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Summer Stashes: The Ruler, Northern Bridger Range, Montana

By this point in the summer, photographs of steep South American couloirs and idyllic New Zealand peaks are probably filtering through your Instagram feed. With sweltering summer heat and the end of 4th of July festivities, you may have admitted defeat, tossed your skis into the closet and traded them in for your mountain bike. But rest assured—there’s still plenty of summer skiing to be had without spending your life savings on a plane ticket to the southern hemisphere—you just have to be willing to work for it.

Here’s the latest installment in A Skier’s Guide to Summertime Stoke. All summer long we’ll be sharing from our list of enough summer ski zones to keep you satisfied until the snow falls.

THE RULER, NORTHERN BRIDGER RANGE, MONTANA: ALL HAIL AN EPIC COULOIR

The Ruler in Montana’s Northern Bridger Range from a ridge on the adjacent Naya Nuki Peak. [Photo] Vasu Sojitra

The Ruler in Montana’s Northern Bridger Range from a ridge on the adjacent Naya Nuki Peak. [Photo] Reese Freeman

LOCATION: Northern Bridger Range, Mont.
SUMMIT ELEVATION: 8,383 ft.
ACCESS: The Ruler is accessible from a Forest Service road off of Fairy Lake Road, which opens in July. The road is quite bumpy a high-clearance vehicle is recommended.
MORE INFO: The Effect of Summer Skiing and Fairy Lake Campground.

On June 14, adaptive freeskier and disability advocate Vasu Sojitra and splitboarder Reese Freeman tackled The Ruler. Due to last winter’s low snowfall, the duo was able to hit the line earlier than usual, though this meant that half of Fairy Lake Road was still closed, adding 2.5 extra miles to the four-mile approach to the top of the chute. The team covered 13-miles round-trip, incorporating biking, hiking, bushwhacking, bootpacking, scrambling and, as Sojitra likes to call it, “ninja-sticking” in their summit push.

Sojitra dropping into the upper snowfield of The Ruler. [Photo] Courtesy Vasu Sojitra

Sojitra dropping into the upper snowfield of The Ruler. [Photo] Reese Freeman

“The Ruler hides itself quite well in the rocky aspects of the Bridger Range,” Sojitra says, adding that the line has a very steep pinch that narrows to seven feet in certain places.

“It’s quite counterintuitive, but if the snowfall is above average, you can park up at the Fairy Lake Trailhead,” Sojitra says. “This is all due to the prolonged coverage of the chute following the road opening.”

According to Sojitra, the mission is strenuous and not for the kind-hearted: “The hike starting from Fairly Lake is moderate, but once the trailblazing starts, parts do increase by pitch, with additional rocks, gravel and choss followed by some steep bootpacking.”

Freeman taking baby steps to squeeze his way through the narrow walls. [Photo] Vasu Sojitra

Freeman taking baby steps to squeeze his way through the narrow walls. [Photo] Vasu Sojitra

Sojitra adds that the skiing part is also difficult. “[The Ruler] is only a grand or so in vertical feet, but quite the grand and quite the feeling. The pictures speak for themselves. Bring crampons and ice axes. Reese knows what’s up, but being a backcountry skier with one leg, I’m currently using my outriggers (crutches with skis on the bottom) to help with self-arrests,” Sojitra says, “but new and more effective methods are currently in the prototype phase.”

Read Sojitra’s full account, “The Effect of Summer Skiing,” at vasusojitra.com. If you are a summer skier and have an adventure or destination worth sharing, send your story and photos to intern@backcountrymagazine.com.

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