The following is a true story, only the names have been changed, to protect the guilty.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Episode 3

It was nice to wake up in the cabin on Saturday morning and have Dale get the fire going before I actually got out of my sleeping bag. As I was opening my eyes I was blasted in the face with the sound of a duck call. This was one of the "items" left behind by someone before us, thanks Dale. The cabin was nice and warm when we were getting our breakfast made and packing our gear for the hike out. Now, I was wondering if the four hour jaunt into the woods the night before was worth it, we would have to do it all over again. Once we got going it wasn't bad and we made good time getting back, knocking quite a bit of time off our previous record.

Dale on my reinforced bridge

This pic was taken on Colorado, we don't have cool shit like this here in Minnesota

That's my lucky climbing helmet

This made us all check our pants, Steve and I watched in horror as this chunk broke. This was just seconds after he made it across, it soon dropped into the river and left a big hole

The Bail-out bridge


It looks a lot taller from the top

       The main mission for the day was to ski the Devil Track River. I've been skiing or snowshoeing it at least once a year (sometimes 2 or 3) since 2000, and always look forward to it. It is different every time. This year was the most dangerous I have seen it ! Mark threw-in the towel after the first 150 yards. He was the first one out of the van and onto the river, breaking through the thin crust of ice, covered in two feet of snow three times in his short venture. I'm not sure if he was uneasy about it or just did not want to bother with all the extra work. Dale, Steve and I pushed on without him. Mark took my van back to the mouth of the river on HWY 61. We were really bummed that he wasn't going. I was nervous when I saw the huge holes he broke through in areas that I would have thought to be safe to ski on, and the large amount of water flowing underneath. Dale either did not know any better, or just didn't give a shit about falling in and drowning, but he was off like a shot. I didn't mind, he's a fast skier and I knew I would have to take my turn risking falling in for the good of the pack, sooner or later. It went pretty smooth for the first 45 min, then we came to first waterfall, it drops down about 100 feet over several shorter falls and changes direction, making a big "S"shape, I have not roped-up here, ever. I asked aloud why I was going first, I have young kids at home, Dale is "old", Steve has no kids and is older than me (by 4-5 years? ). No one answered, and I was lowering myself down into an open plunge pool that led to a long succession of other pools covered in ice with water raging beneath. I was nervous! I was able to side step the pool with no problems. I untied the rope and wandered down to the next pool to check it out while Dale and Steve waited at the top of the rope just in case I needed to be pulled up. At the bottom of the second pool was a bridge that formed over the river, which we WOULD have to take, I wanted to ski over it to disperse my weight. I didn't do this because I figured if it broke, and I had my ski's on, I would surely drown before I ever got them off. Instead I found a log and laid it down over the crossing, I would work two ways, it would reinforce the bridge and if the ice broke I could grab onto it. That was my logic anyway. It worked and we all made it across safely, for now. Once over the bridge we had one more section of the falls to complete. Instead of going over the falls we normally exit to the right side and skid down a VERY steep scree field. Usually it's scary fun and we just jump, tumble and slide down it. This year it was covered in a sheet of ice with a little bit of snow over the top to make it treacherous. The numerous rocks sticking out were telling us to rope-up again. After making it past that sketchy section the next hour + was great, we just had to watch out for thin ice and enjoy the ride. The canyon is now well over 100 feet deep and narrow. There is only one good bail-out, a bridge that crosses the river as part of the Superior Hiking Trail, about half way between the first water fall and the last waterfall known as the high falls. After the bail-out, I was crossing my fingers for the ridge of ice in the plunge pool at the base of the high falls to be sufficient enough for us to do the last rappel. It has very deep water in it and sheer walls all the way around it. With all the flowing water it was possible that there would be no ice at the bottom to stand on. When we got to the last rap I was relieved to see ski tracks just below us.We definitely would complete the mission now. Thanks Mark. Steve had the honor of going first, I was last. We hauled ass the rest of the way and finished up at dark. Mark met us at the end and we all headed back to Grand Marais for Pizza.  


  1. Looks like you guys had a hell of a good time. My wife and I are heading up tomorrow for the week. Looking forward to getting in the woods.

    1. Have fun! based on what I've seen you post i know you will

  2. count me in for next year. this trip sounds awesome.

    1. That sounds great. Now you will have time to get enough gear for the trip.

  3. Sounds like I missed out on the sketchiest Devil Track descent ever. I'm not sure if I feel jealous or lucky. :) Looks Awesome.