Sperry work underway

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A helicopter drops supplies into the Sperry Chalet complex Sunday.

Work began Sunday on the second phase of reconstruction of the Sperry Chalet.

A host of helicopter flights were hauling in supplies and materials as crews started putting scaffolding up.

The work is being done by contractor Dick Anderson Construction of Helena.

Anderson, through sometimes heroic efforts, finished the $4.08 million Phase I of the contract last fall.

That phase included a new foundation, walls, floors, interior steel frame and a temporary roof on the structure. The next phase completes the roof, all of the finish work, and repairs the masonry on the 105-year-old building under a $4.73 million contract.

The work should be completed this fall and the chalet is expected to reopen to the public in 2020.

The main dormitory of the chalet complex was gutted by the Sprague wildfire in August 2017. All that was left standing was the stone walls after the fire.

The Glacier National Park Conservancy played a key role in getting emergency funding to stabilize the structure and has continued to support the project through the reconstruction phase, paying to keep the kitchen crew working at the dining hall to feed the crew.

The chalet held up well over the winter. There was no snow on the ground at the chalet on Sunday, which meant crews were able to start work immediately instead of shoveling snow.

Typically snow lasts into July at the chalet, but this year the snowpack was a little bit below normal and recent heavy rains have melted a lot of snow.

The kitchen staff was also busy cooking. The first dinner for the crew was chicken a la king, they said.

The dining hall is also open to the public for lunch.

The Park Service notes that the area around the chalet is closed to the public to keep people out of the construction zone. In addition, trails and campgrounds at Lincoln Lake and Snyder Lakes have been closed to give grizzly bears a quiet buffer in the area because of helicopter flights and construction activity.

The hike to Sperry is a long and hot one — about 6.4 miles straight uphill for more than 3,300 feet and there’s almost no shade and little water for several miles. It used to be a wooded glade, but the fire burned away most of the trees, though the landscape promises to burst with color in a few weeks as fireweed has sprouted up en masse along the trail.

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