This was the second year my friend Paul and I took a week and just lived it up in the mountains and in the local eateries and pubs.
This year I took an entire day off from work to prepare for my friends arrival. I cleaned up the pad and dug out my gear. I fully expected a lot of skiing and a ton of great food. I was ready! Just as I vacuumed the front room it was time to head out to the airport. It was 10 PM and I was so tired that I was barely conscious.
Paul arrived and we embraced. Spring Break had begun. We stopped at the nearest store for some beer, wine, and munchies. Then it was home and thoughts of what to do first danced in our heads. We reviewed “The List” and hit the sack (complete with buzz). Thursday drifted into Friday.
Friday we awoke late as expected after staying up late and enjoying each others company. We followed rule number 1 “No decisions on what to do until breakfast has been finished”. We headed out to Rattlesnake Gardens to find that they only do breakfasts on weekends. I went on a gut feeling and took Paul to the Rocky Mountain Grill.
It turned out to be a superb idea. I ordered some kind of mound of tasty delights with home fries. Paul ordered something traditional with pancakes. We mixed the two orders into a awesome sampler of breakfast delights. We were then able to decide on a shopping at EMS and then a trip out to Lolo Pass for a ski intro. This would be the test to see if my ankle (recently injured) would hold up and it did.
The next day we decided that a trip to the cabin on Little Saint Joe Mountain would be a good idea on Sunday. For this Saturday we decided to give the Crystal Theater a try. We decided all this and began our plans at the Rattlesnake Gardens over a very tasty breakfast. That cheesy veggie thing was yummy!
After some dispute over a launching spot we headed into the woods looking for this mystical place. We had never been there before, just heard the folk lore.
We battled the thicket and tried to stick to a creek. We had launched from the third turn out from the top of the pass. We kept losing the trail so I decided to take control of the situation and skinned straight up away from the creek to the West. Soon I came out on a well traveled track. Apparently we did not hit the trail right. I mentioned that the good news is that we will find out the correct way when we come out.
The Crystal Theater turned out to be everything we had heard but even more. The places for a back country skier to ski was astonishing. We stuck to going straight up to a rocky lookout on the top of the ridge at thee beginning of the area. The view from the top was great although confusing. It is as if our beginning point was a mystery and we could not get our bearings. The view was great though.
We skied as much as we could as the day started to wind down. My ski binding started to loosen and fall off. I kept tightening the screw with Paul’s leatherman tool.
We skied out and found out that we could of had it easy going if we would of hit the trail head better. Next time!
Little Saint Joe Camping
On Sunday we joined up with friend Ethan for a hike up Little Saint Joe Mountain. Ethan would be going back home and we would remain about a thousand feet down from the top in a winter cabin that the Rocky Mountaineers maintain (yes, I am a member). Rain was in the forecast and we were able to drive all the way to the closed gate on the Saint Joe Lookout road. We decided to gain a ridge and shoot up to the trail to the cabin.
The rain held off and sometimes we could see the Bass Creek Crags dancing in the clouds. The views were grand and the mood was exciting. The boys were glad to be out. upon reaching the cabin with another dose of being lost for a half an hour Ethan headed back home and we settled in to our abode for the evening.
We went out for an evening ski and that turned out to be the best ski of the trip as the weather was holding out fine except for gusting winds. The winds were accompanied by fast moving clouds that when coming over the mountains felt like they were overtaking us. It was pretty cool. And again my ski binding was lose.
So the theme of this Spring Break is the lose binding. The thing was lose the entire time but I was able to ski out of each outing. In between I would try and glue them back on. I guess in the off season I will epoxy them.
We spent the night in the cabin and once again it was magical. In the morning we enjoyed a kielbasa while we witnessed a rain storm over take the mountains. It was a good thing that I went out early in the morning for some pictures because that ski would be the last “Fun” one without dangerous conditions.
The rain would not stop in fact it got worse. We decided to ski for an hour then if we were wet come back and get the hell out of there. We started out and within the time I gained the first clearing I was wet but noticed that the rain was turning to snow. A big storm was a bruin.
I motioned to Paul. I was trying to gauge if we should just go to a near high spot and ski back or continue around to the main ridge. he was so intent on filming the situation that I could not get a feeling. I figured that if he was energetic enough to still be touristy that he had enough to climb some more. It was then that I decided that I would summit. I wanted to summit and possibly walk off the edge. I did not want to return back to work and for some reason I felt good with just dying on a mountain that day.
I felt bad that my friend may decide to follow but something had overtaken me and I would not stop until I was unable to gain more altitude. This mountain was not big but the winds were well over 100 mph and the storm was bearing down hard. I could not even read the branding on my skis. I just kept going up. I did not care where I was going as long as I just kept going. My destiny was in the hands of the mountain. I was giving it my life.
You may think this is all pretty dramatic but I was feeling pretty dramatic myself and I envisioned that this spirit quest was on top of a much bigger mountain. I finally crawled to the rock pile on top. I was no longer feeling suicidal and started to feel concern for my friend. Had he tried to follow?
I skied off the top. The winds were only 60 MPH compared to 100 MPH on top and I stayed close to the ridge where I felt I had come up. Suddenly I saw a little dot in the white out. It was Paul! As soon as he saw me he started to prepare to go back. I could tell he was relieved to turn around. I got to him and he was acting panicky. He seemed uncomfortab
le about the conditions. We skied down.
The funny this is that there is this avalanche / slab situation area that you did not want to be near in a storm like this one. I felt uncomfortable enough to stay away from the lich pin area of it (this after being suicidal just an hour before). I would rather freeze to death than be crushed by an avalanche. As I skied around Paul just skied right over it … ironic.
We warmed up at the cabin and then struck out for the car below. By the time we reached the car we were drenched and cold. It was a nice ride back to home base. The sun was out in the valley and the nice feast we had at Saw Wa Dee really warmed us up and turned us back into human beings.
University Mountain Rest Day
Our spring break was at an end and we took the remaining day to reset. We started the day with a hike up University Mountain. It was cold up there but the hike was nice. Paul got some decent footage on his video camera.
We spent the rest of the day at Break Espresso just messing around with our computers and planning a dinner with friends. That evening we meet up with others at the Iron Horse where I had a pretty good Rubin sandwich. Very Yummy. After that it was power packing and to bed.
And that is about it. The rest is the usual get up and drive to the airport. It seems that my friends visits to Montana are getting shorter and shorter. Every summer visit is getting shorter and now the highlight of the year was packaged into 4 intense days. Oh well, its cycling season. Camping, friendships, and racing. What more can a man want. Until next time I’ll pile “Whish You Were Here” rocks on University Mountain every time I am up there. Let’s hope the pile does not get too big.