Attempting To Summit Granite Peak 2015!


in a nutshell: 

This hike (or climb) is strictly for experienced, well-conditioned hikers.  
Starting point & elevation: West Rosebud Lake, Mystic Lake Trailhead. Elev. 6,000'ft.
We hiked about 12miles the first day, gaining over 5,000ft in elevation. Once we hiked to Mystic Lake, we took the Phantom Creek Trail 17 — (3.5 miles to this junction from starting point). From there we hiked UP the mountain side, we counted 27 switchbacks going up. It's an intense climb, but really beautiful.

Upon reaching Froze-To-Death-Plateau, you have hiked about 5.5 miles from the starting point. The elevation is now over 10,000'ft. Once on the plateau - you have to hike about 5 more miles to the base camp. You will hike / scramble / hop over boulder fields & marshy tundra, following a scattered trail of rock cairns.

Destination: a rocky boulder field, with man-stacked rock walls on the west edge of Tempest Mountain, elevation 11,700ft. (Or thereabouts. We camped further away from Tempest, nestled up against some large boulders that provided more shelter..)

You can set up camp at whatever spot appeals to you, and hope the weather holds through the night — so that you can summit Granite the next morning. Granite Peak is about 1.5 miles from the base camp area. The elevation of Granite Peak, the highest point in Montana is 12,799'ft.

Boulder fields on the plateau … covered by hail.
My field-notes & observations: 

MYSELF: & two friends went on this hiking trip.
Afoot & lighthearted, we set to the open road — at 6:20am, arriving to the trail-head at 7:45am. I personally would not attempt something like this solo. While we were hiking up, we were the only souls on the mountain.

WHEN TO GO: The best time to hike Granite is late July — early September.
We went on Thursday-Friday, September 3-4. Hiking down on Friday afternoon, we passed 10 or 11 other random hikers (some in little groups), Granite bound. I would totally recommend hiking DURING the week. All those hikers would have a not-so-fun time figuring out where all they would want to pitch their tents. The wind shelters were kinda limited. Some were just better then others. We got the best. Other then scattered large boulders & ground-level rock, there is no privacy on the plateau. (Camp site: see photo directly below.)
The last mile of the hike — you are clambering over some serious rock! 

HIKING UP: Total time took us 9hrs of uphill hiking… covering over 12 miles. (see cairns below)
Phantom Creek Trail we were wearing tanks & shorts. It was hot climbing. We drank a lot of water. My backpack weighed a bit over 30lbs. I had a 2 person tent, my climbing harness, climbing gear etc,… plus 2 large water bottles, extra clothes, sleeping mat, bag (my sleeping bag is good down to 21'F degrees, it kept me warm during the crazy storm-filled night). Pack as light as possible. I realized later, I overpacked a little bit. (Packed mostly too much food!) Ever ounce makes a huge difference! 

Note: We actually ended up deciding we didn't need all the rope we were carrying, and stashed some of it under a rock on the way up. (We got it later when we came down the next day.) If we try summiting Granite again, we are not going to bring much climbing gear. We over packed with ropes, harnesses, carabiners, etc. We plan to scramble/boulder up to the top, and hopefully without much rope. 

ELEVATION GAIN: I have done a lot of hiking at 10,000ft or higher, so I am very used to thin air.
My fellow hikers (while being avid hikers, & climbers, had not done much high elevation hiking). They got some altitude sickness, upon reaching elevations around & over 10,500ft. Upset stomachs & light nausea…. no fun for them. We gained about 5,500ft total. Our highest elevation point was like 11,000ft. If you reach Granite, you will gain over 6,000ft from the starting elevation point.

CAIRNS: At times the rock cairns are quite small & hard to spot.
We took "scenic route" to our base camp site, and added about a mile to the hike, because we accidentally missed a cairn. Total ascending time took 9hrs. (including many breaks, lunch too.) But overall, wasn't too bad. The plateau seemed to drag on more then the switchbacks did.

WATER: Top off your water bottles at Mystic Lake before climbing up to the Plateau.
There was one small stream that you walk over during the lowest sets of switchbacks. Also, there are several small & shallow water courses (nearly submerged snow-melt springs) on the Plateau — when hiking you can't miss them, but they are hard to see — You will have to hop over the narrow springs or skirt around the marshy-swamp like places while hiking on the Plateau.  The basecamp spots are dry campsites. No water there!

WEATHER PROBLEMS: You WILL get rained on while hiking no matter what…I've done a lot of overnight hiking in the Beartooths, and know well enough by now, that no matter what the forecast says, it will rain on you, and maybe even snow, if you are high enough! While hiking across Froze-To-Death-Plateau there was a thunderstorm, sleet, rain & large hail… The temperature held steady at 40 degrees. It was very windy. Bring proper rain-gear, for yourself & your backpack. 

TENTS: All during the night while camping, it stormed. Thunder shook the mountains. Lighting flashed through the night. There was crazy wind, an inch of snow & icy stuff was coating everything in the morning. It got down to 28'F degrees. We didn't sleep much. It felt (sounded?) like our tents would flap away, even though they were properly anchored, & we were inside holding them down. Make sure you have a good sturdy tent!

