Ascent of Ousel Peak on 1992-09-23

Climber: Greg Slayden

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Wednesday, September 23, 1992
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Ousel Peak
    Elevation:7157 ft / 2181 m

Ascent Trip Report

Having time to kill, I decided to head back out towards West Glacier and climb Ousel Peak, which would occupy me until nightfall, then crash in the car. So I drove back out to West Glacier, this time via MT 206, for variety's sake, and thought about maybe finding a motel and taking a long nap instead of climbing, since the weather was still awfully overcast. The motels I checked on U.S. 2 in Hungry Horse and West Glacier, though, were all very expensive for my budget--in the $35 to $50 range.

So I found the obscure Ousel Peak trailhead, a small sign on the side of a scenic, totally unpopulated stretch on U.S. 2 beside the Middle Fork of the Flathead River, parked on a wide gravel turnout a hundred yards away, got my daypack together, and started up the trail at 3:30 P.M., an extremely late start, but I figured I could make it back before it got utterly pitch black out, and I had my headlamp in case it did.

The trail was, except for the very top sections, totally in deep forest, and it started out wide, gentle, and easy to follow. My map showed that the trail split in two near the bottom, both forks reuniting near the top, and I thought I saw a trail off to the right at one point, but I stayed on what looked like the main path.

Once the trail got steeper I started encountering many logs and trees that had fallen down across its route, and then sections where the brush was so thick it almost obscured the path. I kept thinking that it would improve once again, but instead, the higher I got, the worse the brush became. I wanted a machete to fight my way forward, but instead had to crawl under thick patches of bushes, climb over trees, detour around logs, and plunge through thickets, branches scratching me thoroughly. I kept on going only because I didn't want to have to return the way I had come up already, and thought I could take the other fork of the trail back down.

As the faint track switchbacked up through the forest it got colder and windier, and finally reached a false summit where the vegetation was more open. Continuing upward, the trail, which I lost a couple times in the mixed low forest and heath scrub, took me up a couple more bad false summits, and I thought each one might be the top. I could now see an incredible view of the mountains of Glacier National Park across the Middle Flathead River below me, the heavy clouds just above their tops.

I was really pushing myself to get to the top, since I didn't have all day, and at a major false summit on the ridge I could finally see the real summit, discouragingly far away, but I just cranked it up and went for it. The wind was absolutely ferocious now that I was almost totally out of the trees, but I struggled up and by 5:30 P.M. I was standing atop Ousel Peak, utterly exhausted. It had taken me two hours to go up 3900 feet on a rough trail, so I was pleased with the my conditioning after almost two months of solid hiking.

I didn't rest for long, since the cold wind was so strong it was almost blowing me off the mountain. The mountains in Glacier National Park were an awesome tableau, though, especially the impossibly steep matterhorn of Mt. St. Nicholas. Patches of sunlight shone through the dark clouds to illuminate the scattered snowfields on the jagged peaks, lending a further air of unreality to the view. I could also see a bit of the Flathead Range, and I noticed that Ousel Peak was just a minor spur of these mountains, the main crest being a mile or so further along the ridge, something I was not up for. While admiring these views I ate a light snack amidst the debris from an old lookout tower scattered about the summit area.

Before leaving I walked along the narrow summit ridge of the peak, in the teeth of the wind, to make sure I had been to its highest point, then hurried down. I took extreme pains to stay on the trail this time, since I wanted to be sure to find the fork off to my right that I hoped would bypass the terrible brush I had on the way up. I carefully and quickly came down the section over the false summits and windblown scrub, always going back to find the trail the couple times I lost it, and started looking very carefully for the easier way down. Once back in the forest I explored any leads off to the right, but they were all dead ends or meandering game trails. I definitely stayed on the main footway, but found myself hacking my way through familiar sections of dense bushes and fallen trees once again. At least I was going down, so I didn't get as tired.

This miserable overgrown trail went on for longer that I thought, but soon became clearer, and after a while I was hiking easily down towards the car, with still plenty of light out. I looked for the other branch I thought I had seen on the way up, but couldn't find it. I think that there really was only one trail up Ousel Peak.

I arrived back at the car at 7:20 P.M., and did what I always did upon returning from a hike: I got my keys out of my pack, opened up the rear hatch of my station wagon, and sat down to take off my hiking boots and put on my sneakers. I was already in jeans and T-shirt, so didn't have to change my clothes like I often did, but I threw my pack in the back, and walked around to the front of the car. Here I suddenly noticed that my right front window had been smashed, and that there was glass all over the front of the car.

Alarmed, I did a quick inventory of all my stuff, and it looked like the vandal had rifled my glove compartment and made a quick check of the clothes, cassettes, camping gear, and other junk in the back, but all he took was a $15 calculator and my checkbook, both from the glove compartment. Miraculously, he didn't take my camera, also in the glove compartment (I hadn't taken it on my hike), maybe because I kept it wrapped up in plastic bags and it didn't look much like there was a camera there. I guess the bastard saw my car, with Pennsylvania plates, parked on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere Montana, and decided to see if he could find money or jewelry, and, when he didn't initially, got spooked, maybe by cars driving by (it was not a very busy road, though), and split.

This remains, as of 2012, the only trailhead burglarly that I have ever been a victim of, in over 25 years of extensive hiking.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3837 ft / 1169 m
    Trailhead:3320 ft / 1011 m
    Quality:4 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail
    Weather:Cool, Very Windy, Overcast
Ascent Statistics
    Time:2 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Time:1 Hours 40 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Greg Slayden
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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. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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