Sunday, October 10, 2010

Long Peak traverse

Mark Hertenstein relaxes in a sea of granite talus atop Long Peak in the Little Belts.
I’m always looking for traverses that allow the hiker a point-to-point rather than a there-and-back route.
And, at this time of year, nearing the “shoulder” season, I’m already looking ahead to new winter backcountry ski traverses.
I think we nailed one down on Saturday in the Little Belt Mountains.
We’ll call it the Long Peak Traverse.
It starts on Carpenter Creek Road, about a mile north of Neihart, some 3 miles up the road where it forks and becomes too rough to travel. It ends on Jefferson Creek at the Chamberlain Creek junction, about 1.5 miles from U.S. 89.
It involves ascending Poverty Ridge, walking the ridge to the Long Peak-Neihart Baldy ridge, climbing Long Peak (elevation: 8,622 feet) and descending to Jefferson Creek.
We covered about 11 miles on this route, and gained over 2,500 feet in elevation from the 6,100 feet starting point.
We figure it could be done a number of different ways, including climbing straight to the Cornucopia Mine from Carpenter Creek, or taking it from the Jefferson Creek side where it would be easier to find the Chamberlain Creek route.
In fact, we missed it coming down, instead working our way down Palisades Creek, the water source for Memorial Falls.
We had an absolutely gorgeous and clear fall day for this off-trail trek.
There was some color in the trees and on the ground, particularly on the creek bottoms.
This country has been picked over pretty hard by hardrock miners. As high as Long Peak we found excavation holes.
I think this might be an easier winter traverse because the abundant granite talus should be covered by skiable snow. The talus was ankle-bending and made the climb precarious and it shifted under foot.
We walked a lot in heavily forested slopes that occasionally opened up to grand vistas and tantalizing telemark slopes.
The views from Long Peak offer a panorama of the Little Belt Mountain range because the mountain is so centrally located. To the east the range’s highest mountains, Big Baldy and Yogo peaks, dominate. To the north one can see as far as the limestone canyons of the Sluice Boxes State Park that surrounds Belt Creek. To the south, the heavily forested Sandpoint area; to the west, Porphyry and Kings Hill ski area and the Tenderfoot country.
I expected to see lots of wildlife but jumped two cow elk on the Palisades bottom and then driving out Carpenter Creek, a good-sized bull moose that crossed the road.


David said...

Great report and beautiful pictures to go with it. Are you hiking in a hunting zone though, or do you normally wear the bright orange vest?

Tom Kotynski said...

David: It's bow season and bear season. We were in deep forest, off trail and felt the need to wear our colors, as we always do for safety reasons during those seasons.