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Friday, September 30, 2016

Rattlesnake Crossing, 2016: with Jen, Kara, and Charlie

Kara and Jen descending from the Rattlesnake Wilderness boundary at the top of the Finley Creek drainage. 
The week before last was a tough one for me. Life and work piled up, I lost my sense of calm, and was knocked off center for a few days. Thankfully, I had a plan to walk across the Rattlesnake with a group that Sunday. There were four humans -- Jen, Kara Daume, Charlie Katerba, and myself -- and four dogs. The group gelled (dogs included), the country and route were grand, and over the course of 10 hours and 20 miles, I found my center again. 

I've done this walk three times now, and it's one of my favorites. It starts up Finley Creek, which you get to by turning east off of Highway 93 onto McClure Road, a few miles south of Arlee, and then right (south) onto Finley Lakes Road, at the end of which the trail begins. You follow good trail up to lower Finley Lake, and then continue on to upper Finley Lake on intermittent trail. From the upper Lake, you then head off trail to the Wilderness boundary above Sanders Lake, from which the photo above was taken. From the boundary, you descend to Sanders Lake, and then walk good trail, with a detour to Mosquito Peak and along the ridge to Stuart Peak, and finally, out to the Rattlesnake Trailhead in Missoula.  

Charlie at Lower Finley Lake.

Jen, Kara, Charlie

Jen and Kara at upper-Finley Lake.

Jen climbing to the wilderness boundary.

And another shot, with upper-Finley Lake in the background.


On the divide overlooking Sanders Lake.
Sanders Lake.
Looking toward Stuart Peak from Mosquito Peak.

Looking north on Mosquito with McLeod Peak in the background.
At the Rattlesnake boundary only 8 miles to go.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Mount Powell with Al and TC

TC climbing the final slope up to the summit of Mount Powell. Note the larch on the near ridge and the Pintlers in the background.
For the past week, I've had a research visitor here in Missoula, named Tiangang Cui, or TC to his English speaking colleagues. He's from China and is in between a job in Houston and a faculty job at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.  TC is both a top notch computational mathematician and an all-around great fellow. I met him on my sabbatical in New Zealand; one of his PhD advisors, Colin Fox, was the guy I visited at U. Otago in Dunedin. Colin was also the post-doc advisor of my good friend Al Parker, from Bozeman, so Al has known TC even longer than I have. In order that Al and TC could see each other, and also so that TC could enjoy a uniquely Montana outing, we all decided to get together for a hike this weekend. We chose Mount Powell outside of Deer Lodge, because it's in between Bozeman and Missoula, and Al's been wanting to do it for a while. The hike is 12 miles round trip with 4000 feet of elevation gain. It has some steep off trail sections and is challenging, but there's nothing too difficult about it, so it turned out to be a great choice and a great day. As Al said in an email to me after the trip, "TC's like us, he likes to connect with people and places. He'll be back."

For directions to the trailhead and the route we used, see this Summitpost page.
TC and Skila on the climb up.
TC and some alpine larch.
Walking tundra before the final slope up to Mount Powell.
Al in the same spot, with peaks of the Flint, and turning alpine larch, in the background.
TC and the view south on Mount Powell.
Pudge looking off toward Deer Lodge Mountain.
Same shot, Pudge and Skila.
Old friends on the summit of Mount Powell.


Sunday, September 11, 2016

North Sheafman Ridge High Points, Bitterroot Mountains

Castle Crag, on the descent from the Sheafman Ridge High Point, 8652.
This past Saturday was glorious. I had big plans for the day: I've yet to get into the Mission Mountains this year, I'm ashamed to say, and was hoping to get an early start and spend a long day up in those brutal and awesome mountains. But things happened, and it wasn't until after 9am that I got out of town. I trust that I'm not alone in this: sometimes, despite the fact that everything appears to be lining up for a perfect day, a wrench gets thrown into the engine and everything grinds to a halt. Moreover, in my experience, that wrench is usually thrown into the engine by me.

Anyway, with a late-ish start, I had to back off my ambitious plans, and opted to instead go down the Bitterroot, to Sheafman Canyon, just west of Corvallis. If you haven't been, I recommend Sheafman. It's a short canyon, and you start about 1000 feet up from the valley, so the walk in to the lakes at the back of the drainage is only 6 miles with 2000 feet of elevation gain. There is also a magnificent peak at the back of the drainage called Castle Crag, which I highly recommend to peakbaggers. 

This time, to do something new, I opted to climb the high points on the north side of Sheafman Canyon, Peaks 8650 and 8652. About four miles in, you leave the trail and head north to Peak 8650, then walk the ridge west to Peak 8652, and finally, on down to Knaack Lake at the back of the drainage. For a detailed description of the route, see Michael Hoyt's "Bitterroot Mountain Summits," and you can view my GPS route here. This is a really nice, rugged outing, with lots of rock hopping and a bit of class 3 climbing. It's a good one if you're looking for solitude and physical challenge not terribly far from a trail head. 
We gained the ridge too far to the east, got cliffed out, and had to descend this cute in order to make our way to 8650.
Looking west into the Bitterroot. On the right is Castle Crag.
There's a goat barely visible on the skyline. It was big and curious.
Looking north from Sheafman ridge.
Pudge and Castle Crag.
Peak 8650 from 8652.

Panoramic photo from 8652 with Castle Crag in the middle.

Trusty companion, Pudge. It was a challenging day for him with all of the rock hopping.
Looking back at 8652 on the way down to Knaack Lake.
Pudge cooling off in Knaack Lake with Castle Crag above. This would be a beautiful spot to camp.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Matt Benchmark with Matt and Jen, then Pyramid Buttes on a Friday Afternoon.

