Our snowy camp and encrusted snowshoes

Well it snowed all night and at least another foot fell. Not many photos today given the conditions. The road into Hayden Valley was shut as strong winds had caused large snowdrifts to build and block the road. The guides also had to work out how to best accommodate the guests desires. In addition to ourselves there were 3 distinct groups in our merry band:

  • the ‘Baxter Mountain Men’ comprising 4 guys in their 60s who appeared to be very fit, experienced and gung ho, they were out for an epic adventure [Walter, Dale, Rob, Karl];
  • the ‘Reunion Group’ who were celebrating 30 years since having first met, at the Yurt, along with a Yellowstone explorer/ guide/photographer /author. They generally wanted to spend more time looking for wildlife and do easier excursions.
  • The ‘Mountain Search and Rescue group’ from Santa Fe New Mexico. They were all experienced but more mellow than the Mountain Men. [Daryl, Marsha and Marcus].

We kind of bridged between the first and third groups, and have spent more time chatting with them. Very interesting, disparate people with many great stories and insights.

Rough outline of our trail, clockwise
about 8 miles

Anyway what with the challenging weather, different groups to accommodate and limited areas available to explore our guides work was cut out choosing something to satisfy us all. I think they succeeded. We split into two groups and our group of the MM and S&R headed off a couple of miles to the north in the bus before taking a circular route across to the  North Rim, then along the Rim to Inspiration Point before heading back to camp.

Sounds easy on paper, but far from it in reality. The snow was quite heavy so cutting a new trail for circa 8 miles was hard work for the guys in the front. I stayed towards the back today. We had a fairly easy trail for the first part of the day, up through well spaced woodland of spruce and lodgepole pine to Bubbling Meadows. A marshy area, set in a sheltered bowl between 2 ridges which in winter is transformed into a beautiful white ‘lake’ of snow.

Snow stuck to tree trunks

On the way up it was interesting to see how strong the wind had been as a lot of snow was stuck to the trunks of the trees in the direction of the wind. Beautiful to ski through.

Marcus on the North Rim

Post Bubbling Meadows the skiing became harder, much tighter lines though the tress, one gap I needed to breathe in to get through. I was glad to make it without falling over, naturally it was downhill! Many ups and downs with drop offs down to the Canyon below made it even more challenging. I did have several other face-plants however.  Heard Mike hollering for joy behind me at one point as he executed 2 telemark turns, successfully. 

View across to South Rim

Getting to the Rim of the Canyon was a tough uphill section so it was a relief when it levelled out, had to concentrate hard in places to ensure I stayed upright. The views of Crystal Cascade an impressive ice fall down through a narrow gully on the far side of the Canyon were very impressive, however it would have been nice to have had blue skies! 

Our one wildlife sighting was a woodpecker. I think all other wildlife was sensibly battening down the hatches to ride out the storm.

For me it was a challenging ski, the terrain on the second half was very difficult and not something that I would have thought a couple of days ago I would be attempting on XC skis. Combat skiing in the extreme although I did get the chance to perfect my side stepping, both up and down hill!  However, I still felt in good shape by the end of the day and was very pleased with what I had accomplished. Interestingly although not the longest day it was about as hard as our final full day to Violet Springs. Probably because we climbed just over twice as much 650m vs 300m.

Several cups of tea after getting back Mike and I ventured into the sauna for the first time. Excellent choice, felt very relaxed and warm afterwards. Now ready for dinner.