Winter Has Arrived In The Pryors

Today, September 26, 2013.  Photo by Lori Graham.
Today, September 26, 2013. Photo by Lori Graham. Snow is at the top of the mountain where I camp.
Photo by Brianna Harvey.  Taken today.  Thanks Brianna!
Photo by Brianna Harvey. Taken today. Thanks Brianna!


I know, it is only September 26, and technically Fall just officially arrived a few days ago.  But snow fell last night in the Pryors and they are calling for more tonight.  They are calling it a “Winter Storm”.  That comes from the weather service, so even though we are in Fall, Winter has arrived.  You can read about it by clicking on WINTER STORM.

I live in mountains of Western Montana.  I have for over 22 years.  It is not unusual for “winter” with cold temperatures and snow to arrive at our house by early November (much earlier this year) and stay well into April.  Snow in June is not an uncommon occurrence. So because of that, it has been difficult for me to realized that many people do not understand the weather of the mountains and how quickly things can change.

My tours that I gave this summer and some recent comments on my blog, alerted me to this fact.  Just because the calendar says it is Fall or Spring or even Summer, doesn’t mean that Winter will not come to the mountains at any time of the year and it is not selective on the victims it takes.

Desert Snow

On my list I supplied to my guests of “things to bring” for the camping trips, I included:  “Warm jacket, hat and gloves. Warm clothes for sleeping in.”  Very few of my summer guests brought these.  Luckily I had extra with me, including extra blankets for sleeping.

Several nights this summer the temperature on top of the mountain dipped to the low to mid 40’s (with wind).  During the day a few times, it was only in the 40’s.   I asked why they did not follow the list provided to them and got these responses:  “I thought you were kidding” or “it is summer, I did not think I needed those things”.   Hopefully after reading this post, people will be more prepared and respectful of the mountain weather.

A mid-July fog rolled in and kept the temperature around 40 degrees for more than 12 hours.
A mid-July fog (or low-lying clouds)  rolled in early one evening and kept the temperature around 40 degrees for more than 16 hours.

I am sure that warmer weather will come again this Fall to the Pryors, but to have this early Winter storm, makes me realize that this winter may be tough.  And long.

Jackson, February, 2013
Jackson, February, 2013

I enjoy sharing my information and stories, and being able to go to the Pryors as often as I do.  But by doing that, I also expose a very vulnerable piece of my heart.  These horses have become a part of me, I can not help the feelings that I have for them.  Or how my thoughts think.  Or how my words come out.  That is who I am. With that being said, my heart is heavy thinking of the young colt that was just born to Washakie less than two weeks ago.  But these horses are wild and tough.  The strongest will survive.  I just hope that little Nahwa is one of them.


Washakie and Nahwa
Washakie and Nahwa
Logo designed by Amber Bushnell
Logo designed by Amber Bushnell

10 thoughts on “Winter Has Arrived In The Pryors

  • Was camping in northwestern Maine – about 3 hours north of my home – one year in mid-August. Woke up to everything covered in frost!!! To the weather, a calendar is irrelevant! Sure hope little Nahwa survives. Also, hope the other horses don’t have to start using their fat reserves too early and that they get off the top safely. Guess they have been doing this drill for years though and know how to survive.

  • Those pics of the mountain make me wish I were out there—snowing or not. There is such beauty in snow, and winter, but it can be such an enemy. That saying about the strongest will survive is very true to a degree, but every time I hear it, which is often, I think about the role luck can play in things, too. For instance, if lightning strikes you, it doesn’t matter if you’re healthy and smart. Anyway, I’m betting on a good outcome for this little guy, and will deal with it when I HAVE to, if he doesn’t.

    Thanks for sharing that pic of Jackson and companion. He is SOOOO beautiful, any season of the year. 🙂

    And that’s also a great one of Washakie and Nahwa. 🙂 Let’s hope the little dude got some extra reserves from Washakie being so round and healthy and carried him what must have been full-term.

