Skinning on Goose Lake in the Eastern Beartooths.
A few weeks ago, I put a message in the ShoutBox on the sidebar that I was off of work for the next few weeks and was looking for ski partners. Well, I got a lot of responses and few worth pursuing. One that caught my attention was from Ryan Minton of Bozeman, MT, who was heading into the Eastern Beartooths to do some skiing and asked if I wanted to join him. A little leery of jumping into a 4-day trip into the mountains with someone I’ve never met before, I asked Reed Finlay if he wanted to join me and if anyone has looked at Tom Turiano’s, Select Peaks of Greater Yellowstone, you’ll know why Reed agreed to come.
Bozemanites, Ryan Minton and Josh Gage.
Leaving Jackson last week to meet up with Ryan and his friend Josh Gage in Cooke City, the weather looked to be clearing for our adventure into the Beartooths. We had no plans as to where to meet Ryan and Josh, but Cooke City is a small place, so when we arrived, it didn’t take long to find his red Subaru. Since there is so much cool terrain in the Beartooths, we had a loose agenda as far as skiing goes, but our current priority involved trying to find someone with a snowmobile to shuttle us toward the wilderness boundary near Goose Lake. Luckily, the annual Cooke City Corn Fest was going on over the weekend (kind of a celebration of skiing and snow machining), and by the time Reed and I showed up, Ryan and Josh already had something in the works for the following morning.
Needless to say I was antsy to get into the mountains the next morning and it seemed like forever for our shuttle driver to haul us towards Goose Lake. I think his rest stops for a cigarette and Sparks (an alcoholic energy drink) had something to do with it, but if it helped him with his morning shakes, who was I to complain? Though the wilderness boundary is very close to Goose Lake, our ride was only able to get us to Round Lake, still a few miles from Goose, but a good warm up for the legs, so I didn’t really mind too much and was grateful he got us as far as he did.
With all of us being new to the area, we got pulled a bit too far to the south on the approach, but corrected things quickly and soon found ourselves in the alpine world of Goose Lake. Wolf and Sawtooth Mountains popped above the horizon to the west and smaller peaks surrounded our camp that we had pushed a bit further up canyon at Little Goose Lake. After setting up dueling Megamids and building a community kitchen area, we settled in and offered a toast to our new home for the next three nights. The sky was blue and the winds were calm, and it was shaping up to be a great weekend.
When I say we had a loose agenda as far as skiing goes, it means that we had a few goals in mind, like something on Glacier Peak, Sawtooth and Wolf Mountains. Our camp wasn’t in the best position for a shot on Glacier Peak, which was on the other side of the pass, but our excitement to ski got a hold of us and we decided to give it a try the next day.
Getting out of camp the next morning, we headed towards the pass and Glacier Peak. Traveling was very easy on firm snow and it wasn’t too long before we were looking at the numerous couloirs that stripe the west side of Glacier Peak. The lines looked awesome, but a little washed out from wet-slide debris and little far from camp in my opinion. With so much terrain around us, we moved our sites on a line right next to us, the North Couloir of Iceberg Peak. Nothing too gnarly, but a steep line that that would help us get started and also looked smooth and clean. The snow was chalky and firm, and kept us on our toes.
After looking at Glacier Peak, it was obvious the north facing and lower angle south facing lines were going to be in much better shape than steep couloirs exposed to the sun. We continued our tour towards the first of many peaks that make up Sawtooth Mountain. On the summit, we had rad views of the Novocain line on Sawtooth #5, first descended by Kris Erickson, Chris Lundy and the late Hans Saari in 2000. After scoping out conditions, we descended to the east, back down toward camp and tried to stay out of the hot afternoon sun. We had one more full day to ski and thanks to some info from Kris Erickson, it was gong to be a good one.