Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Mt. Jackson, GNP

It had been around 10 years since I last stepped on the summit of Mt. Jackson in Glacier National Park.  Back then the goal was just to climb the peak, this time however, Patrick and I were hoping to ski it.  The weather forecast was ok and we had three days for a comfortable round trip.  When we reached the trailhead, there wasn't nearly any snow.  Our planned casual 6 mile ski was turning into a long hike.  Its hard to complain though when that hike is in Glacier.  We quickly packed up and hit the trail.

The approach to Jackson must be one of the chillest in the park.  600ft elevation gain over 6 miles.  We crossed several creeks and negotiated our way around several downed trees as well as soft snow patches.  For the most part the trail was easy going and we soon found ourselves at the Gunsight Lake campground at the base of Mt. Jackson.

Moose on the trail

The NE face of Jackson on the left

With a slightly ominous sky, we made camp and prepared for the night.  In the morning, we woke to the sun creeping over Mt. Citadel.  Excited by the good weather, we quickly made breakfast and began our way up Jackson.  The bridge at the outlet of the lake had been taken out by an avalanche last year so we were forced to wade across.  The first few steps weren't bad, but by the time I was half way across, my feet were in so much pain from cold that the snow on the far side actually felt warm to stand on.  After a short rewarming period, the boots went back on and we began the climb.

The slope and snow conditions made skinning up impossible so we immediately put on crampons and began booting up.  It was pretty straight forward.  5,000 vertical feet of kicking steps.  Once we were off the East face and on the summit ridge-line, we ditched the skies and continued up to the summit.  We climbed the final headwall of the North face and I decided that it wasn't in conditions that I could manage,  too steep and wind effected.

Patrick on the summit

We spent a little time on the summit enjoying the views then headed back for our skis.  Once at our skis we were ready for the fun part.  We still had 3,400 feet to descend and conditions looked good.  Patrick dropped in and began ripping what looked like perfect corn snow.  I quickly followed and confirmed it.  Patrick and I got about 2,000 feet of a perfect fall line and corn snow.  As the slope mellowed out, we made our way around to the North aspect and skied the trees back to the creek.  One more dash through the creek had us back to camp with plenty of time to relax.

Patrick ripping the slop


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