Welcome to SP!  -
Norton Point
Mountain/Rock

Norton Point

 
Norton Point

Page Type: Mountain/Rock

Location: Wyoming, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 43.83663°N / 109.5562°W

Object Title: Norton Point

Activities: Mountaineering, Scrambling

Season: Summer, Fall

Elevation: 11052 ft / 3369 m

 

Page By: Bob Sihler

Created/Edited: Oct 17, 2016 / Oct 17, 2016

Object ID: 985496

Hits: 330 

Page Score: 84.27%  - 18 Votes 

Vote: Log in to vote

 

Overview


Norton Point and Frontier Creek
Norton Point and Frontier Creek
In the U.S., there are some trailheads that themselves are almost destinations on their own because of the incredible mountain scenery. Although I don't profess to know all of them, I do know that the collection includes Yankee Boy Basin in Colorado, Logan Pass in Glacier National Park (Montana), Kirwin in Wyoming, and Double Cabin, also in Wyoming.

At Double Cabin, the trailhead itself is unforgettable, with mountains almost completely encircling you.

One of the peaks, one of the nearest, in fact, is Norton Point. Towering above to the north, it is unmistakable. The good news is that it is climbable as well, and that getting to the summit of what the maps call Norton Point can be as easy as Class 3. The bad news is that the pinnacle you admire from the trailhead, which is not the actual Norton Point but might be the "spiritual" one, is likely unclimbed and unclimbable. Below its summit are tall cliffs that must go at 5.10 at least. Although there are people who can free solo 5.10, doing so here is highly inadvisable, as the rock is exceptionally rotten and holds are often "portable." Out here, Class 4 can be terrifying.

This peak is worth it. Although it is not far from the TH (probably no more than 2 miles as the crow flies and just 3-4 by foot), you will be almost 30 miles from the nearest town, more than 25 from the closest paved road, and within rugged, remote wilderness. If you like peaks just about no one else goes after, here is one for you. Once you leave the trail, you will be in a different world.

View from Double Cabin TH-- Norris Point
View from Double Cabin TH-- Norton Point

View from Double Cabin TH-- Looking up Wiggins Fork
View from Double Cabin TH-- Looking up Wiggins Fork

View from Double Cabin TH
View from Double Cabin TH

View from Double Cabin TH
View from Double Cabin TH

View from Double Cabin TH
View from Double Cabin TH


Getting There

From Main Street in Dubois, turn north onto signed Horse Creek Road. Drive past the residences and through a section of the Dubois Badlands. After several miles the road enters national forest land and becomes unpaved. Pay attention to signs and keep following the principal road to Double Cabin Campground. Drive past the campground to a large open area. Find the trailhead and sign. You will want to head up Frontier Creek. This is 25 miles from Dubois. In dry weather, these roads are easily passable to most passenger vehicles.

It's actually easier to get onto the right trail by picking up a trail just across the road from the campground entrance. Regardless, you are going to be crossing Frontier Creek and heading up the canyon on the right (east) side of the creek.

Frontier Creek can be challenging to cross before July and in the afternoon.

Route

Distance is 7-8 miles round-trip. Elevation gain is about 3000'.

Norton Point Map
Norton Point Map

Ford Frontier Creek. Make sure it is Frontier Creek you ford; its confluence with Wiggins Fork is here as well, and if you ford downstream of the confluence, you will have forded Wiggins Fork and will be heading up the wrong drainage.

Hike north/northeast on various game and stock trails until you come across the real trail. Just after crossing the wilderness boundary (marked by two signs), you will see a drainage on the right. In summer this drainage will probably have a healthy flow. In autumn it could be dry and might actually be hard to spot. See the photograph below and remember that it is right after the wilderness boundary. (When I climbed this peak, I was not paying attention here and even though I had spotted the drainage on a previous trip, I went right past it and ended up making my day longer and more difficult by finding a way to get high and traverse into the drainage.)

Wilderness Boundary
Wilderness Boundary

Posted Regulation
Posted Regulation

The Drainage
The Drainage


The drainage is the one obviously cutting into the mountainside as you look at it from road's end. A finger measurement suggests it is about a mile away hiking, but it feels more like 1.5 mi.

You want to head up this drainage. Eventually, it leads to Snow Lake, which is high on the alpine plateau above, but you do not want to go all the way there if you only want to get to Norton Point.

Someone I know who is a very respected voice in Greater Yellowstone mountaineering once told me he had gone up this way and that there were no serious obstacles along the way. This is not so as it pertains to the drainage proper. Instead, there are three impassable waterfalls. One is more than 100' tall. You can bypass all of them on the left as you head up the drainage, but it will require some backtracking first. Pictures below show the first and third waterfalls; I encountered these falls during my descent and could not get a safe vantage from which to photograph the second, which is also the highest, without heading back up to the base after bypassing it, which I did not feel like doing. But there is no mistaking it.

First Waterfall
First Waterfall

Third Waterfall
Third Waterfall


Eventually, you will enter terrain that is more alpine. Expect boulder hopping, scree, and questionable rock on Class 3 ground. You may also occasionally see spots where erosion has unearthed or washed down petrified wood; some specimens are quite spectacular. It is illegal to remove petrified wood from this wilderness.

Petrified Wood in the Drainage
Petrified Wood in the Drainage

As you get higher, the drainage will start to angle up and left on what looks like pretty easy ground. Don't take the bait; that way leads to Snow Lake and far from Norton Point. When this starts to happen, begin looking for ways up and right to the ridge above. The way I went felt Class 4 in places, and it could easily have become Class 5, but it can be as easy as Class 3. Remember to test every hold before really weighting it; big, seemingly solid holds often rip right out in these mountains.

In the Drainage
In the Drainage

In the Drainage
In the Drainage


On the map in this section, there is a false summit on Norton Point, and then there is an unmarked summit just northeast. I got onto the ridge just north of that unmarked summit, went over it, and then got down to the saddle between it and the true Norton Point. Some scrambling got me through ground that looked harder than it was, and then I was on the ridge, over the false summit, and at the true summit.

Note: near the true summit is a steep, tempting drainage. It goes into the ascent drainage and is obviously more direct. Although I wanted to try it, I did not. It might go, but since it is steeper and narrower than the main drainage is, it is more likely to cliff out. Enjoy the slog back up or the seriously sketchy rappels.

Red Tape

Obey posted wilderness regulations.

This is grizzly country. Carry pepper spray. One can I was carrying slipped off my pack somewhere in the drainage. If you find it, you're welcome, and you'll know it's not a token of a bear encounter that went terribly wrong for somebody.

Leave an itinerary with someone and carry extra food and water on you. I could not get a cell signal on the summit, and the off-trail portions are remote and seldom traveled; getting injured with no backup plan could turn out to be disastrous.

When to Climb

Late July into early September is best for water and snow levels.

Camping

The meadows along the trail make excellent campsites.

Developed sites are available (for a fee) at Double Cabin CG. Many people do dispersed, free camping in the trailhead area.

Images

Norton Point and Fall ColorsIn the DrainageView from Double Cabin TH-- Norton PointPetrified Wood in the DrainageNorton Point and Frontier CreekIn the DrainageThird Waterfall
Norton PointNorton Point MapFirst WaterfallThe DrainagePosted RegulationWilderness Boundary