Sunday, October 30, 2005

Servoss Mountain in the Little Belts

Nancy Dow looks back toward Barker peak

On top, Nancy Dow, enjoys the spectacle of the Little Belts and Belt Creek Canyon behind her

Down through the burn
Beautiful late October days are to be cherished.
I seized such a day Wednesday and climbed Servoss Mountain (elevation: 7,230 feet) in the Little Belt Mountains outside the mining town of Monarch, 45 miles from Great Falls.
Servoss isn’t one of those peaks you’d necessarily notice from the road.
But from one of the surrounding peaks, particularly Barker Mountain, it is a standout, if tree covered summit worth climbing.
It is most easily reached by turning at the Dry Fork Road south of Monarch and driving some six miles to a point about half-way between Sawmill and Finn Creeks, that drain Barker’s southern flank.
The climb begins at 5,000 feet, so it is about 2,200 feet to the top.
The top can’t be seen from the Dry Gulch Road, so there’s some guesswork involved in picking the right ridge to the top.
We parked and crossed a flat cow pasture to the tree line, where the mountain rises abruptly.
There are two parallel ridgelines, separated by a dry, but deep gulch on this north face of the mountain. We were lucky to have discovered the east ridge that climbs through timber for about 500 feet before opening intermittently onto grassy slopes. In these openings we could see across to west ridge across this chasm. The slopes on both sides are pocked with sandstone canyons typical of the Belt Creek Canyon. To the north Barker is an impressive presence.
We followed game trails all the way to the top along this ridge’s mostly open east edge.
On top we were in the trees where we discovered two geodesic markers announcing the top. It appeared as though the top is visited regularly by families which carve the annual dates into boards used to construct a triangular structure above one of the elevation markers.
We stopped for lunch in an open, grassy area beneath the top to the north for great views of the northeast end of the Little Belts, including Thunder and Bighorn peaks. To the east we could see the mining camps of Barker and Hughesville with Big Baldy, Butcherknife, Mixes Baldy and Clendennin peaks above them.
We decided to downclimb the western ridge of the mountain.
Servoss is a long, flat-topped peak that is linked to Dry Ridge above Paine Gulch and Hoover Ridge.
It is a little tricky finding the ridge on the west side of the chasm because of the tree cover.
We had noticed that the west side above Paine Gulch had been scorched by the Sun Mountain fire several years ago, and knew if we reached the burned trees we would be in the right place.
We found our ridge and the burned trees, and then dropped back to our starting point, alternating between open ridgeline and dense timber.
The weather was most pleasant, in the upper 50s with a slight breeze.
There was a bit of color, particularly in the cottonwood trees, but the landscape left no doubt that it is ready for winter.
I figure we walked about six miles, a perfect day hike.

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