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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

20th Anniversary Peakbagging trip, Part 2: Great Northern Mountain

On the upper sections of the northwest ridge to Great Northern Mountain.
After our big day in the Swan, we spent a couple of nights in Bigfork, with a bluebird day in between on the shores of Flathead Lake. Even with the rest day, we were tired from our Swan adventure, so it was hard to motivate ourselves to follow through with our plan to climb Great Northern Mountain. But we did it. The drive from Bigfork to the trail head for Great Northern, which is just off of the north-side road along Hungry Horse Reservoir, takes about an hour. For directions to the trail head and also on the route to the summit, see the summitpost page for Great Northern. Great Northern is a fantastic climb, with a beautiful route and fantastic views into Glacier Park. It's a real grunt, however, with about 5000 feet of climbing in 4 miles. I highly recommend it. 

Finally, the day we climbed Great Northern was the day of our 20th wedding anniversary. Jen has been talking for a while about renewing our vows with a ceremony on the Dearborn River, but in an impromptu move, we decided instead to do it on the summit Great Norther Mountain. It was perfect and and we both came up with heartfelt and relevant vows in the moment. We recommitted to the vision we've held and developed through the years: commitment to the kids and to each other, support of growth and change in the other, choosing not to live in fear, making choices with the long game in mind, and last-but-not-least, enjoying regular adventure together.

Needless to say, it was an unforgettable day.

Jen resting on the ascent with the first views of Great Northern.
Heading for the northwest ridge.
Early sections of the ridge.
The view into Glacier were awesome: that's Mount Jackson on the far left and Mount Stimson in the middle.
Further along the ridge.
More views into the Park: Mount Stimson on the left and Mount St. Nicholas just to the left of Jen.

Things get more rugged as you get closer to the summit. That's Stanton Glacier.

This is the crux of the route, a bit of class 3 about 100 yards from the summit.
On the summit, looking southwest with Hungry Horse Reservoir below.
And looking southeast from the summit.
Another section with a bit of exposure.

Walking ridges.
Mount Stimson in the distance.
And a parting shot of Great Northern on the way down. What a day!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

20th Anniversary Peak Bagging Trip, Part 1: Cooney Mountain and Peak 8905, Swan Range

Jen's shoes in the view down Smith Creek.
Jen's in training mode for the Rut, which has the upshot that she wants me to take her on big outings in the mountains. It probably goes without saying that I've been obliging her. Over our anniversary, we had two nights in my Mom's condo at Bigfork, so we bookended our stay with hikes to peaks. The first outing, on the way up to Bigfork, started with the hike to Smith Creek Pass, then south along the north ridge of Cooney Mountain to the summit and on to Peak 8905, and then back again to Cooney and down the west ridge to the trail and the cars. It was a great day, though the north ridge of Cooney turned out to be loose class 3, which made Jen feel sketched. The west ridge was a bit easier, as was the walk over the 8905. You can see a GPS of the route here. We ended the day with an excellent steak dinner at the Hungry Bear in Condon -- highly recommended. 
Jen on Peak 8905 with the Missions in the background
Looking down Smith Creek, again from 8905.
Selfie with Peak 9075 in the background.

The west ridge down from Cooney Mountain
Walking the ridge up to 8905.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Kent Peak, Sapphire Range

Pudge on a snowfield near Kent Peak's summit. Pintlers in the background.
Jen and Ellie were away for a couple of nights at Fairmont for their girls mountain bike camp. One of the days they were gone, it was a bluebird day in the Missoula area, so I took the opportunity to bag Kent Peak, which is the high point of the Sapphire Range. To get there, you drive through Hamilton, turn left onto the Skalkaho Pass Road, and then after some miles, right on Forest Service Road 75, which follows Skalkaho Creek. You drive this road for nearly an hour, to the second trail head sign. Actually, you can drive a bit further to shorten the hike; see this link for a map and details on the route. From the car it's a couple of miles or so to the pass above Moose and Mosquito Meadows, where you'll head off trail, following the bench east of the summit ridge. My route followed the GPS route of Steve Sheriff found here relatively closely.
Selfie: Pintlers in the background.

Pudge on the summit, looking northwest at the peaks of the northern Bitterroot.

Kent Peak's high point from the false summit. Bitterroots in the background.
The souther peaks of the Bitterroot looking west from Kent Peak's summit.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Snowcrest Range: Sunset and Olson Peaks and the Snowcrest Divide.

Jen walking the open meadows of the Snowcrest Divide. Day 1 included 9 or so miles of this.
During the week of the 4th of July, Ellie took a trip to New York City, so Jen and I were on our own. After visiting my family in Butte and then Jen's at the Dearborn River, we took a few day trip to southwest Montana and the Snowcrest Range, which was recommended to me by Dan Saxton as a good place to go in early July. He was right: despite the high elevation of this country, it's dry and so the snow leaves it early. Another reason I was drawn to the Snowcrest was to climb Sunset Peak, which is a P2K summit and is also a featured climb in Peakbagging Montana, by Cedron Jones. We increased the adventure by starting from Notch Station (rather than E. Fk. Blacktail Deer Ck., as suggested by Jones), where there is a Forest Service Cabin, but the road in is long and very rough for the last five miles (a high clearance vehicle is a must). On the first day, we climbed Sunset and its neighbor Olson Peak and stayed at the Forest Service Cabin. Then on days two and three, we did an overnight backpack, hiking along the Snowcrest Divide, over Stonehouse Mountain, down to E. Fk. Blacktail Deer Ck., and then back up to Notch Station. This loop is very nice and very unique. In the Montana Hiker's Guide, the authors say that it is the "best backpack in Montana that nobody does." I highly recommend it, though it is a long haul to the trailhead. You can see our GPS route of the backpack here.
Driving in on the interminable and rough road to Notch Station.
Jen walking up Sunset Peak.
Jen on the summit of Sunset Peak.
On the summit of Snowcrest Mountain
Coming down the east ridge of Sunset.
On the traverse over to Olson Peak.
On the summit of Olson.
Jen walking the Snowcrest Divide.
Another on the Snowcrest Divide.
And again.
Near camp after dropping of the divide.
Near camp in the morning.
A shot of the Snowcrest Divide on day 2 from E. Fk. Blacktail Creek.