Since the Rock Creek Lodge resumed its winter program we decided to rent their yurt at Mosquito Flats for the Presidents' Day weekend. Eight participants left on Saturday, 2/17, at 9 am from the Sno-Park at the Rock Creek road end. These were Tom Marsh, Mike Bratkowski, Steve Tuszinsky, Diann Fried, Steve Hessen, Eric Ginder, and myself. We skied up the snow-covered road, stopped by the Lodge, and proceeded to the yurt where we settled down and had lunch. The yurt is equipped with a woodstove, a Coleman stove (white gas or propane), a lantern, and cooking utensils. There are plastic chairs, which are removed at night to sleep on the wooden floor. A restroom is nearby at the trailhead. There is a second similar yurt under development. Some of us slept in it since one yurt is too tight for seven. Eric was equipped for snowcamping. At night the temperature dropped to 5 degrees.
In the afternoon some of us went on a tour to the end of Little Lakes Valley. We took the high summer trail since there were some suspicious openings in the lakes. We proceeded past Mack, Marsh, Heart, Box and Long Lake to the chute leading up to the Treasure Lakes. There we left some nice tracks and turned back to arrive just before darkness at the yurt.
Sunday, 2/18, was our touring day. We left at 9 am in sunny weather, skied to the end of the valley where Steve T. returned because he did not feel too well. We met four skiers who camped below Treasure Lakes. They advised us that the chutes below Bear Creek Spires where we headed for, contained only breakable crust. So we decided to make a grand tour of the high glaciers below Mts. Dade, Abbot, and Mills. The challenge began with a 1,600' ascent SW of the Treasure Lakes. The 40 degree slopes had soft snow on top of hard slabs which was a challenge for trailbreaking and kickturning. Halfway up, the mood for aborting the tour arose but a look down the slope convinced us that uphill was the lesser trouble. But when it finally flattened out at 12,800' we were amply rewarded by soft dry powder snow. The glaciers face NE and it was too cold for the snow to settle. The view over the valley and the rugged mountain walls to the west were spectacular. But the sky was full of lenticular clouds and from the north low clouds were moving in. The forecasted storm was on its way.
Skiing down the glacier was a telemarkers dream come true. Near Mills Lake we turned east toward Long Lake. There were some tricky traverses and descents. A pole arrest on a hard steep slope saved one of our skiers. Another skier's fall cracked a windslab which promptly released a small avalanche. Breakable crust and the 4 pm tiredness called for survival skiing techniques. Skinning up or even walking downhill became quite acceptable. The clouds were engulfing the summits, the first snow flurries were coming down, and it got pretty gloomy. Finally, by 5 pm, we were down in the valley between the Treasure Lakes and Long Lake. On the way we stopped by the camp of the 4 skiers and they were a bit surprised about the visit at supper time. With failing daylight and increasing snowfall we followed our tracks along and over the lakes. After 6 pm the flashlights came out. Lights from distant campsites confirmed we were on track.
Just before 7 pm we were back at the yurt. Steve had heated the home and prepared boiling water for his tired and dehydrated fellows. While it was snowing heavily outside we enjoyed dinner in a cozy yurt. After dinner. a champagne bottle was pulled out of the snow, an alligator cake was cut up, and we celebrated my birthday. What a great day it was. It snowed all night long with periodic gusts of wind. The snow covered the top of the yurt and Eric's tent needed to be shoveled out.
On Monday it was time to get out of the valley. We skied down the road through a foot of new snow. The cars needed to be dug out. The road was snow-covered down to Hwy 395. After all, it was the middle of winter. We all enjoyed this adventurous trip.
Special thanks to Tom for assisting and keeping us all together.
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