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.

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.


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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