Ascent of Morton Hill on 2004-05-20

Climber: Scott Surgent

Date:Thursday, May 20, 2004
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Morton Hill
    Elevation:4300 ft / 1310 m

Ascent Trip Report

After descending Ashby Hill (Grant County HP), I drove west on NE-2 to the town of Ellsworth and the junction of highway NE-27. Ellsworth is notable as the "company town" of the Spade Ranch, one of the biggest spreads in Nebraska during the late 19th-Century. The Spade Ranch had a habit of fencing off public lands and declaring them their own before President Teddy Roosevelt put a stop to that practice. The Spade Ranch is still in existence, and Ellsworth features historical markers and an old general store from that era.

Sixteen miles north of Ellsworth along NE-27, I spied Morton Hill, the highpoint of Sheridan County. It's a big and broad hill, covered in low grass and few trees. I drove to where the highway crested near the hill, and parked. I started the trek at noon, the weather calm and pleasant. I hiked a slope, crossed a fence, then disappeared down the other side of the slope. A fence runs east-west along the spine of Morton Hill, and I followed it up and down the hills, moving from the south side to the north side. I kept at this, hiking into and out of many gulches, going with the lay of the land.

After 30 minutes, I was near the west edge of the hill, nearing the summit. A previous report had indicated that the highpoint won't be obvious until the very end, which was true. I tracked myself carefully on the map, and when near the top, it became obvious. I had to squirm through the fence, then run the hundred feet to the top. I tagged the top and returned back to the north side of the fence. On the hike out, I spooked some cattle, and once past them, I took a rest amid the grass in a saddle between two small hills Then, shortly, back to my vehicle.

The round trip hike was nearly 3.5 miles with a net gain of about 300 feet but close to 500 gross feet when the drops and gains are considered. From here, I doubled back into Alliance for lunch, a rest, a call home, and a visit to Carhenge. I was beat, having hiked over ten miles today. The remaining highpoints were all simple affairs up near the South Dakota border.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:300 ft / 91 m
    Round-Trip Distance:3.5 mi / 5.6 km
    Trailhead:4000 ft / 1219 m
    Route Conditions:
Open Country

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