ad·ven·ture – adˈven(t)SHər, ədˈven(t)SHər
an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.
Into the archives.
I almost made it to the summit of Baldy 30 miles south of Havre earlier this month (2/9/20) but half a mile below the summit the snow was too deep and the slope too steep to make any progress. Plus, I decided not to be the first person to die in an avalanche in the Bear Paws (see link to album below). So, with no significant hikes to write about so far this winter, it is a good time to share my most interesting ad·ven·ture ever; the weekend in July 2013 when my friend (Rick) and I climbed the highest peak in Montana.
Chief Mountain in the northeastern corner of Glacier Park was my favorite climbing experience of all time, and Ear Mountain near Choteau is a close second. However, the Granite Peak trip was by far my most exciting adventure to date, primarily due to a series of mistakes Rick and I made along the way, and the fact that climbing Granite Peak is simply an awesome experience. Here’s how the trip played out, one mistake at a time.
Mistake #1: Late Start.
Rick and I left Helena way too late that Friday morning (7/12/13), and we also stopped in Bozeman to pick up a few things. As a result, after making the 240-mile drive to the trailhead, we didn’t start hiking until 2 pm. Although the hike from East Rosebud Lake to Froze to Death Plateau was incredibly scenic, we ran out of daylight and ended up camping a 2-3 miles short of where we wanted to – We had hoped to camp near the southern end of the plateau where the Tempest Traverse starts (see link to Photo Tour below).
Mistake #2: No GPS unit.
Rick and I rose at 5 am Saturday morning and started hiking across the boulder field toward the Tempest Traverse. Confident that we would be back to our tents well before sunset, we hadn’t brought any sort of GPS tracking device. We reached the start of the traverse at 7 am, and from there it took us 5 hours to reach the summit. The journey included a wonderful variety of challenges, including the traverse, trekking through a snow field, some steep hiking, an intimidating snow bridge, plenty of class 3 scrambling, and even a short stretch of class 4 climbing. It was an exhilarating 5 hours, and our time on the summit was great as well. There’s nothing like being on top of the highest peak in the state with very little wind and epic views in all directions.
Mistake #3: Not paying attention.
Rick and I were so focused on the prize that we didn’t pay enough attention to the route down. We went so far as to print photos (taken by other climbers) to guide us up the correct route, but the photos were of no help guiding us back down – and we guessed incorrectly. Our penalty for going down the wrong way was that we ended up doing several rappels, which are not necessary if you simply descend the same way you come up. Eventually we figured out where we were, and were able to scramble up and over to the snow bridge. From there, we retraced our journey back to Froze to Death Plateau. However, by the time we reached the plateau darkness had settled in, and we had no way of navigating back to our tent.
A Saturday night to remember.
As we wandered in the general direction of our tent we alternated resting, shivering, and walking around to keep warm. We were both semi-prepared (head-lamps, extra layers, snacks), and fortunately it didn’t get too cold, nor did it rain. The positive energy from our accomplishment sustained us, and we enjoyed an incredible view of the night sky. Nonetheless, I’ve never been so happy to see a sunrise in my life! Once daylight came we were able to find the way back to our tent. Exhausted and relieved, we texted our wives to let them know we were going get home a day late.
A super-restful day on Froze to Death Plateau.
Sunday was extremely relaxing. We napped most of the day, taking breaks to eat, enjoy short walks on the plateau, watch mountain goats, and appreciate the uniqueness of spending a beautiful summer day 11,400 feet above sea level. After hiking out Monday morning we took a dip in East Rosebud Creek, then drove to the Grizzly Bar in Roscoe for a burger before heading back to Helena. We arrived back in Helena early Monday evening, both considerably smarter than when we started our adventure the previous Friday. 😉
- Photo Tour of our Granite Peak Adventure.
Best viewed on a larger screen – Be sure to read the captions.
- Map of the Granite Peak area.
Zoom out or in, scroll around.
- Information about Climbing Granite Peak.
Summitpost.org – a great resource.
- The South Face Route up Granite Peak.
Great photos, which we took along.
- Granite Peak Facebook Page.
Another good resource.
- Photo Tour from Baldy in the Bears Paw Mtns.
Failed attempt in February 2020.
- Climbing Chief Mountain.
My all-time favorite climb.
- Climbing Ear Mountain near Choteau.
My favorite one to take friends up to.
Below: This map marks hikes that have been featured on bigskywalker.com so far, including several in Glacier Park – Select full screen to expand, zoom in for more detail, or click on a marker for a link to the post.
This is a great story to tell once you are safely back, but I’m sure that Saturday night must have been scary. That Tempest Traverse looks sketchy on the photos…long, steep drop! Is it narrow? I enjoyed reading about your adventure, and good for you for admitting mistakes. It highlights how easily things can go wrong even for competent and experienced hikers. Wonderful photos!
Thanks, Caroline – I always appreciate your comments. The traverse was actually the least sketchy part between the plateau and the summit. It was much safer than it looks in some of the photos, which were taken from a distance.