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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Mount Jerusalem, Bitterroot

Matt signing the summit register on Mount Jerusalem.
At work a week or so back, Matt Roscoe, who works in the Math Department with me, asked if I wanted to get out for a big day in the Bitterroot. Needless to say, the answer was, "Yes!" A couple of peaks that are on my list, and that I suggested we climb, are Mount Jerusalem and Peak 9169, or Mount Jerusalem North. The trail head is Watchtower Creek, which is quite a ways up the West Fork of the Bitterroot. We walked up the creek, first on trail, and then off-trail, to just below the saddle between Jerusalem and North Jerusalem. Then we hiked straight up to the saddle, bagged North Jerusalem, and then walked the beautiful ridge south to Jerusalem and continued on, following the ridge south to near the Wilderness boundary before dropping back into Watchtower Creek. The stats were 17 miles and 5300 feet of gain, but this was an especially physically demanding trip, with lots of off-trail walking through talus and boulder fields.
Heading up.
 

Looking south toward Jerusalem from the southern flank of North Jerusalem.

Jerusalem and Matt from the summit of North Jerusalem.

Ridge walking over to Jerusalem.

Navigating the crux along the ridge.

The summit of Jerusalem.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Union Peak, Swan Range

Selfie with Union Peak.
After my second day climbing for GMS week in Glacier, I made my way back toward home, over Logan Pass (picking up a couple of young hitch hikers at The Loop), then on to Hungry Horse for some groceries, and sleeping along the Flathead River, before getting up the next day and driving down the Swan Valley to climb Union Peak. After the climbs in Glacier, Union was tough. Whereas in Glacier, the approaches to both of the climbs I did were on trail, the climb up Union Peak was steep off the bat and required moderate bushwacking for a couple thousand feet. After doing this climb, I decided that from now on I'll rate the strenuousness by how soaked my shorts get on the way up. This one was a rare full soaker. It was tough: 5800 feet of gain in the 4 miles to the summit. Yikes! The Swan will kick your butt!
The first view of Union Peak.

Looking southwest on the ay up.

Looking south along the Swan Crest from the summit

A beautiful lake in the drainage just north, Swan Peak in the distance.

A nice view of Union.
And another.



Friday, August 4, 2017

Glacier Mountaineering Society: GMS Week

On the summit of Mount Henkel, Glacier National Park.
Every summer, the Glacier Mountaineering Society puts on GMS Week, with tons of climbs (3-5/day) every day for a week. I joined GMS for the first time this year and decided to go up to Glacier and participate in a couple of their climbs during GMS week, which was July 22-30 this year. 

The first climb was in the Many Glacier area. We hiked to Ptarmigan Lake, just below Ptarmigan Tunnel, and then left the trail, heading east, scrambling to the north ridge of Crowfeet Mountain. Once on the ridge, we walked it over to Crowfeet and then on to Hankel. From Hankel, the plan was to continue on to Apikuni, but an exposed ledge traverse held a few of the members back (myself included) and so we headed down to the cars instead, which already made for a big, awesome day. 

The second climb was in the Two Medicine area. I pulled into the trail head at Two Medicine Lake late the night before and slept in the back of the old 4Runner in order to easily make the 6am start time. From Two Medicine, we hiked up to Dawson Pass and then left the trail to bag Mount Morgan, to the south, and Mount McClintock, to the north. Mount Morgan has a class 4 section on it, but we took our time and it was no problem. 

The neat thing about GMS week is getting to know people from all over. The trip leaders for my trips were both from Kalispell, but the remaining participants were from Canada and all over the U.S., in addition to a few locals. A few people made long trips, from Midwest and East Coast just to climb in Glacier during the GMS week. It was a great time, and I look forward to doing it again next summer.

Crowfeet & Henkel Pictures:










Morgan McClintock Pictures:












Sunday, July 30, 2017

Mount Siyeh and Piegan Mountain, Glacier National Park

On Piegan Mountain with Siyeh in the background.
Later in the week that Jen and Ellie were gone, I spent a couple of nights in my Mom's condo in Big Fork and climbed Mountain Siyeh and Piegan Mountain on the day in-between. It was a great day, with fantastic weather, physical and mental challenge, and no hitches. Except that near the summit of Siyeh, which is one of six 10,000+ footers in Glacier, there were six grizzly bears digging for army cutworm moths. I hooked up with a couple of other hikers and we summited without incident, but there were some tense moments.  On the way down from Siyeh, about an hour from the car and at 2pm, I felt good and wanted to lengthen the day, so I opted to hike up to Piegan Pass, then headed off trail to the pass between Piegan and Polluck Mountains, and then finally, summitted Piegan Mountain. I then retraced my steps back to my car at Siyeh Bend, arriving at 6pm. It was a long but uplifting day. 
Piegan Mountain (left) and Polluck Mountain (right) from the Piegan Pass. 
My hiking partners on the summit of Siyeh

Another shot from the summit of Siyeh.


Cracker Lake below.

And again.
Looking out toward the Plains from the summit of Siyeh.



Taking photos of bears.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Fisher Peak, Swan Range, with The Rocky Mountaineers

Joe and Bryan scrambling on the summit ridge.
One of my goals for this year was to become more involved in The Rocky Mountaineers (TRM), which is a Missoula-based mountaineering club that has been around for many decades. Some of the first peaks that I did when I got back into mountaineering a few years back were TRM trips. For this reason, I felt a responsibility to the club, so since it was looking for 'new blood,' I joined the board and committed to leading some trips this year.

I lead my first TRM trip this past weekend up Fisher Peak in the Swan Range. Three people joined me on the outing: Bryan Kercher, Fintan Maguire, and Joe Scott.  

Fisher is one of the most spectacular peaks along the Swan Front, and it is also one of the most accessible, due to the presence of the Swan Divide Trail #382. To get to the trail head, turn east off of Highway 83 onto Morell-Clearwater Road, between mile makers 27 and 28, about 13 miles north of Seeley Lake. Bear right at a fork in the road after about three miles, and then about seven-and-a-half miles from the highway, you'll be at the obvious trail head.

The first mile or two of trail is basically flat, along an old logging road with great views of Fisher Peak as you go. Then you come to a saddle with a fork in the trail and a sign post with no sign. Turn left and this trail steeply climbs to the Swan Crest. Once on the crest, just walk the ridge north 1.5 miles to Fisher Peak. It's a very nice ridge walk, without much easy walking and with some class 3 sections. The crux is on the steep south face of Fisher. As you walk toward this face, you'll see an obvious scree chute east of the ridge (see photo below), which provides class 3 access to the summit slopes. The stats for the climb from my GPS (probably over-estimates): 10 miles RT, 3400 feet of gain, and six hours. It was a great day with great people. 

Ptarmigan (far left), Fisher Peak (center), Fintan Maguire, and Joe Scott.

Wildflowers on the climb to the crest.

Top of the trail.
The ridge walk begins.



An interesting section, with the Missions as a backdrop.
Our route followed the obvious chute filled with snow to the right of the ridge. To avoid steep snow, we ascended through class 3 cliffs on the right side of the chute.

Joe, Fintan, and Bryan on the summit, with Ptarmigan Mountain as a backdrop.