Saturday, July 18, 2015

Grandpa's Ridge near Benchmark, Shangri La in Glacier

On a ridge above Green Timber Creek

A look across the ridge heading north

On the ridge top above the Fairview Plateau with a glimpse of Haystack Butte
Grandpa's Ridge near Benchmark --- July 17, 2015

This ridge is immediately off the Benchmark Road west of Augusta, near Wood Lake between Lick and Mule creeks.  If approached from Willow Creek Falls on the east, it would be above the headwaters of Fairview Creek.  It is a 2-mile hunk of limestone that rises about 3,000 feet, but is nearly impossible to see from the Benchmark Road.  I saw it first when hiking between Willow Creek Falls and Fairview Creek, noticing the massive wall above me, and vowing to climb it. It may be easier to climb from Fairview Creek, but the hike would be much longer. We did it from the Benchmark Road from Lick Creek, reached the top, walked its length and then returned on a traverse down Mule Creek, before walking about a mile back to the beginning.  We gained and lost about 3,400 feet over 8.3 miles. The high point is about 8,143 feet and the ridge is pretty much at 8,000 feet all the way.  The route is fairly straight-forward:  begin at the Lick Creek Falls, gain a steep ridgeline to the southeast and stay with it to the top.  The top is fairly narrow and a bit broken, but can be negotiated by down-climbs on both sides of the ridge when obstacles are encountered. At the north end of the ridge drop diagonally toward ridgelines above Mule Creek where gorgeous, lush elk meadows are encountered sporadically most of the way down.  The 360 views from the top are amazing.  To the south and west is the Scapegoat  Wilderness, with its big peaks, Scapegoat, Flint, Observation, Triple Divide, Crown and Sugar Loaf dominating.  Further north, the Wood Creek Ridge (a fabulous off-trail ridge walk itself), the Patrol Mountain ridge, and further north Hoadley Reef and into the Bob Marshall Wilderness, Twin Peaks, the distant Swans, and Cliff Mountain and the Chinese Wall to the Far north.  Swinging a bit east, Slategoat, and the high Teton Peaks of the Front.  Just below, the Patrick Basin, recently added to the Bob, Allen, Sheep Shed, Fairview and its Plateau below, Castle Reef and Sawtooth, the Ford Creek Country, and Haystack, the Highwood, Little and Big Belt Mountains and finally the adjacent close-in peaks like Renshaw and Cyanide.  Wow!  It is quite a payoff for a relatively short and easy climb.  Unfortunately, this area did not make the cut to become part of the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act's wilderness.  It will be protected, however, as a Conservation Management Area.  This country is as good as anything I've seen in the Bob.
Grandpa's Ridge?  For want of another name we call it this because my climbing partner, Mark Hertenstein was expecting to become a grandfather for the first time within hours.  I already am one!

Click here for map, route, elevation chart, photos

Shangri La below Mount Wilbur, an off-trail climb in Glacier

Katie working her way up the cliff band into Shangri La

Katie in Shangri La!
Repeat of Shangri La in Glacier Park --- July 13, 2015

This is a repeat of a climb I did with a cousin two years ago.
My wife, Katie, wanted a taste of it and she did great!
This is an off-trail adventure on the north-facing flank of Mount Wilbur in Glacier National Park that takes the climber to a gorgeous lake in an alpine meadow and then down steeply into Iceberg Lake. A good climber's trail is picked up near Red Rocks Lake on the Swiftcurrent Trail that leads to the base of a steep band of cliffs drained by a creek fed by snow that is present most of the summer. There are several Class 3 moves at the beginning of this climb through the bands.  Once on top the cliffs, move toward the creek, follow it and it opens up into a beautiful, shallow lake below Wilbur's north face in an alpine meadow filled with colorful wildflowers. Proceed to a saddle west and above the lake and a trail climbs to a scree field above Iceberg Lake.
Our first look at Iceberg Lake from ridge above Shangri La.  We descended steep scree to Iceberg
The scree field slopes severely downhill, first through a band of cliffs.  When possible, move through the cliffs to the right where there is vegetation and a less severe scree chute.  The vegetation can be used to steady yourself. Once through the scree field, stay on this right-hand side chute and the downclimb becomes easier.  There will be one more small cliff band near the bottom, but the angle recedes and the downclimb to the lake is easy.  Pick up the Iceberg Trail here and back to Swiftcurrent Trailhead.

Click here for route map, elevation chart, more photos 

No comments: