Sunday, September 11, 2011

A quick run up Ousel Peak in the smoke

Smoky view of Lake Harrison in Glacier Park, from the top of Ousel Peak

Looking back toward Mount St. Nicholas in park
I spent the end of the week in Kalispell at a meeting and decided to reclimb Ousel Peak (elevation: 6,900) in the Great Bear Wilderness Saturday on the way home.
I had climbed this peak four years ago, but my camera containing the photos of the climb, was stolen.
This is a compact climb that is doable in under four hours if you hustle and rises nearly 4,000 feet from the Middle Fork of the Flathead River valley floor over about 3.6 miles through pretty dense West-side forest.
The trailhead appears suddenly on a curve of Highway 2 about six miles east of West Glacier, so you need to keep a sharp eye for it.  There's a road above the river that provides a good parking place for your vehicle about 100 feet east of the trailhead.
It is a pretty one-dimensional climb for almost 3,000 feet ---- straight up and through the thick timber.
The trail emerges on the ridgeline for the last 1,000 feet revealing breaktaking views of the southwest end of Glacier Park including some of the park's most striking peaks --- Jackson, Stimson and St. Nicholas.
Harrison Lake, which sees few visitors, is also visible from the open parts of the ridge.
Unfortunately, the dense smoke from many area forest fires obscured the views with haze.
It took me an hour and 45 minutes to reach the top and an hour and 25 minutes to descend.
There was no one else on this good trail and the last person to have signed the climbers' register had done so four days before I got there.
To the south from the top there are great views of  many of the high peaks on the north end of the Great Bear Wilderness in the Bob Marshall complex.  There are also good views of the Middle Fork valley far below.
I was treating the climb as a conditioner and so I didn't mind being trapped in the dense timber for most of the hike.
The views from the ridge were payment enough.

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