Friday, February 10, 2012

Bridger Mountains Hike, 9 February 2012

With a light snow dusting the higher elevations, Jazzy dog and I set out to do some back-country trekking. Our destination for the day was the southern end of the Bridger Range along the western slopes.

This is a pretty mild hike with an elevation gain of around 2300 feet over a 5-6 mile stretch. The initial leg (no pun intended) is a bit of a thigh-buster, but once traversing the many spurs, the downhills are frequent enough to catch a breather. With the crazy warm weather this winter the first few miles of trail were snow free and in really great shape. We finally hit snow and ice pack at around 6800 feet and had to don the yak traks. Of course Jazzy dog just shifted into 4 wheel "low" and smiled as she did drive-by lickings on me.Since the trail climbs and skirts the ridge line, deep forests open up to great viewing spots throughout the hike. This is usually accompanied by a refreshing blast of wind. The views of the Gallatin Valley are inspiring. Looking west, Bozeman drifts into Belgrade and then beyond to Manhattan and Three Forks. The Gallatin River meanders northwest while the Madison and Jefferson Rivers flow north until linking up with the Gallatin and forming the Missouri River. The Tobacco Root Mountains provide the backdrop for the sunset while the Madison Range flanks the South.

At around 8000 feet we began post-holing through heavy snow and decided to turn back. Avalanche threat at this point was generally low, but the next mile had much more snowfall at higher elevations and steeper grades above the trail. Jazzy was hopping like a rabbit to clear the drifts and she agreed it was time to turn back.

It was 35 degrees and crisp providing excellent conditions for a fast hike. We look forward to adding another 10 miles to this hike and then the entire ridge traverse in the future. The East side holds some great views and challenging scrambles, but will have to wait until late spring when the avalanche threat subsides.