OverviewThis is a chronological list of the hills, mountains, and peaks I have climbed so far in 2012, including repeats. This list is for personal reference and organizational purposes.
Total Distance Hiked: 0.0 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 0,000 feet
Total Unique Summits: 0
Total Ranked Peaks: 0
Peaks with Multiple Ascents: Badland Hills HP (6X), Heart Mountain (5X), Rock Benchmark (3X), Badland Hills North (4X), Badland Hills West (3X), Badland Hills East (3X), Ledge Benchmark (2X), Polecat Bench (2X), Cedar Mountain (2X)
Getting There and Hiking/Climbing Information
|Jan. 4||Heart Mountain||8,123||2,183||Big Horn||Eaglenest Basin||Link||Jan. 9||Mount Everts||7,842||1,222||Park||Mammoth||Link||Feb. 20||Badland Hills HP||5,090||503||Park||Badland Hills||Link||Feb. 24||Heart Mountain||8,123||2,183||Big Horn||Eaglenest Basin||Link||Mar. 9||Windy Mountain||10,262||2,042||Park||Windy Mountain||Link||Mar. 13||Polecat Bench||5,235||385||Park||Elk Basin SW||Link||Mar. 14||Heart Mountain||8,123||2,183||Big Horn||Eaglenest Basin||Link|
Red Tape, Camping and When to ClimbThe alarms went off at 4:45, but I didn't really wake up until I heard a noise just as I was finishing taking a dump; I spun around to see three adult mountain goats and a baby staring at me from about twenty feet away. Nothing like an audience for the whole toilet ritual! They watched us get ready and eat breakfast and seemed very used to humans.
We woke up Nathan, but he decided that he just wasn't up for the whole attempt-to-kill-yourself-on-a-mountain-and-then-hike-out-in-the-dark thing, so he stayed behind with my bear spray to guard the tents from the goats.
Chris and I were on our way at 5:30 and made good time to the saddle between the Spires and Peak 11379.
At this point I screwed up royally; Chris decided to glissade down the 200 feet to the Sky Top Lakes and I was worried about the snow being super hard and decided to traverse left and down and then meet him at the bottom. I ended up having to cross an icy snowfield, kicking steps very slowly and cussing at my stupidity while Chris was staring up at me from the lake below. Luckily, I only wasted like twenty minutes, and upon finally meeting at the bottom he was gracious enough to dryly point out that his way was probably faster.
The route from there to the Sky Top Glacier went very quickly, and I was surprised at how little boulder hopping was required as it was mostly grass. We waved at a solo hiker standing next to his tent and then went on our way; little did we know at that time that he would play a huge role in our day!
Somewhere around 8:00 or 8:30 we were standing beneath the huge SW face of Granite; after eating a bit and donning helmets we started up the boulders to a small couloir that gets you up under the black slab. Here we regretted not having crampons for the first time, as the snow was very icy and we had to scramble up some really loose crap to the right. I've been on a lot of loose stuff before, but this stuff was bad. We headed to the left edge of the slab, using a lot of energy slipping around in the scree. A word to anyone trying this route: get right up under the slab and don't stay out away from it, as there is a pretty good climber's trail next to it.
Finally we peered up the massive SW Couloir and were relieved to see that it wasn't full of snow.
The fun Class 3 moves started right away and we bypassed the first tricky obstacle on some slick and wet rock to the right. Peering over the edge of the slab, I noticed the solo hiker coming up quickly behind us wearing a red helmet.
I took a lot of care not to kick anything down om him, and by the time we reached the narrow ice-choked gully that was the crux of the route, he had caught up to us. We introduced ourselves to Justin, and I was surprised to learn that he is from Cody, which is only 30 minutes away from my home in Powell. Chris was trying to bypass the ice on rock to the right, but he couldn't find anything that he would comfortable downclimbing (which means I wouldn't even dream of it), and so we stood there staring at the snow and ice. The weather, which we'd been watching carefully all morning, was looking gloomy; a low dark band of clouds was hanging around menacingly, and we felt a few raindrops as we were deciding whether or not to abandon the attempt. A fall, slide, and bounce on the snow would have been bad, and as it was too hard and steep to self-arrest, multiple broken bones would have probably been the least of our worries!
