At 9 am, the sun has not risen over the ridges, and the air was pretty cool. With all the freeze-thaw cycles, the trailhead parking area was a sheet of thick ice. It feel good to get the claws of the snowshoes under one's feet. Here Sylvie looks on while Amy smiles.
A blue-cold morning. Here Coleen chats with Susie.
The crew pushing to get into the sunshine. The NE face of Ross Peak looms in the distance.
Finally, the group breaks out into the sun, and it sure feels good.
Roger (center with red pack) reviews the overall route for the day. A photographer for the Bozeman Chronicle accompanied us for the first mile or so, and took some photos for a great article.
The first task on this semi-off trail route is to cross a large meadow and pick up a track along the Middle Fork.
Breaking trail in even well consolidated snowpack can be tiring.
A nice view of Ross Peak.
After leaving the creek and going off-trail a ways, we pick up an old road bed. Here, Rod and John discuss the illegal snowmobile use of this area. The snowmobiles have no business being here. Obviously, the operators did not care about the rules.
Stopping for a breather. Here, Bob and Catherine chat.
Based on a ski we had done last winter, we figured out an even better spot to leave the track, get into some soft snow, and climb up to another route. The improved route was only 60 - 80 meters west of our previous route, but what a difference.
OK, everyone feels comfortable that the leader really knows where we are. No tracks here, and that always provides a feeling of wildness.
Roger and Bob chat under an interesting tree that we had seen last year.
Continuing to climb, most of the folks don't realize the fun in store.
OK, we got the view of Ross Peak. Time to start hiking again.
There is a big steep meadow we have to climb, so now it's time to figure out how best to climb it.
The snow was pretty soft by 11:15 or so, as we made our way across the lower part of the meadow.
Starting up the steep section, with Susie in the lead. Yes, we were thinking about avalanche danger, as the top gets pretty steep. We had seen earlier in the trip where a huge north-facing slab had broken away from a distant meadow. But on this slope, the snow pack was mush, not likely to break away.
Lunch time, with superb views. You gotta eat somewhere.
There are few times when you can relax at lunch and eat with your hands bare in the middle of January. So you might as well relax and enjoy the warmth, and forget about its consequences for the snowpack.
Sharon and Roger are practically basking in the sunshine.
After lunch, we climbed thru soft snow and dense trees (much easier on snowshoes than skis, but still tiring), go to a saddle and began our descent. We are looking NE across the drainage of the North Fork of Brackett Creek.
A large moose must have spent the night here, and left its mark, shall we say.
Bob said he had never seen so many "moose apples" in one spot.
Deep shadows and brilliant sun make for challenging photography. Here, we are descending along an unused track to cross a branch of the North Fork.
Some of the south facing hillsides were barely covered with snow, but in the woods, the snow was several feet deep.
Here, Sylvie stops to let a couple of backcountry skiers pass. The peaks of the northern part of the Bridgers are in the distance.
Getting back to the meadow we left hours ago. Walking with snowshoes on this boiler plate snow was not as much fun as it might sound. Our feet were pretty tired and sore. But it was a super outing.