Monday, July 14, 2008

Big Baldy via Dry Wolf Creek

Imagine my surprise when I found skiers Charley Karinen and Mark Fabian of Lewistown in July on top!

A blow down of trees along the way

Lake Rhoda viewed from on top
Big Baldy in the Little Belt Mountains, at 9,175 feet, is the highest thing in sight to the east of Great Falls. It is my snow barometer during the ski season; my hiking barometer during the hiking season.
I’ve climbed it from the road, and from the Placer/Snow Creek side, and approached it from the Pioneer Ridge that starts near Neihart.
On Sunday, I took the long route from the Dry Wolf Creek Campground, 22 miles south of Stanford.
The trail signs would lead you to believe it to be about 10 miles one way to the top from the campground trailhead. The map shows about 8 miles each way. Nonetheless, you still pick up nearly 3,200 feet of elevation gain.
It is a gorgeous walk most of the way along Dry Wolf Creek, which is anything but dry this year. Only about 500 feet of elevation is gained in the first 5 miles of hiking. The 2,700 feet is gained in the final 5 miles as the trail leaves the creek bottom and heads to the top.
A mile into the hike the trail disappears in cattle trails and dead-ends.
My advice is to cross the creek at this point where the trail will reappear above you.
This year crossing the creek is no small feat. It is wide and deep from the heavy snows of winter. I got my boots quite wet. Water is gushing from every possible spring and bottom this year. The wildflowers are benefiting from it.
About 3 miles into the hike I encountered what appeared to have been a massive blow down or leveling of trees on both sides of the creek from what looked like a giant avalanche. I was told by reader Rick Brinkman who knows the area that it was caused by a micro burst rainstorm. It took me a full 15 minutes of fast walking to get through it. The path through this devastation had been cleared I understand, by the trail bike riders. A big thank you!
Along the hike there are distant views of Big Baldy, Teepee and Yogo peaks. There seems to be a bit of snow left on the north flanks of Big Baldy. There are snow cornices on Baldy and Yogo.
When I crested the Big Baldy ridge I could scarcely believe my eyes. There were two hikers with skis and ski boots strapped to their packs.
They had taken the short route up and one of them had skied off the top down toward Lake Rhoda.
On top I bumped into Steve and Annie Taylor of Great Falls who, like the skiers, had hiked up from the road and were enjoying the bright blue skies with their dogs.
I shot a few photos, signed the register, and then it was back down to the campground.
This is a good, aerobic way to climb Big Baldy.

No comments: