The Cabinet Mountains of Montana and Idaho are one of the wildest and purest mountain ranges left in the contiguous United States. Formed millions of years ago by glaciation, these mountains rise up to 6,000 feet above the valley below. The highest point in the range is Snowshoe Peak (8,738’); the gem of this protected wilderness and an area home to a wide variety of animals. Only one glacier remains in this expansive wilderness in our modern age and is mere years from no longer existing. The Blackwell Glacier lays on the north face of Snowshoe Peak in an area more frequented by grizzly bears than people.
When I started the 2014 ski season it was unbeknownst to me at the time a new challenge I was about to undertake in the coming years. Starting in November of that ski season I continually skied 12 consecutive months chasing snow across the United States. Spending my summer hunting out snow patches turned into a new endeavor about keeping my streak alive. The premise was simple; ski every month, at least once and it doesn’t matter where. Fast forward to 2018 and I had continually skied 40 months in a row; chasing snow even in the leanest of times.
July 2018 had proved to be the hardest month to keep the streak alive. After a car burglary on my way to Mt. Hood, Oregon. I arrived at the ski area parking lot unaware my equipment was missing. With my planned ski day unattainable I began to make alternative plans for getting my goal done on time. As I spent my summer exploring the Idaho Panhandle I was curious to learn if any perennial snow patches still existed nearby. After scouring the internet and social media platforms, I was excited to see snow was still holding in the Cabinet range on Blackwell Glacier.
With just two days left in July, we struck out for Libby, MT in a final effort to not give up on the challenge. Driving through the haze of nearby wildfires we were curious if our last ditch effort might be in vain. Coincidentally our day to ski for July was the hottest day of summer and temperatures hovered at 97 degrees leaving the dusty trailhead. After an epic undertaking climbing 1500’ of vertical while shouldering snow gear, we finally reached the glacier we longed to see. Even after a monstrous snow season the previous winter, the glacier was underwhelming in its size and appearance. As we hiked the small snowfield over and over for turns all the tedious effort to get here no longer mattered. The streak had been preserved and we were fortunate to ride this last remaining glacier. If we hadn’t made the effort to reach the glacier this season we may just never had the chance again.