Granite Peak Trip Report 8/9 – 8/11/2003
(Taken from my trail book – I always keep a log)
8/9 Andy and I flew into Billings from Boston. We’re psyched about this hike. Andy is a Highpointer with 46 states completed. Granite Peak will be a major feather for him. For me…I will walk anywhere. I love the hike. It also intrigues me to attempt something so out of the league of anything I have done to date. I am an Appalachian Trail devotee.
In preparation I have taken a course in rock climbing to learn how to belay and rappel. We have made purchases of rope and harnesses, carabiners and webbing. We are set to go.
6:00 pm Arrived at the trailhead parking lot. A couple was coming off the trail, as we were packing up to head in. I scrambled up the hill for any intel they might be able to share. The guy was clearing a pistol and when he turned around to answer my hail it seemed he was a little bit frazzled. He told of a bear that had been plaguing the backcountry tent sites around Mystic Lake. He said he had seen the bear’s work in one demolished site and heard of it destroying at least two others. We assured him we would be careful, he left. We are heading out of the parking lot feeling as if we will be safer with the bears than an agitated guy with a 9mm pistol.
7:00 pm Mystic Lake. We crested the trail into the lake and walked into a strong head wind as we passed through a “V” into the lake area. The temperature seemed to drop suddenly. The view was spectacular and I pulled out my camera for some shots of the lake. The western side seemed to shine in the setting sunlight. There was an audible “shush” coming off the lake and the glow seemed to be spreading towards us. Andy whispered, “Oh shit” just before the hail started to pelt us. We hustled down the switchbacks for the safety of the forest. By the time we had the cover of trees the storm had blown through.
7:30 pm Camp. Suitable flat area is plentiful just passed the trail junction of Phantom Creek Trail. We set up the tent, dined on Ramen noodles and made our food cache as safe as possible hung between two trees 40 – 50 yards away.
During the Night. Awoke to a “chuffing” noise outside the tent door. I laid quiet listening to my brother snore. Decided if it was a bear, it would realize we had nothing of interest and went back to sleep.
Awoke to a glorious morning. Breakfasted on oatmeal. Our food was unmolested. Packed, filtered water from the lake and heading up Phantom Creek Trail. 9:00am
12:30pm Froze To Death Plateau. We took our time getting here. We left sea level yesterday and are now at around 10,000 ft. Lot’s of people on their way down having summited yesterday. One guy commented that Granite looked like an “ant hill. There must have been 20 people on it.”
2:30pm FTDP. We are hunkered down in the rocks watching our packs some 20 yards away. We are too close to them still. The lightning sizzles over head and the thunder rocks our sternums. We fear the attraction of the metal in our packs.
5:00pm FTDP. Tough hike to get here. We are at the base of Tempest in a slight depression. The wind is picking up. While crossing the last boulder field to these little rock walls built by those before us, I stepped on a piece of pink granite about 3 times the size of a large beach ball. It was unstable and rolled pitching my left leg into a hole and rolling on top of me. My leg was pinned. I whistled (I can split an eardrum in a closed room) and Andy stopped. I was down in the rocks trying to free my leg. He shouted, “Are you OK?” I yelled back, “No!” He just stood there. I struggled and pulled to no avail. Finally in my rising fear my adrenaline levels allowed me to grab the boulder and flip it off me. I jumped from the hole. Walking over to Andy I believe I promised myself I would stab him in the heart with my pole for not rushing to my aid. I asked him, “Why didn’t you come back? I said I WASN’T OK!” He said he couldn’t hear me and had just assumed I was taking a crap in the rocks so he decided to wait for me. It’s a fist full of ibuprofen and an early sack time tonight.
5:00am FTDP. Woke up this morning around 4 am. Heard something scuffing outside the tent. Unzipped the flap and a pair of mountain goats, a nanny and her kid, were standing there. Obviously wanted to be first in line for our morning pee.
Harnesses and rope, water, snacks, Gu and descending rings are in the pack. We’re off.
9:00am FTDP. It was a no go. We are heading back across the plateau. Got to the col between Tempest and Granite and I had no confidence that I could make the climb. Strangely enough I do not feel defeated. The mountain will be there. I feel bad for Andy. 47 has eluded him again. He was here once before and the weather did not cooperate. He seems ok with it though.
6:30pm Trailhead parking lot. We are tired. I crave orange juice. Gu is good stuff. Definitely helped me get here. The last 3 miles have been endless but we are here. Bruises on my leg are slowing me a bit.
Awesome walk. Incredible vistas. Powerful storms. Goats, pica and marmots. Glad I could be there. Glad I can be here. Maybe a day or so rest and I will be up for some more in Yellowstone. Don’t know if I will come back and try again. Granite is intimidating. Andy has Gannett left. Maybe I can talk him in to allowing me to come along on that one. I’ve been in the Winds and I believe it’s closer to my kind of “walk.”
Addendum: Rangers on 8/7/2003 put down The Mystic Lake bear. According to the Billings Gazette a “healthy 175 pound cinnamon-colored bear, an adult male, was raiding campsites above Mystic Lake along the trail around Island Lake.”