Justin decided to give the gully a go with his crampons, and he kicked in steps as well as he could. The final move involved hooking the top of the ice with his ax and pulling himself up to a wet area from which he awkwardly had to scramble around and onto the next ledge. It was dicey-looking even with crampons, but Chris mustered up the guts to try it. I watched every move, and he slowly figured out a way up to where Justin was waiting. Adrenaline pumping like nuts, I inched my way up, stopping to chop a step on the edge of the ice for my left foot. My hands were wet and freezing fast, and I had to stop on my precarious perch and warm them up before I could pull up on the ax for the final move. It was the scariest thing I've ever climbed, and slings draped around rocks above confirmed that getting down wasn't going to be easy either.
The rest of the climb to the ridge was very loose, but before long we were onto more solid rock. Chris and Justin stayed left and made some Class 5 moves to gain the ridge. I knew I was supposed to stay right for the easiest climbing and went over to the obvious place where I thought I should go, looked over briefly, and decided that that couldn't be it. I wasted more time traversing back left and knew I wasn't helping the other guys out. I yelled at them to continue to the summit as I was looking up into thin wisps of fog moving quickly around the rocks above.
After searching unsuccessfully for something I felt comfortable climbing (and doing a little more cussing), I went back to the right for one more look. After going a little farther, the obvious Class 3 opened up and I followed the well-cairned route up the ridge. There was one tricky little spot that required climbing a little rock almost on the edge of the Abyss to the right and jumping a few feet to the left, but other than that the moves were fun and easy. Even better, the sun suddenly came out, and the clouds that had seemed scary just a few minutes before were dissipating and it promised to be perfect weather for at least several more hours. I finally stood on top of Montana at about 11:00, relieved and elated that half of this peak was climbed!
My favorite entry from the summit register read: "Absolutely awesome climb! Now how the hell do I get off this thing?" We all shared a laugh over that, took many pictures, and headed back down.
The descent down to the ice was uneventful, and then I stood in one place for fifteen minutes to avoid kicking rocks down on Justin and Chris as they inched their way down the tricky section.
Keeping the adrenaline under control by breathing deeply was all I could do, and before I knew it, I'd somehow survived the bad section.
The section of wet rock below and the final loose section to the saddle were tricky as well, but we soon found ourselves sitting where I'd stashed my hiking poles, eating and drinking with blue skies and a great mountain staring down at us. We connected snow fields in the Sky Top Basin and said goodbye and many, many thanks to Justin at his tent before starting up the boulder fields to the saddle.
About this time I started really feeling like crap; my pace going uphill slowed to a crawl, and I was having a hard time catching my breath even sitting and resting. I've never had altitude sickness, but I think I may have had a touch of it here, and when this combined with my usual summit-day lack of appetite and dehydration, I totally bonked. It seemed like it took forever to reach the saddle, and I was elated to finally start down to the lake. We hit camp at 4:30; I knew Chris and Nathan were headed out that night, and I waffled a lot between staying up there alone and going out in the morning. After cooking some oatmeal (Chris had Ramen) and drinking a lot of water at camp, I was feeling good enough to start, and the guys were kind enough to split up the weight of my tent into their packs - thank you!
After a fast walk along the north side of Lower Aero, we headed down to Zimmer Creek. I was still feeling pretty horrible, and an awesome cough, the mosquitoes, and a stop to change in and out of my stream crossing shoes at the water didn't help much. I was trying to force down the trail mix, but nothing sounded or tasted good at all. Luckily, a lot of the way out is flat, so I still made pretty good time back to Lady of the Lake. From there back to the car there is a lot of uphill, and while I knew Chris was pretty wiped, he wasn't having the same difficulties going uphill that I was. I honestly have never felt so rotten, and the never-ending scenery of a trail illuminated by a headlamp started playing tricks with my mind. We got to our vehicles at 11:00, and we somehow stayed awake long enough to drive home; me to Powell, and Chris and Nathan to Old Faithful. I got back into cell range and called my wife at 12:38 a.m., and she was more than a little surprised that I was headed home, which I reached at 1:30. After a shower I fell into bed at 2:15, 21.5 hours after getting up. I was even too exhausted to drink a beer, which I always do after getting home from a climb!
This was the hardest trip I've done; I'm still getting back into shape after an off year in 2011, and I think it would have been interesting to see how I would have done if I had been as fit as I was for my Gannett Peak in 2010. Regardless of my fat butt, we made it up and down somehow; in spite of my route-finding mistakes, we still managed because of our luck meeting another climber who had crampons and our luck with the weather on a peak that is renowned for its horrible storms. The SW Couloir is an awesome route, and I believe it will soon become the standard route on Granite. I figured a round-trip mileage of about 22 miles with ~5900 feet of gain on the ascent; it is definitely not 13-14 miles one way like the route page says!
