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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Mill Point, Bitterroots

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Jen and I are leaving for Ireland tomorrow (April 1). I have been teaching an online course that students at the University of Cork have been taking since back in September, and I am going to Cork to help them work on their final projects. Before leaving, I wanted to get in an outing, so I took the gorgeous day yesterday to drive down the Bitterroot and climb Mill Point. 
Mill Point West and upper-Blodgett Canyon.
Missoula peak bagger, Dan Saxton, pointed out to me that you can see Mill Point from various places in the Missoula Valley (for example, the Y, the North Hills & Snowbowl); it's the pointy summit that sticks out prominently as you look south down the Bitterroot from various spots on the northern edge of town. The reason Mill Point is visible from Missoula is because it sits far out in the Bitterroot Valley relative to other Bitterroot Peaks; it's nearly directly north of the Blodgett Canyon trailhead and is probably 4 miles of steep walking to the summit. Due to 4000+ feet of elevation gain, and surprising heat, this was a more strenuous outing than Gash Point last week
Canyon Peak, Sheer Point, and North Canyon Peak.
Looking south into the distance. Dan Saxton identified these as The Shard, East Como, Middle Como, and West Como Peaks 
The route is straightforward: head downstream from the Blodgett Campground, looking up and left for a large grass ramp heading up in the upstream direction into a large break in the cliffs. This is where you want to go; it's class 2 to the ridge top. (More detailed directions are given here, but the way is pretty clear.) I saw a mountain goat on the way up. Once on the ridge, stay close to the canyon edge, where the dead fall is much less. I didn't do this on the way up and it got pretty bush-wacky. The ticks were out in force. Eventually, things open up and the last 1000 feet or so are through open woods with big views. Summit views are grand.

Looking north to the Heavenly Twins and St. Mary Peak.
Castle Crag.
The spectacular Bitterroot Valley looking north toward Missoula.

Flowers are already blooming.
Mill Point on the drive out.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Gash Point, Bitterroots

Snow shoe tracks up to the summit of Gash Point.
I do understand the absurdity of being an expert skier and yet hiking to the top of summits in snowshoes and then walking down through perfectly good, even really good, skiable snow. Some of the recent summits I've done don't lend themselves well to skiing, so I don't feel like a moron snow shoeing down, but with others the irony is obvious. Nowhere was this more apparent than on my trip to Gash Point last weekend, perhaps the most 'famous' back country skiing spot in the Missoula area. Nevertheless, just getting 'out among the peaks' is a wonderful thing, no matter how I do it. So despite the irony and absurdity, I still had a ball. Directions to get there can be found on this summit post page. My GPS track is here

Summit selfie
Sky Pilot
Southern view.
Pudge and the view north (St. Mary is visible in the distance).

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Black Mountain, Nevada Range, Continental Divide

Al at our last rest stop on the way down.
After our awesome climb up Mount Haggin a few weeks back, I had it in mind that I wouldn't be seeing my Bozeman pal Al for a while, but it was his Spring Break last week and his family had left town, so he called and asked if I could get away for a snow shoe trip up a peak. My philosophy about such things is that you've got to take advantage of good opportunities when they come, so I said yes. Al drove over to Missoula and we left early the next morning for the Scapegoat. When we got to Kleinschmidt Flat on Highway 200, the Scapegoat looked ominous under clouds, so we continued on toward Avon and climbed Black Mountain instead. It was a great outing with nice walking through open forest and whitebark pine up high. Our route is particularly nice in winter. 

One of the summit views.

walking up through open woods
Black Mountain is quite close to Avon: turn off of Highway 12 at Avon onto Highway 141, and a few miles later turn right onto Ophir Creek Road. Follow Ophir Creek Road beyond the Forest Service boundary to a very large opening in the road with tons of room to park. Gain the ridge here and walk it all the way to the summit. See the GPS track here

Pudge on the summit

another shot from the unassuming summit
Open whitebark pine woods near the summit. Note the snowmobile tracks.