STARS: Are tiny holes in the floor of heaven, or so it seemed. They were so very bright & beautiful… We got to stargaze for about 45min… then clouds started moving in. We ate supper at about 8:30pm, & it got dark enough to see stars just after 9pm.

PLANT LIFE: Hiking to Mystic, & along the switchbacks theres an abundance of plant life & trees. Once on the plateau, there is nothing but  hardy grasses & lichens growing. I did, however, see some flowers blooming on the plateau at around 10,400ft. I identified it as the late blooming tundra-loving-cold-weather flower: the Arctic Gentian.  

SUMMIT?: We didn't make it to the summit, due to the icy coating that was on all the rocks, & more bad weather that was rolling in.
But we were in view of it, & just over a mile away. We had a summiting plan, a rough idea of a route picked out - I talked to several people who have summited Granite, to get a idea of what works best. I had reference photos, & notes about the climb to the top. We had climbing gear, a harness, ropes, etc. Though we mostly planned to "free climb" to the top.  

RETURNING: Hiking down the next day took 4.5hrs. (Much faster then when we hiked up!)
We went about 11mi, & fortunately hiked below & missed most of the bad weather… The hikers we passed going up, as we went down, got pounded; the sky was very dark/cloudy by 12am, & it was starting to sprinkle rain as we were leaving the Plateau.

TOTALLY WORTH IT: Every step of this hike was totally worth it, regardless of summiting or not. The views are AMAZING, & your awe & respect for the mountains will deepen, the beauty of God's creation will blow your mind! I can't wait to try again next summer!! 

Below are photos from the hike.

Mystic Lake, seen from about the half-way point, while hiking up to the Plateau. I will add that I've hiked to Mystic lake 10 or more times over the past several years. It is one of my favorite day hikes. To Mystic and back is 6 miles. The lake is beautiful. Lots of good camping spots around the lake, and though I don't fish, I know the fishing is pretty good.

Taking a little break by one of many cairns…
Cold winds, thunder, hail and very slick boulder-fields on Froze-To-Death-Plateau. 
False summit. But at the "top" of where we were camping. This was as good as it got!

I was standing atop large rocks to get an "aerial" view of camp. Nothing but pikas, some mountain goats & hardy lichens live in this rocky place. No grass.
View out my tent door.
At 5am it was 28 degrees, & there was an inch of snow & icy stuff on everything, that made the rocks very slick. It didn't get light outside till just after 6am. When I took the pic, & ventured out of the tent into wind, it was blowing at around 30mph, which seemed calm after an extremely windy night. During the night, I'd guess it was blowing around 50mph. 

Hiking back down. Mystic Lake obscured by cloud, view from atop Froze-To-Death-Plateau. 
Storm clouds in the distance. 

Selfie with Jonathan and Jessica!
Froze-To-Death Lake down below. Storms coming in the distance. Photo cred: Jonathan
Once we got down to Mystic, we were walking IN the clouds we saw from above, just an hour or two earlier. We could hear the water lapping against the rocks we were walking on. 

Descending the mountain, on the return trip, we hiked into a thick fog-like cloud. 

"LIFE is getting up an hour early, 
      to LIVE an hour more" 


When you consider things like mountains & stars, human affairs & worries don't seem to matter very much… Being on top of Froze-To-Death-Plateau was an incredible experience. The mountains were huge & the stars were awesome… I felt so alone, so free, so alive, so light, so high, so small! God is so good, huge & powerful - His creation is amazing. Wow. 

When I go anywhere, or do anything, I try to be enthusiastic about LIFE! Even when your just at home, or at work, or wherever — You are alive & that is amazing! I think it's important to enthusiastic, no matter what you or doing, or where ya are. Living in the moment… is being aware of the moment we are in. If our minds are in the past or future, we are not truly alive in the present. 

While hiking, I found myself increasingly living "in the moment". Hiking is so care-free & exhilarating. The world is such an interesting place - I'm really, really, really, really thankful for good heath, & immensely blessed by friends who like to explore with me.

"Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done." -C.S.Lewis 

No matter what I'm doing, I'm always trying to rely solely on God: Start with Jesus, stay with Jesus, finish with Jesus, each day. Grow in Him, love Him, serve Him, do all things for His glory.… 
Keep the wonder. 

He much become greater, I must become less. (John 3:30)
Happy Hiking,

open in new window to view larger. ^^ 
Guided summit climbs to Granite with http://www.beartoothguides.com 
^I'm acquainted with a couple of the guides - they are really good at what they do!! Check them out.

The "AFALCON Guide"  book for the hiking the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness has insightful information on hiking Granite (& countless other hikes) is within its many pages… 

Additional info can be found by stopping by & talking to people at the Sylvyn Peak Store.
Sylvan Peak, Ent. 
9 South Broadway 
P.C. Box 463 
Red Lodge, MT 59068 

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