We had little warning before the storm hit us. My kite accomplice JJ and I were blissfully kiting along one of the many ridgelines that are a subset of the 20 square miles named Landon Ridge. My 12m Ozone Summit was fully powered as I ate up the deep untracked powder with my skis. Suddenly I felt a strong gust begin to pull me over the backside of the ridge. I immediately pulled in some of the depower and dove my skis downhill and upwind, getting as far away from the ridge top as I could. Within minutes the wind shifted 180 degrees and an ensuing white out was accompanied by gusts to 40mph. With winds like that, it took only moments, heading downwind and uphill, to make it back to our parked snowmobiles. I quickly landed my kite, got it pack up and began looking around for JJ. I could barely see him in the maelstrom. He was also wrapping up his kite and getting it stuffed into his pack. JJ told me later that he was glad to not to have lost it when he desperately released the chicken loop and the kite took off downwind. He certainly was lucky. The only thing that stopped his kite was the bar snagging an old fence post sticking out of the snow.
We had come to Landon Ridge to see if it looked as good in person as it did on the map. This place is vast. Massive hills with a long clean fetch make this one of the biggest kite spots in Montana. That statement says a lot as there are so many other big kite spots in Montana. However, at 20 square miles, it is easily a place one can get lost while kiting! Long treeless slopes dive down and climb up in every direction. To call it a “kite spot” belies its enormity. I’ve kited all over the northern Rockies and this place is immense.
As we cruised around powered by our kites we were rewarded with ever changing views that revealed bigger and steeper slopes a few miles away. At one point I said to JJ: "I can’t keep going." We were already a few miles from our sleds and I knew, that if the forecast was right, a storm should be hitting us at some point that afternoon. One just should not go long without a pair of skins and poles. So we headed back to the ridge to be near our sleds and spent our remaining time with visibility enjoying the powder and smooth wind.
Once the kiting was shut down by the storm we climbed aboard our sleds and tried to figure our way out of there in a complete whiteout. Our earlier snowmobile tracks had been obliterated. Route finding was going badly and the snow was very deep and soft, making riding tenuous. Within a few minutes I had my map out, my GPS on and was putting a few landmarks together to get us out of this mess before dark. In the end, the GPS and map worked, I figured out a route and we boondocked our way back the 16 miles to the truck.
Will I be going back to Landon Ridge? As soon as possible; but not on a storm day!
Thanks for reading and see ya out there,