Shangrila below McDonald.
Further below in the Shangrila.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Three Days in Glacier With the Family: Highline Trail, Granite Park, Swiftcurrent Mountain, Mount Gould

Jen and Ellie at Haystack Butte overlook with Longfellow Peak overhead.
The kids and I on the summit of Swiftcurrent Mountain.
Last week we went on a family backpacking trip to Glacier Park. My success rate at planning family backpacking trips and having them actually happen is pretty low - easily less than 50%. Backpacking with the family has taught me patience. After a cancelled Glacier trip last year and a failed permit application for a Glacier trip in August, I had given up on a family backpacking trip happening this year. But then a couple of days before we went, Jen said, "Why don't you plan a trip to Glacier for next week." Needless to say, I was game. However, my conference was just ending, and I only had a day between its ending and the first day of our trip, which was filled with frantic packing, food buying, etc. My first choice of trips was the Gunsight Pass trail from St. Mary Lake up and over to Lake McDonald, but at the back country camping office in Apgar, the ranger talked me out of it due to the presence of lingering snow fields (which I later heard weren't bad). We instead spent two nights at Granite Park, hiking out along the Garden Wall and then climbing up to Swiftcurrent Lookout on the second day. It turned out to be an ideal trip, with some peakbagging opportunities along the way: first Swiftcurrent Mountain on day 2, whose views must be among the best in the Park; and then after an early start on day 3, Mount Gould, which I climbed alone while Jen and the kids hiked down to The Loop and then took a shuttle back to Logan Pass, where we met. It was a truly great trip and reinforces for me that sometimes the best trips are seat-of-the-pants. Also, it's bittersweet that this is probably the last trip we'll do as an intact family unit, since Alex leaves for Denver on July 26. As this date gets nearer, I realize that I'm in denial and really not ready for him to go.

The fam with Mount Gould Looming Large.

Looking back toward Logan Pass from Haystack Butte saddle.

Alex shooting film, which he did a lot this trip.

Starting out for Swiftcurrent Mountain on day 2.

Looking down toward Many Glacier.

The views off to the west, north-west on the way up to Swiftcurrent Mountain.

Looking north from Swiftcurrent Mountain.

Another family shot from the summit.

Alex looking down toward Many Glacier.
Jen and I doing the same.
A shot by Alex on the way down of Mount Gould. I would climb the opposite face the next day.
Flower and Heaven's Peak.
The kids looking south toward Logan Pass.

I did a side hike up to this overlook on Day 2: Mount Gould, Grinnell Glacier, and Mount Siyeh in the background.

Shot from camp on night 2. The mosquitoes were thick.

Alex shot this one of Jen on the hike out to the Loop.

Mount Gould. This is the face I climbed.
Some extra pictures:
The kids on the Garden Wall.

Ellie. Photo by Alex.