Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mt. Frazier on a cloudless, hot fall day

Lots of hard work to get to this point 
Fabulous views on top

Running the scree down
Mount Frazier (elevation: 8,315 feet) is the big, handsome limestone mountain that comes into view at the end of the Blackleaf Canyon, west of Bynum, when you clear the high canyon walls.
The sky was cloudless, clear and deep blue Wednesday so I figured Frazier would be a good destination.
Jim Heckel and I chose the southwest ridge off the mountain attained at the big wash a couple of miles beyond the canyon just before the trail starts heading up to the pass behind Mount Werner.
We were surprised by an extremely hot day. We got on trail at 9:30 a.m., and it was already 71 degrees. By the time we got back to Great Falls at 5:45 p.m., it was 92 degrees.
Correspondingly, the conditions in the Blackleaf were more summer-like than fall-like despite this being the second day of autumn.
About the only thing in full color were the cottonwoods on the bottom and they were a lovely golden hue. The aspen were only spotting color and there was some color on the ground.
Last year at this time this area was ablaze in fall color.
We carried bear spray with us because were were aware that several grizzlies caught in snares in Dupuyer had been dumped in nearby Muddy Creek drainage. However, we saw no evidence of the bears where we were.
I enjoy the Class 3 climbing on the southwest ridge, but we varied from the usual route. We got into a gully below the ridge slightly to the north and climbed about 1,000 feet there until regaining the ridgeline to the top.
As promised, I hereby name that gully the Heckel Couloir in honor of Jim, although I’d rather call it Jim’s Hully Gully.
Although I’ve climbed this mountain a half-dozen times, I had forgotten how broken up the rock is. Toward the top the limestone rock is large and unstable and requires tedious concentration.
As is the case with most of the Front, the mountain offers exceptional views. Because it was so clear we could see the Sweetgrass Hills to the east, the Little and Big Belt mountains, the Front, the Bob Marshall, Great Bear, Scapegoat wilderness areas, and could pick out individual mountains in Glacier Park.
There was some evidence of a fire in the Bob to the south. It exploded into a mushroom cloud after we had descended and were driving home. We thought it could be the planned control burn in the Hoadley Creek area, although it seemed to far north.
Later this evening the fire colored the western horizon during the sunset and cast the Belt mountains in a purple haze.
It was very dry for this late in September.
I’d like to see some snow soon.

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