A Western-Montana SummitPost Two-Part GatheringOnce upon a time, long long ago… Well, would you believe October 14, 2006, several of us climbed North Trapper Peak via the Olbu Southeast Face Route. We had such a good time we thought it might be worthwhile to get together (hopefully with more climbers) sometime during the approaching winter to discuss future climbs. Scores of emails and private messages later, followed by a bit of planning, 12 of us managed to meet in Missoula, Montana.
So, you’re probably wondering about the title. Just as we were finishing with lunch, having met none of us before, Tie-Dye Mike commented, “This is like a blind date, but with 12 people. You just don’t know what you’re getting into!” So, Mike, how was it?
Six of us began the day, if 10:30 in the morning could ever be considered the “beginning” for anything, with a hike to Mount Sentinel’s summit. Now this was not an especially difficult hike, that is if you ignore the existence of extremely slippery wet snow and ice in several places along the route which caused several of us to plant various parts of our bodies hard against the earth. (Oh, did I mention that we were walking in temperatures hovering around 32 degrees in a thick fog soup? Well, if there are any better conditions for making ice and snow slippery, I have yet to see them!) No, our walk was along trails often used by local athletes to train for their respective sports.
We ascended by using the Hellgate Canyon Trail which is reached by walking eastward along the Kim Williams Trail for about ¾ mile from the Adams Center parking lots. As this section of trail is almost flat and quite wide, we spent time discussing Summitpost while dodging muddy puddles of water. Two of our group, long-time members of a local climbing group known as The Rocky Mountaineers, are quite new to Summitpost. So those of us with a little more time under our “SP Belts” did our best to explain the intricacies of Power Points and page scoring – don’t know if it helped or hurt.
Within a few hundred yards after leaving the Kim Williams Trail our climb up the Hellgate Canyon Trail brought us to patches of snow and the beginnings of poor footing. We prevailed. We broke through the top of the fog bank 50 or so feet below the summit with nary a broken bone or bruised body part. Success!
||Discussions and Distractions
We milled around for a while taking pictures and admiring the views. There is nothing like rising above the fog to make one appreciate blue skies and sunshine. Mount Sentinel is not exactly a remote summit, so we were soon joined by several other hikers and their accompanying dogs. We didn’t stand around for too long, we didn’t want to be too late for lunch.
Descending from the summit toward the lower portions of the “M” Trail provided us with more unsure footing than our ascent trail. Still, we managed, sometimes using our backsides, sometimes our feet, slip-sliding down the mountain into the fog.
The LunchFrom our parking area at the Adams Center, we walked the short distance across the Van Buren Bridge to the Press Box, voted “Missoula’s Most Popular Sports Bar, to eat and talk. It was nothing formal, just a group of similarly minded people (certainly not like-minded – Montanans are far too individualistic for that) talking about hiking, climbing, and of course stuffing our faces with meat and grease.
Not one person ordered a macrobiotic carrot! Can you believe it?
I’m not sure if it was because of boring conversation or too many beers before we hikers arrived, but I did notice a couple of people guzzling coffee – at mid-day!
Everyone appeared to have a good time and I could hear tentative plans being made for future outings. We even discussed expanding our get-togethers to semi-annually and something more adventuresome. I’m guessing Tie-Dye Mike had the most fun in spite of the fact that he didn’t participate in the hike. After we each contributed our money for lunch and drinks, he had the privilege of giving the cash (including a very healthy tip) to our waitress who he described as, “that cute little blonde.” Way To Go, Mike!
From the sounds of things, we may be heading to Glacier National Park for something a little more serious next time. Between The Rocky Mountaineers and the local (we’re so used to long distances that everything is local in Montana) SPers, I’m betting we’ll pull it off! This one's yours, Vernon. You tricked me once, but not this time. After all, you're the Glacier Specialist!
T Sharp (Tim)
Mtn Ear (Forest)
Tie-Dye Mike (Mike)
Rocker Paully (Paul)
StatisticsSummit Elevation – 5,158’
Elevation Gain – 1,935’
Distance – A little less than 4 miles
Time – About 4.5 hours, including lunch!
||Summit Mists Rising
||To the south, the Bass Creek Crags & Little St Joe - Photo by Mike Darcy
||"The Group" at lunch - Photo by Tie-Dye Mike's "Cute Blonde Waitress"
Left to Right - Rocker Paully, Seniday , Mtn Ear, Lindasyh, Montanaboy, Tie-Dye Mike,
Thephotohiker, Saintgrizzly, Jeff, Highice, T Sharp.