Getting a Little Crazy

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Six fresh inches at Bridger Bowl on closing day and a snowy last day for Big Sky—some would consider this a perfect end to this year’s ski season. But I wasn't ready to hang up my skis. The closing of the resorts meant it was time to break out the skins and head into the backcountry. On a Tuesday in early May, I left the O/B office, packed up my gear, and headed out of town to look for adventure in the Crazy Mountains. We arrived at Halfmoon Campground well after dark, where we cooked a late dinner by firelight and prepared for an early-morning start.

The next morning, as the sun beamed down on the backs of our necks, I reconsidered my decision to forego sunscreen. After one mile of hiking and another of skinning, we stopped to discuss what we actually wanted to ski. To the left was Crazy Peak, and to the right was a less-strenuous hike up to Twin Lakes. We decided to follow through with our initial plan—to ski Crazy Peak. At that point, we'd committed ourselves to a 4,700-vertical-foot trek to the summit in hopes of some promising turns back down.

I used the zigzag route up the mountain to work on mastering my kick-turn, some attempts much better than others. Approaching a lake that we assumed to be Blue Lake, we soon realized we'd ventured too far right and we were actually at Granny Lake. This detour likely added a few hours to our final approach time of six hours.

Finally we arrived at the bottom of Crazy Peak, just in time for my hungry stomach to grumble loudly as I stood looking up at the 1,600-foot bootpack to the summit. It was steep. As we made our way up, I used my hands to stabilize—they moved in sync with my feet and made me feel secure. We climbed quickly, anticipating the ski back down. At 3pm we topped out, the snow (and our faces and forearms) baked by the afternoon sun.

A half-eaten, smashed sandwich never tasted so good as we sat at the top taking in the views. We managed to snap a few photos before turning our focus back to the reason we were up there: to ski.

The snow underneath us was soft and seemed promising.  We de-skinned, clipped in, and worked our way through the rocky top section of the peak. We stopped for a short while to take in the remarkable view in front of us. Scott was the first to go, effortlessly making S-turns down the slope. An occasional “woohoo” echoed back up the chute. I stood at the top, uncertain if my jelly-like legs were going to get me all the way down. Seven minutes went by in a flash, and it was my turn.

Skiing

 I started out slowly, getting a good feel for the snow beneath me before eventually picking up speed. My uncertainty disappeared, along with every other care in the world. Happiness consumed me as I glided down the mountainside, and I found a happy medium between a fast pace and the number of turns taken—wanting the thrill of a fast decent while trying to stay in the moment as long as possible. At the bottom, I looked up at our lines and decided that every exhausting step up had been worth the effort.

We followed Big Timber Creek towards the trailhead, stopping at Big Timber Falls for a much-deserved break. As we sat there, exhausted, reflecting on the day I thought, “Not too bad for a Wednesday...”

 

For another tale of skiing adventures in the Crazy Mountains, click here.

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