Sunday, October 21, 2018

Can`t resist the larch: Ousel Peak in Great Bear

A view from top of Ousel Peak on Middle Fork Flathead with larch in full color

Harrison Lake in Glacier Park

Pyramid Peak from top of Ousel

St. Nicholas presides over the Nyack basin and a blaze of larch
Katie and her hiking group decided to climb Scalplock Mountain above Glacier Park's Izaak Walton Ranger District near Essex, so I went up the road another 20 miles and climbed Ousel Peak in the Great Bear Wilderness.
It is a 7.2 miles roundtrip climb with nearly 4,000 feet of elevation gain straight up from U.S. 2.   The Middle Fork Flathead where a park trail goes to Harrison Lake is across the highway from the trailhead.
This is the fourth time I've climbed this wonderful peak, which offers 360 views that include the southern part of Glacier Park to Logan Pass and south to the high peaks of the Bear, including Pyramid, and Grant.  Glacier's St. Nick matterhorn is very visible.
My intent was to take full advantage of the larch at the height of its color on a clear day where temperatures promised to warm into the 60s.
I didn't count on my starting time temperature of 28 degrees, a bit frosty for my taste.
The trail goes straight to the top with little let up, gaining about 1,200 feet per mile in deep larch, cottonwood,  birch and Doug fir forest.
Where the trail breaks out into the open the larch full presented itself.  It spangles the Glacier and Great Bear forests down to the Middle Fork.
Although this was a weekend and the weather ideal, I encountered no one else on this 6 hour trek.
The only problem was hard-pack snow for the final 650 feet of elevation gain.  The trail to the summit is north-facing and the thawing and freezing has left an icy veneer.  I left the trail and went into deep deadfall and timber to safely navigate the trip to and from the top.  On the top itself, it was clear.

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