Friday, May 26, 2017

It's time for Central Montana Island Ranges

Katie approaches the top of Gold Butte in the Sweetgrass Hills. That's West Butte in the distance

Gold Butte in the background.  Lots of wildflowers. 
Visiting where the 13 Forest Service smokejumpers died in Mann Gulch in 1949

Climbing what is our best guess is where two of the Mann Gulch survivors fled to safety

Crown Butte hoodoos on a glorious day

Still some snow on Highwood Baldy.
I've never been to Ireland to check it out, but I can't imagine that that Emerald Isle is any greener than we are in Montana during this wet Spring.
That has kept me anchored in Central Montana and its Island Ranges where in the past week I've made trips to the Highwood Mountains for the Center Ridge hike, a climb of Gold Butte in the Sweetgrass Hills, another tour of Mann Gulch via the Beartooth Game Range and Gates of the Mountains Wilderness, a climb through a new cleft in Crown Butte near Simms, and a foray into the Little Belts.
Our off-trail Mann Gulch hike followed a ridgeline directly above the junction of Willow and Elkhorn creeks.  As we've done in the past, we tried to located where smokejumper survivors Rumsey and Salee survived the 1949 fire by climbing through a tight opening in the ridgeline, where below 13 other smokejumpers died.  We used Norman MacLean's authoritative account of the fire disaster, "Young Men and Fire" as our guide to examining the gap.
Yeah, that's lots of trips.  The gorgeous weather and clear skies make me crazy if I hang around the house.  This past, rough winter plays a factor, too, propelling me into the mountains as often as I can get there.
All of these trips I've taken many times before and reported here, so I won't repeat them.
In the upper left hand part of this blog you can simply enter the search words like Highwoods, Gold Butte, Mann Gulch and you'll find descriptions.
The ticks don't seem to be as omnipresent as they have been in weeks past, which is a relief.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Wildflower display before expected Spring storm

From the top of Rodgers Peak on the east side of Rogers Pass 
First Indian Paintbrush of the year

Lots of glacier lilies means the snow has just left

Blue Forget-Me-Nots, Pink Douglasia alpine flowers

Trying to beat the expected Spring snow storm Wednesday and Thursday, I went to Rogers Pass Monday to climb to the ridge lines on both sides of the pass.
It is nearly 1,400 feet to the east and 800 feet to the west, so I got in about 2,200 feet of vertical in gorgeous sunlight and poofy clouds.
Along the way I was treated to a spectacular display of wildflowers, some of them surprising me because I don't usually see them until next month, particularly the alpine varieties.
On the west side the top was spangled with Forget-Me-Nots, Douglasia, Yellowstone Graba, Prairie Smoke.  These are bright blues, pinks and yellows.
Not far from the trailhead I saw my first bright red Indian Paintbrush of the season, and tons of Glacier lilies.
The east side, which faces away from the dominant sunlight had fewer flowers, but even there the alpines were resplendent.
I didn't follow the trail on either routes, taking the ridgeline to Rodgers Peak on the east and leaving the trail as it opened up to the grass on the west.
There was a lot of snow in the Red Mountain (elevation: 9,411 feet) country and most smaller peaks surrounding it.
Again, I marvel at how handy this Continental Divide Trail country is to Great Falls --- and hour's drive for all this.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Some catching up

The view of the Austrian Alps from where we had dinner in Salzburg 
Just one of the incredible waterfalls in Plitvice National Park in Croatia

A view of  the ancient walled city of Dubrovnik, Croatia on the Adriatic Coast.
We've  returned from three weeks in Europe to find hiking season in full swing.
This week we tried to atone for our absence by two trips into the Highwoods, one into Glacier Park's eastside portals and a Wayne's Wednesday Walk climb of Wind Peak in the Rocky Mountain Front northwest of Choteau on the edge of the Bob Marshall.
Not that we weren't getting plenty of exercise in the countries formerly known as Yugoslavia;  Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina and Montenegro, along with Slovakia and Austria.
We hiked in the amazing waterfall national park in Croatia, the Plitvice and along the Dalmatian Coast of the Adriatic Sea.
And in spite of the marvelous scenery and history of these alpine countries, we felt our own Montana scenery, particularly the Rocky Mountain Front, held up admirably well.
That's Ear Mountain on way down from Wind Mountain top in Front

Old Baldy in Front still has plenty of snow