Mountain High 

Winter finally arrived—in spades—at year’s end, blasting Missoula with Hellgate winds and freezing waterfalls mid-drop into massive blue icicles. The New Rocky Mountain-eers took note immediately, and as such are heading up to the Mission Mountains Jan. 9 to pick ’n’ kick their ways up Mission Falls. This highly scenic destination is geared toward beginner and intermediate ice climbers, and you’ll need to bring crampon-compatible boots—other gear, including crampons, ice tools and climbing gear, can be shared, although participants are encouraged to outfit themselves beforehand. Count on “chandelier ice” and cold toes, but call Gerald Olbu at 549-4769 for more information.

Although this Canadian Clipper has recently given Missoula the deep freeze, average temps for the state have remained noticeably above average. Combine this with thin snowpacks and many wildlife biologists are positing a tangible connection between milder winters and shifts in the migratory patterns of elk, fish, birds and other wild creatures of the West. In a report released last month by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), scientists have documented links between climate change and broad-scale animal patterns. To keep up with our warming planet, the NWF is recommending that managers develop new techniques to chart, track and ultimately manage the region’s critters.

For instance, millions of birds migrate through Montana annually, but according to the report, the north-bound migrations take place three weeks earlier than they did just 30 years ago. Some birds don’t even bother to migrate anymore. And while our planet’s climate has fluctuated greatly over the eons, rarely has there been such a rapid climatic shift as the one we’re currently experiencing, outside of catastrophic change like a massive volcanic eruption or meteoric impact.

Greenpeace issued a report last week identifying the nation’s last remaining intact forests and blasting the responsible agencies for failing to protect them. The report, “America’s Keystone Forests,” documents changes in our nation’s largest and most diverse remaining forests, most of which occupy public land and are managed by the Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management. Much of this wild terrain lies in Montana’s national forests—the Lolo, Bitterroot, Kootenai, Flathead and Lewis and Clark—areas which, according to the report, are both remarkably pristine and at risk of increased tree or mineral extraction. Choir members are encouraged to read the full sermon at

The Montana Natural History Center (MNHC) is planning a snowshoe outing for Jan. 8 with intent to explore the winter wonderland in a program led by naturalists Lisa Moore and Charles Miller called “Winter Ecology on Snowshoes.” The focus will be on wintering birds and mammals and snow science, and is geared to all interest levels. Registration is required, so call MNHC’s Fort Missoula office at 327-0405 for the lowdown. Cost is $15 for the general public and $10 for MNHC members.

The very next day, Jan. 9, the Rocky Mountaineers are planning to put on the snowshoes, perhaps at the popular Blue Mountain Recreation Area. But if snow conditions are lacking they’ll head to the deep snows available roadside at Lolo Pass. You can join Steve Shombel as he tracks down the powder, but give him a call first at 721-4686 to get the skinny.

These same mountaineers will hold their monthly meeting Jan. 12, and will feature a presentation by Wendy Ninteman, executive director of the Five Valleys Land Trust. Anyone interested in learning more about either of these organizations should show up at 7 p.m. at Pipestone Mountaineering’s downtown store.

World-renowned owl researcher Denver Holt is leading a Five Valleys Audubon Society field trip Jan. 8 to an undisclosed location in the Miss-oula Valley, and interested parties can watch the veteran owl biologist in action. Holt will capture, band and record relevant data on long-eared owls during this half-day field trip, so meet at 9:30 a.m. at the UM Adams Center parking lot to join in the adventure. Show up warmly dressed; call Larry Weeks at 549-5632 for more info.

Skinny skiers take note! The Missoula Nordic Ski Club is hosting the Ozone Pursuit Ski Race Jan. 8 and 9, with a skate race on Saturday and a classic race Sunday. Both races start at 11 a.m. at the Seeley Lake XC Ski Trails, and a tasty BBQ immediately follows. Log on to for more info.

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