I know ice climbing is supposed to be brutal and I’m a charter member of our climbing organization the Stupid Brutes, but this is ridiculous! Wind rocked the cars and we could barely get the up-wind doors. Visibility was low due to blowing snow and it seemed like a good day to just throw in the towel but we couldn’t just abandon a perfectly good alpine start. Plus, today is March Fourth; we could hardly do otherwise!
Brian, Mike, Ben, Amanda and I confabbed and we should at least count coup against the storm. Leave the (heavy) technical gear in the cars and just go for a little hike (or ski in the case of Brian and I). Short hike to show the flag, then retire to Ed’s for a late breakfast.
As usual, the trailhead proved to be the most miserable part of the trip. Once we got into the woods, it wasn’t bad. In fact, it was actually pretty nice, apart from the howling wind, and much warmer than I’d planned for. We climbed the untracked winter cut-off, then the great snow-filled canyons up to Mills Lake. After a spot of tea, we messed about on the ice for a while. Horizontal ice was not what we’d planned, but human curling proved interesting and Ben even managed an impressive 100′, wind-powered traverse just on the far edge of control.
We hiked down to the south end of Jewel Lake and saw the aftermath of the microburst that felled trees in a localized area of Glacier Gorge. Impressive! Twelve-inch trees were snapped like toothpicks and piled atop one another in all directions while adjacent trees stood completely untouched. The regular trails (summer and winter) were obliterated by this chaos, but hikers and laid down a reasonable trail on the east side of the valley.
Remembering that we were just going for a short hike and then an early lunch at Ed’s and realizing that it was going on noon, we decided to turn the trip and head out. The snowshoe contingent (Mike, Ben, Amanda) plodded out the way they came. I paused to strip the skins from my skis and quickly passed them. Unlike my last time in Glacier Gorge on skis, I managed a little actual grace on the steepest parts and had loads of fun on the winter cut-off in the pillowed snow and narrow tree runs.
Lunch at Ed’s was anything but early, but still entirely well-deserved. In retrospect, we probably could have climbed, at least at Jewel Lake if not the exposed Timberline Falls. However, it was great to have a somewhat relaxed day in the mountains on what turned out to be a rather nice day.