Monday, July 08, 2013

Lots of activity in the mountains

Mark Hertenstein stops for snow for his water bottle off the flank of Goat Mountain in the Badger Two Medicine
I haven't forgotten to post, it's that I've been so busy hiking that I haven't had the time.
Over the past three weeks I've climbed Arrow Peak in the Highwoods, taken the boat ride across Gibson Reservoir and hiked to Pretty Prairie in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, walked the south shore of St. Mary's Lake and the following day Otokomi Lake and topped it off with a three day pack trip to Badger Cabin in the Badger Two Medicine with a climb of Goat Mountain.

Badger Two Medicine Goat Peak climb July 5-7, 2013

Atop the Goat Mountain false summit
I've been fascinated with the Badger Two Medicine Area that is bordered by the Blackfeet Reservation, Glacier Park, and Bob Marshall and Great Bear wilderness areas, for many years.
However, until last weekend I had never been into the heart of this area, not far from where the north and south forks of Badger Creek converge near the Badger Forest Service station.
This 130,000 acre area is remote and tough to reach.  There are no good road options.
In the past I've entered from the south along the North Fork Birch Creek, come in from Palookaville  or Badger Canyon on the east or from Marias Pass into the Two Med country.
I love this area because of its nature as sacred to the Blackfeet religion.  Many peaks are named for its mythological characters: Scarface, Morningstar, Poia.
The wild South Fork Two Medicine River below Elk Calf peak
It has a wild character, in many ways wilder than parts of the Bob.
For this trip we entered from the Summit trailhead just east of Marias Pass, dropping into the South Fork of the Two Medicine River and following what used to be an old jeep trail to the pass above Badger Creek and then down into the Badger Cabin, a distance of about 12.2 miles.
Two Med jeep trail becoming a hiking trail
On the Two Medicine it's mostly burn from fires in 2006-2007, although the fire burned in a mosaic that left great stands of unburned trees.
Elk Calf Mountain is the dominant mountain on the western horizon above the Two Med.
The river winds its way through rocky bottoms through the burn. 
The fishing here, mostly westslope cutthroat trout, is superb.
Because we didn't want to cross and recross the river along Trail 101, we took five segments of a high water trail above and because of the burn enjoyed tremendous views of the river below and got to see the lush regeneration that now covers this area.  Because of the abundant June rainfall the flowers are profuse, particularly the lupine, Indian paintbrush, and mountain sunflower.
The trail, which had been a road, has been closed by the Forest Service  for a number of years and appears to be recovering.  Where there is sunlight, the road has narrowed to a trail size with good vegetation taking over.  Where there is little sunlight because of the shade of trees, the wide road remains, except that it is now pocked with huge mud puddles, some supporting sizable numbers of pollywogs.
Forest Service's Badger Cabin
The Badger Station is located in a lovely opening pointed south along a feeder stream to North Badger where Trail 103 comes into Trail 101.
We used Trail 103 that runs along the north flank of Goat Mountain to connect to Trail 144, the Goat Mountain cut-across trail, to gain access to our climbing route.
I can see now that this is not the preferred climbing route to the top of Goat (elevation 8,191 feet).  We climbed up east northeast flank and came back down a east southeast ridgeline.  I think the best route would be from the southwestern ridges.
Some of the many grizzly tracks we saw
Mark Hertenstein ascended a very steep route through grass and cliffs.  It was not difficult to mount the "false" or eastern peak, which we figured to be 35 feet shorter than the true, or western summit.
To reach the western or "true" summit we had to negotiate the serrated top of this limestone giant.
That we did, but I just wasn't up to those final feet, which were blocked by a wall of rock.
Goat peak from its lower, false summit
Mark persisted and found a steep couloir that he worked his way up, bouncing to the top of this mountain. I was amazed and impressed he could do this.
I can say that few have climbed the mountain this way.
We enjoyed tremendous views along the top of the Badger high peaks to the south and Glacier's southern border peaks.
Our descent was uneventful until we plunged prematurely off the ridge and thrashed in deadfall and thick willow brush until finding the trail.
On Sunday we enjoyed a leisurely stroll out the way we came in, spending time to enjoy the views and the amazing wildflower display.
I've already got it on my calendar for next year to return to climb Half Dome and venture along the South Fork Badger.

