Mount Cowen Climber's Log

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guerinak - May 22, 2020 6:52 am

Fun overnight

Climbed via standard route in the summer. Lovely camping at Elbow lake!


freedeep - Mar 23, 2020 12:59 pm Date Climbed: Jul 4, 1984

Several Cowen summits back in the 80's  Sucess!

Growing up in Bozeman, we would ask around, what to hike/climb next? The name Cowen finally was given, so off we went. From Mill Creek to Elbow Lake, camp overnite, then summit and hike out the next day. This was in the time before Mallory's 2nd death, we took along no ropes, no helmets, nothing technical beyond full grain leather 3/4 shank hiking boots with Vibram mountain tread. Had a pawn shop dome tent, and wearing blue jean cutoffs. At the elevation of the upper lake, hiked straight up west face staying close together so loose rocks could be avoided. Thought the upper route was like the last half hour on Granite Peak, switching back and forth. Been to the Cowen summit several times since, by myself. Always lots of fun.


asmrz - Dec 22, 2018 10:46 am Date Climbed: Aug 18, 2016

Wonderful alpine climb-NE Arete  Sucess!

My wife Penelope and I visited the Absaroka Range in August of 2016. The NE Arete was recommended to us by our long-time friend and climbing partner Bill Krause. We are so glad we were able to climb this route. The NE Ridge is a very prominent line as you see it from Yellowstone River Valley and looks even better from the saddle bellow the ridge. The climbing is not very hard, but the scenery is awesome. Our first time in these wonderful mountains, hopefully not the last. At our age, we are just happy to still be climbing and hiking the great mountain ranges of the Western US.


Peaker - Jul 20, 2018 8:27 am Date Climbed: Jul 18, 2018

Great Scrambling  Sucess!

Dropped overnight gear at Elbow lake then continued up the scrambling route to the summit. Tons of fun scrambling once past the small tarn and the final chimney didn't feel too sketchy.

Keegan Millard - Jul 31, 2017 5:58 pm Date Climbed: Jul 30, 2017

Solo of Standard Route  Sucess!

Did a solo 2 day trip this weekend. Left the car at 4:30pm and got to Elbow Lake at 8. In retrospect I should have taken it easier on my legs because they weren't in the greatest shape the next day but I wanted to make camp before dark. There were 4-5 parties at the lake that night, which was nice as a solo hiker in case of a problem because the area is totally without cell service. The temperature at Elbow Lake was colder than I expected at night but the wind died completely around 11pm and the still air felt insulating.

I woke just before 7am and was not in a rush to get going as the weather was supposed to be nice all morning. Around 8 as I was eating breakfast however I saw two runners on the opposite side of the lake heading for the trail to the summit. Wanting to have some company on the mountain I wrapped up quickly and scrambled on the boulders to the west of the lake until I found the gently traveled trail up the gully.

After hiking up the steep part of the gully I came upon the large unnamed lake thinking it was Frozen Lake. A bit confused because there wasn't any snow around the lake I continued hiking farther up and saw the real Frozen Lake from above. There was no way directly down to Frozen Lake from where I was at because the west side is surrounded by 50ft+ cliffs. I backtracked down and went around the shore from the south. Here I could see the runners already traversing the grassy section up on the face. The path reforms after Frozen Lake and it is easy to follow up the grassy chute and onto the face. I was unclear on how far to traverse right on the face before heading up towards the summit but fortunately I could follow the voices of the runners heading down as I approached the summit. I was impressed that they had started from the car that morning! Leaving at 5:30 for a total time to summit of under 4 hours. Absolutely nuts imo.

The sketchiest part of the climb was like many others have said, at the summit block. Its an easy chimney, but with high exposure. I took it safe and slow, encouraged by the good jugs i could find. I topped out at 9:50. The hike down killed my knees and I didn't pack enough food, but my favorite mountain so far.


josephbschmitt0415 - Jul 13, 2016 10:36 pm Date Climbed: Jul 26, 2015

Standard Route  Sucess!

Camped at Elbow Lake. Really fun scrambling and the route is well cairned once on the face. Incredible area and well worth a visit. Brought a short rope and was happy to have it to body rappel down the 15' chimney. On the way up a brief hail storm rolled through. Waited it out and after it passed summitted.


awhite28 - Aug 18, 2014 9:15 pm Date Climbed: Aug 17, 2014

Exhilarating  Sucess!