    As I’ve said before, I admire you for your determination and dedication, and thank you for your passionate caring for the horses.

  • I am sure some will think that now it is fall, but that the snow couldn’t happen in the summer when they visit in July or August. In Wyoming/Montana mountains, the snow could come any time. I am not sure about July, but have seen snow in every other month for sure. On August 15th, 2009 I woke up to 4-6 inches of snow on my tent when it had been warm most of the day before. Luckily I could feel it coming and had moved to just below the pass so I could get down the next day. It was about 10,000 feet, but the snow continued down to Geneva at 9300, which is getting pretty close to Pryor altitude (about 8560 where you camp).

    To anyone going on a tour with Sandy, it can definitely be cold up on top, so listen and bring some warm clothing with you.

  • Something to think about folks. You go to Yellowstone in the summer take winter gear. I was there in early June in the late 90’s. At one point at Old Faithful it was blazing hot. I look over the mountains and there is an ugly looking cloud coming in. Some thought rain. But the temps were dropping and I knew we were about to get snowed on.

    So I went and got my down jacket and gloves out. 30 mins later back into the car they went.

    You must realize that 8500 ft is high. What one expects at sea level is not what you necessarily get atop the Pryors. If you’ve ever listened to Ginger she can confirm this. It could be anything from bathing suit weather to freezing cold with snow.

    So how does one pack for a three day trip to the Pryors. Listen to Sandy. What do you do in winter? Shorts, tee shirt. REALLY GOOD PAIR OF HIKING SHOES–but make sure they are well broken BEFORE you go! Take sock liners. Not only will they wick sweat away but in combination with wool socks they will keep your toes a lot warmer.

    Sleeping bag with a blanket inside will keep you warm too on a cold night. Be prepared to use the bag to just toss over you at night if its hot out. Or you’ll be climbing into it.

    You are in the mountains. Mountains kill people who aren’t prepared. The mountains don’t care how rich or poor you are. What kind of job you have. Paid heed to Mother Earth and the mountains.

    But the opposite is also true. You could be very fortunate and fabulous weather the entire time and want to run around with a bathing suit on. The mountains are VERY unpredictable. So prepare with that in mind.

    For me I worry that this will be another 2011. While it means great runoff in the spring there are many many months the horses must get through to get there. So tonight think good thoughts for the horses that they find shelter. And know that these horses are tough. It’s bred into them about winter. These are not hot house tb’s. But they are susceptible to whatever Mother Earth tosses there way.

    You will be roughing it for several days. You will be with a guide who knows the mountain. But your responsibility is to be prepared as fully as you can be. This means no electricity! Egads! What about my camera? Bring extra camera batteries. Make sure they are charged before you leave and put the end cover on. You don’t want the electrical sides touching and draining the batteries. Another case of planning early for next summer. The battery for my camera is about 50 dollars each. If you plan on running video–that drains batteries SUPER FAST. Stills eat batteries but not as quickly. Bring plenty of digital chips. You run video one morning, lock the chip so you can’t erase it. Then move on to the next chip.

    Please make sure you a BOOK not an iPad (or similar device)to read in case you are having some down time.

    I know many are sitting there thinking I’m on my soapbox. I want anyone who is going to be prepared to have the time of their lives. So now that I’ve talked your ear off about camping gear and cameras, I want to talk about exercise. Yup that dreaded word.

    The Pryor’s happily don’t require us to gain extra red blood cells to carry oxygen because we are below 10,000 ft. But you will be at altitude. You will be breathing thinner air. For me, I know I get more frequent headaches at 6300 ft. Pay attention to your body. If something seems off DON’T HESITATE TO SAY SOMETHING.

    You want to start exercising NOW. It takes time to build muscle tone and core. I don’t care what Biggest Loser teaches. Core strength will allow you to move more freely to get out of the way of the horses if something happens. To just step away.

