Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Granite-Taylor Little Belt traverse

Some shots from the Granite-Taylor peaks climb
I like to joke that you don’t climb to get into the Little Belt Mountains east and south of Great Falls --- you drop into the them.
When you drive to the town of Monarch in this island mountain range you descend into the mountains from the high plains above them when you hit the forest boundary.
But anyone who has hiked there will tell you that you had better be in great shape if you want to reach any of the ridgelines or peaks.
The ridge lines are just as lofty as the Rocky Mountain Front, rising more that 2,000-3,000 feet above the floors of the valleys, with many 8,000+ foot mountains and Big Baldy going over 9,000 feet, putting in the same class the Front’s Rocky Mountain Peak, the highest point in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.
I’ve been quite taken with high peaks on the Little Belts’ northern edge and in the past two weeks have climbed Wolf Butte, Barker, Peterson, Granite and Taylor peaks --- with all but Barker accessible from the Lonetree road a mile east of Geyser, a 50 mile drive from Great Falls.
This entry will focus on Granite and Taylor peaks, since I’ve already had entries on the other three peaks.
These peaks are connected by a ridgeline and are east, across the Lonetree Road from Peterson Mountain, and south of Wolf Butte.
I began the climb of Granite from a ridge above Bowers Gulch. The ridge goes right to the top of this rounded, volcanic peak. While you hike through thick, short timber, there are good breaks. The ridge line to the south breaks out into limestone that offer good vantage points to view Taylor peak across the gulch to the south.
While Taylor peak is about 150 feet taller, it is mostly timbered to the top. Granite peak’s west and south faces opens into a beautiful blond granite scree field extending 700 to 1,000 feet to the top.
About the greatest difficulty with this climb is the timber that can knick you up if your arms and legs aren’t covered.
On top you get good views of Wolf Butte’s granite spires to the north and Peterson mountain’s long limestone marked ridgeline to the west. There are some old timbers lying on the ground at the approximate high point of 7,634 feet.
Granite is a rounded off peak, which makes it a little trickly to find the ridge connecting it to Taylor peak. Look for the treeless outcrops in limestone to the south and east and drop about 600 feet to reach it.
Then it is a pleasant, open walk across the ridge to the last 1,000 feet up Taylor peak.
The 7,785-foot top is marked by a scenic cairn of flat granite stones.
I followed a ridgeline and animal trains extending west and north, hanging just below the limestone on the north until I reached an old jeep trail in Bowers Gulch. There are high limestone walls above the gulch, and no water.
Then back to the car after another fine fall day!

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