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Bad beta for RMF peaks in August 2013 Backpacker

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Bad beta for RMF peaks in August 2013 Backpacker

Postby Bob Sihler » Sun Jul 07, 2013 6:40 pm

There is a feature in the August 2013 Backpacker on lesser-known ranges in Montana, and it includes some climbing information for Rocky Mountain and Old Baldy in the Sawtooth Range.

The beta is very misleading, and I have written the author but also am posting here in case any SP users had read that feature and were using it to make plans for climbing these peaks. This is from what I wrote to the author:

-----

From the relatively sparse details compared to other descriptions in the feature, I got the sense that maybe you have not actually been to Rocky Mountain and Old Baldy and perhaps were working with information from other people. The issues:

* A minor one that is more of an inconvenience than a real problem-- camping (and livestock) is not permitted by Our Lake. Actually, the nearest good campsites to the lake are around the base of the waterfall that drains the lake. The trail passes by this spot about 0.75-1 mi from the lake.

* The distances from the saddle are a little off (short), but that's not a huge deal, either.

* Of real significance-- you mention the "easy-to-follow ridgelines" but not that each ridgeline entails climbing another peak en route. Also, there are scrambling and exposed sections on each ridge unless one makes extra effort (and goes out of his way) to avoid them.

* Between the saddle and Rocky Mountain is Point 8789, a climb of about 1000' from the saddle. From there, one must descend to and climb a sub-summit before dropping to Headquarters Creek Pass and then ascending the NW ridge of Rocky Mountain. Both ridges have Class 3 sections. Rocky Mountain actually gets into Class 5 if one sticks to the ridgetop proper. One could keep both ridges at Class 2 only by doing some sidehilling that would be grueling on the ankles and would likely involve bypassing cliff bands which are very common on the sides of these peaks. Anyway, a climb of Rocky Mountain from Our Lake would end up being almost a 4500' day, well more than most people are up for.

* Between the saddle and Old Baldy is Point 8466, and traversing it both ways will turn the day into one of about 4000'. Descending from the summit of 8466 to the saddle between it and Old Baldy involves some jagged, exposed Class 3-4 rock. One can bypass that summit and ridge (I did so myself one of my times out there) but may not think of it.

* A trail from the TH crosses Headquarters Creek Pass, so most people would probably not use Our Lake as a base camp to climb Rocky Mountain due to that and the intervening peak. It would be more likely to use the lake as a base for 8789, 8466, and Old Baldy.

I realize that in the feature you cannot get into all the precise details, but I think the description given makes climbing these peaks sound much easier and shorter than it really is, which might get the unprepared, and I have no doubt you know that many in the backcountry are so, into trouble. They might go out without enough food and water and not enough time (or strength). While I realize a semi-intelligent person with a map might figure these things out on his own, it also astounds me how many people go into the mountains without good maps or without any maps at all. That's why the description, with its inaccuracies, really concerned me.

I know these peaks from personal experience and even have written pages and route descriptions for them:

http://www.summitpost.org/rocky-mountain/221899
http://www.summitpost.org/old-baldy/421736

I used to have pages for 8789 and 8466 but deleted them recently after changing my mind about posting beta for unnamed, "unknown" peaks.
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Re: Bad beta for RMF peaks in August 2013 Backpacker

Postby EarMountain » Sun Jul 07, 2013 9:23 pm

Seems typical of many Backpacker Magazine articles. Reminds me of the advice they once published to climb Almost a Dog Mountain in Glacier National Park by "walking" up the ridge from Almost a Dog Pass.

Did you also copy the letter to the editor of BP?
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Re: Bad beta for RMF peaks in August 2013 Backpacker

Postby Fred Spicker » Sun Jul 07, 2013 11:08 pm

I just read the article also - seems to me that it was written looking at a map with no real knowledge of the terrain or the area.
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Re: Bad beta for RMF peaks in August 2013 Backpacker

Postby Bob Sihler » Sun Jul 07, 2013 11:43 pm

EarMountain wrote:Did you also copy the letter to the editor of BP?


No, but that's a good idea.
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Re: Bad beta for RMF peaks in August 2013 Backpacker

Postby splattski » Mon Jul 08, 2013 12:47 pm

Thanks for pointing this out.

They also made mistakes in talking about Idaho's Sawtooth range. They said the range goes from 10 to 12000' (highest peak is Mt. Thompson, 10751: http://www.summitpost.org/thompson-peak/153013'
And they show a picture and talk about Mt. Heyburn, but picture is of Grand Mogul.

I won't be getting a subscription any time soon.
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