Thursday, September 25, 2014

The perfect hike: Our Lake to HQ Pass traverse

A "selfie" above Our Lake

A friendly mountain goat greeted me at HQ Pass

The 8,589 feet unnamed peak I climbed en route
Sometimes when I'm hiking long distances I like to occupy my mind by making up lists of best hikes, best climbs, best waterfalls, etc.
As I did the Our Lake to Headquarters Pass traverse Thursday it became clear to me that this was the perfect hike.  It has several waterfalls, the option of mountains to climb, a nice off-trail segment and 360 degree mind-blowing views ----  the Chinese Wall to the west, the peaks of the Rocky Mountain Front to the east, Our Lake below to the north, and Rocky Mountain Peak to the south.
I had a picture perfect and cloudless day for this, and it was topped off by an encounter with a mountain goat patrolling the pass when I reached it.
This is an 8.1 mile trek with 2,944 feet of elevation gain if you do the unnamed peak (at 8,589 feet)and ridge line that descends to the pass.
The most difficult part of the hike is the ascent up the southwest gully that rises from Our Lake.  Early in the season it has a snow bank in it that often extends to the lake.  When I do an early traverse I usually skirt above it to the east.  That's what I did Thursday.
However, the snow had melted out of it and I think I would have been able to simply walk up that steep gully where it had been.
I kept thinking about what Jim Heckel had suggested:  instead of going up that gully, do the ramp just before the trail bends to its last approach to Our Lake.  I've got a map here.  The red is my usual route up the snow gully.  Jim's (better) route is in the purple color.
My route is in Red.  Heckel's better route is in the purple color

This was a scorcher of a day in Great Falls, with temperatures reaching 94 degrees.  It was a cool 80 when I reached the car.

For more details and a map of the traverse, click on this link: Our Lake to HQ Pass Traverse

Here are a few more photos:
Rocky Mountain Peak rears its head above HQ Pass as I proceed down the ridge line

The spring in the valley below the pass

The most spectacular waterfall on the hike

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