Spirit Mountain is a pictureque peak located in the Beartooth Mountains of South-Central Montana. It is one of Montana's 27 ranked peaks which rise over 12,000 feet, coming in at number 17.
A variety of moderate to difficult snow and ice climbs can be found on the North, East, and South sides of the peak from late fall to early summer. A couple of these routes, including the permanent snow fields leading up the South Face from Frosty Lake and that coming up from the Black Canyon Drainage between Spirit Mountain and Peak 12115 (aka. Drop Off Mountain) can be climbed year round (always consider the avalanche danger when attempting these routes).
The easiest way to reach the summit is by bypassing Glacier Lake (see the Getting There section) and climbing onto Spirit's South-West ridge at the first obvious opportunity. This long ridge, and the flat summit area of Spirit Mountain, are actually the remnants of a vast high plateau. The scenic grandeur of the area is due principally to the action of glaciation beginning about 1.6 million years ago which carved out great glacial valleys from this plateau. In the process, several high, flat topped peaks were left behind which dominate the summit views from Spirit Mountain.
Views From Spirit Mountain
Why is there a Mt Salo Plaque Up Here?
The USGS officially names this peak Spirit Mountain. The Salo Family, however, has taken it upon themselves to place a plaque atop the summit proclaiming it to be Mt. Salo. The plaque on the summit boulder reads:
In commemoration of the 1974 Mt. Salo climb by the Salo family, the following people climb Mt. Salo on August 5, 1994:
Reta Salo Carlson, Kenneth Carlson, Rhonda Salo Gramer, Kevin Gramer, Erik Farnham, Steve Salo
Mt. Salo was named after O.J. Salo of Red Lodge, MT 1894-1977
Otto Jalmer Salo was born on the 25th of October, 1894 in Carbon County Montana. He lived in the vicinity of the Beartooth mountains throughout his life, passing away at the age of 82 in Deer Lodge. You can find out more about his family tree here: Otto Jalmer Salo
It is one thing to try to overthrow the official name of a peak, but in this case it seems that the Salo family may not know which peak is indeed named after them. Peak 12,250+, commonly known as Salo Mountain, is located approximately 0.6 miles WSW of Castle Rock Mountain, or over 7 MILES NorthWest of the plaque atop Spirit Mountain.
Delete - Summit plaque has been removed
Date: Aug 29, 2005 2:06 PM
The USFS has policies against unauthorized placement of plaques and other mementos in Wilderness areas, and I find them most offensive. This is, after all, supposed to be wilderness. This plaque was clearly not authorized, and was removed by an anonymous annoyed party. In response to an e-mail to the Custer National Forest questioning their policies, I got a call from a ranger who would have hiked in and removed it herself - she was glad to be notified, as the ranger district was not aware of the plaque's existence. She commented that if people find similar mementos, they should let the appropriate national forest know - and they will send someone to remove them (or you can remove them yourselves). It should be pretty obvious if a plaque is official, and there are very few such memorials in Wilderness areas.
Spirit Mountain is located in the Beartooth range of South-Central Mountana. One can access the mountain from either the Lake Fork or Rock Creek valleys. No trails lead to the summit, so use your imagination. A quick look at a topographical map will reveal several possible options.
LAKE FORK TRAILHEAD
From the south side of Red Lodge, Montana, follow highway 212 South for approximately 11 miles. Before passing Black Pyramid Mountain, turn right onto the well-maintained road which leads past several cabins and into the Lake Fork Valley. Follow this road for 2 miles to the trailhead. A footbridge crosses Lake Fork Creek just beyond the end of the road to join the trail on the Creek's south side. This trail follows the Lake Fork, with the massive Hellroaring Plateau above you on the left hand side of the valley. Where the trail again crosses the Lake Fork at approximately 5 miles (the next footbridge bridge), turn left into the Black Canyon Drainage. Follow this drainage across Black Canyon Lake and past the south face of Beartooth Mountain. The easiest route to the summit of Spirit from this valley is the permanent snow field which leads to the col between Spirit Mtn and Point 12115 to the West of Spirit's summit.
ROCK CREEK TRAILHEAD
Instead of turning just North of Black Pyramid mountain on highway 212, continue along the road for another mile or two and take the next right into Rock Creek Valley (Rock Creek Road). There are several campgrounds along the first paved, then graveled, road leading up the Rock Creek Drainage. The last official campground (M-K) is four miles from the highway, but additional good camping spots can be found along the deteriorating road to the trailhead. The road heads WSW, just scraping into Northern Wyoming before turning back North into Montana. Pit toilets and a parking area can be found at the end of the road. From here, the trail heading up to Glacier Lake is a popular day hike. Continue past Glacier Lake up Rock Creek to its source at the foot of Spirit Mountain, or gain Spirit's southern ridge (plateau) shortly after passing Glacier Lake on the West side of the valley.
Spirit Mountain 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 in the back country (although most people do not bother). You must have a permit to cut live trees for firewood. No mechanized vehicles are allowed offroad in the wilderness area.
When To Climb
Summer 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.
Spirit Mountain can be climbed in the winter from either drainage. The road up the Lake Fork valley is closed with a gate approximately 0.5 miles from highway 212 in the winter. The road up Rock Creek, however, is never officially closed. Depending on snow conditions, your vehicle, and your nerves you may be able to get within two or three miles of the trailhead. You are advised to contact the Beartooth Ranger Station at (406) 446-2103 for the latest conditions and road closure information
Camping 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 in the back-country (although most people do not bother). You must have a permit to cut live trees for firewood.
There are several campgrounds along the first paved, then graveled, road leading up the Rock Creek Drainage. The last official campground (M-K) is four miles from the highway, but additional good camping spots can be found along the deteriorating road to the trailhead.
No car-camping areas are available in the Lake Fork Drainage.
Contact the Beartooth Ranger Station at (406) 446-2103 for the latest mountain conditions.
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