What an exhilarating climb! Camped at Elbow Lake and did the climb and the hike out the next day. Went up without a rope but was glad to have it to rappel off the top on the way down, and very thankful to have climbing partners more experienced than myself. Gorgeous, awesome mountain.


JLuthanen - Aug 5, 2013 1:15 am Date Climbed: Aug 4, 2013

Summit  Sucess!

Single day push, 7am TH leave time, 9:30pm return time. Elbow Lake was a breeze and got there in 3.5hrs. Had NO IDEA how rough / long the slog was from there really - got up within 50ft of summit on one side, and 10ft from other but without trad gear, wasn't worth the final push. Topped out around 2:30? Lots of picking your way doggedly back down through loose scree on the way out. Excited to potentially come back with fishing gear as both the lake and the stream on the way in look to be packed with trout ...


ianc82 - Oct 2, 2012 10:46 pm

Normal Route. One long Day.  Sucess!

Climbed with my friend James B in one long day. Camped at TH on Sept 31 and started around 5:30 am next day. Summited at exactly 2:00. Intermittent dark clouds eddying through the peaks around us yielded small amounts of graupel. And was somewhat concerning during the middle of our climb. Precip waned quickly though and the sun came out for the summit with tremendous views!


PanamaRed - Sep 30, 2012 1:46 am Date Climbed: Sep 29, 2011

Epic!  Sucess!

Climbed Cowen via the normal route. What a fun scramble! The view from the top was amazing. Did the trip in 2 days. Great weather!!!


musicman82 - Jul 12, 2012 11:42 pm Date Climbed: Jul 10, 2012

Great Peak!  Sucess!

Climbed the standard route with Morlow; I passed on the last seven or eight feet due to crappy boots with no grip and poor arm strength - it just wasn't worth risking a fall and a bounce! Wonderful route and one of the most beautiful mountains I've climbed - it's definitely a special place.


Morlow - Jul 11, 2012 3:06 am Date Climbed: Jul 10, 2012

Standard route  Sucess!

Climbed Cowen today via the standard route, with musicman82 (Tim). Really, really fun climb. We camped at Elbow Lake and went up the following morning. Loads of fun class 3-4, some steep snow, and the last few moves up to the summit were really fun too.


FRhoderick - Sep 27, 2011 11:11 pm Date Climbed: Sep 26, 2011

NE Arete  Sucess!

Great route and near perfect weather. Very few folks in the cirque. Wonderful place.


crathkopf - Sep 16, 2011 7:24 pm Date Climbed: Sep 3, 2011

Good Intro to MT  Sucess!

Excellent climb! I just moved out here and wanted to get a taste of the local flavor. I don't have any climbing partners yet so I was relegated to soloing the Standard Route. Started at about 6 am from the car, 5,600 ft, 12 hrs, 4 blisters, and a casual nap on the summit later I was driving home. Thats why I moved to Montana! Still looking for partners if anyone out there wants to get after it with me.


timstab - Sep 9, 2009 2:03 pm

Standard route, numerous other couloirs  Sucess!

Excellent place to spend the weekend climbing and skiing.


rogerroots - Jul 31, 2008 1:22 pm Date Climbed: Jul 28, 2008

A Great Climb in a Great Range  Sucess!

Five long hours on the trail before reaching Elbow Lake. It was "an RV park" according to one of my fellow climbers. There were at least 20 other people camping at the lake on the Saturday afternoon when we arrived. We decided to hike up another half mile to an unnamed lake to the south of the Cowen ridge. There the 4 of us found a mountain paradise. We camped for 2 nights and had the lake to ourselves. Lots of firewood and the beauty of "Eenie" staring down upon us.

On the morning of the 27th, three of us decided to try our luck at Cowen's rarely climbed east side. One of our party took one look at the vertical lines of Cowen from that side and said So Long. Myself and another climber began climbing up a narrow couliour between Cowen and "Moe."

Soon, my partner turned back and I was left to try to make it to the Cowen/Moe saddle alone. I took a dangerous snowbank route straight up with no ice axe for about 150 feet. I had to kick 3 times to get each foothold and 3 times with each gloved hand. By the time I got to the top of the snow I was scared and my fingers were completely numb. Had I slipped near the top of the snowbank, I suppose I would have slid well beyond the bottom of the snow and would likely have bounced over the rocks below and over the cliff to my death.

