Thursday, October 15, 2015

Mount Barker in Little Belts

On top Mount Barker 

On the ridge line heading for the peak

Looking out toward  Round and Square Buttes near Geraldine
I've climbed Mount Barker (elevation: 8,309 feet) three other times, but all from different routes starting on the Dry Fork Road east of Monarch in the Little Belt Mountains.
This route, devised by Wayne Phillips, is much easier and somewhat more scenic, but tougher to reach by car.
We drove to the Otter/Green divide north and west of the mining ghost town of Hughesville on a rough, one-track road.
From there, it was an easy 1,800 feet scramble on a ridge line to the top, with the only obstacle, a giant scree field, which we mostly skirted by staying on elk paths in the alpine fir and white bark pine forest. This, as opposed to my Finn Creek ridge route that gains more than 3,500 feet, is in the trees much of the way, and covers scree slopes.
The 360 degree views on this trip are what make it so memorable.
On the way up we got a great look at the Little Belts' highest peak, Big Baldy, at more than 9,000 feet, Butcherknife Ridge and Peterson, Clendennin and Mixes Baldy peaks on the divide line between Big Otter Creek and the Lonepine road.
A ridge coming in from the north intersects and offers climbers nearby Mount Irene, which I climbed a number of years ago.  In the Otter valley below are limestone ridge outcrops.
Once on top these mountain ranges came into view:  Sweetgrass Hills, Highwoods, Bearspaw, Little Rockies, Judiths, Moccasins, Snowies, Adels, Big Belts, Elkhorns, Rocky Mountain Front and both east and west Square buttes.
We were luck enough to do this on a clear, sunny day.
This is historic mining country and there was evidence of old diggings on the ridgeline, as well as cave openings, which we were tempted to explore.
One of the cave openings
In the Big Baldy area we saw evidence of recovering clearcuts now dense with pine.
There is considerable reclamation work being done in the Hughesville and Barker ghost towns, which are encountered on the trip.
On the trip down we exercised poor judgment by continuing on the Otter Creek county road.  If you do this you better have high clearance and nerves of steel in the event you meet another vehicle on this one-track that is cut precipitously close to a steep dropoff.  It comes out on the Limestone Canyon/Raynesford Road.
I don't recommend this route.
Go back by way of Hughesville/Barker.

For more photos, a map of the route and elevation chart, Click here 

Looking toward Clendennin and Mixes Baldy peaks

Looking toward the really bad county road we drove back down

Wayne Phillips making sure Chuck Jennings car had enough clearance to get down the one-track road

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