Monday, June 28, 2010

Crown Mountain traverse

On the climb

From the ridge

On the traverse
Crown Mountain (elevation: 8,330 feet) west of Augusta is a perfect “starter” mountain for anyone interested in climbing in the Rocky Mountain Front.
It is a combination of on-trail and straight-forward scree climbing that yields fantastic views and gives the climber a taste of the wondrous Bob Marshall country from a high perch. Its rise is about 3,000 feet from the trailhead.
I’ve returned to this mountain numerous times over the past 30 years.
To make this hike even more interesting and a bit challenging though, I developed a traverse on this mountain some six years ago and shared it with climbing buddies on Sunday.
The essence of the hike is to climb the mountain by its traditional route and once on top to breach the ridgeline on its west flank by an obvious scree chute that descends to a goat trail trace that leads to a north-south ridgeline that parallels the Forest Service hiking trail, but on the west side of Whitewater Creek.
The “crux” of the hike is on the down-climb, near the end of the trip. This involves a precipitous 300 foot or so straight-down drop that needs to be negotiated on its southern flank in deep forest.
While we descended adequately, I pulled the group off course too far to the north and we wound up about three-quarters of a mile off the ridgeline and onto the Benchmark Road, too soon.
Not really too big a deal.
We had one of the most beautiful days of the year for the climb, with clear blue skies and temperatures in the mid-70s. We got stunning views of the Scapegoat and Bob Marshall wilderness areas all the way to the Swan Mountain Range and north to the Rocky Mountain Front Teton peaks. The miniature blue Jones columbine were everywhere on the limestone slopes of Crown Mountain. On its forested flanks we found the first yellow Columbine of the year.
I continue to struggle with being over-cautious on any scree over hardpack in the cliffs, a residue of my fall three weeks ago on the east face of Fairview Mountain. This may take time to overcome.
I’ll need to redo this traverse to perfect it for some writing I’d like to do about the various traverses available in the Front.

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