Take two.
I learned of the Headquarters Pass – Our Lake traverse from Tom Kotynski, the guru of hiking in the Great Falls area and author of Discover the Rocky Mountain Front – a book that I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of. The traverse is one that Tom does almost every year, so I knew it must be special. My friend John and I tried it in mid-July but winds on the ridge were insane (we couldn’t stand up), so we turned back. With time running out on summer vacation, I recruited John and another friend (Murray) to try it again this past Wednesday (8/5/20). We picked a perfect weather day – the temperatures were in the 70’s and there was no wind, which is rare on the Rocky Mountain Front – the hike was outstanding! There was a nice variety conditions (some challenging), beautiful water features, and great scenery from start to finish. Like Kotynski, I will definitely do this one again.

Traverse: to walk across or through.
The three of us left Helena at 6 am, made the 130-mile drive to the trailhead west of Choteau, and started hiking at 7:50 am. For the first 3.5 miles we walked the trail (#165) along the South Fork of the Teton River up to Headquarters Pass, where we began our off-trail traverse over to another trail at Our Lake. The most interesting part of the traverse was scrambling several hundred feet up to a ridge north of Headquarters Pass. From there John and I continued along the ridge to the summit of the unnamed peak, while Murray side-hilled around to a grassy pass – no extra credit for him! In fairness Murray had to work the next day – John and I did not. 🙂 We joined Murray at the pass for lunch and then the three of us climbed another, slightly higher unnamed peak west of the pass, before making our way down to the lake. I’ve included maps in the photo tour.

Like ’em scrambled?
We couldn’t resist the urge to take a dip in Our Lake (sometimes called Hidden Lake) before getting back on the trail (#184) that returned us to the the car. John, Murray, and I agreed this was an outstanding adventure – of course it helped to have perfect weather and the camaraderie of friends who don’t mind a fair amount of scrambling. With the side-trips to the two unnamed peaks, the trek ended up being 8.8 miles. We got back to Helena at 5:30 pm that evening. Check out the Photo Tour, and be sure to read the captions. Happy trails (and traverses)!

Below: This map marks hikes that have been featured on bigskywalker.com so far, including several others along the Rocky Mountain Front – Select full screen to expand, zoom in for more detail, or click on a marker for a link to the post.