Montana’s Highest Point – Granite Peak (12,799′)


This past weekend I undertook the formidable challenge of trying to climb what has been speculated as the technically most difficult state high point to climb (I imagine Denali is up there too, but that’s what Tom Turiano says). I was invited last week to go with two friends I met in Montana but grew up less than an hour away from in Colorado and my other good friend and reliable partner, Rob. The plan was to leave Friday morning at 10 am and cross the Froze-to-death Plateau that day and camp at the saddle between Tempest Mountain and Granite Peak. But in typical Bozeman fashion we ended up leaving town at 2 in the afternoon on Friday. This late start resulted in leaving the trailhead after 4 pm to hike 3 miles to Mystic Lake then climb and cross the 5 mile long plateau.

Mystic Lake

Mystic Lake

We put our heads down and cranked out the climb getting to the saddle between East and West Rosebud drainages before sunset. We then set out for another two hours of hiking across the plateau at night with no trail to follow.

Sunset on Froze-to-Death Plateau

Sunset on Froze-to-Death Plateau

We arrived at the base of Froze-to-death Mountain, cooked dinner, drank a little whiskey, and went to bed in sustained 35-45 mph winds.

After a poor night of sleep in the wind, I was the first one up (typical) and decided to go for a short side hike up Froze-to-death Mountain (11,760′). This was nice because we had hiked in the dark and we weren’t 100% sure where to go. I quickly scrambled up some scree to the summit in howling wind (it almost blew me over a couple times) and scouted the route to Granite Peak.

Granite Peak from Froze-to-Death Mountain

Granite Peak from Froze-to-Death Mountain

I returned to camp to find a mountain goat only a few yards from our tents. Apparently, the goat had been there all morning and in my sleepy stupor I walked right past it without noticing. After my hike I was starting to wake up and realized that it was my 25th birthday. What a place to spend a birthday!

Rob Wudlick makes a friend with a mountain goat

Rob Wudlick makes a friend with a mountain goat

The goat was hanging out right next to camp when we woke up.

The goat was hanging out right next to camp when we woke up.

He was still there after we packed up and left.

He was still there after we packed up and left.

We packed up camp and hit the road. We circumnavigated Froze-to-death Mountain and headed directly for Granite Peak.

Rob crossing the Froze-to-Death Plateau

Rob crossing the Froze-to-Death Plateau

Arriving at the final saddle between Tempest Mountain and Granite Peak a little before my comrades I made the quick jaunt up Tempest Mountain (12,486′). From there I could see the East Ridge, our intended route.

Granite Peak from the summit of Tempest Mountain

Granite Peak from the summit of Tempest Mountain

I returned to my group, who was resting near a cairn, and we scrambled down loose scree to the low point between Tempest and Granite. Here we cached our camping gear and set off up a steep scree slope, staying near the ridge. We topped out of the scree field where we had a short scramble to the so called “snow bridge”. This late in the season it wasn’t much of a bridge as more of a narrow sliver of ice 45 degrees steep. There was a fixed line luckily to hold on to, but nonetheless, Chris managed to slip on the slippery ice and was only saved by holding onto the fixed line.

Chris Gold takes a scary slip crossing the snow bridge

Chris Gold takes a scary slip crossing the snow bridge

We then continued to climb a maze of boulders, chimneys, cracks, and ledges to the summit of the mountain. We free climbed the whole way, but it was some of the scariest, most technical climbing I’ve experienced and would rate it with Capitol Peak in Colorado and The Grand Teton.

Rob getting ready for the first pitch

Rob getting ready for the first pitch

Our leader and route finder, Rob, free climbs a section on Granite Peak

Our leader and route finder, Rob, free climbs a section on Granite Peak

Our crew on the summit

Our crew on the summit

Looking sout from Granite Peak's summit towards Yellowstone National Park.

Looking sout from Granite Peak's summit towards Yellowstone National Park.

After a nice break and snack on the summit of Montana’s highest point we began the first of five rappels to get off of the mountain. This was nice because rappelling is relatively easy and you get to just hang out and enjoy the view while you wait for others to rappel down.

Rob on the first Rappel

Rob on the first Rappel

Rob takes a break on the way down.

Rob takes a break on the way down.

Chris Gold takes in the beauty of the Beartooths and Northern Absarokas

Chris Gold takes in the beauty of the Beartooths and Northern Absarokas

Rob on rappel

Rob on rappel

After the rappels came perhaps the biggest challenge of the trip. Our plan was to hike down to Avalanche Lake and camp on the western shore. However, the scree below Granite Glacier was perhaps the worst scree-field I have ever experienced. It took probably two hours to go half a mile where we camped on the eastern edge of Avalanche Lake. That night winds were extremely strong gusting perhaps 50-65 mph, and at one point my tent was blown completely flat by the winds and my tent poles paid the price.