One of the big open parks on the way down.
Unassuming Black Mountain from below.
The Flint Range on the way down.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Palisade Mountain, Sapphire Range

From Palisade Mountaint: El Capitan,, and (I think) the Lonesome Bachelor and Como Peaks to the left.
This winter has been a strange one: such great snow before the New Year, and then a dry spell since. In fact, winter has kept its distance for so long that it's easy to forget that it still has a strong hold in the mountains. This really hit home for me when I joined Dan Saxton on a Rocky Mountaineers trip to Palisade Mountain in the Sapphires last weekend. There was a lot of cold powdery snow still hanging on up there. 
Dan climbing the last pitch to the summit. Skalkaho Mountain is behind him.
From Palisade: Mount Haggin in the Pintlers, which I climbed with Al Parker a few weeks back.
Despite the Sapphires proximity to the Bitterroot Valley, they are little visited due to their more impressive neighbors across the valley. And they have a different character, not only because of their more gentle, rolling terrain, but because the forest is more reminiscent of the Flint/Pintler/Butte area, which I love. Up on the divide, the white bark pine were old-growth and wandering through them was one of the highlights of the day. 
Palisade summit cairn with St. Joseph on the right.
Kent Peak: the Sapphire Range high point.
To get to Palisade Mountain, you start at on the Willow Creek Road trail head. To get there, turn east off of Highway 93, drive through Corvallis, and head up Willow Creek. The trail head is at the end of the road. 

Palisade from the ridge across Willow Creek.

Palisade from the valley on the way out.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

South Salish Mountains High Point, Hot Springs Montana

Jen with the Flathead River and Mission Mountains (Mt. Calowahcan on the left and McDonald Pk. in the center).
The Flathead River and Mission Mountains from South Salish Mountains High Point
Last Sunday Jen and I took a trip up to Hot Springs, combining a mellow peak bagging outing to the South Salish Mountains High Point, which sits just east of town, with a soak in Camas Springs. It was a very pleasurable day, reminding me how nice it is to share an outing with Jen. This is one of those mountains that few know about. It's not too tall and is, basically, in the middle of nowhere. I only learned of it because it is on the list of Montana peaks with 2000+ feet of prominence. It's about the size of University Mountain in Missoula, and so some would say that it isn't worth the bother. But because it is so isolated from other mountains, the views from the top are grand, as the pictures show. It's worth a trip from Missoula, especially if you combine it with a hot springs soak in Hot Springs.
South Salish Mountains High Point from the turnoff to Hot Springs on Highway 28.
It's easy to get to: coming from the south on Highway 28, drive 2.5 beyond the turn off to Hot Springs and turn right on Garcon Gulch Road. You'll follow this road for quite a ways, bearing first east and then northeast until you climb more steeply to a saddle (or pass) on a ridge. Turn around here and backtrack a very short distance to a two lane road heading uphill on your left. This road will take you nearly to the summit. When in doubt, at an intersection, take the uphill fork in the road.  
Another Missions & Flathead River shot.

The southern Missions: McDonald & Sheep's Head on the left and West St. Mary on the right. What are those in between: Mountaineer (pointy one in the back), Flattop (center), Sonielem (left of West St. Mary)?  

Thompson Peak, another P2000 peak. I'd like to figure out how to get to it from this side. Most drive in from the Plains side.

Jen liked the cliff on the left.

Flathead Lake, northern Mission and Swan range.

Resting at the summit.

Obligatory Pudge shot.

Camas springs. I love these hot springs.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

J Dee a.k.a. J. Dilla, "The King of Beats"

J Dilla is gone now, but is increasingly considered one of the genius' of hip-hop, mainly for his work as a beats man (i.e., a DJ and producer). His mother just put out a box set of 38 of his beats -- lovely stuff. It's instrumental, mellow, and is great to work to. To listen, click the below link.

J Dee a.k.a. J Dilla, "The King of Beats"