Montana Outdoors

December 5, 2008

The snow line

Motivated by the fact that even though this has been an incredibly mild winter here so far the snow line is slowly moving down the mountains and soon will shut off access to many of the trail heads, yesterday I hiked up to where I could get a good view of the peaks of the Cherry Peak roadless area in the Coeur d’Alene Mountains.

Cherry Peak roadless area

So far the access road has only a little snow on it above about 4,000 feet, but after the next snowfall it will likely be unusable for the rest of the winter.

These photos were taken from an elevation of just under 6,000 feet (which is just about the bottom of the snow line which can be seen quite clearly in the second photo), and the tallest peaks are just over 7,000 feet. I always love to see that distinct snow line at least once before a big storm brings all of the whiteness the rest of the way to the valley floor.

Cherry Peak roadless area.


  1. Beautiful captures! I’d love to visit Montana one day. (I’ve actually never been to the US)

    Ironically, what you call a mild winter has been an unusually cold season here on the other side of the pond. =)



    Comment by rye — December 5, 2008 @ 2:46 pm

  2. Thanks for visiting, rye! I’m glad you enjoyed seeing a bit of Montana!


    Comment by montucky — December 5, 2008 @ 7:42 pm

  3. Our highest Adirondack peak is Mt.Marcy at 5344′, with Algonquin the only other one over 5000′ at 5114′. 44 other peaks rise greater than 4000′. That is why the “ADK” hiking club has a group called the “46’ers” They have summited on all 46 peaks over 4000′. Interesting to see you were at 6000′ to get that shot, …. our ancient Adirondacks were worn down by the glaciers,…


    Comment by Cedar — December 6, 2008 @ 6:03 am

  4. Weather in layers is one of the most fascinating things to someone who was originally from the Great Plains. I never tire of it.


    Comment by Pinhole — December 6, 2008 @ 8:47 am

  5. Cedar,

    Yes, the peaks in the Rocky Mountains are quite high and the ones in Montana are by no means the highest. Our tallest is Granite Peak in the Beartooth Mountains at 12,799 feet. There are 240 named peaks over 10,000 feet and the shortest one in the top 300 is 9,688.

    The tallest near where I live, the ones on which I spend so much time are around 7,000 (three of the ones in the photos are over 7,000). They appear tall because they sit next to the Clark Fork River valley, which is around 2,400 feet, so you often see nearly a mile of elevation to compare.


    Comment by montucky — December 6, 2008 @ 9:24 am

  6. I’ve always been fascinated by that too, Pinhole, even though I was raised here. The weather varies tremendously between bottom and top of these mountains as does the life forms, plant and animal.

    On this particular hike, it was 18 degrees when I left home. About a mile past the trail head, on the north side of the mountain where the sun never reaches this time of year, it was certainly in the single digits or even below zero, judging by how fast my cheeks became numb and my breath froze on my mustache. Higher up, at about the snow line there was a little sun and it was much warmer, although the snow showed no sign of melting and the little water seeps from the mountain had frozen all of the way to the round. I’m sure it was very cold again at the peak level with deeper snow which also coated the trees.

    In July when I hiked to the top of the peak on the far left side of the photos, there were 20-ft deep snowbanks on its north side.

    On the south sides, on lower slopes there are often open hillsides and the sun melts the snow there most of the time during the winter, and those are the homes of Mule deer. Many times while hiking or hunting there even on very cold days I’ve found it can be pleasant to find a spot out of the wind, take my jacket off and bask in the sun.


    Comment by montucky — December 6, 2008 @ 9:36 am

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