While driving through Glacier National Park on my way to Alberta to meet a friend, he called me to let me know that his arrival would be delayed by a day. Looking up at the mountains around me and faced with time to kill, I decided not to look a gift horse in the mouth, and promptly pulled over at the Rogers Pass Discovery Center. After some mild debate, several warnings, a list of emergency phone numbers, and a call to the safety team (I think that’s what they called it), I had acquired a permit to go up Mount Rogers before the trail had technically opened for the season. Now due to the impromptu nature of this excursion, it was 11 o’clock and 30 degrees before I even reached the trailhead, and I only had the food and supplies which were already in my truck. So with 3 Clif Bars, two cans of beer, and a pack of instant ramen, I began the long slog up Hermit Meadows Trail.
After making it up the 900m gain to the meadows, I finally encountered snow, albeit not really skiable. This was a particularly unfun portion of the ascent, with the snow sometimes holding my weight, and sometimes wedging me up to the hip in between buried boulders. After 2 solid hours of navigating through ankle breaking slop, I arrived at the toe of the Swiss Glacier. It was quite the relief to get the skis off of my back and under my feet, and swap the hiking boots for ski boots. Upon removing the hikers, I discovered a toonie sized blister on my heel, and patched it up. After washing down a Clif Bar with my first beer, I set off up the glacier.
Another hour across the glacier, and I came to the base of the snow slope. Significant recent avalanches left the bottom third of it covered in debris which made for some sloppy kick turns. It was here I had my second Clif Bar and donned my crampons for a quick bootpack up 250m of gain in a mix of slush and crud.
By the time I made the summit ridge, I was a heaving sweaty mess, but I had less than 70m gain to go. After finishing the last Clif bar, I abandoned my skis and pack for a quick jaunt up to the peak, before starting the journey back to the highway. Little did I know, my day was about to get much longer.
After skiing down to the toe of the glacier, I discovered that the A-frame straps on my pack were nearly worn through, so I carefully strapped up my skis and began to meticulously pick my way across the meadows. Unfortunately the straps couldn’t tough it out for the rest of the hike, and I found myself shoulder carrying one ski. When I made it to the campground, I had dinner, then decided that shoulder carrying both skis might help prevent back problems due to a lopsided pack.
I had a limited amount of daylight left, and no headlamp, so in my hurry to make it out of the woods before dark it is probably safe to say that I was closer to falling down the mountain than walking. Once I returned to my car, I threw my gear in the back of the truck and raced over to Golden for a well earned dinner. Note to self: Don’t pack-carry skis 2000m elevation with only a thousand calories for sustenance. Two days later, I’m still limping about as I recover from the king of all my stupid ideas.