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Sunday, October 1, 2017

An Attempt at Koch Peak, Bitterroots


This post also appeared on the Rocky Mountaineers trip report blog.

This September 16th Rocky Mountaineers trip was first meant to be to Bare Peaks, but the Nelson Creek fire closed that trail head, so I changed it to Koch Peak. Koch Peak is the first 9000+ foot summit along the ridge starting on the north side of Lake Como and heading west/northwest. Further along that ridge are Whites East and Whites Mountain, also 9000+ footers. 

And then a cold, wet storm front came through two days prior to the trip, and it turned out to be a cold, cloudy, snowy day, with snow starting almost immediately out of the car, at about 6000'. Joining me were Kara Daume, Fintan Maguire, Jen Meyer-Vaughan, and Elizabeth Moore. 

Once we got up into the talus and boulder gardens that are typical of the Bitterroot high country, there was more than a foot of snow, which made the going very slow. About 1/2 mile from the summit, at 1pm, we were staring up at a hillside of large snowy boulders to gain the summit ridge, and I opted to turn us around, as it looked like even slower, and more treacherous, going. 

The day was great, regardless. It's a privilege to be able to spend a long day outside with good people: new friends were made and old friendships were strengthened. It's the whole experience that counts, after all; the summit is just the cherry on top. 






Monday, September 18, 2017

Edith and Baldy Mountains, Big Belts



 I flew in to Missoula late on Friday night, September 8, from a conference in Minneapolis. The smoke in Missoula was terrible, so after taking care of business on Saturday, including finding a renter for our downstairs apartment, we decided to get out of town Saturday evening and Sunday. We drove over to Helena, had some dinner, and continued on to the Big Belts east of Townsend. We camped at 7250 feet Saturday night, in blessedly clean air, and then climbed Edith and Baldy Peaks on Sunday. The climb to Edith is pretty easy as peaks go, while the walk over to Baldy is significantly more challenging, but is spectacular and well-worth the extra effort. There was still a bit of smoke over there, but it was better than what Missoula had been on Saturday. However, we learned upon our return to Missoula that it had been clear as a bell all day Sunday. Oh well, we had a great 24 hour mini-vacation, and we can thank the smoke for that. 
















Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Heart of the Missions: Glacier, Icefloe, and an attempt at Mountaineer

Matt walking down from Panoramic Peak with Lake of the Clouds and the glaciers of Glacier Peak as a backdrop.
The month of August was chock-full of outdoor recreation for me. It started with the week trip to the Thorofare; then after two nights at home, I went up to the Glacier Classic for three nights; and finally, after another two nights at home, I did a two night trip with Matt Roscoe up into the heart of the Mission Range. I went into it physically tired, but this turned out to be a truly spectacular and special outing. We set up a high camp below Panoramic Peak, and then on the in-between day, hiked out to the Garden Wall and across it to Mountaineer Peak. We weren't able to summit Mountaineer, because we were both sketched out by the class 4 ledge that you have to tackle when climbing Mountaineer from the Garden Wall. However, we backtracked and then bagged Glacier and Icefloe Peaks, both of which were on my must-do list. Staying out of the grizzly bear closure zone required hiking back up and over Glacier Peak on the return. It was a long, brutalizing, awesome day, and once back to camp we relaxed before dropping back down to the cars the next morning. As is always the case with Matt, the trip was one to remember. 
Matt and McDonald Peak

Heading up toward the Garden Wall from One Tree Pass.

Sunrise Glacier

Sunrise Glacier again, after crossing it.

Resting on the Garden Wall

Walking the Garden Wall out toward Mountaineer Peak.

Matt looking at the class 4 escape ledge that we opted not to do. Technically it isn't hard, but once you're there its loose with big exposure - a fall would be deadly.


Back along the Garden Wall at Matt and Mountaineer Peak.

The Summit of Glacier Peak, with McDonald in the background.
Lake of the Clouds and Panoramic Peak (left) and me traveling the ridge out to Icefloe Peak.

The summit of Icefloe, with McDonald and Sheep's Head int he background.

Glacier Peak and Mountaineer Peak on the back right.

Hiking back up to Panoramic Peak after a long day.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Rocky Mountaineers' Glacier Classic

Attendees of the Glacier Classic. The photographer, Bryan Kercher, is in the upper-left.
I've mentioned here before that I've become involved, as a board member and trip leader, with the Rocky Mountaineers. Every August, the Rocky Mountaineers put on an event called the Glacier Classic. It lasts a weekend, and several trips are offered in Glacier Park for mountaineers of all levels of experience and appetite. 

This year, I led a trip on Friday to Mount Grinnell (or Grinnell Mountain). We had a good group and a great day. If you want to know more about the outing, I've posted a trip report on the Rocky Mountaineers blog.

On Saturday, I joined the Rocky Mountaineers board president, Forest Dean, on a trip up the Citadel. It was a punishing, awesome day. For more detail, read Forest's trip report on the Rocky Mountaineers blog.

And finally, on Sunday, we did the Trifecta, which is a ridge walk connecting Piegan Mountain, Pollock Mountain, and the Bishop's Cap. We were all tired, but this was a great cap to the weekend. If you want to learn more about this great ridge traverse, see my trip report on the Rocky Mountaineers blog.

All in all, it was a great and uplifting weekend - one of the best of the summer in fact.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Thorofare, Yellowstone National Park


August has been an extremely busy month, filled with various expeditions into wild country. For a week in early August, I did the Thorofare and South Boundary Trails in Yellowstone with my two good friends Al Parker and Dave Sumner. It was a fantastic trip, starting at the northeast corner of Yellowstone Lake and walking for seven days, first south along the lake, and then continuing south along the upper-Yellowtone River into the Thorofare region, where Thorofare Creek and the Yellowstone meet. There we spent a rest day (two nights at one camp), day hiking on our off day to Bridger Lake, where the fishing was good. This region is the wildest seeming place I've been: we saw grizzly bears, many birds, and caught big (but wiley) trout. After our rest day, we turned west and walked three days along the south boundary of Yellowstone, over the Continental Divide, and eventually to the Snake River, which we walked out to the South Entrance of Yellowstone on our seventh day. It was a great trip on every level, both in terms of country and company. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

My phone died early in the trip, so I only have photos from the first couple of days.






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.