Glacier Park days hikes:  St. Mary Lake south shore, Otokomi Lake, July 1,2, 2013

The tour boat on St. Mary Lake as seen from south shore hike
I had a couple of free days and decided to camp at Rising Sun Campground and hike a section of the St. Mary Lake Trail I hadn't done before and enjoy a hike I've done many times, the Otokomi Lake Trail.
I had covered sections of the St. Mary Lake Trail before, which starts at either the St. Mary Falls-Virginia Falls trailhead or the Red Eagle Trail.
The full hike is 15.2 miles if taken from Red Eagle trailhead to the Piegan Pass Trail.
I startled this young bull moose along Red Eagle Creek
I figured I did nearly 14 miles because I started at the St. Mary Ranger Station where I parked my car.  I got back to it via the park shuttle bus.
The first part of the hike begins in the 2006 Red Eagle burn, which is full of great vegetation and flowers.
As it rounds the bend and goes from the Red Eagle River basin into the St. Mary's basin, unburned trees reappear.
The trail ridges like a roller coaster along the shoreline, offering great views of Goat Mountain. Going to the Sun Mountain and Otokomi and Singleshot and Flattop mountains.
It was very scenic watching the boats going out for tours on the lake.
There are a number of waterfalls off Red Eagle and Little Chief mountains.
Some of the Otokomi fish
I'm glad I did this, but would rate in low on my list of park hikes because I prefer the alpine variety.
On the following day, July 2, I did the 10-mile roundtrip hike to Otokomi Lake and didn't encounter any snow until just before hitting the lake.
The lake is always gorgeous with the bright, red rocks flanking it.
I've never seen so many fish in schools as I did at the lake's outlet.
The trail follows Rose Creek most of the way and the creek is a series of cascades and large waterfalls and were particularly gushing because of the hot weather and snowmelt.
The always spectacular and colorful Otokomi Lake

Sun River country:  Pretty Prairie, South Fork  June 27-28, 2013

South Fork Sun River rapids coming out of the Bob Marshall Wilderness near Klick's Ranch
With the snowmelt, Gibson Reservoir, and impoundment of the Sun River below the North and South Forks in the Bob Marshall, was especially full.
My wife and I rented a cabin at the Sun River Canyon Lodge and took the boat ride across the large reservoir for a day hike to Pretty Prairie, a distance of about 9 miles.
I wouldn't recommend these crude, hunters cabins (about $80 per night), but the boat ride ($40 per person) is a must.  You are picked up when you ask.
Solo kayaker near Pretty Prairie
I was particularly impressed by the South Fork and its canyon near the Klick Ranch at the convergence.
We spent considerably time marveling at the ferocity of the water gushing through the rocks and the waterfalls.
The hike to Pretty Prairie, a popular jumping off  and fishing point in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, is through burn country, mostly the 2007 fire.  The regeneration is coming along nicely, but there's little shade.
We encountered a small horse pack party along the way and a solo kayaker negotiating the rapids just north of Pretty Prairie.
The night before we did the short hike along the Sun River from the Hannan Gulch bridge to the next bridge upstream near Beaver Creek.
North end of Pretty Prairie in Bob Marshall along South Fork Sun River

Arrow Peak Highwoods:  June 26, 2013

Route down Arrow Peak
I do this peak time and again in the late spring and early summer for its grand views of central Montana and its rigor.  I'm told the total gain is over 3,800 feet and 11 miles are covered.
I found this year's hike was exhausting.
This was my own fault because I was looking for a new route, which I found, but which I don't recommend.
At 7,485 feet, this is the second highest point in the Highwood Mountains, less than 200 feet shorter than Highwood Baldy.
Normally I approach the peak from the so-called "Center Ridge" trail.  This I did to gain the top.
However, on the way down I explored a possible route straight down its north ridge.
While doable, it is extremely steep, with several cliff bands, and finding the North Fork Highwood Creek Trail is very difficult and time consuming.
Stick with the Center Ridge route.
The flowers were grand.
Too bad the cattle are let in to dominate this gorgeous, small mountain range.
I won't go back there until they're off in October.
Lupine along the Center Ridge Trail in the Highwoods

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