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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Mount Siyeh and Piegan Mountain, Glacier National Park

On Piegan Mountain with Siyeh in the background.
Later in the week that Jen and Ellie were gone, I spent a couple of nights in my Mom's condo in Big Fork and climbed Mountain Siyeh and Piegan Mountain on the day in-between. It was a great day, with fantastic weather, physical and mental challenge, and no hitches. Except that near the summit of Siyeh, which is one of six 10,000+ footers in Glacier, there were six grizzly bears digging for army cutworm moths. I hooked up with a couple of other hikers and we summited without incident, but there were some tense moments.  On the way down from Siyeh, about an hour from the car and at 2pm, I felt good and wanted to lengthen the day, so I opted to hike up to Piegan Pass, then headed off trail to the pass between Piegan and Polluck Mountains, and then finally, summitted Piegan Mountain. I then retraced my steps back to my car at Siyeh Bend, arriving at 6pm. It was a long but uplifting day. 
Piegan Mountain (left) and Polluck Mountain (right) from the Piegan Pass. 
My hiking partners on the summit of Siyeh

Another shot from the summit of Siyeh.

Cracker Lake below.

And again.
Looking out toward the Plains from the summit of Siyeh.

Taking photos of bears.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Fisher Peak, Swan Range, with The Rocky Mountaineers

Joe and Bryan scrambling on the summit ridge.
One of my goals for this year was to become more involved in The Rocky Mountaineers (TRM), which is a Missoula-based mountaineering club that has been around for many decades. Some of the first peaks that I did when I got back into mountaineering a few years back were TRM trips. For this reason, I felt a responsibility to the club, so since it was looking for 'new blood,' I joined the board and committed to leading some trips this year.

I lead my first TRM trip this past weekend up Fisher Peak in the Swan Range. Three people joined me on the outing: Bryan Kercher, Fintan Maguire, and Joe Scott.  

Fisher is one of the most spectacular peaks along the Swan Front, and it is also one of the most accessible, due to the presence of the Swan Divide Trail #382. To get to the trail head, turn east off of Highway 83 onto Morell-Clearwater Road, between mile makers 27 and 28, about 13 miles north of Seeley Lake. Bear right at a fork in the road after about three miles, and then about seven-and-a-half miles from the highway, you'll be at the obvious trail head.

The first mile or two of trail is basically flat, along an old logging road with great views of Fisher Peak as you go. Then you come to a saddle with a fork in the trail and a sign post with no sign. Turn left and this trail steeply climbs to the Swan Crest. Once on the crest, just walk the ridge north 1.5 miles to Fisher Peak. It's a very nice ridge walk, without much easy walking and with some class 3 sections. The crux is on the steep south face of Fisher. As you walk toward this face, you'll see an obvious scree chute east of the ridge (see photo below), which provides class 3 access to the summit slopes. The stats for the climb from my GPS (probably over-estimates): 10 miles RT, 3400 feet of gain, and six hours. It was a great day with great people. 

Ptarmigan (far left), Fisher Peak (center), Fintan Maguire, and Joe Scott.

Wildflowers on the climb to the crest.

Top of the trail.
The ridge walk begins.

An interesting section, with the Missions as a backdrop.
Our route followed the obvious chute filled with snow to the right of the ridge. To avoid steep snow, we ascended through class 3 cliffs on the right side of the chute.

Joe, Fintan, and Bryan on the summit, with Ptarmigan Mountain as a backdrop.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Great White, Pintler Peak 10282

Lake of the Isle and Great White. Photo by Dan Saxton. This photo inspired my pilgrimage to Great White.
This past week, Jen and Ellie left on a road trip to the Oregon Coast (girls only), so I headed over to the Butte area to see my Mom, spend a couple of nights in her Fairmont condo, and get into the Pintlers. On the way over, I made a pilgrimage to one of my favorite high country areas, the Storm Lake/Twin Lakes region of the Pintlers. This time, inspired by some photos of Peak 10,282, or Great White, taken by Dan Saxton a couple of years back (including the photo above), I decided to make an attempt at that peak. It was a good choice. Great White is a beautiful mountain, and it is remote, requiring several miles of off-trail travel to get to. I started at the Twin Lakes trailhead, hiked to lower Twin Lake, and then took the spur trail to Lake of the Isle, a gem of a lake. From there, I headed off-trial into the next drainage north, climbed this drainage to near it's head, and then went strait up the southern flank of Great White. The round trip outing required 16 miles and 4000 feet of gain. Pudge and I were pretty worked by the end of it. 

I want to explore this part of the Pintlers more. Despite the fact that it is not within the Wilderness area, it is remote and feels wild. 

Great White from Lake of the Isle.

Mount Haggin from Great White. The ridge walk over looks primo.
Quite a summit cairn for such a remote peak.
Walking down the south east ridge (and easier ascent route), looking at Short Peak.
Short Peak and Peak 10378 on the right. The east flank of Mount Evans can be seen in the back right.

Another shot of the ridge out to Mount Haggin - looks fun-as!

Great White from the basin just to its south.

Monday, July 10, 2017

A Grab Bag O' Peaks

Missoula from University Mountain
It was difficult acclimating to summer again after spending two weeks down under during winter solstice, especially with the heat that we've had since my return. During that time, I've done a number of local, smallish outings. 

During the first week I was back, I bagged Stark Mountain at the southern end of the Ninemile. I recommend this hike, as it's close to Missoula, has over 2000 feet of prominence, and has a working lookout on top. It's a grunt, though, and is south facing and hot, so beware of dragging your kids up the trail. The same week, I did Little Saint Joe, which is also close to Missoula and has about 3000 feet of gain in just a few miles, making it a good training hike if you only have 1/2 day and want to get out of Missoula. I eyed Saint Joseph Peak from the summit of Little Saint Joe and would have continued on and bagged it too if it weren't for the fact that we were leaving town that day, and I had to hurry home and pack for our trip. 

Next was Stuart and Mosquito Peaks after mountain biking to the wilderness boundary. This is a great trip that is incredibly close to town: 8 miles by bike from the Rattlesnake TH to the Wilderness boundary followed by 4 miles on foot. In my view, this trail perfectly illustrates why mountain bikes should NOT be allowed in Wilderness areas. If you could ride beyond the boundary, it would not be overly difficult to ride all the way to Sanders Lake, which is spectacular and is now remote and rarely visited because it's so hard to get to on foot.

Finally, we went to a wedding this past weekend up in Eureka and Jen and I hiked McGuire Lookout, which is nearby. This is a great 3 mile (one way) hike to a beautiful summit (the highest in the Salish Mountains) with over 3000 feet of prominence. And then, on the way home, I made the long drive on a pummeled dirt road to Upper Whitefish Lake and beyond to the trailhead for Nasukoin, which is the highest peak in the Whitefish Range. On the way to Nasukoin, the trail also summits Lake Mountain for a two peak day. This is a fantastic hike with tremendous views of Glacier Park across the North Fork of the Flathead Valley. Both McGuire and Nasukoin are contained in the book Peakbagging Montana, by Cedron Jones.