Monday, June 21, 2004

Crooked rather than Drewyer

Approaching top of Crooked Mountain in Middle Fork Birch Creek drainage

Stephany Porter wades a cold Middle Fork Birch Creek
The cool, wet weather last weekend made outdoor recreation quite a challenge and postponed one of my big goals of the summer --- climbing out all the Rocky Mountain Front-Bob Marshall Wilderness peaks named for members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition party.
Our goal last Saturday was to climb Mount Drewyer in the Bob just west of Swift Dam.
When we arrived at the trailhead a thick cloud cover and rain shrouded the peak. When it lifted we discovered the peak was covered with fresh snow.
Our group decided we wouldn’t let the rain stop us and we proceeded up the trail, which traverses around Swift Dam.
This is a lovely area west of Dupuyer where the Bob Marshall comes out nearly to the Great Plains. The area has some striking mountains like Walling Reef and Mounts Richmond and Sentinel, which most prominently front the area just above the Swift Reservoir. The reservoir itself has an otherworldly blue/green milky look to it.
To reach the mountain base we had to ford the Middle Fork of Birch Creek, which was thigh-deep and icy-cold.
The wildflowers were at their peak and we were treated to a special treat with a number of patches of the white-yellow orchid ladyslippers.
Coming up the surprisingly broad Middle Fork valley lined up in a row behind Walling Reef were named mountains like Hurricane and Crooked just in front of Drewyer. On the horizon was another Lewis and Clark Expedition-named mountain --- Mount Fields, snow-covered and looming above all.
Since we had lost so much time waiting out the rain, we decided to forego Drewyer and climb Crooked Mountain in front of it instead. We figured it was closer and nearly 1,000 feet lower than Drewyer and more manageable on this shortened day trip. Drewyer could wait for another trip, perhaps one in which we could climb Fields at the same time.
Crooked is so named because of the crooked rock in its eastern face. It has a nice pointed cap but otherwise was a simple approach from its northwest flank. The scree reminded me of Sawtooth Mountain in the Sun Canyon, the top like Great Northern near West Glacier.
From the top you realize you are in the middle of a large bowl of mountains. The Front to the east, the Continental Divide to the west, the Badger-Two Medicine with its Indian-named mountains to the north, and the Bob Marshall peaks and valleys to the south. As if to taunt us from the west, Mount Drewyer loomed within easy striking distance. But that is for another trip.
We traversed off the mountain to the east, breaking our way down through a large limestone band of cliffs, descending to the South Fork of Birch Creek.
It was getting late, so we barreled out the Middle Fork, and were treated to a fantastic sunset over a mirror-calm Swift Reservoir.
We arrived back at our car at 9:30 p.m., about 12 hours after we had started our hike.
But if the day started stormily, it ended calmly and on a high note as we passed by a herd of mother-elk and calves right near the campground.

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