Sunday, June 19, 2016

Steamboat East (not the lookout)

This is rugged, cliffy terrain
Steamboat East, the named mountain

A selfie on top

Because Steamboat East (elevation:  8,281 feet) doesn't have a trail to the top it doesn't get climbed nearly as often as Steamboat Lookout (elevation: 8,565) further west along this spectacular ridge line.
Steamboat East is a bit more difficult to climb because of the route-finding, and because of one 1,000 foot pitch at about mile 3.
But the views from the top are every bit as rewarding as the lookout views and make this a worthwhile climb.
I hiked nearly 12 miles and gained and lost almost 4,000 feet on this trip.
The climb begins at the Trail 206 parking lot.  This is one of the oddest trails in the forest because it cuts through private land and is a few feet adjacent to a private road to the Dearborn River crossing, at about a mile.  Why hikers can't use this road rather than this trail is beyond me.
The best route to the top begins just beyond the national forest boundary at mile 2.  It is just before reaching a visible drain pipe for an intermittent stream, which usually runs dry.  Sometimes this route is marked by rocks, but is difficult to pick out.  But, a few feet off trail there is a terrific climber's trail that is marked with cairns for about 2 miles, until it clears a high cliff.  I suspect that some expert from the nearby Wilderness Bible Camp has improved this trail and left the cairns.  I've done this hike numerous times over the years, but this route, which used to be a faint trace is vastly improved.
At about mile 3 the trail pitches steeply uphill for almost 1,000 feet, difficult to ascend, but almost impossible to descend in places.  On the way down I cut wide switchbacks, which though steep, helped some.
Once above the cliff the going is quite easy.  It runs through a large boulder field.  A small cliff blocks a direct route.  Go to the right on a game trail to cut around it and ascend it.
Lady Slippers were prevalent along my route

I've never seen so many spring beauties such as these that carpeted the area below the top
It is direct here through scrub forest and open fields to a saddle between the named peak (on the map) and a grassy, higher peak (by 30 feet) to the east.  I went up both.  Along the way I got great displays of spring beauty and lady slipper wildflowers.  On top, there were carpets of forget-me-nots.
From on top there are clear views of the ridge to Steamboat Lookout, one of the best ridge walks in our area, Scapegoat, the Continental Divide peaks (Caribou and Red) and snow-dappled peaks in every direction except far to the east, where there is the Great Plains.
Carpets of blue forget-me-not wildflowers
I'm always struck by the beauty of this area, but at the same time repelled by the landowners who have restricted access to public lands ----- there is a "no public access to trail" sign at Falls Creek.  This is also the area where Joseph Campbell shot his neighbor to death over simmering private property disputes.  This ugliness pervades the otherwise spectacular experience.

For more details, route map topo, CLICK HERE

The Dearborn, a real wilderness river

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