Lonesome Mountain

Alex and I had one more day to kill in Montana before flying back to Ohio, so at the last minute we decided to explore a different corner of the state. Up until the day before, we had been planning to use Sunday to climb Sphinx Mountain in the Madison Range near Big Sky. Instead, we drove 4+ hours to the Beartooth Range just south of Red Lodge.

We set off around 6:30 AM, and reached the road to the Spirit Mountain trailhead around 10:30 AM. Unfortunately, the last 7 miles was a very rough dirt road…a little too rough to attempt with the rental car. We’d known this might be a possibility based on internet reports, so had already printed maps for our Plan B: Lonesome Mountain. This required another short (but scenic) drive over Beartooth Pass to the Wyoming side of the range. (The mountain itself is located a few hundred yards north of the Montana border, but most of the approach is in Wyoming).

Beartooth Pass

We set out from the Beartooth Lake trailhead and made good time for the first few miles on well established trails. We eventually had to leave the trail and travel another couple miles across open country to the foot of Lonesome Mountain.

View toward Lonesome Mountain, just before leaving the trail

The landscape was pretty amazing; the only real downside was the mosquitoes.

Mountain terrain; view to the west

Climbing the south ramp of Lonesome Mountain

As with Wilson Peak a couple days before, most of the climb was straightforward class 2 rock-hopping.

Panoramic shot from the foot of Lonesome Mountain

We scrambled up a few light class 3 sections, but even most of these are probably avoidable with enough patience and careful route-finding.

Easy scrambling

We made the summit 3 hours 4 minutes after leaving the trailhead, although it definitely felt longer.

Topping out at the summit

After a short rest on the summit, we retraced our steps back to the trail, then opted for a slightly longer return trip by continuing east on the main trail – eventually looping back to the trailhead at Beartooth Lake. In terms of scenery this was probably a top 3 climb for me, personally.

Total distance was 12.6 miles, with 3042′ of elevation gain. It took us 6 hours 24 minutes including stops.

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Published in: on August 1, 2017 at 8:30 pm  Comments (1)  
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Wilson Peak, Montana

On our second day in Montana, Alex and I decided to tackle a slightly more ambitious climb. When conference ended around noon, we drove a short distance from Big Sky to the Dudley Creek trailhead and spent most of the rest of the day climbing Wilson Peak (10,705′).

The peak itself is one of the more prominent high points on the skyline, seen from Big Sky resort:

Wilson Peak, seen from Big Sky

The first 5 miles is a gradual uphill climb – on a well maintained trail – to Dudley Lake.

A couple miles up the trail

Ascending the trail to Dudley Lake

This 5 mile stretch gains ~2800 vertical feet, leaving another 1.25 miles and ~1500 vertical feet of off-trail climbing. The climb itself is mostly easy class 2, with the exception of a 50-60 foot summit block requiring a few class 3 moves.

Climbing up from Dudley Lake (seen below)

Alex standing on a ridge, just below the summit

One of the class 3 sections

More class 3

We reached the summit in a little under 4 hours. We spent 20 minutes or so taking pictures and eating some snacks, before we decided to start heading for the car.

Summit Panorama

There were several ominous storms on the horizon, along with the occasional rumble of distant thunder, but fortunately we never had to deal with more than a few light sprinkles or rain on the return trip.

Descending

The entire round trip took 6:41, including rest stops. Total vertical gain was 4578′. Total distance was 12.5 miles.

Published in: on August 1, 2017 at 1:38 pm  Comments (2)  
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Bighorn Peak, Yellowstone NP

Last week I attended the National Conference on Wilderness Medicine in Big Sky, Montana, along with four other ER residents from my program. During our free time, Alex and I took advantage of the opportunity to squeeze in some hiking.

Picture with Jordan Spieth

As a side note, we ended up sharing a flight with Jordan Spieth from Dallas to Bozeman, so we got to meet him and get some pictures. He’d just won the British Open a few days before, but was flying in coach with his family, then stood in line with us at Budget to rent a car.

Our conference sessions took place mostly during the mornings, so the first afternoon Alex and I drove down to the edge of Yellowstone NP to hike to the top of Bighorn Peak (9,930′), just north of the Wyoming border.

Bull Moose

A couple miles into the hike, I looked up to our right and spotted two bull moose. They kept a close eye on us for a few minutes, then wandered off into the trees. I turned to Alex and said, “You know, the last time I ran into a bull moose this close, Allison and I saw two grizzlies just a few minutes later…so keep your eyes peeled.” (Here’s the LINK, from 2012)

Almost exactly five minutes later, I looked up again and saw a bear.

There’s a bear over there

Of course we hadn’t brought bear spray (not allowed in carry-on bags), but fortunately he didn’t get aggressive with us. Just stared us down for 30 seconds ago, then climbed up onto a fallen tree and slowly moved away.

We didn’t see much more wildlife after that, and managed to reach the summit 20 minutes or so before a thunderstorm rolled in. This gave us just enough time to jog back downhill and under tree cover.

Standing atop Bighorn Peak

The total round trip distance ended up at 12.2 miles, with 3,178′ elevation gain.

Published in: on August 1, 2017 at 1:09 pm  Comments (1)  
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