Granite on July 8, 2008

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      [Ed: Imported from Americas Roof ‘Summit Trip Reports’ forum]
      [By: Will M. on September 1 2008 at 12:09 PM]

      This trip was in the planning stages for 2+ years. A job change at the end of 2006 forced the postponement for a year while I accumulated vacation time. Our plan was to drive to Wyoming, climb Gannett Peak, drive through and visit Yellowstone National Park, and then head to Montana and climb Granite Peak. From there we’d drive back to Redmond, WA.

      I began an aggressive training program at the beginning of March with workouts 4 – 5 times per week. I included running for cardiovascular and treadmill climbs (with weight) for leg strength and endurance. The net result was a loss of 20 pounds, and what I thought was the best shape I’ve been in for hiking in a long time, maybe ever. Joe is naturally in good shape, but he also supplemented his routine with pack weight exercises.

      Joe arrived at SeaTac around 9PM on Friday, June 27. We spent Saturday getting our gear organized, and picking up our food and any remaining items. An early departure was planned for Sunday.

      See the Gannett trip report for the beginning of the story.

      July 6 – We took 3 days to recover from a brutal but successful climb of Gannett Peak. After a leisurely drive through some very scenic mountains, we arrived in Red Lodge and got a room. This place was nice, and I’d recommend it. It is called the Alpine Lodge, and includes a hot made to order breakfast.

      July 7 – After taking care of some business, we thought we had recovered enough to at least attempt Granite, so we drove to the West Rosebud trailhead near Fishtail, MT. We left the car at 1PM, with packs that weighed 48 pounds. We decided to take our crampons and ice axes in case there was snow to cross or climb, and this turned out to be a wise move. We left some of the harness gear, and simplified the first aid kit.

      This is a much nicer trail then Gannett, and we quickly reached Mystic Lake at 3 miles, and began up the switchbacks. I count them from left turn to left turn, so the 26 listed in the literature is only 13 for me! There was snow on 3 of the turns near the top, but they were easily passed by following the boot tracks. We reached the infamous Froze To Death plateau, and by 7PM were at the first tent site on Joe Josephson’s map. There were goats and marmots, and a group of 7 joined us later that evening. They planned a summit attempt from there the next morning. After an awesome sunset with no storms in sight, we retired.

      July 8 – We awoke shortly after sunrise, and got ready to move camp. The party of 7 was still there, and didn’t leave until a few minutes before we did. We hiked the few miles to 12,000’, where the last of the tent sites are located, and arrived at 10:20. We felt good, and discussed making an afternoon summit attempt. About this time the group of 7 returned from the mountain, unhappy. They did not have crampons or ace axes based on a ranger’s advice, and they could not navigate the snow fields safely. Glad we were prepared! Another couple arrived at camp, looking to summit in the morning. They also didn’t have crampons and ice axes, but were accomplished rock climbers. We told them of our plan, and promised to share our beta when we returned.

      We had lunch, napped, and left for the summit at 1:30. This is a bit unconventional as the frequent afternoon storms cause most people to summit early and retreat by noon. We took our chances as the weather was perfect. There were numerous snow fields to climb that required crampons and ice axes. The rest was rock scrambling. We felt like there were sections of 5.4, but we were both comfortable enough that we just scrambled up and back down. We made the summit at 5PM. Number 46 for me, number 15 for Joe. We didn’t spend much time there, took the requisite pictures, and headed down. We arrived back in camp at 8PM, tired but very satisfied.

      July 9 – We awoke with the sunrise, had breakfast, shared the route beta with the other couple, and hiked out. This was all uneventful, and not nearly as painful as the Gannett exit. A comment about reports of difficulty navigating on the FTD. On the way in, we stayed higher on the plateau, nearer to FTD Mountain. There were few a few areas of rocky travel, but for the most part it was easy walking. On the way out we stayed closer to the edge of the plateau, away from FTD Mountain. This route was much more difficult, having quite a few rocky sections that require considerable care to navigate through. The warnings to not trust the cairns as a route marker probably comes from the fact that there are many ways to cross the plateau, and if you know the general direction to go, you’ll see cairns along the way. They are scattered across the plateau such that you cannot depend on them to be your primary navigation source. We had perfect weather, so getting disoriented wasn’t ever a threat. However, in darkness or poor visibility conditions, you’ll need your map and compass, and know how to use them.

      We made the trailhead at 3, and were on our way towards home. One last moose sighting as we left the trailhead. We drove for 3 hours, stopping at a KOA in Butte, MT for a hot shower and instant dinner.

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