Submitted by bakcast
OverviewTopping out at 12,649 feet (just 150 feet shy of Granite) Mount Wood stands out as the second highest peak in Montana and the highest point in Stillwater county.
Mount Wood sees very few visitors due to its relative inaccessibilty and a lack of official trails to its lonely summit. When I summitted the peak in July of 2003, I was only the second to have signed the summit register that year, and only the fifth in the past three years (nobody signed it in 2002!). There is no doubt that others have climbed it and did not locate the summit register (grey plactic container, nearly buried very close to the summit proper), but I would guess that the actual head count is no more than 10-15 people per year.
The peak can be climbed in one very long day from the West Rosebud Creek drainage. People will no doubt think you are mad as you begin ascending from near the trailhead to Granite Peak up the wrong side of the valley. Smile to yourself knowing that you are in for a true wilderness experience, without the trails and with very little chance of running into other people.
The view from the summit of this peak is astounding. The steep north face drops away draped in permanent snowfields. Granite Peak is clearly visible directly to the south, and in the distance one can see a magnificant line of peaks including Silver Run, Whitetail, the Castles (Castle Peak, Castle Rock, Castle Rock Spire), and Snowbank Mountains.
Getting ThereMount Wood is located in the Beartooth range of South-Central Mountana. The summit can be accessed from the West Rosebud Creek drainage (near Granite Peak's Mystic Lake trailhead). Thanks to Alan Ellis for the following directions.
WEST ROSEBUD CREEK
The West Rosebud Trailhead is located approximately 80 miles southwest of Billings. To reach the trailhead, take the Columbus exit from Interstate 90, and take Montana Highway 78 through Absaroka and turn west (right) toward Fishtail (approximately 17 miles from Columbus).
From Fishtail, drive west and south for 1 mile, turn south (left) on West Rosebud Road. Follow this paved road for 6.3 miles until reaching a fork in the road and a large brown Forest Service sign. The sign will indicate West Rosebud Lake Road #72. Turn left here and follow the dirt road for 14 miles until reaching the trailhead for Granite Peak. This trailhead has toilet facilities, and a parking area where climbers can leave their cars.
From the Mystic Lake trailhead (Elevation 6580 ft) ascend the steepening forested slopes to the North, then head west-north-west after reaching 9000 ft. The ultimate goal is to reach the plateau at 10,200ft directly above the hydroelectric plant pipeline visible from the mystic lake trailhead. Once on the plateau (~2 miles), continue your gradual ascent towards the NW for an additional 6 miles along the narrowing plateau and final ridge to the summit of Mount Wood. Wood's summit is a complex area of several peaks. For extra credit climb along the class 3 ridge from Wood's true summit to point 12,330 towards the NW.
Red TapeMount Wood is located in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, Custer National Forest, Beartooth Ranger District. No fees are required to climb or camp. You are "requested" to check in with the Beartooth Ranger Station in Red Lodge or call (406) 446-2103 before climbing or camping (although most people do not bother). You must have a permit to cut live trees for firewood. Thankfully, no mechanized vehicles are allowed in the wilderness area.
When To ClimbSummer climbing season is short in Montana. Late July through early September are the months that are most snow-free. However, expect some snow on the mountain any time of the year. Expect any type of weather any time of the year. Violent thunderstorms are a common daily occurance. Get an early start to avoid afternoon thunderstorms. Storms develop very fast and tend to come from the south or west.
If you are considering climbing Wood during the winter or early spring you are advised to contact the Beartooth Ranger Station at (406) 446-2103 for the latest conditions and road closure information
CampingCamping is allowed anywhere within the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. You are "requested" to check in with the Beartooth Ranger Station in Red Lodge or call (406) 446-2103 before camping (although most people do not bother). You must have a permit to cut live trees for firewood.
Note that there is no reliable water source along this high route. Excellent backcountry camping opportunities abound in the valleys and basins surrounding Mount Wood. As always, practice No Trace Techniques. Always hang your food well away from camp at night as there is a high local bear population.
Mountain ConditionsCall the Beartooth Ranger Station at (406) 446-2103 for latest mountain conditions.
Weather Forecasts | Weather Maps | Weather Radar