Monday, June 12, 2006

A peak named Guthrie?

Mark Hertenstein at the base of Guthrie Peak

I'm on top!

Stunning views on the way down
Why not name a prominent peak in the Rocky Mountain Front after noted Montana author A.B. “Bud” Guthrie?
Guthrie, who grew up in the Front community of Choteau, left and returned late in life, is the author of such western classics as “The Big Sky” and “The Way West.” He lived in the shadow of the splendid reefs that abut the prairie. Before he died he became a voice for the preservation of the wild character of this land.
There’s an unnamed mountain in the Teton country that should bear his name.
It is the prominent sharp peaked mountain (elevation: 8,413 feet) just north of Choteau Mountain (the Sleeping Giant) that sits above the Blindhorse Canyon.
What better symbolism than having a peak named for Bud Guthrie watching over one of the spots on the Front most threatened by oil and gas development?
The idea was hatched in a conversation with Bob Decker, former director of the Montana Wilderness Association, about a dozen years ago. We were discussing all the unnamed peaks along the Front and I told him I thought that particular one was my favorite.
I think it was Decker who suggested Guthrie as a name, but my memory is a bit foggy.
Anyway, I grabbed the idea and wrote a letter to Guthrie’s widow, Carol, who sent me a letter of endorsement for the concept.
I followed up with a call to the National Commission on Geographic Place Names, the U.S. agency that formally names geographic places. I was told the various steps needed to get the name changed.
Among them is a resolution from the (Teton) county commission.
I became busy with other things and the idea is in limbo.
However, I’ve actively promoted calling this peak Guthrie, even to the extent of sponsoring a Glacier Mountaineering Society climb of the peak three years ago.
I’ve gone out of my way to refer to the peak as “Guthrie” every chance I get. I managed to slip it into several of “Trip of the Week” columns I did for the Great Falls Tribune.
Ralph Thornton of Choteau has a spiffy Web site,, has promoted the name as well.
I even climbed the mountain 11 years ago and left a film canister declaring it “Guthrie Peak” on the mountain top.
So why do I bring it up now?
On Sunday, despite our torrential spring rains, I went to the top again.
My first climb I used a route that went from the saddle between Choteau and Guthrie from Clary Coulee. I located a route on the mountain’s south side.
Our most recent climb was up Clary Coulee and up the east face from the far north end of the mountain.
We came down by way of that southern route.
I’m convinced the easiest way up is from Jones Creek up one of the west facing ridgelines. However, that wouldn’t be nearly as interesting as the route we took Sunday.
We were faced with considerable mist and cloud cover, that surprisingly broke when we hit the ridgeline.
We could see the BLM’s Blindhorse Outstanding Natural Area some 3,000 feet below us.
Because there has been so much rain and snowmelt the streams were full and numerous waterfalls gushing.
There was every conceivable wildflower in bloom and the entire hike was bathed in vivid spring greenery.
Next time you drive up the Teton Canyon Road look to the north and follow your eye along the skyline beyond Choteau Mountain.
That’s Guthrie Peak you see.
Don’t you agree?

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