Monday, July 18, 2016

Busy season: Choteau Mountain, Glacier, Great Bear and Scapegoat's Red

Scapegoat's Red Mountain had the feel of Glacier with its colorful argillite rock and snowfields

We were surprised by a herd of 19 mountain goats on Red's flanks

Scapegoat's high point

This was my seventh time up Red Mountain, at 9,411 feet the highest point in the Scapegoat Wilderness and Bob Marshall Complex.
This was a new and fourth different approach.
My first time, 42 years ago, was up from Heart Lake via Ringeye Creek trail with Cliff and Don Merritt while doing a story for the Tribune about the new Lincoln-Scapegoat Citizen's Wilderness Area.
I've come up the east and far west ridges, accessing them from the end of the Copper Creek Road.
This time we went up the ridge that points directly at the 9,000+ foot tan peak just south of Red Mountain.
Aside from a 1,000 foot gut-busting gain in 3/4 of a mile at the beginning, this was an excellent and quick route, with 3,500+ feet gained in just under 3 miles to the top.  Yes, the descent at the end was just as ugly as the ascent.
The weather was perfect for climbing and we found ripe huckleberries along the way to ease the pain.
We were treated to seeing 19 mountain goats as we approached the Red Mountain summit cap.  Many of the nannies had little ones and they quickly got the young ones down a gully out of our sight.
The views from the top of this high point are breathtaking;  the snow-capped Missions, the Scapegoat/Flint mountains complex, the Front and range upon range to the south.

Marion Lake in the Great Bear Wilderness

First time back in Bear's Marion Lake in 31 years

Marion Lake is located south of the Izaak Walton Inn at Essex, accessible by one of the roads behind the Inn.  
From the trailhead, it is 2 miles and about 1,700 feet in elevation to this gem in the Great Bear Wilderness Area.
In my younger years it was a favorite one-night backpack site.
The trail is steep and fairly overgrown as West-side trails can be with alders, thimbleberry and every sort of greenery imagineable.
Huckleberries helped distract us from the uphill grunt.

Tourists enjoy Bering Falls near St. Mary Lake
Indian Paintbrush flowers in many shades of red, pink, orange and yellow colored the landscape

Glacier's amazing flower season

We played tourist on Glacier's east side, visiting St. Mary and Two Medicine areas, while relaxing at East Glacier Park and eating at Serrano's and the Lodge.
One of the days we took the St. Mary Lake boat tour to view the 2015 Reynolds Fire from the water and compare it to the 2006 Red Eagle Fire.  It appears as though the 2015 fire burned in a healthier, spotty fashion as compared to the 2006 scorching.
We hunted for moose along the South Shore Two Medicine Trail one day, and took in the floral show along the North Shore Trail the next.
There are more, colorful Indian Paintbrush than I can ever remember.
A drive up the Two Medicine Road was a terrific with flowers as well.

Gordon Whirry on Choteau Mountain ridge line

Looking southwest as we descend the ridge line into Jones Creek

Choteau Mountain express

This was one of our Wayne's Wednesday Walks, minus Wayne who was teaching at the Yellowstone Institute for a week.
Only three of us showed for this climb on a fairly rain-threatening morning.
Choteau Mountain is wonderful for the way it shows off the limestone reefs of the Rocky Mountain Front.  It is a long, tremendous reef that stretches south to north over several miles revealing the heart of the Front --- the high, Teton peaks.
The summit is 8,398 feet and we fell 26 feet short of it, the victims of having a dog with us, high winds and general inertia.
Yet, we had a long walk along a section of the ridge just shy of the peak, with a gap in the ridge and about 100 yards separating us from the summit.
The views were so breathtaking it didn't matter.
We got a great workout of 8 miles and about 3,800 feet of elevation gain.

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