Here is 2nd installment of memorable ski adventure to Montana, Glacier Park and
Day l left Whitefish Montana on Sat 2l Feb on the only sunny day we
encountered from ll Feb until l3 March....The peaks along the highway were
diamond white in their brilliance ever larger and more magnificent as we
proceeded North in our rental Neon...near Invermere, road went through Hoodos
which are eroded sandstone pinnacles and at Radium saw a whole cliffside of big
During the entire 280 mile drive from Whitefish to Golden, BC don't think we saw
more than 40 vehicles either direction...many indications that summer is busy
e.g. snowed- in campgrounds and tourist attractions but in Winter this area is
remote!!!!! Hit Marys Motel for Sat night which was a mistake......with 50%
more snowfall than average the snowmobilers were out in fore and Mary's was
their HQ...legions of Dodge and Ford diesel pickups towing trailers with up to 4
snow sleds came and went all night..
Day 2 Sunday ....At any rate, rendezvous at the Canadian Helicopter Hangar in
Golden early AM and found the pilot Don MacTighe leading a very comprehensive
safety check even demonstrating where the emergency locator beacons were stored,
how to remove the heli doors, access emerg food, shovels and first aid
gear....turns out that this run had suffered a mishap (crash) some years
earlier with one of the skier guests becoming a paraplegic. Marilyn and I had
flown about l6 heli trips in past mostly in Bell Jet Rangers and never
participated in a drill like this. Craft today was an A-Star similar to the
DHART rig at Dartmouth Hitchcock Med Center. Our 25 min flight from Golden NE
to Wildcat Basin was uneventful in light snow, but the crags, precipices and
cliffs would have prevented survival in an emergency.... we landed at 6700 feet
at Mistaya Hut, a ten year old post and beam structure, built from insect
destroyed timber on the Crown Lands of Brit Columbia by Ron Blaue from Colorado
and his friend Jane Girvan from B.C.
Building is 28 x 28 feet with a common room ground level consisting of 24 hr
wood stove, and dining table with adjoining propane fueled kitchen....a small
washroom and drying room for gear as well....2nd level had 5 sleeping rooms all
with awesome views of Trapper Peark, Barbette Mt and other l0,000 footers on the
Continental Divide according to Jane and Ron...but with the constant snow and
clouds the views our trip were minimal.
Surrounding the main hut were a wood fired sauna building, a guides hut, a
workshop and a solar greenhouse, and 2 outhouses with styrofoam seats for
After a pickup lunch we met the ten other guests ( hut takes l2 skiers/week) and
our two guides Megan and Kobi, both CMH heliguides on a holiday(?)....skied out
to a nearby col and practiced transceiver drills with our Ortovox units until
the guides were satisfied with our prowess. Then, skinned up about l400 feet to
Monta Vista with the guides breaking trail through 2 feet of new snow on a 6-l0
foot settled base....these Western guides skin up steeply with as few
switchbacks as possible and with trees and tree wells surrounding us there was
no room for error! When we finally attained the ridge we were well above tree
line with flat light, some windpack and also some altitude effects....at home we
had skinned up at least l,000 to l,200 feet three times weekly at KMart or
elsewhere and thought we were in good shape....what a laugh!!!!
A 65 year old ex-nun from Vancouver put us to shame.
Our fellow skiers were split 50:50 re gear with the Chessex family from Montreal
using AT gear and the rest of us on teles.
Except for Marilyn and me the tele contingent used TUA megas....and T-2 and
T-3s.......mostly with Raineys......Marilyn used here Atomic Tourcap Lights with
3pins and Asolo Extremes and I had my 4 year old Kazama Headwalls, l0 yr old
Chouinard front throw cables, and Liberos.
The ski down was a challenge....steep, flat light, wind drifted above tree line,
so you stayed pretty much on a wind crust with occasional snow snakes, then good
powder in the forest, sinking knee deep but tree wells everywhere. Later in the
week we enjoyed cliffs, gullies, terminal moraines,
large boulders, waterfalls but this first day was straight forward fall-line.
Back to the hut about 4:30; Megan and Kobi got the sauna fired up and we all
told tall tales and tried to keep our towels in place, not always successfully.
Helen Barry our cook from Banff served up memorable fare family style and after
a few beers or wine the tall tales kept coming on strong....most of us were in
bunks by 9 PM. It was still snowing.
In the next installment I shall try to describe some of the more hairy ski
adventures and provide some descriptions of the glaciers and other terrain as
well as brief resumes of our new-found friends.
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