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Ascent of Snowshoe Peak on 2012-08-08

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Eirik Andersen
Melanie Hetkamp

Petter Bjørstad
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Snowshoe Peak
    Location:USA-Montana
    Elevation:8738 ft / 2663 m

Ascent Trip Report

We climbed this peak a couple of days after our Mt Cleveland ascent (with a Blue Mountain P600 drive up in between). A nice entertaining scramble in excellent weather.

We make a near-alpine start as we are due to climb Crazy Peak tomorrow and there's a longish drive between the two. The Leigh Creek trailhead is reached by turning W off US2 on Bear Creek Rd (sign) at N48.28335 W115.51134 then R on Cherry Creek Rd (sign) at N48.24956 W115.53515, then R at N48.22206 W115.60472 signposted Leigh Creek Trail. This last 3.5 km to the Leigh Creek trailhead has a couple of fairly rough sections: may be drivable in an ordinary car with care but high clearance is advisable, and note that there is no turning space before the TH, just a passing place. Otherwise there is parking at the turnoff (N48.22206 W115.60472).

The trailhead (N48.22463 W115.64079) has parking for a few vehicles. Beyond, a walking trail goes straight on. We start hiking at 0526, in the dark, by head torch. The trail has a few minor descents but is mostly ascending. It meets the Leigh Creek: we keep R here. Soon there are a few variations off to the R: keep L at N48.22618 W115.65504 for the main trail.

We reach Leigh Lake. There is quite a confusion of trails here (on the way back down we make a couple of minor errors) but the general idea is to keep fairly close to the shore with the lake to the L until reaching a big rocky gully (we found a big snow patch filling its lower end) then follow its R (E) bank. In a short while, a trail appears and fairly soon it crosses to the L side of the gully. The route then ascends between this gully and the next to its L (W), crossing this 2nd gully below the obvious cliffs. There are various options: on the way up we crossed at about N48.22879 W115.67279 with a little easy scrambling; on the way down we crossed a little higher. There may be a trail which we missed. The main issue is the grass which even when dry is quite slippery and best avoided in favour of stonier ground. Mosquitoes are particularly numerous and persistent.

A 3rd gully is reached at N48.22701 W115.67709 (small stream: we filter drinking water here on the way back down) and this provides the way up to the NE ridge. There is a large snow patch which we ascend (in various ways, with or without crampons!). Then we ascend the gully (some easy scrambling; some loose rocks) to reach the ridge at N48.22860 W115.67791, 2190m.

From here the route is much simpler and much more fun. Turning L along the NE ridge, it is initially quite narrow with some exposure and easy scrambling, some YDS3. After a dip, the ridge rises steeply with quite a bit of YDS 3 and maybe some 4.

The crux of the route is a 6m wall with sheer cliffs to the L and a snowfield to the R. Petter simply avoids it by cramponing up easy snow and rejoining the ridge above, arriving first. Eirik and Melanie have not brought crampons and are climbers: I've brought crampons but decide it would be more fun to follow them. We walk R on level snow for 10m then step onto the rock and climb 2m on smallish holds (YDS 4, hardish). Then I climb L up a kind of chimney (YDS 4) then it's a short easy scramble to rejoin Petter. The climbers take the clean-looking corner further R - sounds like class 5, unroped.

Above this crux, the junction with the main (south) summit ridge is reached. Eirik and Melanie scramble straight up the end of the ridge. Petter takes the obvious bypass trail L and I follow him. I scramble back up R to the ridge and follow the crest for a short while. The views and exposure are impressive but the scrambling is fiddly and not very satisfying and I bypass L of a section of crest before returning to the broad crest just before the summit. The ridge is YDS 3 in places with many route variations.

There are two summits, N and S, about 50m apart. It seems fairly clear that the first (S, rock outcrop, N48.22276 W115.68855, 2654m) is the higher although the N summit (N48.22298 W115.68899) has the cairn and summit register. We arrive at 1031 in 5h05 and spend 30 mins on top, enjoying great views and weather.

Descending the summit ridge we simply keep R, below the crest, reaching the bypass trail which leads L to the crux pitch at the top of the NE ridge. Petter again crampons down the snow. Eirik Melanie and I downclimb my little class 4 chimney (easier in descent I find) but don't fancy the lower pitch so escape onto easy angled snow, kicking steps in the soft snow with trail shoes. The rest of the descent is pretty easy: no problems with the downclimbs. At the foot of the descent gully (N48.22701 W115.67709) we filter water to last us to the trailhead. The big snow patch below it is dealt with variously by step kicking, glissading or by scrambling the rocks above its upper edge. There are a few folk below Leigh Lake but no-one else today seems to have ventured above the lake.

We reach the trailhead at 1526, 10 hours after leaving, and are quickly on our way southeast to Crazy Peak, which we've arranged to climb with Greg Slayden tomorrow. A long late drive for Petter but it works out. We wonder if anyone else has been "crazy" enough to climb these two peaks back to back...

Snowshoe Peak photo album
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:4849 ft / 1476 m
    Extra Gain:98 ft / 29 m
    Distance:7.6 mi / 12.2 km
    Route:NE ridge
    Trailhead:Leigh Creek TH  4085 ft / 1245 m
    Grade/Class:Yds 4
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Snow on Ground, Exposed Scramble
    Gear Used:
Crampons
    Weather:Hot, Calm, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Time Up:5 Hours 5 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time Down:4 Hours 25 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip


 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Rob Woodall
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. Peakbagger.com accepts NO resposibility or liability from use of this data.

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