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Ascent of Granite Peak on 2011-09-24

Climber: Darren Knezek

Others in Party:Jennifer----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Saturday, September 24, 2011
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Granite Peak
    Location:USA-Montana
    Elevation:12799 ft / 3901 m

Ascent Trip Report

Jennifer and I did this in a day. We started at 7 am from the parking lot by the power plant and got back before 7 am the next day. I had checked the weather report and it said the entire weekend was perfect. Sunny every day with no chance of rain. Jennifer and I had to go! We hiked up to Mystic Lake at a pace of about 2.5 miles an hour, this gave us ample time to take pictures and enjoy the scenery. The scenery from the power plant all the way to Mystic Lake was breathtaking!
We filled our water bottles in a stream barely up the trail from Mystic Lake and started the "switchbacks from hell". We were fit from doing Rainier, Hood, Borah, and Gannett in a two month period plus our packs were light. The switchbacks were an absolute blast and before we knew it we were at the huge cairn after switchback 29 looking for the climbers trail that heads up to Froze to Death Plateau. The trail lasts for about one hundred yards and then disappears. There is the occasional cairn, but these are few and far between. The cairns pretty much disappear after the first nice bivy site we passed. (This bivy site is a stunner, but if you were staying there it would be over two miles across the Plateau to the saddle to start Granite. Too far in my opinion.) I was beginning to worry about water, since we were only carrying two liters a piece and its the middle of September, but this bivy site had a nice supply. There was a couple of small streamlets a half mile later, but that would be the last water until Granite Peak.
The Froze to Death Plateau took a lot longer than we expected. It's over four miles long and quite tedious since you never get to see Granite for almost its entire stretch and the boulders are small and quite unstable. We took our time, stopping often to eat and drink, take pictures and look at the GPS. Once we saw Granite, it's inspiring. So beautiful and seeing all the alpineering possibilities on its north face and the peak to its right begs you to come back with ice axes and rock gear.

We found the "trail" over to the saddle at around 12,100 and began the decent to the saddle. It's hard to lose almost 600 feet of elevation knowing you have to make it up on the way back. We had hiked over 11 miles according to my GPS at this point. When we got to the saddle we ate some food, took a break, and ditched our trekking poles.
We went up the right side of the snow field staying mostly to the ridge. We picked up the pace and climbed about 100 feet of elevation every four minutes and before we knew it we were at the snow bridge.

I should say "ice bridge" because that is what it was. In spots it was covered with about 1 to 2 inches of crusty snow that would support your body weight but many times would break away. Fingers would dig into the the one side of the bridge while your feet would be on the other. Very scary, yet fun in a strange way. I had brought a 100 foot glacier rope for the climbing, harness, belay/rappel device w/lockers,and no other climbing gear other than some 11/16" webbing and rings for replacing any old anchors. Jennifer belayed me across then I belayed her.
Once on the other side of the bridge, I would solo up to a webbing anchor and then belay her up. The route finding is very devious, yet the rock quality is awesome and the climbing is very fun. It reminded me of doing the upper part of the Exum Direct on The Grand Teton. Soloing the rock pitches is something I wouldn't recommend unless you're an extremely competent rock climber. A set of nuts, a couple of hand sized cams and slings would make anyone feel super safe. Many times you can find the easiest way looking for the next webbing anchor. We climbed six different 100 foot sections. The first two and the last required scrambling in between the climbing. Before we knew it we were on top signing the register.
On the way down, Jennifer would rappel and then I would drop the rope and down solo. We got back to the saddle before dark, but on the way down we went around the other side of the snowfield. This turned out to be smart since our water bottles were depleted and at the base of the snowfield we could refill.
Getting out and across the Froze to Death Plateau in the dark would have been tedious without a GPS. On the way back we hiked faster in order to do it under a day. We were back to the car before 7 am, drove to Columbus, ate breakfast and then fell asleep for four and a half hours, and then drove back to Utah.
We weren't out trying to set any speed record. We spent a lot of time taking photos, food breaks, and me looking at different climbing route possibilities.
My favorite 50 state summit so far!

Summary Total Data
    Grade/Class:5.5
    Quality:10 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Exposed Scramble, Rock Climb
    Gear Used:
Rope, Ski Poles
Ascent Statistics
    Time Up:1 Days 



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