Venus sets over Granite Peak, not a bad way to spend my 25th birthday.

Venus sets over Granite Peak, not a bad way to spend my 25th birthday.

I slept under the stars that night and slept relatively well. I awoke to the sunrising on Granite Peak and enjoyed the spectacular morning in my sleeping bag.

After sleeping under the stars, this is what I awoke to.

After sleeping under the stars, this is what I awoke to.

We started hiking early and “enjoyed” many more miles of scree. At least the views weren’t bad.

Nonstop beauty on the way out.

Nonstop beauty on the way out.

A little oasis we found.  This lake was not on any maps we looked at, but is beautiful and was a great spot to rest a little bit.

A little oasis we found. This lake was not on any maps we looked at, but is beautiful and was a great spot to rest a little bit.

A poor attempt at black and white of a creek just below treeline.

A poor attempt at black and white of a creek just below treeline.

We bypassed some lakes by cutting a corner but ended up dealing with some steep scrambling. We bushwhacked our way through thick forest along Huckleberry Creek and around several lakes before emerging at Mystic Lake.

The Hague towers above Mystic Lake

The Hague towers above Mystic Lake

Rob and Michael are stoked to be back at Mystic Lake

Rob and Michael are stoked to be back at Mystic Lake

We made the hike out fairly quickly enjoying the scenery and the smooth trail. Interestingly, Mystic Lake is also a reservoir that powers a hydroelectric turbine at the West Rosebud Creek trailhead. The system was built over two years and was completed in 1924. Quite an amazing feat for the 1920s, especially the tram, as I have never scene anything like it.

Hydro-power pipeline from Mystic Lake

Hydro-power pipeline from Mystic Lake

The pipeline drops down to a turbine at the trailhead.  Pretty impressive feat for the 1920s, especially the tram that runs all the way to Mystic Lake.

The pipeline drops down to a turbine at the trailhead. Pretty impressive feat for the 1920s, especially the tram that runs all the way to Mystic Lake.

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It’s Coming…


I can’t wait!!!!
My new Garmont Radiums came in the mail last night!
Last season’s highlights…

Sending it early season style Photo: Evan Johnson

Sending it early season style Photo: Evan Johnson

Early season deepness Photo: Evan Johnson

Early season deepness Photo: Evan Johnson

Early Season N. Bridgers  Photo: Evan Johnson

Early Season N. Bridgers Photo: Evan Johnson

No Name Bowl

No Name Bowl

The Crazy Mountains

The Crazy Mountains

North Bridger Mountains

North Bridger Mountains

Evan getting some North Bridger action

Evan getting some North Bridger action

Alpenglow on the Crazies

Alpenglow on the Crazies

Absaroka Mountains

Absaroka Mountains

Alpenglow on the Absaroka Mountains

Alpenglow on the Absaroka Mountains

Teton Pass

Teton Pass

Approaching the top of Edelweiss Bowl

Approaching the top of Edelweiss Bowl

Pat Owen gets some Teton Pass blower

Pat Owen gets some Teton Pass blower

Sketchy early season avi conditions...

Sketchy early season avi conditions...

The little bro is getting deep in Aspen

The little bro is getting deep in Aspen

Aspen pow day. Skier Jon Jay

Aspen pow day. Skier Jon Jay

Inverted in CO.  Skier: Jon Jay

Inverted in CO. Skier: Jon Jay

Nighttime at Big Sky

Nighttime at Big Sky

Reilly Anderson, Beehive Basin

Reilly Anderson, Beehive Basin

Simon Peterson ripping Beehive

Simon Peterson ripping Beehive

Steve Gilson getting some

Steve Gilson getting some

Beehive Basin

Beehive Basin

The crew

The crew

Reilly Anderson ripping

Reilly Anderson ripping

Charlie Noone getting deep at Snowbird

Charlie Noone getting deep at Snowbird

Eric Newman, Snowbird

Eric Newman, Snowbird

Snowbird Sunset

Snowbird Sunset

Dylan Brown, Snowbird

Dylan Brown, Snowbird

Kirkwood California from Carson Pass

Kirkwood California from Carson Pass

Mark Welgos on Carson Pass

Mark Welgos on Carson Pass

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe

Sonja Lercher on Carson Pass

Sonja Lercher on Carson Pass

Sonja Lercher skiing Carson Pass, California

Sonja Lercher skiing Carson Pass, California

Nick Devore scouts his finals run at the North American Freeskiing Championships in Kirkwood

