Monday, September 08, 2014

Celebrating Wilderness Act's 50th Birthday with two climbs in the Bob

The unnamed alpine lake just below Pyramid Peak (in the background)

Atop Pyramid Peak.  That's Pyramid Lake below
We celebrated the 50th Birthday of the Wilderness Act this past weekend with climbs of Pyramid (elevation: 8,309 feet) and Sunday (elevation: 8,170 feet) peaks in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area in the Swan Mountain Range east of Seeley Lake.
Ostensibly, we had traveled to Seeley for the Montana Wilderness Association's party celebrating this occasion, but got caught up on the climbing more than the more sedentary events.
However, we caught the Mission Mountain Wood Band concert Saturday night.
If you went on the associated hikes alone, as we did, you had one heck of a celebration.
We signed up for the Pyramid Pass hike (11 miles and about 2,000 feet elevation gain) on Saturday, joining a group of 20 other hikers.  The hike begins at a trailhead at the end of the Morrell Creek Road, accessed at the edge of Seeley. We had been on this road before to hike to Morrell Falls.
This is a lovely hike on a wide trail, an easy way into the Bob.
Along the way, we encountered two backpackers who were old Helena friends, Dave and Sandi Ashley, who were going into the area to enjoy a glorious pre-fall day.
We walked with them to a gorgeous and unnamed alpine lake below Pyramid Pass and the Peak, where they planned to camp.
Just seeing this lovely mountain gave me "peak fever," and after discussing the length of the stay there, I bolted for the peak, arriving on top an hour and 10 minutes later, which left me only 30 minutes to get back down at the agreed upon time.
I figured a more direct route down, aiming at Pyramid Lake on the Bob Marshall side of the pass, and got back 15 minutes late.  I enjoyed the route finding up and back, but must admit I didn't spend but a few moments on top, drinking in the view of the Bob Marshall to the east and the Mission Mountains across the valley to the west.
The race to get up and back expanded my day to 13.5 miles and 3,700 feet of elevation gain.
That speed-trip really tired me.
Everyone headed back down, stuffing themselves with the copious huckleberries along the length of the trail.
Nearing the top of Sunday Mountain on the Swan Crest
I enjoyed the organized hike up Sunday Mountain on Sunday even more.
The access is up the Morrell/Clearwater Road about a dozen miles north of Seeley.  It begins on the "Swan Crest Trail," really an old logging road that is being reclaimed into a hiking trail on the side of Mount Richmond.  The views of the Swan Crest itself, are outstanding.
In less than 2 miles there's a trail junction for an unofficial climber's trail up Sunday Mountain.  The final 1.3 miles or so, shoots up steeply some 1,600 feet, traveling through a couple of moderately exposed cliffs to the "pass" below Sunday Mountain.
It is a short walk to the top of this grassy topped peak.
It really seems as though the much higher adjacent and unnamed peak (and more difficult peak to climb) to the north should be the designated mountain, but hey, I'll take Sunday Peak as it is.
Katie working her way off Sunday Peak
The views of this end of the Bob are gorgeous, as well as the Mission Mountains to the west.
Our leader, Karen Pratt, explained the significance of the climb ---- to show off Grizzly Basin to the southwest below us that is one of the candidate areas for addition to the Bob Marshall in U.S. Jon Tester's wilderness and logging bill pending in Congress.
It has become very clear to me that the east and west entrances to the Bob Marshall are some of the most beautiful of the wilderness country, although they are not officially designated "wilderness."
I saw that on a recent trip through the Bob, when I was blown away by the Rocky Mountain Front on the east and the country to the west of the Swan Crest.
Happy 50th Birthday Wilderness Act!
Happy 50th Birthday Bob Marshall Wilderness!

Click on this link to see details of the Sunday Mountain climb: Sunday Mountain climb

I've circled Sunday Mountain to the north and Pyramid Peak to the south to give an idea about their relationship n the Swan Crest

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