Monday, July 11, 2011

Ear Mountain and Wagner Basin

Across the north face of Ear Mountain on a goat trail

This mountain goat followed us across the top, but at a safe distance from us

I'm on top here with Rocky Mountain Peak in the distance

Jim Heckel descends the breach in the mountain

Many spires or "gendarmes" at the base of the summit cap

Back to the notch
The July 4th holiday was spent on a leisurely walk up a Wagner Basin ridge in the Sun Canyon on the Fourth and a more than leisurely climb up Ear Mountain the following day.
We were surprised at how dry and how few flowers were found in the Wagner Basin, particularly after this wet spring.  We surmised that some of the dry was caused by spraying of spotted knapweed that got more than the knapweed.
We climbed the 1,000 foot wall on the east end of the basin and enjoyed views into the Gibson Reservoir and the Bob Marshall as well as Sun River below.
Rare Yellow Lady Slipper flowers in Wagner Basin
 As we clawed our way through the thick overbrush in one of the basin's drainages we happened upon the rare yellow lady slipper orchid, the second time this summer we've happened on this spectacular flower.
We also stopped to admire the "Skull" tree where an artist has painted wildlife on old animal skulls and wrapped them onto the tree with barbed wire.
Jim Heckel looks at the "Skull Tree" in Wagner Basin
Tuesday, Wayne Phillips showed me a new and easier route up Ear Mountain basically coming up from the Ear Mountain Wildlife Management Area campground, ascending a northeast ridgeline and walking across the north face of the mountain before wrapping around to the south side and heading up the traditional route, a couloir filled with loose rock and scree.
At 63 years old I was the youngest in the group whose members hover around 70 years old.
This is a demanding climb.
It made me proud to be part of this group.
Speaking of old goats, we enjoyed watching a big billy play in the cliffs above us as we climbed.  He then reappeared below us on a precipice after we had reached the top.

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