Sunday, September 13, 2009

Lockhart traverse in reverse

Walking the ridge line

What a fabulous place for lunch 
Jim Heckel negotiates the knife ridge
The Lockhart Traverse is one of my favorite hikes in the Front that covers a series of peaks including Teton (elevation: 8,416 feet) and Lockhart (elevation: 8,691 feet) on a thin wall that marks the boundary of the Bob Marshall Wilderness west of Choteau.
When I write that there are a series of peaks, I mean there are several peaks on this ridgeline that top 8,100 feet as well.
I generally count five peaks including Teton and Lockhart, while I think it would be fair to throw in two more. I’m not sure about the distance on the hike but would estimate it in the 12-13 mile range with over 4,300 feet of elevation gain.
What I love about this walk is its alpine nature and the fact that it affords tremendous views all the way across to Bob Marshall Wilderness in all directions. We could see the clouds of smoke from a Lincoln-area fire sweeping toward the Swan Range, another fire burning near Holter Lake outside the Bob, and could name the peaks in Glacier Park to the north.
We haven’t had as clear a day as Saturday in many years, in spite of the fires to the south.
I done this traverse about a half-dozen times, but what made this one special was that we reversed the traditional route that begins by climbing Lockhart from the North Fork of Waldron Creek drainage, adjacent to the Teton Pass Ski Area.
Instead, we started up the South Fork Teton drainage that has been a main trail for snowmobilers. It appears as though an ATV had been up the snowmobile trail recently, although it was well-signed as a prohibited use. Likewise, we found ATV tracks up the North Fork Teton as well. ATVs did serious damage to a sensitive wet-land spring area at the North Fork trailhead.
It appears as though fall color is coming late to this Front country this year. Perhaps it was the copious rain this summer that has kept the area green.
The climbing on this hike is pretty straightforward Class 2 and 3, although the knifey spine of Lockhart’s south ridge offers some exciting low Class 4. You don’t want to lose your footing here.
As we bushwhacked down and out the North Fork drainage we discovered some volcanic outcroppings, very unusual in this sedimentary mountain range of mudstones and limestone.
This was one of the best hikes of this summer season on one of the prettiest days.
Mark Hertenstein approaches Teton Peak

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