Anyway, I worked my way out of a couple of jams and made it over the saddle. I tried to make the Cowen summit by way of the south ridge but was stopped by a deep steep chasm. I finally decided to try to climb "Eenie, Meenie, Miney, and Moe." I only made it to two summits, however (later learning they were "Moe" and the "South Summit" of Cowen).

On one pitch of Moe, I had to climb about 30 feet of near verticle crack by cramming my gloved hands into the crack and trusting them to hold my weight. My learning curve was steep.

That night, all of us regathered at our private lake and determined to climb Cowen by the conventional (westish) route the nextday. We made it over the waterfall wall to the unnamed frozen lakes directly below Cowen by around noon on the 28th. Two of us decided to make the final push without water or daypacks.

We worked our way up the treacherous couliour to the left of the summit and then zigzagged across the face of the mountain, haphazardly following cairns placed by unknown others. We were poor route selectors and ended up trying a fairly steep pitch toward the left of the summit.

My partner had had enough about 100 feet from the summit. He stayed put while I executed a couple fairly technical moves straight upward and ultimately found the ledge where climbers approach the final summit cap from the northwest side. For some reason, I missed the conventional notch route to the summit and went all the way around the cap to a fairly dangerous granit knob. I foolishly climbed to the summit by a route that I know now is climbed by very few.

It was only when I tried to figure out how to get down that I found the actual normal notch route on the northeast side. Then I discovered the much easier route that my partner and I had missed during our descent. I hollered out to my partner that I could guide him to the summit using the conventional route fairly easily.

He agreed to try it by the easier route (which was occasionally marked with cairns). The two of us summited at around 3:00 p.m.--my second summit of Cowen in one hour.

--Roger Roots, Livingston, Montana


wyomtman - Dec 12, 2007 4:17 pm Date Climbed: Aug 7, 2004

Looong Day!  Sucess!

Northeast arĂȘte, car to car with my good friend Rob. The story of is adventure is best told around a camp fire. Beautiful cirque with a life time of climbs. Highly recomemded!


CBakwin - Jul 17, 2006 1:42 pm Date Climbed: Jul 12, 2006

Cowen Climb  Sucess!

Climbed this on a BEAUTIFUL day with two great guys from the Trailhead RT 12 hours.

Zac Finley

Zac Finley - Feb 21, 2006 7:22 pm Date Climbed: Jun 27, 2005

Just to Elbow Lake  Sucess!

I'm not sure if I should be signing the "climber's log" especially since I didn't even intend to climb Cowen in the first place. I made the hike solely to reach Elbow Lake, not really even knowing that Mount Cowen towered right above its banks. Although I had to make the trek alone, just the hike to Elbow Lake was wonderful. The spring time wild flower dominated the trail. It took me just over 4 hours to reach Elbow Lake from the trailhead. I spent a couple hours wondering around the lake. I plan on making the trip up again next summer, but hopefully making it an overnighter with a climb up Mount Cowen as well.

tristan_mt - Jul 23, 2004 12:41 am

Route Climbed: Standard Route Date Climbed: July 21, 2004  Sucess!

The day started off perfect, and the weather held. We started from the trailhead at about 8 o'clock and made it to Elbow by about 12. We made the decision to try to camp at the upper lake (above 10,000 FT) to increase our chances on making it to the top.

When we finally made the 1,500 foot scramble to the upper lake, we decided that the weather was holding perfectly and to make a shot at the summit. We made our way above the "pond above the upper lake," keeping to the left side. Above there, there is a noticeable chute that drops down toward the pond. We followed the chute knowing that the true summit was directly above.

We topped out on the ridge, and decided to go down about 30 feet to get on the face. Once on the face it got a little sketchy. We moved across the face, back and forth following the fairly self explainitory route to within 100 feet of the actual summit. At that point it is helpful to move to climbers right across the face. Within 30 feet of the top it becomes necissary to wrap around the peak (still climbers right) to get next to the summit block. From there, there is only one reasonable climb to the top, yet it is surely a little hairy.

However, we made it and the views were astounding. Even better we made it down safely. Then we decided to pack up camp and move back to the more hospitable Elbow Lake. That was a good move. Overall it was a great climb, and got my adrenaline going more than once. Good luck to every one else, and stay safe.

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