On 4 Sep 08, Jess and I headed to the Beartooths for a four day backpacking loop. We had
tried to go the weekend before, but the weather forecast called for some nasty winter weather
(yeah, just 3 weeks after the last winter weather stopped...), so we re-scheduled for the
following weekend. The weather forecast for this weekend looked pretty good, with only a
20% chance of snow and showers.
We drove all the way to Cooke City on Thursday, and then hit the trail to Lady of the Lake
(Google Map) by 10 am on Friday. Soon after we started the trail the 20% chance of snow
began. It was off and on, though, so we pressed on. We had the trail completely to ourselves,
and we only saw one set of boot prints heading out. After a few miles we began the short but
very steep climb up to Lower Aero Lake on the plateau. The trail gains about 1,200 feet in 3/4
of a mile, and the higher we got the worse the weather got. By the time we arrived at Lower
Aero, the snow was coming down hard, we couldn't even see 50 yards out into the lake, and
the wind was howling. We spent an hour or so looking for a good camp site, but couldn't find
any around the southwest corner of the lake that would afford any protection from the wind.
After realizing the temperature was around 38 without the wind chill at 3 pm, we decided we
didn't really want to spend the night in those conditions. So we dropped back down to Zimmer
Creek and set up camp. We found what looked like some nice bear scat just a few yards from
our tents, so that was nice!
We awoke Saturday morning to almost 3 inches of snow...and it was still coming down. We
messed around for a couple of hours waiting to see if the weather would break. It didn't. So
around 10 am we decided that the weather, which was forecasted to be worse on Sunday, was
already worse than we wanted to deal with. So we grudgingly made the decision to call the trip
a bust and head home.
There were a few breaks in the snow on the hike back, but for the most part it snowed non-
stop for the entire hike back. We figure we made the right decision. When we got back to
Cooke City the weather looked like it had changed to be much colder and snowier over the
weekend. So we headed into Yellowstone to head back home. We saw a black wolf in Lamar
Valley, so that was good.
That was the trip. We had hoped to hike through Upper Aero Lake, Sky Top Basin, Fossil
Lake, and back down to the Clarks Fork trail head. Unfortunately, winter left way too late this
year and arrived way too early. The area was still incredible, so I'm sure I'll try again next
year. The biggest disappointment was that I had planned three long trips for this summer, and
weather cut them all short. I don't think I'm a fair weather backpacker, but the weather just
kept sending me back home early. Oh well. Maybe next year will be better.