Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Ski Touring with The Junior Mountaineering Team

Enter Bowsers Castle

Last weekend I had the opportunity to get out with the Junior Mountaineering Team in the Southern Madison Range for a few days of backcountry touring. With marked stability, 10in of fresh and thousands of vertical feet of skiable terrain, the conditions were set for an excellent introduction to the Montana backcountry.

Started in 2003 this free program of the Montana Mountaineering Association aims to provide ,"enthusiastic kids the tools they need to explore their local mountains and the adventures that lay beyond: to make them alpinists". While the program focuses on alpine climbing and backcountry travel skills , this program provides a conduit to encourage kids to engage in their communities as leaders with a critical consciousness for the essential facets of life.

Giacomo Ranieiri and JMT Instructor Kevin Brumbach cover the finer points of the beacon search

Giacomo has a go

JMT Instructor KT Miller introduces a right side up, continental snowpack

Instruction for the team is headed by volunteers from the Bozeman climbing and skiing community. Every one of them contributes their unique skill set and experiences to the learning experience. Instructor backgrounds ranging from ski patrol to altitude medicine, alpinism, professional guiding and snow science.

With a maximum of six accepted students yearly, the student to instructor ratio stays in the 2:1 and 1:1 range, providing an unparalleled level of instruction and attention to detail.

The JMT trains over the course of a school year to prepare for two weeks of skiing and climbing in the Tetons in June, applying their learned skills to leading and route finding in the regions most classic couloirs and aretes. The Tetons lurked in the distance the entire training weekend, providing a bit of foreshadowing of what is to come.

Days passed quickly as the crew learned the art of transitions, digging pits, assessing snow pack, skinning technique, terrain management, with some great powder skiing to boot.

Parker Webb got a bit sleepy and found some pillows

As the weekend drew to a close, Parker and I traversed south along the ridge line seeking out some untouched turns on a familiar aspect. We found a prominent NE facing feature, a dreamy tree lined spine with a steep roll over to start, dropping 2,600ft to the south shores of Hebgen Lake. For a moment I remembered my first days of JMT years ago, the first skin tracks, slogs, ice pitches and 20 minute drills and how this singular program has given me a bunch to work with in the hills. The clouds started to roll in thickly now. Parker and I had a nod and we dropped in, leapfrogging through meadows and over pillows into the fading light of the storm cell.


Christopher J. Carter
February 9, 2010

For those who like moving pictures and would like to learn more, here is a profile of the program from filmmaking gun and 2010 graduate Jennings Barmore.

Support the next generation here.

Those keen to join next season can find information here.

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