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[TR] Granite Peak, Montana- East Ridge (via Huckle


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Climb: Granite Peak, Montana-East Ridge (via Huckleberry Creek, Avalanche Lake)


Date of Climb: 8/16/2005


Trip Report:


Been a busy summer, so just got around to putting this together. The trip report is here.


Gear Notes:

50m rope, harnesses, small chocks, rappel devices (depending on skills/experience), crampons, ice axes, helmets.


Approach Notes:

Huckleberry Creek/Avalanche Lake/North Face of Tempest

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Nice! I've heard so many stories about people getting caught in serious storms all along the continental divide, but in all my trips to the Rockies I have had nothing but good weather while actually on the trail. That includes the month I spent in June/July 2002 (a very dry summer) driving along the divide from border to border climbing various things and living out of the back of a 4X4 pickup when I wasn't on the trail.


Montana was the highlight of the 2002 trip and I climbed Granite in early July. The drive approach I took to the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness was via Yellowstone National Park and the incredible Beartooth highway that winds its way up to 10K' and then eases back down into the town of Red Lodge, Montana. I took the West Rosebud Creek Road near Fishtail to reach the trailhead and then hiked the 10 miles and 5,500' up to an incredible 12,000' bivy site overlooking the 12,799' Granite summit at the end of the barren Froze-to-Death Plateau. There were, indeed, a large number of mountain goats up there.


There isn't really a trail up that Plateau - just an infrequent series of rock cairns and the weather was so nice it was more like the Fried-to-Death Plateau. I couldn't believe there was no one else up there. From the end of the Plateau the standard climbing route drops about a thousand feet to that saddle you mention and from there heads up maybe 800' (mostly snow at that time) to a narrow notch at the ridge crest apex. Just through that notch you contour down to the right and arrive at that airy snow bridge. When I faced it, it was an untrodden icy knife-edge but hacking out steps turned out to be a simple matter of breaking through a 3 inch crust to stable snow below. While doing this I spotted an ice axe in the rocks way down at the bottom of one of the runouts, which provided an adrenaline rush imagining the possibilites - I still remember all this so clearly.


I also remember arriving in that summit block amphitheater and taking some time to consider the rock-climbing puzzle that lay ahead. Great rock and not really that difficult if you have a little time for experimentation. I sat on that big flat rock at the top for over an hour in clear, warm, windless conditions. This is a highly recommended trip and remains one of my best summit experiences anywhere - class 4 max and I climbed and downclimbed the route with no aids or problems. All I needed was the crampons and axe in a few places, particularly that snow bridge.


I was planning on spending another night at base camp but got down early enough that I decided to pack it up, hike out, and head down the road to the next one. I met several other groups coming up as I went down and was amazed again that I had that awesome place all to my self for a few days.



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I did it via Froze-to-Death Plateau in August of '03. Also thoroughly enjoyed it. The weather wasn't terrible but wasn't friendly up high. Mostly cloudy, wind was pretty relentless, rained a little off and on, some thunder showers. Cleared up over night, kept peaking out of my tent in the wee hours of the morning and started heading up around 4 or 5 am. There were a bunch of parties camped all over the plateau so I wanted to beat the crowd. Had nice weather during the ascent, no difficulties at all, very little snow at any point on the route. Ended up joining up w/ a guy from New York who was a "high pointer" (highest point in each state), he'd done all but about 1/2 dozen or so but saved all the most difficult ones (Hood, Rainier, Denali) for last. I thought the route was mostly Class 3 w/ some 4 and maybe a couple moves of low 5th. Rock was decent quality. There was a pair of goats that passed us going down just as we topped out. Wonder what they were doing up there. We hung out on top maybe 30 minutes, then as we started descending ran into numerous parties on the way up. We managed to avoid any problematic bottle necks. Some parties were roping up and protecting some of the pitches. It's not necessary if you feel comfortable enough w/ the exposure to solo. We also saw a few parties who weren't experienced climbers but wanted to tag Montana's high point, as soon as they got to the base of the ridge proper they crapped themselves and turned around and went back down. A lot of work to give up at that point, but it's probably not the best climb for a newbie, either. Got back to camp plenty early enough to break it down and head back out to the car the same day. Found a better way to cross the plateau on the way down that saved a lot of time. After a while of being up there with the wind constantly trying to blow right through me kinda of wore on my nerves, I was plenty happy to get back to lower altitude at Mystic Lake. I love the Beartooths in general, been in there several times. Hiking around either fork of Rosebud Creek is worthwhile. The drive over Beartooth Pass is stupendous!

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