Crust cruising condition most of this week have been perfect. The snow has firmed to a good solid base and it seems regular deposits of 3-4 inches of fresh powder has made for some wonderful skiing.
To take advantage of the conditions Bud Iszler and I decided to ski 7.5 miles into the Two Medicine valley of Glacier National Park.
The meeting place for adventures in the southeast part of Glacier is always the Two Medicine Grill in East Glacier. As I walked in the door I could here folks exclaiming about the great backcountry ski conditions this winter. Those that ski or snowboard high on the alpine slopes are ecstatic because of the good snowpack. Those of us that ski lower feel the same way. The skiing is ideal and should remain so for some time.
The weather forecast for Saturday suggested that the mountains would be shrouded in clouds and snow would fall. We decided to head into Two Medicine anyway. It's a long gradual uphill pull into the valley. At first clouds hung low over the mountains and another cloud bank over the plains kept the sun from shining. As we skied along though both sets of clouds began to thin. Eventually the sun broke through and treated us to some fantastic views.
Just past the head of Lower Two Medicine Lake we reached the bridge over the Two Medicine River. We detoured over to Running Eagle Falls. This interesting waterfall plays a trick on visitors in that during winter and other periods of low flow all the water above the falls flows into caverns and erupts about halfway down the cliff face leaving the upper part of the falls completely dry. When the big snow runoff begins the huge volume of water will overflow those caverns and water will flow over the top as well.
Photos by Bud Iszler.
As we approached the falls we could here the deep rumble of the water coming out of the big hole. The snow was deep, the stream was flowing briskly and the sun was warm. We ambled around, took photos, paused for a brief luncheon and enjoyed the spectacular scenery.
Running Eagle Falls and Rising Wolf Mountain.
Beyond Running Eagle Falls we had to gain about 400 feet before we could drop down into the lake. The sun was beginning to warm the fresh powder now and turn it into something that stuck firmly to the bottom of our skis. We found relief in the cooler shaded snow along the south side of the road. Eventually we began to struggle as the snow warmed everywhere.
Bud Iszler (left) and Two Medicine River.
The end of the road at Two Medicine Lake is a popular tourist destination in summer. There is a camp store and a rest room building near the parking lot. As I approached this area I noticed a steep little hill that I could recognize from my summer visits. Turned out that "hill" was a big snow drift covering the rest rooms. Only the pyramid shaped roof stuck out of the snow on top of the "hill."
The public rest rooms at Two Medicine were a little inaccessible.
On previous ski tours into Two Medicine we stopped on the porch of the camp store for lunch. This day though we looked down about 10 feet to the porch. Neither of us wanted to climb down there just for lunch so we went around the back of the store. A huge snow drift began on the top of the roof and extended all the way down to the ground completely burying the back of the building.
Photos by Bud Iszler.
The whole area was a photographers dream and I began to make photographs of the buildings and surrounding mountains. We skied around getting better angles for photos and checking out the facilities in the camp ground which were almost completely buried by the snow.
Pray Lake and Sinopah Mountain.
As we were well back along Pray Lake and snow squall moved down the valley. The sun disappeared and it began to snow tons of those big giant flakes that can accumulate quickly. We decided to begin our journey out in case the new snow got really deep.
The clouds and snow turned out to be a good thing. The lack of sunshine and falling new snow made for cooler conditions so the snow didn't stick so much to our skis. We also stopped to apply some Swix F4 to our ski bases to reduce the sticking problem too.
Soon the sun returned and the snow warmed. It warmed right through the sticky zone though and became wet enough that it provided much better glide. This permitted a fairly quick ski out.