Monday, September 04, 2006

Labor Day climbs --- Sacajawea, Ramshorn

The slog up Sac

Mark Hertenstein on Sacajawea Peak in Bridgers on a smoky day

The scenery in the Bridgers is incomparable

Of course we’d pick one of the smokiest places in the state to climb on Labor Day Weekend --- in the Bridgers and Gallatins.
We had originally set out for the Absarokas and Black Mountain, but as close as we got was the Pine Creek Campground where we found out that the numerous fires, including the massive Derby Fire on the other side of the range, had closed this wilderness access.
I won’t write much this week other than to say how thrilled I was by sharp peaks of the north end of the Bridger Mountains. On Saturday we climbed the highest peak in the Bridgers, Sacajawea (elevation: 9,670 feet) from the Fairy Lake Campground. We were not thrilled by the crowds on top this easily accessible mountain. But, it didn’t take us long to bypass the crowds as we head north to Hardscrabble peak (elevation:9,561 feet) and beyond.
I was struck by how sharply uplifted this mountain range is. I swear I looked at 90 degree angles into the basins below the ridgeline.
The mountains reminded me a lot of the Rocky Mountain Front, except that they were streaked with a red color in spots.
Our views of the Crazy Mountains, across the Shields River valley, were obscured by the smoke from the Derby fire.
Ramshorn Peak (elevation: 10,289 feet) is in the Gallatin Range about three air miles north of Yellowstone Park.
Atop Ramshorn Peak
We hadn’t set out to do this peak. We were curious about the Gallatin Petrified Forest and once we had walked that interpretive trail we continued above it until reaching the summit.
The petrified forest is worth a trip in itself. Here’s where a forest is buried in volcanic and glacial debris. A hiker can see petrified tree stumps encased in the moraine-like rock formations.
Ramshorn is not a difficult climb, but the views are quite spectacular. We could see the Madison Mountain range to the west with Lone Mountain above the Big Sky resort on the skyline. Below us was the west end of the Hyalite, Porcupine, Buffalo Horn Wilderness Study Area. To the south, Yellowstone Park’s northern mountains, and to the east the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness complex, including a good view of Granite Peak, Montana’s highest mountain.

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