Name StatusAs of June 5, 2006 the name of this mountain has been officially changed from Squaw Mountain to Hirschy Mountain by the US Board on Geographic Names (BGN).
Please see the Name Change section for a full report.
OverviewHirschy Mountain is the second highest summit in the northern section of the Beaverheads. Since many of Hirschy's neighbors are 9000' summits, it is a striking peak visible from anywhere in Montana's Big Hole Valley.
Hirschy's number two status makes it a less targeted summit than its big brother to the south - Homer Youngs Peak. There are several options available for a route choice, with all of them turning your day into a cross country effort.
You will find a smorgasbord of terrain features on a climb of Hirschy. Boggy meadows with tall grass, streams, forest, slabby rock, talus and scree, tundra, and boulders can all be encountered on your route.
You may also run into range cattle, horse flies, mosquitoes, and swarming summit insects. You'll have to decide which is most hazardous.
The closest towns are Wisdom and Jackson where you can get gas, groceries, and meals.
Key access highways are US 93, MT 43, MT 278, and I-15.
Take the Twin Lakes campground exit 6.6 miles south of Wisdom, Montana on US highway 278. Travel 8.2 miles to a sign pointing south to Big Swamp Creek Road. After 8.4 miles on a good gravel road, turn right onto Big Swamp Creek Road 625. Travel west for 2.4 miles to the Slag-a-Melt turnoff on your right. It is signed. Another 1.3 miles takes you to a fork. The left fork is signed Slag-a-Melt Trail 186. This is a good spot to park with plenty of available space. This access will put you in position for the first three summit routes listed below.
If you are going to take on Hirschy from the Twin Lakes Campground, follow the directions listed above. As you head south on the 8.4 mile section of gravel road, take a right at the easily seen Twin Lakes campground sign. It is about 6 miles to the campground from the sign. 2WD all the way.
The Forest Service roads are closed to motorized traffic (except snowmobiles) until May 15. Thanks to Arlee for providing this information.
Summit Routes1) Trail 186 Class 3
Proceed up Trail 186 which is a decent jeep/ATV road. You can drive up it if you desire, but may need a 4WD for the initial section. About 3/4 mile up Trail 186 is a good spot to head into the woods on your right and begin your cross country journey.
After a short forested section you will enter a very large wide open swampy meadow with a stream crossing to negotiate. You can easily see Hirschy from the meadow. Proceed north and gain the first forested ridge (see #2). Plunge down the north side of the ridge to a small, narrow stream bottom and then immediately up to the top of the next forested ridge. Once gained, proceed west on this rounded ridge through gradually thinning forest and low shrubs. Lake 8620 will be on your left but can't be seen until you clear the vegetation.
The crux of the effort comes at about 9850' with a class 3 scramble through two sections equaling about 140'. The first section has solid rock, hard pack, good holds where needed, and no exposure. The second section has steep loose scree and no exposure as well. From here it is a nice high tundra walk and short boulder ascent to the summit.
Starting elevation here is 7550'. With a couple of ridges to ascend and descend, total elevation gain is around 3250'. Round trip distance on this route is around 8.75 miles.
2) Trail 186 Rocky Ridge Class 3
When you gain the first forested ridge, you can proceed west on it, gain the rocky ridge and proceed up it to the high tundra slopes. Lake 8620 will be on your right and can be seen once you clear the forest. Prepare for some class 3 scrambling as you ascend the rocky ridge as it appears more jagged than the rounded ridge route in #1.
3) Lake 8620 Class 3
From Lake 8620, work up the basin to the northwest and ascend a steep class 3 scree gully which will put you on the east ridge at about 9850'. Proceed up as described in #1. (It was obvious people had ascended this class 3 scree gully.)
4) Twin Lakes campground route Class 3
It is possible to make a long forested traverse from the Twin Lakes campground to the basin on the northeast side of Hirschy Mountain. From the basin, ascend a steep class 3 scree gully which will put you on the east ridge at about 9850' or choose your best spot to gain the rounded east ridge. Proceed up as described in #1. (It was obvious people had ascended this class 3 scree gully.)
Name ChangeThroughout the United States and particuarly in the west, there has been a concerted effort to change the names of many geographic features that bear names considered by some to be derogatory.
Names such as squaw, negro, etc. are steadily being removed and renamed by state geographic names committees and the BGN.
With this trend, it is no surprise that the BGN has told Squaw Mountain to shed its old garment and put on a new one.
October 7, 2003. Sacajawea Mountain was first proposed by the Montana House Bill 412 "Squaw Name Change" committee as the new name for Squaw Mountain. This was proposed to honor the young Indian woman who accompanied Lewis & Clark.
The US Forest Service expressed concern in two areas. First, there are already 11 features in Montana that are named 'Sacajawea'. Second, less than 9 miles to the south in neighboring Lemhi County, Idaho is another feature named Sacajawea Peaks. Both summits are located on the same US Geological survey 7.5-minute topographic map.
June 1, 2005. Two residents of Jackson, Jack and Ann Hirschy, submit a counter-proposal to rename the peak Hirschy Mountain. This name would honor Fred Hirschy (1884-1975), who settled in the Big Hole Valley in 1894. In 1910, he borrowed two hundred dollars to start his own cattle ranch, which he operated until his death in 1975. Members of the Hirschy family still operate the ranch today.
June 5, 2006. The Domestic Names Committee serving as a component of the BGN votes 12-0 in favor to approve the name Hirschy Mountain.
The Beaverhead County Commissioners and Montana State Board on Geographic Names both approved the proposal for Hirschy Mountain. The Forest Service raised no objection to that name while at the same time issued a 'no support' for the proposal of Sacajawea Mountain.
Proposals for both names were forwarded to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation, the Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho, and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of the Fort Hall Reservation of Idaho. No response was received from any of these groups, which is presumed to indicate a lack of an opinion on the issue.
Red TapeNo permits or fees are required. The Wisdom Ranger District can provide information on backcountry road conditions. No parking pass is required.
When To ClimbJuly, August, and September.
June and October would be dependent on road and snow conditions.
CampingThe closest campgrounds are Twin Lakes and May Creek which is located on MT 43. These are Forest Service campgrounds with fees and stay limits.
Once you drive into the forested foothills, it is possible to pull off the road and set up camp in numerous places. Many of these spots are obvious and have certainly been used for many years. You will be left alone as the Big Hole is remote country. I am not promoting this, just simply stating my observations.
Setting up camp right at Trail 186 can be done as well.