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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Hunting State Highpoints, July/August 2011

Recalling the good ‘ol days of road trips past, I set forth to explore the Beartooth and Wind River mountain ranges. Specifically, I took a week off to bag the Montana and Wyoming state highpoints – Granite Peak and Gannett Peak. Each being well over 12,000ft in elevation, these oft-visited summits offer sweeping vistas over some of the more scenic mountainous areas of the lower 48 states.

After about 14 or so hours of driving, I left the interstate at Columbus, MT proceeding along county and gravel roads to finally reach the Mystic Lake Trailhead. Hiking in to a comfortable camp just below the infamous Froze to Death Plateau that afternoon, I braced myself for a night of wind and rain (the first of many on this trip), feeling none too optimistic about the prospects for the next day. Alas, I worried for naught as summit day dawned clear and windless. I tagged Granite’s granitic top without incident and hobbled back into camp just as the next thunderstorm reached critical mass and unleashed a midsummer day’s worth of accumulated moisture.

Back on the interstate around noon the following day, I was disappointed to learn that my partner for the following Gannett climb wouldn’t be able to join me thanks to an emergency back home. After a bit of hemming and hawing, I decided to stick to the plan and go it alone. Arriving in Pinedale late the morning of August 2nd, I checked in at the local outdoor shop for some last minute supplies and a conditions update before I was off kicking dirt once again.

Reaching high camp in upper Titcomb Basin after a day-and-a-half of easy hiking, I could at last revel in the mosquito-free sunshine with only a passing hailstorm to briefly interrupt the peace. Summit day once again dawned calm and clear making for an enjoyable and worry-free jaunt to the top of Wyoming and back to camp. What should have been a pleasant final evening in the Winds, however turned into a terrifying night of hurricane-force winds, torrential rains, thunder and lightning flashes lasting 10 seconds or longer! I cannot recall the last time I shivered with fear quite like I did during those tense early morning hours, but rest assured there’s nothing like a ‘little’ inclement weather to put the fear of God in you!

Needing to calm the nerves after that, I detoured through Hells Canyon and the Wallowa Mountains of northeastern Oregon for some mindless sightseeing on my way back to Seattle. All-in-all, it was a satisfyingly successfull trip despite the almost nightly rain not to mention the stress of being party to what sincely felt like the coming of the end of the World!

Click either of the following links for more detailed reports on the Granite and Gannett climbs:

Granite Peak – South face (via East Ridge)
Gannett Peak – Gooseneck Ridge (standard)

Below are just some miscellaneous photos from various points along the way to and from Wyoming:

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