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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Senior Hiking # 405 Last Schweitzer Snow Hike


June 6, 2011…the last Schweitzer snow hike…
hike # 405
by Betsy

The forecast was for 60% rain today but the sun was coming out when we left. Normally we would have been done with Schweitzer by now but we needed more practice with our approach skis, and Jim bought another new pair and he was especially anxious to try them out. They are shorter than the others and do have skins. Temperature was to be around 70° so I wore short sleeves and summer hiking pants.
As we started up the cat track, we found many bare spots with water running everywhere. We carried the skis up to a point when we hit snow again and thought it was safe to put the skis on. The snow was horrible to walk on, very soft and smooshy…slippery too. Since we weren’t sure how much snow would be on the Cloudwalker route, we continued up to the top as we did last week to Stella, and thought we would try going down the Zip Down Run. Up at Stella, we had our mango snack again…took off our skis and sat down for a bit. We bought silicon spray to apply to my ski skins to see if we could slip them up a bit…they seem to go fast at a certain decline and then they take off fast. But on the flat or slight declines, they kind of drag a bit.

We got our first taste of wildflowers; so many yellow violets, trillium, glacier lilies and even one pussy willow bush. We saw no bear tracks today.

If we thought the snow was bad down lower, it was extremely bad up top as we began to ski down Zip Down. I started first and it wasn’t long before I thought…no way.
The snow was full of little craters from the different rate of snow melt, and it was soft and slippery. I had no control. Jim, who had taken the skins off his skis for easier down, was in for the same surprise only more so.

He was the first to take the skis off and suggested I do the same…and we thought it would be so much safer to walk down. He carried the skis on his pole over his shoulder. When we got closer to the bottom, we put the skis on and skied down the last bit…Jim’s skis were so slick and he fell almost immediately.

Safely at the bottom of the run at Wolf Ridge, we ate lunch, and then headed back. Jim’s skis kept coming off…had to get the wrench out for some repair a couple of times but it didn’t help much. They kept coming off, and he fell a few more times. Rain clouds were ominous when we got to the village and as we drove down the mountain rain drops began to hit the windshield. We made it back just in time.

We can now drive up Pack River Rd and when we hit snow, we will park and walk to the first trail head…it is usually around 1-2 miles. While it is not so bad on the way in, it is a chore on the way back…it is hard to not be at the truck when you get down but have to walk the miles to the truck. We’ve done it many times…and once in a hard downpour…that was no fun. This is the latest we have been up at Schweitzer and the latest we have not been up to the mountain trail heads. We are anxious. It’s been a long winter. We’ll see if we can stay away from Schweitzer next week!

Left home 10:00
Started up 10:30
Got back to truck 3:10
Total hiking time 4 hours, 40 minutes
Total miles hiked 6 miles

Senior Hiking #404 - Schweitzer


May 30, 2011…Memorial Day…Schweitzer on approach skis…
hike #404
by Betsy

Thank you to all those brave men and women who gave their lives, the ultimate sacrifice for our country and our freedoms. And thank you to their families. We honor you and will never forget. God bless America.
Weather was warm for a change…hopefully we can continue to find half way decent snow up at Schweitzer…so far, so good albeit it is wet and mushy in a lot of places. There has been much snowmelt and rushing water as well and we are now noticing dirt patches along the sides of the trails at the lower elevations…not so much up higher. So confident were we today that we brought only the skis and no snowshoes. We saw so many bear tracks on the cattrack almost up to the top. The sun was very bright and the reflection off the white snow was blinding…I needed my Polaroid’s with Polaroid clip-ons, and Jim even broke pout his sunglasses.

The plan for today was to go all the way up to Stella 6 person lift and then ski down the steep Stella run…it may be called ‘Zip Down Run’. We stopped for a mango break before heading over to the steep hill. This is the same hill that we practiced a bit on last week down near the bottom. I started down first, going slowly and carefully, doing wide turns. I did better than I thought I would and while it was killing my knees, I never fell down once, all the way to the bottom. Jim was not as fortunate…he took the first fall almost immediately. When I saw he was down, I walked back up as I did each time he fell, thinking he might be hurt or needed help. It was almost I impossible for him to get the skis off alone. Back on his feet, he took off again, only to fall once again. This is when he decided to take off the skis and walk down, carrying the skis. When he was closer to the bottom, he put them back on and while skiing down, hit some icy snow and down he went again. I could hear the loud thump, and was relieved to find out he had landed on this backpack.

Finally down at the bottom and Wolf Ridge. We headed back to the village from there but we had one more misfortune…the mountain wasn’t thru with Jim yet. Coming down the cattrack, I was ahead of Jim and took one more look back to make sure he got across a big split in the snow without an issue. But then I took one more look back and saw that he was down yet again and sitting in a stream of running melting snow, aka ice water! So for the last time, I walked back up to him and after snapping a couple of pics, helped him out of the wet and cold watery hole. That was the final insult. We felt so tired as we drove down the mountain…and were happy to get home.

Left home 8:30
Started up 9:15
Got to truck 3:00
Total hiking time 4 hours, 10 minutes
Total miles hiked 6 miles