Hanging out with Matt and Jen on the summit ridge of Matt Benchmark in the southern Swan Range.
The last week of summer was a blur. Work was very busy, as I had to video record my first week of lectures, so that I could go to the research workshop from which I write this blog. With all of the advances in technology over the past decades, you'd think this would be an easy process, but it isn't (or wasn't for me). Squeezed into the week was an overnight visit to Family Camp, which is a week long camp that Amy and Matt McQuilken put on every year at Camp Paxson on Seeley Lake. Matt was keen to get out for a hike to a peak during the 24 hours I was there, so we went into the nearby Swan Range, starting near the Pyramid Pass Trailhead, and climbed Matt Benchmark (seemed a suitable peak given the company). Jen joined, and we had a nice 4 hours-ish hike on Wednesday morning.

Soon after we returned to Camp Paxson from the hike, it was back to Missoula for work on Thursday. Thursday was a long day: recording the last of the videos, converting them to a format suitable for the web, and finally, uploading them to my web page. I staggered home late, looking forward to the last hike/peak of the summer on Friday. But something came up with my other job at UM (Grievance Officer for the faculty Union), and I had to go back on campus Friday morning. I finally got out of town at 1pm, making it to the Sweeney Creek trailhead at 2pm, from where I had decided to climb the Pyramid Buttes high point. Once again, I followed the route described in the excellent Bitterroot Mountain Summits, by Michael Hoyt. I pushed it hard to get there and back to the car by dark, and in my haste I forgot to bring my phone, so no pictures of what is an amazing place, so close to Missoula. I hope for at least one more fall hike in the Bitterroots, once the alpine larch start dropping their needles. 

And the week wasn't over yet on Friday. For my brother's 40th birthday, we spent the day on Saturday on the Clark Fork River, until late in the evening. Then it was off to North Carolina on Sunday for this workshop. Whew, what a week!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Norris Traverse, Glacier National Park, with Matt and Al

A view of Red Eagle Pass just out of camp on Day 3, gaining the Continental Divide. Matt is just visible on the near horizon.
One of the great things about getting older are the friendships that continue to deepen with time. Of course, the deepening requires time together. In the case of Al Parker and Matt Roscoe, we meet for memorable adventures. I had made separate plans with Al and Matt at the beginning of summer to get together in August. We all decided to combine those plans and have Matt take us on the Norris Traverse, which is an off trail route in Glacier. Matt had done the route twice before, so we were in good hands. The off trail portion of the route connects Gunsight Lake and Triple Divide Pass. It is strenuous and slow going, with challenging route finding and class 3 climbing with full packs on. It definitely isn't for the feint of heart, nor for those unprepared for navigating cross country, off trail, with difficult route finding in spots. It's a route suitable for a select few, a description of which can be found in A.G. Edwards, Climbers Guide to Glacier National Park. It was a magical three-night trip, with great weather, incredible scenery, and excellent company in Matt and Al. I hope to go back again to climb some of the amazing peaks we saw along the way: Mount Jackson, Blackfoot Mountain, Mount Logan, the Citadel, and Split Mountain. 
Al at Gunsight Lake.
Matt at Gunsight Lake.
Discussing whether or not to climb Mt. Jackson or keep going to Almost-a-Dog Pass, near Mount Logan in the upper left of the photo. We opted to continue on, which was a good decision.

Matt Roscoe and Al Parker.

The outflow from Jackson Glacier -- cool spot.
And again.
This section was probably the worst bushwacking of the trip. Mount Jackson in the background.
Looking back toward Mt. Jackson from the traverse of the Jackson Glacier basin.

More of the Jackson Glacier basin traverse. Mount Logan in the background.
Hiking slabs toward the end of the day, below Mount Logan.
Albert Parker III.
Beautiful off trail walking.
Hiking the crest of a moraine near the end of the first day.
Near camp, night 1.
Matt and the Citadel.

Blackfoot Mountain, Matt, and Mount Jackson.
The Citadel on the morning of Day 2.

Looking back over the Jackson Glacier Basin on the morning of Day 2.
Al on Almost-Dog-Pass. Mount Logan behind him.
Almost-a-Dog Pass with Mount Jacson (right) and Blackfoot Mountain (left)
Hiking out toward Almost-a-Dog Mountain

A shot of Matt above the descent chimney on the east cliffs of Almost-a-Dog Pass. This is the crux of the route and it's not easy to find. Without the chimney, the route is technical, i.e., requires ropes.

The beautiful Red Eagle Pass. We saw a grizzly in this area about 40 minutes later from above.
Climbing up out of Red Eagle Pass at the end of day 2.
At camp, night 2.

Evening light. Mount Logan, Almost-a-Dog Pass and Almost-a-Dog Mountain on the horizon.
Morning light. Mount Logan, Almost-a-Dog Pass and Almost-a-Dog Mountain on the horizon.
Mighty Mount Stimson on day 3.
Walking the Divide. Mount Logan in the upper-right.
Matt walking the Divide: Split Mountain on the left and Norris Mountain on the right.
Matt looking south.
Al, looking south into the Nyack/Coal Creek Country of Glacier.

Looking back over the class 3 ridge we descended on day 3.
Mr. Parker again.
Steep hiking up the western flank of Norris Mountain.
Matt hiking down from the summit of Norris Mountain.

Hiking out on day 4. Triple Divide peak behind Matt and Al.