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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Boulder Point, Rattlesnake Wilderness

Swan Range from Boulder Point
The Rocky Mountaineers have a few peak lists on their web page: Missoula Valley Peaks, Rattlesnake Peaks, Bitterroot Peaks, Mission Peaks, Swan Peaks, and Glacier Peaks 9500ft+. Here's the Rattlesnake Peak list:

Rattlesnake Peaks
  • McLeod Pk 8620’
  • Murphy Pk 8167’
  • Mosquito Pk 8057’
  • Stuart Peak 7960’
  • Point Six 7929’
  • Sheep Mtn 7650’
  • Mineral Pk 7482’
  • Boulder Point 7293’
  • Triangle Peak 7800’
  • Gold Cr Pk 7207

I've now done the first 8 on the list, Boulder Point over Labor Day.

Boulder Lake with Missions behind from Boulder Point.
The hike to Boulder Point is on trail, and it's only about a 3.5-4 mile trip one way. As peaks go, it's pretty mellow. The hardest part is getting to the trail head, which is about 20 miles back on an increasingly rough Gold Creek Road. Gold Creek Road leaves Highway 200 about 10-15 miles up the Blackfoot from Bonner. Although the road gets rough and narrow, there are signs for West Fork Gold Creek trailhead at every major intersection. That's where the hike begins.

One of the neat things way back on Gold Creek Road, before the trailhead, is a big, beautiful meadow with giant old growth ponderosa pine. It's known as Primm's Meadow and here's a Missoulian aritcle about the lady who helped save it. Primm's Meadow is apparently there because there were some hold-out homesteaders who wouldn't sell to Plumb Creek. Every other hill side in sight is barren from clear cutting. I don't have a picture of the meadow, so you'll have to make the trip. I wish I'd had time to walk the meadow a little bit.

Mineral Peak with the lookout barely visible.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Trapper Peak, Bitterroot Wilderness, Father-Daughter 2013

A couple of tough chicks.
My neighbor Kevin Dohr moved into the neighborhood at the same time we did, with his wife Kim and her daughter Elan. The girls have been good friends ever since, and over the past several years Kevin and I have taken them on overnight trips up the Rattlesnake corridor. This year we decided to backpack. I suggested that we retrace the Gem Lake route up to Trapper Peak that Jen, the kids, and I had done 5 or 6 years back.

Gem Lake with the saddle up to Trapper in the upper-left.
Baker Lake is about 1 & 1/4 miles from the trailhead. It's a steep walk, the trail having been built in the pre-switchback era of trail building. About 3/4 of a mile further, just beyond Middle Lake, is the beautiful Gem Lake, where we camped.
Kevin at the fire ring, Gem Lake.
From Gem Lake, you walk straight up a chute to a saddle and onto the face where the main Trapper Peak trail is located. The trip up the chute is steep and filled with loose rocks and boulders. Care must be taken when you walk through it, especially with a group.
Starting the walk up the chute.

Boulder hopping.

And more boulder hopping.

Resting near the top of the chute.

And finally at the top.
After leaving the chute, the walking is easy for about 1/4 mile, through high, rocky meadows above trealine.
Taking a break from the wind.
And then there's the 1/4 mile scree slope up to the peak.
Kevin near the top.
Views from the top are spectacular.
me on top.

the girls on top.

Walking down on scree.

long-time friends.
We headed back down the way we'd come up, taking care through the boulder fields in the chute.

Dropping back into the chute down to Gem Lake.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Saint Joseph Peak, Bitterroot Wilderness

I'm addicted to the high country lately, and the weather is holding, so I've been able to keep getting out. Last weekend, I took a morning and headed just a bit down the Bitterroot, to Bass Creek and on up to the trailhead to Little St. Joseph and St. Joseph. It's only about 2.5 miles from the trailhead to Little St. Joe's, but it's a straight-up trail gaining 2500ft+. Not a bad outing in itself, but I wanted to keep going on to St. Joseph, which requires another 2.5 miles along a ridge that's challenging walking/scrambling, and then the final push up to the summit, which requires a bit of follow-your-nose route finding. Here's a few pictures from the trip. It was tough and punishing and took me around 6 hours, but it's non-technical. I was worked at the end.
Bass Creek spires on the way up

On the top of Little St Joe's with Pudge, St. Mary's in the distance.

Looking off to St. Joseph from Litte St Joseph--had to tie Pudge up not much further on.

St Mary (left) and the Heavenly Twins (right) from the ridge.

The ridge, looking back at Little St Joseph, which is the bump--a strenuous bugger.

A cool shot of subalpine larch on the damp north slope and white bark pine on the sunny south slope.

Just north, the ridge from Sweeney (out of view on the right) to Lolo Peak, which I scrambled with Al Parker years ago.

View south from St. Joseph, with summit Cairn. Less than 10 people had signed the summit register in 2013!


And a long ridge walk back before a knee punishing descent from Little St. Joe to the truck

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Monday, September 9, 2013

Kurt Peak, Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness

Pintler Wilderness boundary from Storm Lake
Every summer for the past several, and usually near Labor Day when there's little time left to be in the high country, I head over to the Pintlers for a day peak bagging trip. This time I opted to bag Kurt Peak, which is at the back of Goat Flat. You start from Storm Lake and the access is easy -- maybe a little too easy judging from the heavy use it gets.
Looking back to Storm Lake Pass from the edge of Goat Flat
It's probably 3-4 miles up to Goat Flat and then another mile to the other side where a rocky ridge leads you to Kurt Peak.
Where I tied Pudge at the edge of Goat Flat and began the ridge walk to Kurt Peak.
The ridge walk to Kurt Peak takes you past one false summit (see below picture) and then on to the summit proper. I've been told that walking the ridge is doable but requires some exposed technical moves on cliffs 10-20 feet high. I opted instead for a non-technical route: head southwest (right of the spot where the below picture was taken) and angle down on steep-but-walkable scree toward Kurt Peak until you skirt a cliff band that reaches from the ridge down about 100 yards, then angle up to the face to the saddle you can see in the picture. That makes for a non-technical scramble, but watch for loose rock.
Kurt Peak from the edge of Goat Flat.
The summit is great, with good views of Queener and Warren Peaks and other Pintler giants.
Queener Peak from Kurt Peak summit, Warren Peak in the distance.

Looking back at Storm Lake Pass from Pudge's perch, Mt. Tiny in view.

Storm Lake Pass again with Mt. Evans (?) in the background, Little Rainbow on the upper-right. 
This is a relatively short peak bagging day, as are many of the summits in this area. If I would have gotten an earlier start, I would have gone on to bag Queener as well -- another two hours round trip -- but I figure it's good to save and savor each one of these beauties.
Pudge saying by to summer on the drive home.