Friday, May 18, 2012

Chapman Peak

Posted By on Fri, May 18, 2012 at 3:31 PM

With the perfect weather holding, and the corn skiing in perfect shape, Ben and I pulled out of the near neighborhood and made tracks for just this side of the Canadian border. Heading up the North Fork of the Flathead River takes the traveler into a very wild landscape, thick old forests, vast burns, towering peaks and azure colored lakes.

Bowman Lake
  • JL
  • Bowman Lake

We drove to Bowman Lake after checking in at the Polebridge Mercantile where we were warmly greeted by the folks who had just recently reopened this classic one-stop. The winds were light and to the east and after loading the canoe with all our gear we shoved off taking the north shore on our initial approach to the Continental Divide. Rainbow Peak dominates the front country views in this part of Montana and we could not help but admire the ski runs that descend crisply from the summit in three separate lines plumb through a cliff band to the saddle and beyond into the basin and out of sight.

Rainbow Peak
  • JL
  • Rainbow Peak

We considered changing our plans and making tracks down its inspiring face, but sticking with the original plan held sway and we continued paddling down the length of Bowman to the remote campsite at the end of the lake. It was dinner time when we arrived to meet four others in two parties and we cooked up some food and socialized a bit before going to the tents.

It was easy to wake up at five the next morning as the prospect of finally completing this sought after ski descent was transforming me yet again into who I really want to be. We were off by 6:30 with a 7-mile hike to Brown's Pass and the toe of the slope leading to Chapman Peak. The bridges across the creeks had been rebuilt after last year's blowouts and we enjoyed the fine grade and easy approach of a National Park trail. From camp to the pass there were probably only about ten pieces of deadfall across the trail. When we peered off into the forest we were surely glad that we were not bushwhacking here. Eventually we came to our first open alder swath and our second inspiring views of the morning as we looked up canyon to the tremendous falls dropping from Hole-In-The-Wall. Surrounded by high and rugged peaks and with a corner of Chapman showing we made good time with only bear and wolf tracks for company.

Wolf Tracks on the Snow
  • JL
  • Wolf Tracks on the Snow

Heading up Chapman Peak
  • JL
  • Heading up Chapman Peak
It took us a bit longer to get to the pass than we figured on account of photography and a few other issues that slowed us down, but tackling the skin trail to the summit was enjoyable and we topped out around 2:00 p.m. The wind had begun to howl so we only stayed for a few minutes inspecting the burly north face run to Lake Wurdeman that looked over our commitment level for that day and then began our descent down the Continental Divide Bowl right above the pass.
Skiing from the Summit- Chapman Peak
  • JL
  • Skiing from the Summit- Chapman Peak

It was almost as good as it gets with the only small drawback being that the snow was a bit mushy, but still very nice and not wet. We arced lots of turns through the cliff bands and rode to a stop in a small meadow right on the divide where we took a nap in the sun. Eventually rousing ourselves for the descent back to the Bowman Creek valley we skied as far as possible linking patches amongst the dirt until it was all gone. As we walked out the miles towards camp, I kept scanning for our favorite Glacier Park charismatic megafauna and can you believe it....I spotted a large griz at the toe of an avalanche gully grazing away on a thick patch of glacier lilies. The rest of the trip consisted of celebrating with good food, beer and a great night's sleep. Paddling out at 7:00 a.m. with a tail wind was the bonus.

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