Back to Back Days – Gravelly Range & Centennial Range, Montana
Of the many snow kite spots that I have visited in the last dozen years, I got to return to two of my favorites during back to back days last week. Both spots offer superb mountain terrain, a clean fetch, abundant snow and immense solitude.
The first involves a 21 mile snowmobile ride to the top of the south end of the Gravelly Range. Once there, Cale Benson, Julian Holland and I immediately proceeded to the flanks of the 10,275 foot tall Big Horn Mountain. That day the winds were the opposite of the normal prevailing direction. Having a light northerly provide perfect gliding and riding along Big Horn’s long wind lip and hillsides. It was my kite partners’ first trip to this spot and both were blown away at the vastness of the Gravellys.
After a session on Big Horn we toured on our sleds to nearby Monument Ridge for a view of the Snowcrests to the west. From there we headed south, past Black Butte, to the headwaters of the Elk River. There we pulled off a short session with our big kites before we boondocked our way back to the trailhead. Unfortunately for Cale, it was to be his last ride on that sled for a while. Five miles from the truck, his engine seized. Julian gave him a tow back to the trailer. Backcountry kiting is a team sport. Having an able partner is essential.
The next day it was Julian and my day to hit up the Centennials, specifically the 9,688 foot high Sheep Mountain. I’ve made my way to Sheep a few times before and every time is different. This day again had a northerly wind that funneled around the mountain giving us a north fetch in some areas and a west wind in other spots. Lacking was the classic southerly that makes Sheep such an amazing kite spot. Oh well. We made the best of the day and rode hard and long. It is a fantastic kite spot and one that always amazes me by its long distance views. Even if one is not boosting high and hitting the many terrain features, Sheep Mountain is a joy to kite.
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoy the photos, and see ya out there,
Noah, I haven't had a chance to get many good pics of the spots lately (but I've got a litany of excuses). Here's a shot at Lizard Head during last week's "brownout". We just got nailed with a bad dust storm layer late yesterday. It's gonna kill the spring snow conditions if we don't get some white on top of it soon. Keep your fingers crossed for a producing storm tomorrow night!
I'll try to get a few good shots from the next outing- Cheers, MH