Saturday, August 20, 2011

Red Mountain, high summer, high point

Red Mountain has its name for good reason

This Pica was nested on top, a sort of King of the Hill

On top of the world!

Brightly colored lupine along the route
Red Mountain is the highest point not only in the Scapegoat Wilderness Area at 9,411 feet, but also the Bob Marshall Complex of wilderness areas that includes the contiguous Bob Marshall and Great Bear areas.
It makes for an enticing target for Montana peak baggers not only because of its height but because it is so easy to climb.
Pick a ridge and walk up this "roller" not far from the Continental Divide.
By contrast, the third tallest peak in the complex, Holland Peak in the Swans, is 9,356 feet, and has a challenging approach to its summit cap, and the second highest peak, Rocky in the Front is 9,392 feet involves some use of the hands and more than 4,000 feet vertical.
I've climbed Red five times from three different aspects and on Friday did a traverse from east to west.
It was a perfect summer day with temperatures on the peak in the 60s and a clear blue sky except on the northern-most horizon where fires in the Bob were smudging the north vistas.
Otherwise I figured we could see the Rattlesnake and Bitterroot mountain ranges near Missoula, the mighty Mission Mountains, the Flint Creeks, Belts, and even portions of the Tobacco Roots.
It was fun to look deep into the Scapegoat and the Swan Range and see the Front mountains.
Red Mountain has a scarlet red peak, of course, but also a blonde peak almost 200 feet lower.
I was surprised we saw no wildlife but an aggressive pica at the top of Red Mountain.  Grizzlies had churned up huge stretches of the mountain.
I hadn't traversed the mountain before, so this was a good exercise.
It was the first time I had climbed it since fire roared through the Red Creek bottom, which uncovered the traces of an old road, which made climbing easier at the bottom.
There was no getting around the slog up the burned southwest facing flank of Red Creek, nor the downed timber and steep descent down a ridgeline to Copper Creek.
There were huge huckleberries to compensate, somewhat.
This traverse will be on my list of "must do" walk throughs.

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