A GREAT Guide Book!
Over the years there have been several guide books published to help one approach an exploration of Western Montana's sprawling and wonderful Bitterroot Mountains. To make a long story succinctly and easily stated: this is the best of them allnothing else has even come close. It begins (of course) with the cover...
...which is quite attractive, and immediately draws the eye; better yet, once beyond that first impression it is well constructed, with rounded corners to avoid the problem of "dog-earing" from sliding around in packs; the paper is unusually sturdy, printing is of the highest quality, and, surprising for a guide book, all photos are in color. At this point it is only accurate to mention that the heavy duty materials included in the publishing of something designed to last in what can only be described as a "hostile book environment"that is, in a pack, on the trail, at camphas resulted in an item somewhat heavier than is the norm. Not so much so, for most people, as to preclude inclusion on an outing, although if weight factor is paramount, the book may well find service in (delightful) sessions of planning, with the appropriate pages being copied.
Mike Hoyt is a very good writer, enabling him to give us both a Preface and Introduction that are not only easy to read, but well worth the investiture of time to do so. The Introduction, especially, is full of a great deal of common-sense information, such as standard warnings regarding lightning, weather, climbing in both winter and summer, the presence of potentially dangerous animals, but also addinga Bitterroot Mountains specialtyinformation regarding forest fires, then adds thoughtful presentations regarding "Leave No Trace," and "The Ten Essentials." And, of course, there is information on the rating system used for climbs. The Introduction then concludes with two sections, the first entitled, "Finding the Way Without Getting Lost," includes a brief expose on the possible benefits of using a GPS (and a bit of folksy wisdom regarding...not...getting...lost), then ends with a statement of belief, good-enough to be quoted:
One of my goals in writing this book is to help more people enjoy the Bitterroot Mountains. Unlike some, I do not think the Bitterroot Mountains should be kept secret in order to protect them from future damage. Rather, I firmly believe they will only be protected if more people experience them first-hand and therefore gain a personal stake in their future.
But the heart and soul of this book, naturally enough, is in the mountain pages, the descriptions of approach and climbing, and that is what takes Hikes and Climbs to Bitterroot Mountain Summits into a guide-book status of, "as good as it gets."
From "Lolo Peak," the first mountain covered, to the final pages of "Watchtower Peak," this book is a marvel! No matter the entry, no matter the information needed, it is all there, carefully laid out betwixt and between the beautiful photos (were it a larger format, this could well be a coffee-table book!). All entries include good directions to trailheads (covering road conditions, and even, for example, going so far as to note winter periods of back-country road closures), unusually detailed discussion of whatever trailwhether it be man-made or wildlifeis under consideration, accurate information obtained from available topographical maps (detailed enough to note the occasional errors), sometimes with a copy of these maps showing the route, or routes, in color; also present is pertinent information concerning possible encounters with private property, and, for those so interested, from time to time a brief mentioning of historical data of interest.
Each peak, summit, point, or ridge listed has a route description presented with more than enough information needed for a successful outing, even going so far as to include a route "profile," which is in graph form. An almost verbal description for all entries is quite extensive, more than enough to satisfy the most cautious and easily intimidated among us; but there is more, in the form of easy-to-read, multi-colored boxes of worthwhile miscellaneous information. Here is a typical example:
The most-used hiking route to the summit of Little Saint Joe is not a well-engineered trailcynics believe no engineering was involved. It closely follows a ridge crest from the trailhead to very near the summit. Although lacking technical difficulty, it's a severe test of stamina.
Little Saint Joe is a popular mountain for back-country skiing because of its very limited potential for avalanche. This route is a good one for those wishing to reach a summit early in the year, late spring or early summer. Once the snow is well consolidated, go for it!"
Almost every entry has informational tidbits presented like this, in one or two such "boxes"a neat bit of print formatting, having the result of separating this material from the more lengthy trail/route descriptions. But there is another of these "informative boxes" yet to mention, a feature I find most illuminating, and that is a summary overview of what is to be expected on each particular outing. The following example is typical, and continues the Little Saint Joe entry:
Route Type — Hike|
Class Level — Class 2
Effort Required — Strenuous
Summit Elevation — 9,033'
Elevation Gain — 3,138' (round trip)
Distance — 5.6 Miles (round trip)
Lastly, and then I'll quit before this review becomes a book in its own right, here are three paragraphs (once again excerpted from the Little Saint Joe entry) which give an idea of the care and research that has gone into every portion of this book:
"The little maintenance which has been done along this trail seems to end about the one mile mark (6,650'), exactly where the incline begins to get steeper. From here on, there is some deadfall on the trail, consisting mostly of trees which are large enough to require cutting before they can be removed. Most of the small stuff has been removed from the route, so it's not all that bad.
"This portion of the route can be a real slog. When you come to an overlook you'll likely be more than ready to take a break. There are very few places along this section where the incline is less than 25 percent, a real test of determination.
"Approximately 1.75 miles from the trailhead, the trail hits a short, level stretch just before reaching a small talus field. If you look closely to the right (north) you will see a faint trail leading downhill. It goes to a small stream about 100 yards away where water is available. Early in the year during times of heavy runoff, you can hear the stream. Later in the year, it's little more than a trickle but still viable as a water source."
The book ends with a Glossary, and an Index that is actually useful.
Scattered throughout the pages are folksy, intelligent words of wisdom from the author; I'll end with two examples. Get the book. You can read the rest of them yourself.
Let the Mountains Tell You What to do
Try To Tell Them and They May Kill You
This Climbing Guide Should Be the
BEGINNING Of Your Mountain Adventure
Not the END
Guide books do not get any better than Hikes and Climbs to Bitterroot Mountain Summits!
And, really lastly, I am only too glad to report that this is just Volume I. Volume II, due out in 2012, will be of the more advanced and technical Bitterroot ascents. As of this writing, Volume I is readily available at book stores and mountaineering outlets throughout Western Montana, and on the internet at BarnesandNoble.com.