Thursday, July 26, 2012

Choteau's a big peak

Jim Heckel on Choteau Mountain ridge line
Choteau Mountain (elevation: 8,398 feet) is a big chunk of real estate that in many other places could qualify as a state or national park all by itself.
There are ridges running into it every which way and its stretches across several miles of the Rocky Mountain Front off the the Teton County Road.  It is one of the most visible mountains on the Front opposite Ear Mountain and it is also known as Sleeping Giant because it looks like a man in repose.
Views in every direction are outstanding, particularly because of the high Teton peaks to the west.
I've climbed it four times, four different ways and I know there are several other ways, including the easiest ascent that I haven't gotten to yet.
I've climbed this peak in every season, including a winter climb in 2006 and skied off its eastern flanks along Clary Coulee and its western side along Jones Creek.
Its eastern face is sheer wall that drops off a couple of thousand feet.
Heckel approaching the top, with Front high peaks as back drop

Its western side is manageable slope that in spots has collapsed, leaving sheer cliffs.
We chose an approach from the west side on Wednesday, looking for a quick way up.  It is about 3,400 feet in elevation gain because we had to descend into a couple of drainages and regain the ground lost.
We picked a ridge closest to Jones Creek just off the Teton road.
The first 2,200 feet of elevation gained was fairly easy, but steep through thin forest.
The last 900 feet of gain is a slog up through open scree that never seems to end.
Along the way there are numerous bighorn sheep beds.
Great show of wildflowers
We were surprised by the fantastic show of wildflowers this late into a really hot summer season.
It took us three hours to get to the top and two hours down.
We spent considerable time on the top enjoying the views all the way into the Bob Marshall Wilderness and as far north as Glacier.
Walking the thin top can be dicey.

Shimmying across the Choteau Mountain razors edge
There is one break on the ridge line that is razor think and drops off in both directions.  Jim Heckel walked directly across it.

 I got down and shimmied across it on my butt.
Your eyes play tricks on you as you look across 
this razor's edge.  The very top is marked by a USGS brass marker, while there are small climbing cairns along the ridge line that appear to be higher.  When you get to these cairns, the marked site looks higher.
There are massive, sheer cliffs to the north adjacent to the unnamed mountain we call "Guthrie."
We descended down a slightly different and more direct route, taking an adjacent ridge that is steeper and cliffier than the route we went up.
This was a very satisfying climb.

The ridge walk to the top

Our up route.

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