Medicine Owl Peak
On August 9, 2000, I decided to attempt a solo climb of Medicine Owl Peak (8,284') in the Saint Mary valley. I had done most of the other peaks in that vicinity except for Split Mountain which is considered a technical peak. Two years earlier, my friend Vern Ingraham and I had done Kakitos Mountain and Pk 8283 which you pass along the way. That climb was done from Cut Bank ranger station and had taken us 9 ½ hours of hiking.
My first attempt of Medicine Owl was from the north on July 20, 2000 and I ran out of time as well as energy without being in striking distance of the summit. On that attempt, I started on the Red Eagle Lake trail near the St Mary entrance to the park. The roundtrip hike was about 19 miles to the Medicine Owl creek drainage which I bushwhacked up for about 1 ½ hours before turning back. The area is really beautiful, but the brush is extremely dense and I found myself trying to “swim” up through the head high brush at times using both arms and legs to move forward.
Rethinking my plan of attack, I studied my Cutback Pass Quadrangle map and decided to approach from the Cutbank ranger station using the approach I have used to climb Amphitheater Mountain. You follow the trail toward Triple Divide pass for about 4 miles where there is a stream draining from 3 lakes located on the NE side of Mt James. Take said drainage up toward Amphitheater and do an ascending traverse to the ridge top east of the summit. From the ridge top, I angled to the NE of Pk 8625 and then descended to Medicine Owl Lake which I passed on the NE side.
Summit portrait with Split Mtn in background
From the lake, the climb is straightforward to the summit where there are incredible views of Split Mountain as well as this entire part of the park.
Split Mtn from Medicine Owl
On my return, I angled down to the west side of the lake trying to maintain as much elevation as practical before climbing up toward Peak 8625 again on my return. The climb required 5 hours to the summit with about 3 ½ hours for the return. I estimated the distance to be around 15 miles roundtrip.