Monday, April 18, 2011

Little Dog Mountain

With my wife heading to Calgary with the two boys, I had a Bachelor Weekend!  I thought I would head to Whitefish to go skiing and stay at a hostel, but as it turned out, both hostels I found on the Internet no longer existed.  Bummer.  So sadly, I headed home and thought to myself, what a waste to sit at home all weekend.  And then it hit me.  I should go camping.

I missed out last year, but managed a ski and camp the year before.  Rather than head back to Waterton, I thought I would try my luck in East Glacier, considering we now have property in that area.  I worked like a madman to clean the house, take back the recycling and pack up to go.  3AM, huh, guess it's time for bed.  With a late rise and a slow start I was out the door by with an early start of 2PM, just a quick errand, a blinker bulb for the truck.  An hour later!  I was on the road and headed south.  Passing through East Glacier around supper-time I skipped our regular stop at the Two Medicine Grill and headed for the Firebrand Pass.

I've driven by it for years, but never stopped, looked kinda like a dive.  I walked in and as I suspected, a busy bar and VLT stools.  I grab a table, a beverage and a menu.  When the waitress comes by I mention how I'm not sure and go with the safe choice, a burger.  "We have the best burgers!" she replies with confidence.  Sure I say to myself.  Having ordered a green chili and swiss burger I was pleasantly surprized when it arrives, looking delicious, but something wasn't quite right, couldn't place it.  I take a bite, looking at the burger and it hits me.  This patty isn't.... well the same everywhere.  It's thicker in the middle, kinda small, being more short and fat.  It's a homemade burger!  When I payed for my meal, I talked with the waitress, discovering that the patties here are never frozen, always fresh.  Perhaps the best burger I've had in years!

With my belly full, I continued on to Marias pass, where I packed up, put on my skiis and headed out.  By the time the 10min wait for trains was over, I crossed the tracks at the end of dusk.  With darkness approaching I put the headlamp on and ventured onto the dim trail below the forest canopy.  It is such a nice treat to enjoy the wilderness like this sometimes.  It was also a treat to be venturing on a trail that was unknown, especially after listening to that CBC story on the way down.  I continued for about 1.5hr and found a nice clear spot to setup camp.
It was nice to go tent this time as last time I went tarp and bivy.  The temperature was perfect as I curled up in my sleeping bag to read a book before heading to sleep.  Remind me to bring a pee bottle next time!  In the morning I arose to the call of nature and packed up.  I did sleep in a bit, so with a shorter day, decided to try and get above tree line for a good view.  About 40m back down the trail head was a sparsely forested region that headed uphill.  With the pack dropped I headed up, to see what I could fine.  Turns out it was a stream bed that continued easily to the tree-line.  Once there I started to traverse, gaining elevation as I went.
I was sitting below little dog mountain at this point, as I started my traverse.  It seemed like a reasonable idea to climb it in the winter, with the wind scouring the slopes and ridges.  As I continued, I noticed the debris field of an avalanche that had come down one of the gullies.
The debris and wind combination made for some interesting formations, thought I would take a picture of it.
After skirting the debris path, I decided that this wasn't high enough, so I took aim at the prominent ridge to the right of the summit ahead of me.  Considering I haven't done any scrambling in years, it was surprisingly easy to start my ascent.  My only regret was that I had slept in, hadn't packed any food or water and had left my puffy jacket in my pack at the trail head.  After an hour of climbing, I realized that I wasn't gonna reach the top.  I didn't have the gear or the time.
With too much ahead of me still and the rocky sections too, I decided to turn back.  The views were fantastic at this point with a clear vantage of the prairies and the Sweet Grass Hills and snow capped mountain in all other directions.  In my younger years, I think I would have been disappointed at not going for the top.  Now.... I'm looking forward to the opportunity to come back, better prepared, for the views and the challenge.
You can see my route here using google earth


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