Splitboarding and Backpacking in July

Friday, July 9th, 2010 I walked out of the office at 17:00, was home and had a lightweight gear set-up for both backpacking and splitboarding packed and in the trunk of my Subaru by 18:40.  My destination was the Pine Creek trailhead in the Northwest corner of the Absaroka Mountain Range and I arrived by 19:40.  I knew daylight would leave me sometime between 21:30 and 22:00 so I shouldered my load and high-tailed it onto the five mi. (eight km) Pine Creek Lake trail.

Being an ultralight backpacker it was strange to have the added weight of snowboard, boots, avalanche safety tools, and ice axe.  The moving was a bit slower but it felt good to be moving as day slowly turned to night, temperatures dropped, and I got further and further into the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness.

I hiked until 21:30 and stopped to make use of the last bits of daylight to set up my minimal camp consisting of an eVent bivy sack, synthetic sleeping quilt, and torso-length sleeping pad.  I strung my bear rope, set up my alcohol stove and prepared some instant mashed potatoes as the sun set over the Gallatin Mountain Range and Paradise Valley to the West.  Sleep came to me by 22:00. 

I awoke at 06:00 and was hiking within twenty minutes, chomping on an energy bar and sipping water from my hydration system.  About 30 minutes of hiking brought me to the end of the trail and into the snowy bowl that is Pine Creek Lake.  A large iceberg was still floating in the lake and the cirque held a fair amount of snow – – a soothing site for me as I had lugged many pounds of snowboard gear into terrain of which I knew little about the snow conditions other than my previous trip two years before.

By 09:30 I had summited Black Mountain (read Summit Post profile) using methods of walking, skinning, and ski crampons.  I was slightly undernourished having had only one energy bar and one GU but I made decent time and was in great spirits.  I spent a few minutes on the relatively snow-free summit and then descended to the large snow bowl that I planned to ride.

The snowboarding was quite delicious and I was able to get approximately 1,000 vertical feet (304 m) of riding in.  The top 800′ (244 m) was wonderful corn snow that didn’t grab the board in the least and allowed for me to arc some nice, large GS turns.

Proceeding past a flat spot at the bottom of the large bowl and sliding over a little roll put me onto a different aspect that consisted of some fun slaloming through large boulders in snow of a slushy quality for about 200′ (61 m) vertical.

I swapped out the snowboard gear for shorts, trailrunners, sunscreen, took a few swigs of the refreshing snowmelt water that was all around me and headed down the trail.  Arrival back at my Subaru was around 13:30 leaving me plenty of time to return home and shower before heading into downtown Bozeman for the bicycle sprints portion of the Tour of Bozeman race series.