Peaks to addTim 135.0 42,300 Lisa 54.0 19,500 through Nov. 6
Little Bald Ridge
Horse Creek Mountain
Burro Flat Mountain
Peak 5647 and 5579
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I made plans to climb Granite Peak in September 2010 with SP member GaryPJ almost a year in advance, and as Labor Day weekend approached, we added my friends Terry and Jan as climbing partners for the trip. Jan and I were fresh off of our conquest of Gannett Peak a few weeks earlier, and I was excited to have a go at my second state highpoint. Gary had attempted Granite once before, and had had an unpleasant experience with weather on Froze-to-Death Plateau, so we decided to attempt the peak via the Huckleberry Creek approach. Our plan was to hike in as far as possible on Friday, establish camp near Avalanche Lake on Saturday, summit early Sunday morning, and come out Sunday evening or Monday morning. We were leaving open the option of trying to summit on Saturday if the weather was good, and as the last weather forecast we got before leaving showed a system moving in on Sunday morning, we were kind of shooting for an earlier climb.
Due to work schedules, we all arrived at the trailhead at different times on Friday afternoon, and Gary and Terry got a head start on Jan and me. The hike to Mystic Lake went quickly for us, and we caught up to the other guys just past where the Froze-to-Death trail branches off of the main trail. We ate dinner at dusk and then located the climber’s trail that leads left up into the Huckleberry Creek drainage. We followed this trail up through the forest, eventually using headlamps in the increasing darkness. We hoped to find a suitable spot to camp once the trail leveled out next to the lake, but we ended up in boulder fields that were treacherous to negotiate in dark. We finally gave up trying to find a place to pitch one tent, much less two, and decided to just sleep out under the stars on a few small strips of grass right next to one of the few places where we found some semblance of a trail. It wasn’t too cold, but our bags were a little dewy and soggy the next morning.
We got an early start on Saturday and found the going much easier in the daylight, and we refilled our water at the north outlet of Island Lake. From here we had some tricky stream crossings on logs as we made our way around the east side of the lake, and we climbed up the steep slopes leading to the next small lake, after which the terrain turned to boulder hopping for the rest of the way to Avalanche Lake.
We set up camp about 11:00 at a nice spot on the north shores of the lake, and decided that since the weather still looked good, we’d have a go at the peak after a quick bite to eat.
We set out onto some of the worst boulder fields I’ve ever been on; even the car-sized ones would sometimes move when stepped on, and it was very tricky to move in some spots. While the peak looked close, it soon became apparent that given the terrain, the party’s varying levels of comfort moving over it, and a cloud system that came out of nowhere, we weren’t going to get close to the ridge, much less summit the peak. We were all back to camp by 3:00, by which time the small storm had moved through and Gary and I decided to summit the unnamed mountain next to camp.
We had an enjoyable scramble and were rewarded with spectacular views of Granite Peak and the lakes around the area. By the time we made it back to camp, another storm system had moved in, and snow had started to fall in a hurry. We had a decadent meal, which included some excellent cheesecake from a freeze-dried package!
Sunday and Parting ThoughtsWe woke up the next morning to a little snow falling and thick clouds, which soon parted a little to reveal that Granite had received quite a bit of snow up high; we decided to admit defeat and packed up camp.
The ensuing mile of slick, wet boulders back down to the next lake confirmed that our decision to turn around was the correct one, and we made it back to Mystic Lake around midday.
Gary decided to stay by himself and camp another night and get in some R&R before heading back to civilization, while Jan, Terry, and I split up and hiked out at our own respective speeds. I was back in Powell by around 6:00, vowing to return again someday.
I definitely learned some things from this trip; if I attempt the peak again from the West Rosebud trailhead I will go by Froze-to-Death instead of Huckleberry. I know it is exposed up high and the weather is an issue, but the speed of travel in the Huckleberry drainage is just a drag, even for an experienced rock-hopper. I’m actually thinking now that I’d rather try the Southwest Couloir route, so that’s on my list for next summer. I had never been in that part of the Beartooths before this trip, and it is a stunningly beautiful place! I also learned to never assume that there will be camp sites next to a lake, especially if you are heading there in the dark. At least it was clear and the stars were nice!