4:30 am, June 12th. The sound of BBC newscasters analyzing the oil disaster in the Gulf comes blaring through my fitful dreams. Barely awake I give my alarm clock a bleary look, my mind going through an extreme case of deja vu. This was too much like yesterday: not enough sleep, waking up before sunrise...but also knowing that I would be rewarded with an awesome day of skiing.
The day before, my dad and I had gotten up at 3:30 and met two other friends at their house at 4 in order to get over to the East Side of Glacier Park as early as possible. Our goal was to tour from Jackson Glacier Overlook up through Siyeh Pass and back down to the Going to the Sun Highway at Sunrift Gorge, a trip of about 10 trail miles, all before a wedding to be held nearby at 5 pm. We left the truck and hit the trail around 7:15, making it to the snow-line (where we were able to quit carrying our skis) within 40 minutes. The conditions were great for a skin up: not too cold and surprisingly dry. Our early morning was rewarded ten-fold when we were greeted at tree line with incredible views of the surrounding peaks. Unfortunately when we reached the pass, we were unable to find a path through the cliffs and around the corner to complete the loop. Nevertheless we had some great turns through spring snow conditions on the way back to the truck.
11:46 am, Comeau Pass
Adam and I had been climbing for the past 5 hours from the pickup, about 3 of which had been on our skis. The weather was working out well for us: not heating up too fast as to cause wet slide avalanches or, even worse, slides off the south facing rocks along our intending route. Now as we booted up the final 15 meters up the headwall to the top of the pass (in the summer there is a staircase blasted out of the rock, but it's chocked full of snow now making a vertical wall that we must surmount) we are greeted with gorgeous views looking eastward into the rest of Glacier Park overlooking snow-capped peaks for miles and the sweeping snow fields leading up to our right ending in the sharp summit of the goal for the day, Gunsight Peak.
When we loaded all of our gear into the truck, the four of us rolled down Going to the Sun road into St. Mary's for some coffee, a change of clothes, and relaxation time before heading to our friend's wedding back in the Park. The wedding itself was fantastic. Overcast all day long, the weather took a turn for the best when the clouds broke and the couple had sunshine and blue sky for their ceremony. Small, informal, and fun adequately describe the event (entertaining too if you count laughing at my friend Dan, the one getting married, totally out of his element and crippled with nervousness...).
I would dare anyone to find a better lunch spot than the top of Gunsight Peak that day. The views would rival any of those from the Himalayas, the company couldn't be any better, and I had earned that delicious peanut butter and banana sandwich. The climb from the Pass had been a blast: skinning up the side of a mountain with decent exposure then transitioning to kicking steps through the steeper sections toward the summit itself, looking forward to skiing back down the entire time.
At the top Adam and I had reflected on our feelings of power in such an incredible place. In the mountains it is easy to feel small and insignificant next to the immensity of geological formations and the effects of wind, snow, and ice. The mountain could care less of the two humans scratching their way up its side and in a few days, hours even, any trace of our passing would be unrecognizable. Being Christians, it brought reflection on how we fit into God's plan; I know that I am just a speck in the immense span of things God has in his control. The difference is that God does care about how I take part in his designs.
Soft, spring-corn snow flies from the edges of our skis in our rapid descent from the peak back to the valley floor, our waiting transportation home, and security once again from the dangers of the mountains. It is always a relief to escape from the power of the rock and snow unscathed, but even better knowing that I have been changed by these experiences.