Backcountry Yurt Life in Big Sky Country

A last hurrah hut trip to cap off the Montana ski season, captured on 35mm film

Backcountry Yurt Life in Big Sky Country

Author

Alec Walsh

Photographer

Alec Walsh

Camera

Minolta Maxxum 9000

Film

FujiFilm Pro 400h, Kodak Portra 800

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The sound of snow ripping off the yurt’s roof would wake me periodically as the storm continued to refill what slid off. Steamy breath wafted towards the canvas ceiling above as I lay cocooned in my down bag. Rhythmic snoring of the group strewn about the shelter. I crawled to my feet. Weaving through scattered packs and boots, I found the door and cracked it. Everything outside was white.

Fresh, waist deep snow laid in wait. But in the backcountry powder days come at a price. Snow would be really good, but also unstable. All the steep couloirs and stoic peaks we had been eyeing hungrily were now out of the question. The storm slab created by the metric shit-ton of new snow meant sketchy avalanche conditions for a few days.

Forced to bail on our original plan, we changed course. Instead of one of the many better-named peaks in the area, we set a heading for one that was just given a number. Our initial disappointment at abandoning the lines we had been dreaming of for months faded with every one of the many switchbacks we made up the spine of Peak “whatever.” It was steep, deep, and the trees scattered across the slope below us were invitingly spaced. We climbed that mountain three times that day and never saw another person.

Life was good in Montana. Not many people and too many mountains to count. We found ourselves alone more often than not as soon as we left a trailhead. I’ve found that alone with a few great friends is the best way to travel in the mountains.

It was my self-appointed duty to capture and document the primitive joys we found in Big Sky Country. It was a wild, free time and the beer was cheap. One for the books.

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Published 04-04-2018

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