ApproachThe approach to Granite Peak via Huckleberry Creek seems to be a lesser traveled approach route than the FTD Plateau. Regardless of its lack of use, this is an incredibly beautiful, off-trail hike to Avalanche Lake. This approach hike begins at the West Rosebud Trailhead.
Route DescriptionOn this route, you cannot even see Granite Peak until you are nearly under its daunting north face. You will hike, bushwhack, boulder hop, ascend alpine meadows, then finally after reaching a messy ridge of house-sized boulders, there before you is the north face of Granite Peak. It is impressive to see the mountain from Avalanche Lake and worth every boulder you will hop-over to get there.
This route description for the Huckleberry Creek approach begins at the West Rosebud Trailhead and ends at the Bivouac Saddle, between Granite Peak and Tempest Mountain. At Bivouac Saddle the route then continues on the "South Face via East Ridge/Standard Route". Refer to Alan Ellis' detailed route description of the "South Face via East Ridge/Standard Route" for the remainder of the climb.
Leaving the West Rosebud Trailhead, continue up the maintained trail until you reach Mystic Lake (3 miles). Once you are at Mystic Lake you will then intersect with the Phantom Creek trail. Do not take this trail, it heads up and out of the valley and it will bring you to the Froze-to-Death Plateau. Instead, continue along the trail (1.5 miles), following the south shore of Mystic Lake. The trail then intersects with Huckleberry Creek where it empties into the southwest end of Mystic Lake. Huckleberry is the last creek crossing along Mystic Lake, before the trail turns slightly north and goes between Mystic and Island Lakes. This area would make a great campsite if getting a late start.
From this point forward, you will be route-finding, bushwhacking and picking your way through boulder fields. Even though this is an unmaintained trail, it seems the trail is becoming more established and the route is a bit easier to find than a few years ago. It isn't too terribly bad, but not all that easy either.
After crossing Huckleberry Creek on the footbridge, follow a faint climbers trail up and along Huckleberry Creek, leading you in a southerly direction, up and out of the Mystic Lake basin. This section to Huckleberry Lake is fairly steep, but easy to follow. The climbers trail is fairly well established and keeps you to the right (west) side of Huckleberry Creek. You will not see the creek again until almost reaching Huckleberry Lake.
At Huckleberry Lake, you reach the first boulder field. There are a few cairns leading you through the middle of the boulders and it is the best route we found. If you miss the cairns right away, descend a little and follow right along the lake shore as that route is not too bad either.
At the end of the boulderfield, pick up the climbers trail and continue towards Princess Lake. The section leading to Princess Lake involves a sustained climb through the timber on a trail that can be easy to lose at times. But, don't stray to far without feeling like you're on the trail, the trail is there, stop and look around for it, or go back to where you lost it and look again.
The trail will top out over-looking Princess Lake. Once Princess Lake comes into view the trail will split. This is where you need to decide if you are going to get to Avalanche Lake via Snowball Lakes or Cold Pond. (I've never been to Snowball Lakes, so this is a description the Cold Pond variation) At the point where the trails split, take the climbers trail that goes left. This will take you the outlet of Princess Lake. You will cross Huckleberry Creek right at the outlet. Cross the creek on a log jam, go right around the large boulders immediately following and climb the ledges on a faint trail. The trail will eventually bring you along the shore of the lake and to the inlet. This a good place to get water and take a rest with the surrounding peaks and meadows in full view. (pssst, Princess has great fishing, bring your rod & reel)
Leaving Princess Lake at the inlet, again follow a faint climbers trail that goes right next to the creek for a short while. Then it meanders through the timber, staying low in the drainage. It brings out below a meadow with Huckleberry Creek cascading down from Cold Pond. Follow the creek and then on up to Cold Pond.
Now, the serious boulder hopping starts. Travel south through the boulderfield, staying low and on to the unnamed pond after Cold Lake. You can camp at the north end of the unnamed small pond in a flat gravely area with enough room for 3-4 tents. Here you will see for the first time, Granite Peak. Time permitting, I would continue on for 1-2 hours and camp at the end of Avalanche Lake.
Continuing on to Avalanche Lake, you can stay low and boulder hop along the lake shore or scramble up and over the shoulder of the boulderfield, which is what I would recommend. You can link a few grassy areas to get a break from the boulder hopping going this way. The higher route, going up over the shoulder, proved to be faster than following the lake. Camp at the only grassy area, near the end of Avalanche lake.
Leaving Avalanche Lake, work your way below and past a large rock outcropping along the south end of Avalanche Lake, then ascending the grassy slope. Above the grassy slope, work your way diagonally to the left, across the boulderfield, heading for a somewhat hidden, small, snow gully to the left of the large ridge of glacial moraine. When you reach the end of the snow gully, look up and plan a route, trying to link together the slightly grassy areas, as the rock in these areas are the most stable. Traverse along the left side of the cirque, gaining altitude, aiming for Bivouac Saddle. The lowest point on the saddle is obvious and head towards it. The last 20 vertical feet to gain the saddle will require a fun scramble up a small chimney. Now read the "South Face via East Ridge/Standard Route to reach the summit.
Essential GearBoots suitable for hiking 10 miles and alot of boulder hopping.
Miscellaneous InfoIf you have information about this route that doesn't pertain to any of the other sections, please add it here.
I used this route again in 2006, and I have updated this route description as to what I have experienced to be the best way to ascend and descend. My description doesn't follow the route outlined in Joe Josephson's Granite Peak guide. But, I have spoke with people you have traveled both via Snowball Lakes and Cold Pond and they agree, via Cold Pond is the way to go. It took us about 6 hours to get up from West Rosebud trailhead to the south end of Avalanche Lake, and about 5 hours to get back down. We didn't push real hard and took plenty of breaks. But, I also talked to some climbers that weekend and it took them around 10 hours to get up to Avalance from West Rosebud Trailhead? It's tough to say how long it will actually take. "the fargoan"