Intro/StatsGlacier Mtn (12443')
Keystone Mtn (12408')
Bear Mtn (12585')
Independence Mtn (12614')
10 miles RT, 3100' gain
From Saints John townsite (10840')
Participants: Dwight, Pete, & Kevin
It had been over 6 weeks since I had been above treeline, so it was time for an alpine fix. The forecast was calling for an 80% chance of snow, high of 10, 1 to 3 inches, but light winds. Maybe the banshees were taking a day off! Seems like the NOAA wind forecast tends to get worse for a weekend as the week progresses, but this time it held the whole week. I stayed at Pete's Fri night and we met Dwight at the El Rancho park and ride. As I stepped out of Pete's condo to load the car, there was a good 4 inches of fresh snow. Great, what's it going to be doing up high!
I drove slowly over the tunnel and once we got on the other side of the divide the conditions really improved and it stopped snowing! It looked like this turned out to be an upslope storm, so we were in luck! This 12er loop makes for an excellent early season loop with very low avy danger to get the lungs ready for winter conditions. It's also a great hike for newbies who want to get their feet wet with hiking in winter conditions as the routefinding is straightforward.
Banshees, Where Art Thou?
I wasn't expecting to be able to drive up FR 275 as it is not plowed, but there still isn't a whole lot of snow in the area and it was well tracked to the Saints John townsite. What a luxury to start at 10840' with snow! A not quite so alpine start of 8:45 with a temp of about 12 degrees got us moving, but the winds were almost nonexistent and we got a nice broken ski track!
The trail climbs very gently up the valley and the ski track eventually met up with the main snowmobile track, which we somehow missed at the trailhead. We had a track all the way up to near the Wild Irishman mine as the road makes its way up the northwest slopes. We donned snowshoes around the mine, but really could have gone without them as the snow wasn't that deep on the n.w. aspect. We busted straight up from the slope from the mine to the mellow summit of Glacier. This is a class 1 peak as the trail eventually goes to the summit, albeit very indirect.
Dwight nears the summit:
The temps were hovering in the low teens throughout the day and the winds were not much of a factor, probably less than 10 mph most of the day. It doesn't take long though for the core body temps to drop, so we kept our summit breaks short. Pete unveiled his banana case and showed it off for his summit shot. Now he doesn't have to worry about squashing them!
The ridge run over to Keystone is the longest of the day, but there's not much vertical, so it went fairly quick. We skirted a few minor bumps along the way to shave off some vertical, but we probably ended up doing more postholing as a result.
Gentle ridge run to Keystone:
I was kind of surprised that the ski boundary lies along the ridge between Keystone and Bear even though the runs are quite a ways east. The sun started making some appearances and we were all glad we decided not to get discouraged by the forecast.
Dwight and a pretty bump that we skirted:
Guyot and Bald I think
I coaxed Pete and Dwight to go over Bear even though it's unranked, although it is soft ranked. It can be easily skirted on the west side. We made good time over to Independence as the terrain is very mellow and easy to cruise.
Pete heading up Indy:
We topped out on Indy at 2:45 and decided to reverse tracks back to the Bear/Keystone saddle skirting Bear, which worked out well. We then dropped down mellow slopes and put the slowshoes back on for the descent back down to the road. Nothing like a bobsled run in the trees with fresh powder when the snow is just deep enough for some effort but easy on the knees!
Enjoying some late afternoon rays:
Good lighting on Glacier late in the day:
We were back at the car at 4:25 and it started snowing a bit in the trees, but there was very little new snow during the day. Heck of a semi-bluebird day in the mountains. Time for some winter 14ers!