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Cairn Mountain
Mountain/Rock

Cairn Mountain

 
Cairn Mountain

Page Type: Mountain/Rock

Location: Montana, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 45.14633°N / 109.80018°W

Object Title: Cairn Mountain

Elevation: 12221 ft / 3725 m

 

Page By: H2SO4

Created/Edited: Sep 9, 2008 / Jun 14, 2009

Object ID: 441053

Hits: 5858 

Page Score: 80.49%  - 12 Votes 

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Overview

This mountain makes it clear that it's the remnant of an older plateau. There is an expansive gently rolling area above 12,000 feet with sheer 1000 ft cliffs dropping off to the north. The last 1/2 mile or so of hiking is across the rocky tundra of this plateau, with striking views of the south face of Granite Peak. I wouldn't call this a destination mountain, but it's definitely something worthwhile to do if you're in the area, and only requires a few hours from the Skytop Lakes Basin.  
Flat top of Cairn Mountain
 

Getting There

Take the Beartooth Highway (212) to FSR 3230, about 2 miles towards Red Lodge (Montana) from Cooke City. Go straight for a mile or so past a T intersection. Keep going about another mile, passing a road on the right, and on the left, until you come to a trailhead on the right. The trailhead should say "Lady of the Lake". A few tenths of a mile further up the road there's another trailhead, which would save a bit of walking, but it was marked as 4WD on the map, and too much for our Toyota Prius.
From the trailhead, follow a trail (an old road at first) to the Lady of the Lake, a pleasant lake surrounded by trees (1.5 miles). Continue up a few tenths of a mile past Lady of the Lake, and turn right at the next intersection. After about a mile you'll come to Star Creek. The trail fans out, as people try to cross the creek (We crossed on a narrow log about 5 ft above the water 50-100 yards downstream of where the main trail runs into the creek. Now, take a use trail which goes to the right, around the base of a hill around to Skytop creek. The trail then follows Skytop creek through a nice gorge to a flat campsite above the creek in about a mile. Right below this campsite you wade the creek coming down from Aero Lake, and continue up a vague trail, staying on the left side of Sky Top creek to treeline and Lone Elk Lake.
From here, we went around the right side of Lone Elk Lake (another wade to cross the stream at the bottom) and up to Rough Lake. Above Rough Lake, the stream goes through a Canyon which would be trying with a pack. Skirt to the left of this, and head up into the beautiful Skytop Lakes Basin. 
Aptly named Rough Lake, with the Mt. Villard Spires behind, and point 11397
 

Red Tape

This is in the Absaroka-Beartooth wilderness area. Campfires are prohibited. Note also that this is Grizzly country - store your food accordingly.

Camping

There's a nice spot along Skytop Creek just before Aero Creek comes in (about 4 miles in) if you want to break up the approach. There are numerous grassy campsites in the Skytop Lakes basin up above. You can also camp on the snow about 100 ft. below the saddle, at least for most of the summer. (There was plenty of snow mid-august of 2008, a high snow year. Water is in a nice tarn just below the glacier - probably frozen over earlier in the year.
 
One of the Skytop Lakes and the South Ridge of Mt. Villard
 

Orientation:

Once you're in the basin, straight ahead is Skytop Glacier. To the left are the pinnacles on the South Ridge of Mt. Villard. Above and to the right of Skytop Glacier is Granite peak. Oh your right is Cairn mountain, and Pt. 11894, the last point on the ridge before it dips down into the saddle between Cairn Mountain and Granite Peak. 
A view up the Skytop Lakes drainage to Skytop Glacier
 

acknowledgement

coordinates and exact elevation taken from
http://www.mountainzone.com/mountains/detail.asp?fid=4363556

Images

Cairn Mountain Crest from Granite PeakSouth Face of Granite Peak From Cairn Mountaintarn just below Skytop Glacier, with Mt. Villard in the Background.Cairn Mountain from Pt. 11894Tempest and Peal from CairnGranite Peak from Cairn MountainTarn on south ridge of Cairn Mountain
Cairn Mountain south ridgeCairn Lake from Cairn MountainCairn Mountain summitCairn Mountain summit plateauCairn Mountain South RidgeGranite Peak from Cairn MountainGranite Creek valley from Cairn Mountain