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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Missoula Area Snowshoeing, November

Ch-paa-qn from the north.
Mount Calowahcan (thanks Nathan Noble) just over the ridge
The Missions above the Mission Valley.
With the snow and cold that descended in early November, announcing winter's unquestionable arrival, I wondered how to keep my joyfull trips into higher country going. In a typical year, during this shoulder season between the beginning of winter and when there's enough snow up high for good skiing, my outdoor activities have typically been restricted to the occasional run. This year, I thought I'd get snowshoes and extend the hiking season through November, and maybe even beyond.

So over the past few weeks, I've gotten out a few times on the weekends. The first trip was on a spectacular day, up to Burnt Fork Pinnacle, which is about 20 miles up the Ninemile Valley. My real goal was Three Lakes Peak, but I had gotten too late a start. Still, it was a stunning day, and the Reservation Divide is spectacular country. Ch-paa-qn sits prominently to the southeast, and the views down the Ninemile are memorable. This is a greak hike or snowshoe in a little visited area.
Ninemile Valley. Stark Mountain on the right.
Three Lakes Peak on the left, the Reservation Divide, Ch-paa-qn, and Missoula Valley in the distance.
Baldy Mountain, out toward Plains Montana.
The peaks of the Reservation Divide, with the Rattlesnake in the background.
Pudge and the Great Burn in the distance
Ninemile Valley on the way down. Stark Mountain on the right.

Pudge loves snow.
This past weekend I went up Allen Creek Road, just up in the mountains from Turah, and explored around for a few hours with Pudge. I didn't have enough time to explore very far, but I hope to go back for a long walk soon. The sun was shining and the views of Stuart Peak and Bonner Mountain were great from Allen Creek Road and the small summit I reached standing sentinel over Turah.
Woody Mountain with the Rattlesnake behind.
Bonner Mountain, which I climbed last weekend, a massive mountain

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Lake Mountain, Scapegoat Peakbagging

Mission Mountains and western Scapegoat/Bob Marshall from Lake Mountain
After last week's snow, I figured the hiking/peak bagging season was over, but then we got another little window today, Saturday Nov. 8, and with some gentle prodding from Missoula mountain biker Sam Schulz, I decided to take advantage of the weather and get out for one last peak bagging day. Kevin Joyce, who joined me on the North Canyon Peak hike a month ago, came along as well. It was a great day in the mountains with friends.

The trick of the trip was choosing a peak. Looking at the Snotel sites in the mountain ranges around Missoula, it was clear that a poor choice would mean a long snowy slog or even getting turned back. For example, the Stuart Mountain site reported one foot of snow in a single dump last week, and I knew that the Bitterroots and Missions were chalk-full. The Snotel sites in the Scapegoat, however, reported less snow. Also, last year I got a late summit of Red Mountain, so I figured we could make it up something with a south facing approach in the Scapegoat. I ended up choosing Lake Mountain, which is about 4.5 miles and 3500 feet up from the North Fork of the Blackfoot trail head into the Scapegoat. It's a beautiful trail along a ridge, with exceptional views all along. The views from the summit are, of course, awesome. I highly recommend it, especially in spring or fall.

Note that these pictures were taken with my tablet as I forgot my camera.
Kevin and Sam with Scapegoat Mountain behind them.

The last rise up to Lake Mountain.
Summit shot Sam. Rattlesnake on the left, Missions and western Scapegoat/Bob Marshall behind and to the right.
Summit shot Kevin, looking the opposite direction.

Looking south, Flint Mountains in the distance.
Similar shot this time with Sam.
And yet again.
Heading down.
And the long ridge walk down

Looking across the North Fork of the Blackfoot valley.
Love this shot

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Peak 6672, Deer Creek Peak, on Missoula's Horizon

McLeod and the Missions from Deer Creek Peak. The peak on the right sits above Famer's Lake and begs to be climbed.
With last weekend's storm on it's way, it was clear that even the lower Missoula horizon summits would be covered in snow come Monday. So after work on Thursday last week, I drove up Pattee Canyon, then further up Deer Creek Road, and hiked up to the high point at the top of Deer Creek Road, Point 6672, which I call Deer Creek Peak. Deer Creek Peak is quite prominent when you look up Pattee Canyon from out in the Missoula valley, for example, from near Big Sky High School. It's also a taller peak than its neighbors Dean Stone and University, and the views from the top out into the valley and into the Rattlesnake are outstanding. For example, McLeod Peak is very much in view from the top (see pictures), and you can even see the Missions. Views of the Bitterroots are also good. All of this would suggest its inclusion in the Rocky Mountaineers Missoula Horizon Peaks list. 

