Getting to Camp
The Crazy Mountains are an isolated mountain range that offer many different access points. One of the more popular trailheads is at Half Moon Campground north of Big Timber. From this trailhead, the trail follows Big Timber Creek past the lower falls, and crosses the creek several times. This lower trail is usually heavily used in the summer (by Montana standards, that is). Slightly over 2.5 miles up from the trailhead, there is a obvious, and well marked offshoot trail to the left. This trail leads to three lakes: Thunder, Blue, and Granite.
Last summer, my roommate and I made a trip out to check out this area that I had heard about from a co-worker that frequently gets out in the Crazies. We ended up leaving Bozeman at an ungodly time, something like 11:00pm or so. It was kind of a handful (even with a GPS) trying to find the access road to get to the campground in the pitch dark. We eventually got out to the trailhead about 1:00, and set up camp by 3am (before having a few deer on the trail freak us out a couple times). We camped between Granite and Blue Lake, but off the trail enough to not get too much foot traffic through camp.
|View from just above camp, looking at Granite Peak, with Blue Lake visible to the right
The Scrambling Begins
The next morning, we slept in a bit to compensate for the late night hike. It was great to wake up and actually see where we were situated with respect to the mountains, and not just my GPS unit. Crazy Peak's false summit loomed across from us, showing it's heavily-scoured ridgelines.
We pumped some water and were on our way, just doing a scramble for the day to check out the surrounding area. The goal was to get up and follow a big ridge going west. The ridge would take us between two larger lakes, Pear Lake on the southern side, and Druckmiller on the northern end.
The scramble turned out to be fairly slow going, due to the shape of the rocks. Most were not very thick, but large in size, like two-inch dinner plates. Unfortunately, every time you put weight on a given rock, there was no telling what would happen. Several times, we both had a unnerving ride or two, where a rock would take off sliding with us windmilling and trying to figure out how to bail off. We both managed to only get banged up ankles and torn up palms, but the views alone made up for the effort.
|The scramble up the ridge
From higher up the ridge, looking down (towards the east), revealed some intense and rugged terrain that seems to be typical of the this mountain range. Below, we could see all five lakes; from north to south were Druckmiller, Granite, Blue, Thunder, and Pear. Towering behind Druckmiller and Granite Lake, is Granite Peak (no, not that one). Granite Peak is decomposing relatively quickly, evident by the large scree piles lining up under the southern side of the peak. Nothing on Granite is smooth in any way; it looks like this peak is lined with layer upon layer of teeth poking up all over its sides.
Looking beyond Pear Lake, is Crazy Peak (or it's false summit, depending on your vantage point), the highest point in the range at 11,209 ft. Crazy Peak is the most topographically prominent peak in the state, and is also the highest in Montana north of the Beartooth range. All the way around Crazy Peak are knife-edge ridges that spread radially from the summit.
We headed down a hazardous scree rock slope, and started to make our way towards camp. After our day excursion, it became evident a storm was moving in to ruin the rest of the plans for the day. So we thought it would be wise to get moving and avoid the brunt of the rainstorm that was already stirring and unsettling the surface the lakes below us. We headed straight down a stream bed that had been etched into a gully about 50 feet across.
There was still quite a remainder of snow left that had been both wind swept and sheltered from the direct sun, thereby leaving quite some snow. In some areas, it was still about 15 to 20 deep, and this was late July / early August. We decided it would be a good time squeezing between the snow field and the rock wall on the outside of the gully. In some places we could carefully make our way down underneath the divot-textured snowfield and see the creek roaring through below the snow. We also encountered portions of the route where we were nearly forced to sidestep down the snowbank, while pushing against the rock wall with our hands to make our way down. At the end of the large snowfield, we had a great view of Blue Lake below us, and the interesting spectacle of the large creek shooting out of the bottom of the snow above us. From there on, it was smooth sailing; we got to camp right as a mixture of wet hail/big raindrops started to hammer down all around us. When the storm let up, we packed up the campsite and headed back down the relatively mellow trail to the car.
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