Nick Devore scouts his finals run at the North American Freeskiing Championships in Kirkwood

Mike Reveal at Bridger Bowl

Mike Reveal at Bridger Bowl

Reveal shredding

Reveal shredding

Steve Geiger skiing Saddle Peak

Steve Geiger skiing Saddle Peak

Steve Geiger powder skiing on Saddle Peak

Steve Geiger powder skiing on Saddle Peak

I have to include downtown Bozeman exploding on a powder day

I have to include downtown Bozeman exploding on a powder day

Explosion aftermath

Explosion aftermath

Steve Gilson convinced that the explosion seeded the clouds

Steve Gilson convinced that the explosion seeded the clouds

Ben Kinsella wheelies through "Sometimes" at Bridger

Ben Kinsella wheelies through 'Sometimes' at Bridger

Sequence of Eric Newmans front off of Papa Bear... ballsy

Sequence of Eric Newmans front off of Papa Bear... ballsy


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IMG_3135

Late season epic up Black Mountain

Late season epic up Black Mountain

Pine Creek Lake Basin, Absaroka Mountains, Montana

Pine Creek Lake Basin, Absaroka Mountains, Montana

Climbing Black Mountain

Climbing Black Mountain

Ryan Walters slashin' and dashin'

Ryan Walters slashin' and dashin'

Scoping our tracks

Scoping our tracks

Another late season challenge, The Hanging Garden

Another late season challenge, The Hanging Garden

Climbing Beehive Peak in the Spanish Peaks, Montana

Climbing Beehive Peak in the Spanish Peaks, Montana

About to drop into the Hanging Garden

About to drop into the Hanging Garden

Steve Gilson dropping into the Hanging Garden

Steve Gilson dropping into the Hanging Garden

Steve G. shredding

Steve G. shredding

Rob Woodlich climbs Gallatin Peak

Rob Woodlich climbs Gallatin Peak

Ready to ski Gallatin Peak

Ready to ski Gallatin Peak

Rob rips Gallatin Peak

Rob rips Gallatin Peak

The First National Park (Yellowstone)


Sorry about not posting in ages, I’ve moved and don’t have internet access at home yet so I haven’t been able to really post anything. However, I am sitting at the Manchester, NH airport waiting for a flight after a week vacation on the Ice Coast (sorry no pics, can’t find my camera).

I’ve been down to Yellowstone a couple times this summer, a fringe benefit of living within an hour. Having been to most of the touristy spots and seen most of the thermal features I now go down there to hike and check out wildlife. As expected the scenery is beautiful and you still have fun getting road rage at tourists slamming on the brakes for a bison or elk.

Miniture grizzly bear, this guy was about the size of a black bear and chilling next to the road.  Definitely the smallest griz I've ever seen.

Miniture grizzly bear, this guy was about the size of a black bear and chilling next to the road. Definitely the smallest griz I've ever seen.

Hiking Mt. Washburn with Sarah, Steve and Rob.

Hiking Mt. Washburn with Sarah, Steve and Rob.

Pilot and Index Peaks in the Absaroka Mountain Range, I'm looking into potential first ski descents on Pilot Peak, however, the mountain is so sheer a summit ski is probably impossible (but you never know...)

Pilot and Index Peaks in the Absaroka Mountain Range, I'm looking into potential first ski descents on Pilot Peak, however, the mountain is so sheer a summit ski is probably impossible (but you never know...)

Getting artsy with a dead stand of Whitebark Pine on Mt. Washburn

Getting artsy with a dead stand of Whitebark Pine on Mt. Washburn

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The Mountain Lupines were blooming quite nicely while we were up there.

The Mountain Lupines were blooming quite nicely while we were up there.

Moonrise on Mt. Washburn.  You can see the fire lookout on the summit.  One of only two in the park that are still staffed.

Moonrise on Mt. Washburn. You can see the fire lookout on the summit. One of only two in the park that are still staffed.

We encountered a herd of big horn sheep ewes on the way up.

We encountered a herd of big horn sheep ewes on the way up.

This ewe had a crooked horn, poor guy.

This ewe had a crooked horn, poor guy.

Mt. Washburn.  The trailhead says it takes about 4 hours one way to hike, it took us only 2 hours car to car plus some chilling time up top.  I think the 4 hours is a bit of an exaggeration unless you only have one leg or something.

Mt. Washburn. The trailhead says it takes about 4 hours one way to hike, it took us only 2 hours car to car plus some chilling time up top. I think the 4 hours is a bit of an exaggeration unless you only have one leg or something.

Sunset over Hayden Valley.  One of the best places to scope animals.

Sunset over Hayden Valley. One of the best places to scope animals.