|Silver Gate, MT.|
From Louis L'amour's book The Warriors Path. The book I read on the trip.
"Yet all men can fail, and each man must somewhere find his master, with whatever strength, whatever weapon. So we must be weary, we must use what guile we had, for it was upon my shoulders that nothing we had ever attempted or done was so fearsome a thing as this we would now try."
Feb. 10, 2015
It's 30º degrees and snowing. The camping conditions are ok and I take a day to rest. I post up for the night at the dump, in my small tent.
The next day I rent a cabin down the road in Silver Gate for a few nights to dry my stuff out, and plan my attack for the month. The 150 mile bike ride from Bozeman felt great, and I silently thank my trainer Hulk Bender for the last year of torture.
It's quite in Silver Gate compared to Cooke City. Actually, it's quite in Silver Gate compared to anywhere. There's nothing going on here, just a few people who stay the winter, and a few cabins open for rent.
Everyone tells me I have to meet the local hero Jay, "cause he's climbed everything around here." So I meet Jay, and like any gruff old school climber, takes one look at my bike, and cusses me out and calls me stupid.
"What the hell are you going to do on that thing when it snows four feet? You moron!"
Days later when we aren't drinking, Jay is nicer, and lets me store my "dumb" bike for a week at his place. I knew I would like it here.
My plan of attack is to ski and climb, but first I have to find a safe place to camp for about a week. Then I'll move camp again, just to be safe and lawful.
After three nights at the cabin, and days spent climbing ice falls behind town with a bunch of great friends, I set a camp on the outskirts of Silver Gate near Amphitheatre Mountain, and the mountain called Abiathar.
Abiathar was High Priest in the Court of King David, and the mountain its self sits upon the earth like an emperor in his thrown. Ridge lines stretch between the two peaks for miles, arching up and down in a giant crown shape, overlooking all of Yellowstone Park from the north.
I had seen these peaks thirteen years ago, maybe earlier. From the first moment, I knew I wanted to go up there. Some peaks do that. They call out, and beg to be climbed. There's passion buried there, and I could feel it.
Climbing is scary and takes skill and courage. For me, the amount of emotional effort must be greater than, or equal to the climb, every time, or it's dangerous. Hell, it's always dangerous.
So why do it? What am I going through during a lonely day in the mountains?
There's the cold, and the cold must be dealt with, and excepted. When you're alone, you can't allow yourself to get cold, but you will, and you have to except it.
I don't mess around. I slam in toe warmers in the morning, and sleep with my boot liners. It's painful and smelly, and not romantic, but that's how I deal with cold feet.
Then there's the mountains. When climbing with someone else, we're always talking about the line, and where we're going. It's what we do.
Climbing alone, there's no conversation. My eyes look up and follow the lines of the mountain. My mind sees the hazards, the safe spots, and the obvious pathways that exist. I love it. I feel totally connected to what I'm doing. My mind's chatter goes away, and I simply observe my surroundings, judging for danger, looking for signs of avalanches, and listening.
If I don't feel safe, I turn around and go home. I pay attention to my gut feelings, and I'm searching for that sense of flow. If I find it, I follow it.
The day I skied off the summit of Abiathar by myself, was one of those days I found it. I climbed between spindrift avalanches that were coming down the face in ten minute intervals.
My sense of purpose for the day was direct, as it would have been hard to talk me down, or ask me not to go up there.
After climbing one ridge line, and dropping south into the giant basin made up of Amphitheater Mountain, and Abiathar, I got my first close look at the face.
I stood there long enough to have a smoke, and I watched the light spindrift avies wash down the face. I was in the zone, feeling the flow, and knew I would be safe, (as long as I didn't wreck.)
Skiing big remote lines that require climbing skills, stable snow conditions, and the right gear, are rare. Skiing them in the winter in boot-top powder is even more rare. And more rare still, is doing it by yourself after riding a bicycle 150 miles to the trailhead.
This is one of the reason my batting average as a human-powered mountaineer kinda sucks. I'm batting at about 220 for skiing big lines, but because I'm one of the only people doing it, by a modern fair means approach, I feel like a top contender, gunning for a shot at the title.
|Fire going at camp one. Week one.|
|The outdoor bike garage at camp one. Needs a roof.|
|Locking the bike in the forest near the Highway.|
Switching to ski gear and skins from here.
|Kyle climbing the falls on the right.|
A party from Jersey climbing the falls on the left.
|Jack standing below on belay.|
|Sam on Hydromonster.|
|Adam on Hydromonster.|
|Abiathar, and the north couloir.|
|Nate climbing up the north couloir.|
|Traversing below spindrift gullies on the climb up.|
And skiing the 50º east face of Abiathar in boot-top powder.
|Ski tracks on the East Face of Abiathar.|