Getting to the Trailhead
My Climbing partner, Eddie Marshal, and I left Bozeman, MT at arround 12:00pm and drove on I-90 for a about 100 miles to Columbus and took a right (or turned south)on Hwy 78. Around 18 Miles take a right on Nye Rd then a few more miles is the small town of Fishtail and the last place to stop for food. We stopped at the Fishtail General Store that offered quite a bit even a few camping neccessities. Drive west out of the town on Nye Rd. The road takes a large bend to the left (south) then it takes another large bend and on this bend is West Rosebud Rd (it is easy to miss) we took a left on it. Then a couple more miles before we took a left on West Rosebud Lake Rd. This last part is roughly 14 miles, however because the gravel road was in such poor conditions it took us an hour to reach the trailhead. The parking is about 200 ft or so from the actual trailhead at West Rosebud which is just passed the power company facility for the hydroelectric dam at mystic lake
Our starting point Mystic Lake Trailhead 6,558 ft
We began our journey at around a quarter to four. (really late if you want a decent basecamp) It was a beautiful day and the sights were amazing.
It took us an hour to reach Mystic Lake around 3 miles in with a few easy switchbacks reaching an elevation of 7669 ft. The dam and aqueduct were some interesting scenery along the way, and the lake was spectacular.
We continued for another hour along the length of Mystic Lake for another 3 miles taking a little under an hour to a small bridge and then continued unknownly missing the turnoff for Avalanche Lake. We backtracked a little ways and started to climb up the hillside to the south along Huckleberry Creek. It had a few steep elevation gains before reaching a small body of water, Huckleberry Lake. We decided to continue the trail became much more obvious and had some mild walking and some boulder hopping before hitting more intense elevation gain as we were within range of Princess Lake. At around 7:30 we reached Princess Lake at 9,170 ft and as it the light was waning we decided to camp at a very nice spot just north of the water.
Princess Lake in the Morning
We started up the next morning around 8:00 am leaving our larger packs along with our tent behind, deciding to go as light as possible. Not really knowing we had a choice we (unfortunately) took the route that led us up the side of a waterfall (that seem like it would be spectacular earlier in the year) to the Snowball Lakes and inadvertently increased our mileage by over a mile (I would suggest taking the route to Cold Lake instead). As we passed the Snowball Lakes we saw a peak that we originally thought was Granite, but soon figured out it could not be once Spire Tower came into view. After much boulder hopping and traversing through short intertwined pine bushes called Krumholz, we reached the northern end of Avalanche lake at around 11:00am.
Boulders at the north end of Avalanche Lake
Then came one of the more strenous tasks we encountered---climbing ontop of a boulder field that was about a 50-60 foot ascent and had boulders ranging from basketball sizes to car sized chunks of rock with crevasses that could put a damper in your day.
It took us nearly a half hour to climb the rock field and reach the south side of the lake at 9800 ft. Then the most physically demanding part of the trip, next to the actual ascent, was climbing up the couloir to the Bivouac Saddle at 11,450 ft. It took us an hour and fifteen minutes, putting us at 12:45pm (it was quite a bit later than we had anticipated, because we had gotten such a late start the previous day)
Once at the saddle my climbing partner decided he had had enough for the day, so I decided to go on alone. The snow bridge was non-existent so I left behind my ice axe, as well as various other pieces of gear I had brought just in case. I had my small hydration pack and a camera and took off up the ridge. Instead of climbing directly along the edge of the ridge I descended a short ways down the southern side, which was quite difficult because of the relatively steep incline and the lack of good footing with dirt and loose gravel over numerous rocks, however nothing technical.
The Snow Bridge was about six feet across with no snow except a ways down the north face. I began climbing the chimney to the southwest of the snow bridge and continued over a large hump in the ridge that put me more on the south face before dipping down once more and climbing along the face following cairns to the best of my ability. The summit was definitely challenging and if you get off of route you can find yourself with some interesting low class 5 moves. Once the keyhole is spotted it marks the final large vertical ascent, however once you are one the face of the vertical the keyhole feature is no longer visible and it is all guess work from there. I reached 12,799 ft at 2:00pm took in the beautiful sights, took some pictures and then started my decent.
We continued down the mountain reached our camp at Princess Lake at 7pm and the trailhead at 10:15
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