    When I was there in 2010 I had a stallion and his mare and colt following me to the watering hole. Oh they were a little ways back. I stopped and of course they did to. I quietly told them I was going to move aside for them and to give me a second. They watched as I tried to move off the trail and out of their way. They immediately knew I wasn’t a threat cause I could barely hold my balance (no core strength). The mare passed with 5-7 of me (or it sure seemed like it!) and the stallion moved off the trail a step or two further away from me.

    The indirect point I’m trying to make is this: you will be on a mountain where there are no paved roads.

    Start now. Build your strength up now and continue working out. You will be in much shape not only for the altitude change but for hiking.

  • For people who don’t live near mountains (like me! unless you count the skyscrapers of Manhattan haha), it is very easy to misunderstand how the weather works at a higher altitude. I remember visiting southern Utah a few years ago in March. My dad did his research so we were prepared for colder weather. There wasn’t really any snow in Zion National Park, but a little further away in Bryce Canyon, the place was packed with snow! Hiking was virtually impossible unless you had those special crampons attached to your shoes to walk over the snow. We had hiking boots, but no hiking snow boots (do those even exist?) so we merely did the scenic drive and stopped at the different look outs. We were disappointed about not hiking but seeing the “hoodoo amphitheater” with snow was beautiful (even if we were very cold).

    I hope this winter isn’t too harsh for the horses. I am not looking forward to it here in NY.

    • And this is true. Lovell is about 2500 ft. You’ll gain 6000 ft in about 3 short hours (faster if one to go for it). Burnt Timber is a rutted “path”–not a road, not a groomed anything. The only way its a path is by cars that have driven over the same section so many times.

      So what you see in Lovell is no guarantee about what is happening at the top.

      It is important that you heed Sandy. Not only about gear but how to act with the horses. A lot seem “half tame” (there use to people but are definitely not approachable). Mind your manners. Give the horses all the room they desire. Make yourself something the horses won’t be interested in. Not only will you see things you wouldn’t otherwise see but you’ll help the horses. We don’t want them getting dependent on man for ANYTHING.

      This is the hard part of survival. You want so desperately to feed that bit of carrot or pet Cloud. I sympathize with that. But honestly Cloud would rather have you NOT touch him. It’s actually rude to get in his space and demand something of him that he has no idea of how to respond. When you pet the family dog and tell him good boy he has an idea of what you’re saying. Cloud doesn’t.

      Your interactions with the horses will be one of observation. Not playing with the foals or the horses. Let them show you what it means to be free to choose where and when they go to water, graze. Run or play. There was a colt taken last year in the bait trapping that I saw as a yearling. He approached Cloud very directly. It wasn’t a challenge. He walked up to Cloud and stuck his nose underneath. Cloud didn’t do a thing.

      A few moments later Cloud told the colt that it was time to go home. He GENTLY chewed on the withers. I have a picture that shows Cloud’s teeth and his wide open mouth. But the colt never squealed like ouch. Cloud let go and the colt ran off to his band.

      Keep a diary up there. Log everything so you don’t forget a thing. One thing I’m considering is taking a handheld tape recorder. Not only can I log what pictures are of what but I can tell a story about what is happening at the time. We were here. For an hour no horses. Suddenly we felt the ground shaking under us. HORSES! We were surrounded! So we laid low. Got very quiet. Took pictures. And let the horses speak to us about whatever was on their minds. At this point in your diary you’ll talk about whatever you learned. You may or may not feel like sharing. That is certainly understandable. But you’ll be forever changed. And you’ll want to remember why. Thoughts, feelings and emotions change over time. It isn’t so sharp. It doesn’t feel so personal. Those are things you want to write about. It’s private and should stay so.

  • I’m sitting at my home looking out to the Pryors. Yup, there is snow on top. Today is sunny and very windy. Forecast is for sunny in the 50-60’s. With the snow, the rain, the wind, the sunshine, and the calendar passing by Sept. 22, I would say fall has both unofficially and officially arrived in the Pryors!

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