Thursday, September 29, 2016

Wayne Walks one year anniversary Buffalo Canyon, Twin Sisters

Wayne Phillips enters the Buffalo Canyon 
The canyon gave us the finger

H.Wayne Phillips demonstrates how narrow Dark Canyon is

We felt a little safer helping Nora Gray with a piece of rope
We're about a week late, but a group of eight celebrated the one-year anniversary of our weekly Wayne's Wednesday Wild Walks hiking group by climbing the Twin Sisters in the Little Belt Mountains via Buffalo Canyon about 20 miles southeast of Hobson.
When you do a hike like this you realize how large this isolated Island Range mountain range is.  Actually, the range itself, about 1 million acres is the size of Glacier Park.  So, we're talking big here.
Hobson is about 80 miles east of Great Falls.
This is not a heavily used part of the Little Belts because access is on gravel away from population centers.
We started at day break and came out at dusk, having covered 11.3 miles and gained and lost over 3,000 feet.
Buffalo Canyon is a spectacular complex of limestone gulches, intersected by other gulches.  After a short walk through Buffalo Canyon, we detoured up the Dark Canyon to reach the top of a ridge line that took us to the Twin Sisters (elevations: 7,489, 7,496 feet), actually exposed bumps on the ridge line.
The canyons are every bit as spectacular as the limestone canyons and spires of the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness Area between Great Falls and Helena.
To get to the ridge we had to use a piece of rope to do one small pitch, although it probably wasn't necessary to rope up.
While much of the day was off-trail, we did a loop by staying on the ridge after climbing the peaks and using Forest Service trails and ATV roads to get back.
Because this area is so remote (it took us 2.5 hours to drive to the trail head from Great Falls), it gets very little use.
The gravel road is not too bad, although I'd recommend a high clearance vehicle, and there are two heavy gates to open and close.
We drank in the beauty of the surrounding mountain ranges on the ridge walk.  On a clear day it would be possible to see the entire state North to South from the high points.  We could see the Absaroka Range to the south, and haze blocked clear views of the Beartooths to the north.
To the northwest, there is the Highwoods, to the northeast, the Moccasins and Judiths, to the southeast, the Big and Little Snowies, and to the southwest, the Castles and Crazy ranges.
In retrospect, I wish we had stayed low rather than gone high and climbed the peaks.
Unfortunately, the foliage in this area wasn't spectacular and not lit up in fall colors like the rest of the Little Belts.  The Mountain Maple, in bright yellow, offered the best color
The canyon is simply fascinating and would offer hours of exploration.
On the way out we stopped in Hobson for a bite to eat at Tall Boys Cafe.  This might be one of the best kept secrets in Central Montana, a full service restaurant and bar with a spectacular menu and microbrews on tap.

For a topo map and more photos:  CLICK HERE

Rugged outcrops in this remote place

A view of the Twin Sisters peaks in the Little Belts

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