Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sawtooth --- Hertenstein route

Mark Hertenstein leads his special Sawtooth route

Jim Heckel

Paul Haffeman in scree field

Nearing the top of Sawtooth

Jim Heckel takes the Class 4 step

Mark Hertenstein, Jim Heckel, Paul Haffeman below Sawtooth North
I love to climb Sawtooth Mountain in the Front west of Augusta. I think I’ve done it at least eight times.
It offers great elevation gain, some 3,400 feet; some challenge, a tricky Class 4 move across an exposed ledge near the top; tremendous views of Castle Reef, the Scapegoat and Bob Marshall wilderness areas, and Gibson Reservoir; and finally, it is one of the most prominent features on the Front visible from the Great Falls. I think of Sawtooth as a Great Falls symbol.
What made our trip Saturday more special was a new route explored by Mark Hertenstein a couple of years ago.
It involves going to the severe east face of the mountain and wrapping around to the mountain’s north ridge by going underneath the 1,000 foot cliffs and spires.
It is a far more interesting climb than the standard route from the west side up ridges from the Agropyron Flats.
The flowers were out in profusion and the grass greener than green.
About the only down side of the climb was coming across the many hunters’ blinds constructed above elk migration routes because this area sits at crossroads of the Sun River Game Range and the Bob Marshall. An immense herd of elk crosses through to winter on the game range and return to the Bob each summer.
We climbed the North Peak, one of four prominent peaks on the Sawtooth. This one is 8,135 feet, some 44 feet shorter than the highest point on the ridge.
The views from the top are exceptional. It is always a shock to look south and see the other three points on the ridge rising so starkly and sharply.
We took a different route down, completing the traverse, heading down the large gully at the bottom of the first large saddle on the mostly northerly east-west ridge. Here we found a large scree chute that was like an escalator, taking us rapidly down 1,200 feet without much effort.
We hiked down to the main Home Gulch trail where we encountered the hunters’ blinds and back to Sun Canyon Lodge.
It was a toasty 80 degrees when we finished, more a summer than spring-like hike.

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