February 2001 at Lone Mountain Ranch

 

As usual this year, we took our annual cross-country ski trip to Lone Mountain Ranch  for the triple attraction of the old friends (ummm, make that "friends of long standing"), the skiing, and the food  

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Groomed Trails around the Ranch

Little Bavaria, overlooked by the Yellow Mountain rock outcrops
After 6-8 inches of overnight snow, eight of us took the wimpmobile to the upper trails, mostly to ski Mongolia and return via Boomerang and Dutch's Detour.  

 

Moose in the Middle Fork willows, near the bridge between Andesite and the tunnel

 

    After carving a few turns (and a couple of bathtubs) on the telemark practice hill

 

Trail Buffet

     

 

 

Yellowstone Back Country

Oscar joined us on a laid-back tour up Specimen Creek. The sun was out, the air was warm, and there was enough snow for good skiing.  We had lunch on bare ground under a tree at the edge of a meadow, overlooked by Bighorn Peak.

     

The Global Confluence Project is attempting to get a photographic sample of the lands of the earth by getting volunteers to take pictures at the points were integer lines of latitude and longitude intersect. For example, the intersection of latitude 45 degrees north with longitude 111 degrees west is such an intersection -- and it's just a mile or two from Fan Creek. So we decided to see if we could get there. We didn't make it, but here's our report on our attempt. It should appear on the Global Confluence web site soon.

 

Attempt on N45 W111, February 15, 2001

 
  Every February, Roy and I spend a week or so cross-country skiing at Lone Mountain Ranch, near Big Sky MT. Before we left this year, I checked on nearby confluences. There's an unvisited one about 25-30 miles to the south, in the northwest corner of Yellowstone Park. Even better, the confluence is located a mile and a half up the hill from a section of Fan Creek that we've skied once before. It's in Yellowstone Park, so there's no problem with legal access. On the down side, the confluence is a good 5 miles from the road, and the year we skied up Fan Creek, the snow conditions were firm and the trail had already been skied open by another party. This year,  though, the snow is problematical for off-trail skiing.

Knowing that whether we reached N45W111 would depend on snow conditions, existing trail, weather, how much debris from the 1988 burn was in the way, and other imponderables, Roy and I recruited our friend Oscar and Lone Mountain Guide Chris, and the four of us packed our climbing skins and set off for a day's skiing. The trip started off well -- on the drive to the trailhead we saw two moose, three young bighorm sheep, a couple of whitetail deer, a kingfisher, a duck, a raven, a herd of 60-80 elk, and two wolves! On the way home we topped off the critter count with a couple of coyotes.

We reached the trailhead, shared by Fawn Pass and Fan Creek trails, around 10:00, temperature maybe in the teens and the wind howling down the valley. The trailhead is on US191 between mile markers 21 and 22 (counting north from West Yellowstone). Our intended route was east across the windswept plain of the Gallatin River, up Fawn Pass trail to the Fan Creek intersection about a mile and a half from the car, then two miles or so northeast up the bed of Fan Creek to a likely place to climb to N45W111. The trailhead is at about 7100 ft elevation, the objective at about 7800; the GPS said they're close to 5 miles apart.

The wind was, as usual, strong and cold as we crossed the Gallatin. Once we got to the shelter of the open woods, things were much better, and we followed good trail to the Fan Creek intersection. Here conditions deteriorated. The trail up Fan soon disappeared, leaving us (mostly Chris) breaking trail in three feet of snow. Even worse, the bottom layer of snow was in bad condition, and it tended to collapse when you put weight on it. This made trail breaking harder, because you never knew whether your foot was going to go down two feet or three when you took a step. When we reached the creek we came out of the woods, so we were back in the wind, with our tracks drifting in behind us. We crossed the creek on a snow bridge and worked our way up the quarter-mile wide open plain that it occupies. This area is really pretty, with good views up and down the creek and the adjacent hillsides. At one particularly nice point, the banks squeeze in from both sides, and when the sun breaks through the sculpted snow drifts are outstanding.

Just upstream from this narrow point we were able to get out of the wind (mostly) and eat lunch. At this point it was clear that snow conditions were against us and N45W111 would have to wait for another time. So we enjoyed the view, took a few pictures (until the batteries on the digital camera declared that it was too cold), and turned around. Re-opening the trail in our inbound tracks was much easier than breaking fresh trail, and we had time to ski out the Fawn Pass trail a little distance before returning to the cars.

Even though we didn't make it to N45W111, we had a fine day of skiing. Here's a picture looking toward the confluence point plus pictures of the four of us at lunch. In 1996, Roy and I (with Tomy and Mary Ellen) skied farther up the creek, to about a mile below the confluence point. The terrain looks pretty much the same as you get closer.

 

 
    View from our lunch stop looking northeast up Fan Creek This is a composite of two views. The confluence point is 2.3 miles away, hidden by the ridge  
   
Mary and Roy, staying warm at lunch Chris, contemplating unbroken snow ahead Oscar -- more interested in hot soup than the camera
 

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