Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Highwood Baldy by new route

On top Highwood Baldy with Square Butte in distance

Plenty of snow on east face on summit cap

Drifts at ridge line, but clear until the trees with good snow depth on summit cap
Highwood Baldy (elevation: 7,673 feet) is a classic spring/early summer climb near Great Falls.  I've skied this and snowshoed it before, but from different routes than the one I'll describe here.
The standard route is straight up the Deer Creek drainage bottom from Highwood Creek.  This requires numerous creek crossings.
Since this is early spring I wanted to avoid the bottom and the potential for ice and high water. Instead, I picked a ridge route between McMurtry and Deer creeks.
The traditional route requires crossing Highwood Creek three times before getting to the Deer Creek trailhead.
The route I describe here requires picking up the ridge about a tenth of a mile after the first crossing (just before the second crossing).  There's a pretty good game trail adjacent to a fence line here.  Pick your way along the fence line (you'll walk through a downed fence) to the ridge top, where the route is very obvious.  Just stay on top!
Cat's paws
Because this was so early I had to carry snowshoes and use them the last mile and 700 feet to elevation to the top.  While this is a dry year, the crown of Highwood Baldy, starting at 6,900 feet is covered with pretty good snow.  This route gains some 300 feet more than the standard route, so you'll do a robust 3,500 feet of elevation gain over nearly 7 miles if you choose it.
Along the way and in the grasses there were signficant numbers of wildflowers for so early in the spring:  fritilary, pasque flower, shooting stars, chick weed, spring beauty, cat's paws, sweet pea vetch, biscuit root.
The views are superior to the east where Square Butte near Geradline dominates.  But the Bearpaws, Little Rockies, Little Belts, Big Belts, Snowies, were all in view, despite an overcast.

For maps and more click here:  Highwood Baldy: new route

A sampling of the ridge line route (right side of photo)

My snowshoe tracks

Views to the south west 

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