Getting there and the hike: Drive up Pattee Canyon, past both trail heads. About one mile after the road turns to dirt at the top, there will be a switch back heading left and a Forest Service Road on the right. Take the Forest Service Road. After climbing several miles, you'll come to a saddle where several roads meet with views into Miller Creek and of the Bitterroots. Stay on the main road another mile or two to another saddle and intersection of roads. Park here. You'll see Deer Creek Peak straight ahead. I hiked up the west face talus field/clear cut, but there's an old trail on the map that goes to the top. I found the lower part of the trail from where I parked, but then I lost it. Someone should find the trail because the hike up and down the west face is a strenuous bushwack and not that pleasant. The hike is not much more than a mile.
Deer Creek Peak from upper Deer Creek Road.
Rattlesnake Peaks
Rattlesnake Peaks closer up, from left: Mruphy, Mosquito, Stuart, McLeod.
Missoula Valley from Deer Creek Peak
St. Joseph Peak from Deer Creek Peak.

Larch on the drive down Deer Creek Road.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Butte Cabin Ridge (Quigg Peak East), Rock Creek Peakbagging

Butte Cabin Ridge/Quigg Peak East with the Missions just peaking through in the background.
One of my recent purchases is a book called Peakbagging Montana by Cedron Jones. Cedron Jones is an intriguing guy, the little that I could find out about him: he's now in his 70's and has been peak obsessed since the 80s when he moved to Montana. Since then he's summited over 1000 peaks in Montana. Anyway, in his book, he's put together a cool list of 53 Montana peaks. Some of them it's certain you've heard of before, while others will surely be new to you. For me, one of the new ones was Quigg Peak East, or Butte Cabin Ridge, which isn't terribly tall at 8468 feet, but which is quite prominent, at #83 on the Montana prominence list. This high prominence rank is due to the fact that it is the tallest peak in the mountainous area boardered by Rock Creek on the west, the Clark Fork to the north, Flint Creek on the east, and the Pintlers to the north. And once again, because it's so prominent, the views from the top (and actually throughout much of the hike) are great: of the Pintlers, the Flints, the Bitterroots, and the Scapegoat.  The hike is 15 miles round trip with 5000 feet of gain, so it's a strenuous affair. It's also a dry hike and would be hot in summer, making fall and spring good times to do it.

Getting there & the hike: This trail head is easy to find, but is a bit tedious to get to. You simply drive up Rock Creek Road from I-90 almost exactly 30 miles, which is long on that road, at which point you'll see a trail head sign for Quigg Peak Trail and also an entrance into the Hogback Forest Service Cabin. The first 1-2 miles of the hike meander through open ponderosa pine grasslands with views of Rock Creek, before you begin a several mile stiff climb up the ridge before it eases off again. At about five miles, you'll descend shortly to a saddle where you can see Butte Cabin Ridge across a drainage (see above picture). The remainder of the hike traverses to the right around the ridge at the top of the drainage, about two miles to the base of the peak.
Getting up out of the fog in the morning, Pintlers in the distance.
A close up of the Pintlers.
Same view wider angle.
The northern Bitterroots, with Quigg Peak in the foreground from Quigg Peak East/Butte Cabin Ridge.
The Flint Range to the south. Mount Powell is the big one.
Pudge and the Flints.
Looking north east, at (I think) the Scapegoat.
Pintlers from Butte Cabin Ridge. The rounded one in the center is, I think, Little Rainbow, in which case to the left are Howe and then Evans, and to the right are Tiny, Kurt, and then Queener.
Southern Bitterroot from Butte Cabin Ridge. Como Peaks in the middle, then Lonesome Bachelor and El Capitan cutoff on the right. On the left, The Shard.
My favorite shot of the day: Stormy Joe, St. Joseph Peak (the massive one), Little St. Joe, and Butte Cabin Ridge in the foreground.

Ponderosa grasslands looking down toward the Hogback Cabin, the trail head, and Rock Creek.