Thursday, August 09, 2012

Old Man of Hills in stifling heat

That's Walling Reef above me in the North Fork Dupuyer Creek Canyon in the Bob Marshall

It hit 102 degrees in Great Falls on Wednesday.
That didn't stop us from trying Old Man of the Hills Mountain (elevation: 8,225 feet) west of Dupuyer, but the heat stopped us from getting to the top.
We hit the 7,500 feet mark on this distinguished looking peak and decided the heat was too much and turned back.
That didn't stop us from enjoying magnificent views of nearby Walling Reef, Bum Shot and Bennie Hills mountains in the Bob Marshall.
Part of a herd of 100 elk we spotted from the North Fork Dupuyer Road
We also enjoyed a herd of more than 100 elk within sight along the road where we parked the car and then walked to the canyon.
And it just underscored for me that importance of pressing wilderness advocates to include the east faces of Old Man and Walling Reef in the Heritage Act pending before Congress.
Jim Heckel at "Bob" boundary
It's ridiculous to pass the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area marker on the trail and one moment you're in the Bob, but on the other side the equally fantastic high country is not and isn't being proposed for wilderness --- the highest protection available.
I can't see why such designation wouldn't be an additional economic enhancement in this area.
Meanwhile, we passed a new oil and gas fracking rig near Bynum, the large new processing complex in that small community on the Front, and saw trucks hauling fill in and out of a site adjacent to the Teddy Roosevelt Memorial Ranch owned by Boone and Crockett up the North Fork of Dupuyer Creek.
Back to the hike.
Directions to the area are crucial and here are some updated directions lifted from corrected directions in a Sept. 21, 2008 blog post.
The access is just so poor that the area doesn’t get the traffic one would expect of such beauty.
The best way to describe the route to the trailhead is to go to Dupuyer, find the Dupuyer Creek Road in town. Travel west on this excellent gravel road 8 miles to the TR Memorial Ranch road. Head south on this road taking the left fork at the Boone and Crockett Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch and the "Watchable Wildlife" sign, about 2.5 miles of good gravel. Travel west another two miles of again, good gravel, and the road forks again. Take the right fork that drops right into a creek bottom and your first stream crossing. This is where the road gets really rough all the way to the trailhead, some four miles west and three more stream crossings and several gates. There’s a good parking area about 2 miles from the first stream crossing. If you value your car you’ll park here and walk in. If you drive all the way you’ll need a high clearance vehicle and four wheel.
I’ve climbed Old Man four times, but used this North Fork route only twice. The traditional route is from the Blackleaf Canyon, up and over Volcano Reef, down into the South Fork Dupuyer and then up the south ridge of Old Man. The reason this is the traditional route is because it is so easy to drive into Blackleaf compared to the heinous last four miles of the North Fork route.
This hike is gorgeous, but direction-wise, problematic.
Below are a couple of routes that should work:
The slog to the ridge line
1. In fushia (purple) is the route we used Wednesday.  Once out of the canyon look for a drainage to your right.  This is Washout Creek.  Get in streambed and take the west fork, following it about three-quarters of a mile until you reach an obvious and forested ridge line.  Follow this straight to the open ridge top, about 1,500 feet.  At this point follow the ridge to the top.  "X" marks where we stopped Wednesday at 7,500 feet.
2. In red (2008 route).  Same as above except continue following streambed to its source at a saddle in the ridge.  Follow this ridge to the top.
This is remote country that is seldom visited.  You feel wilderness here.
Fushia color is Wednesday's more direct route.  Red is 2008 route.  

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