Ascent of Cloud Peak on 2012-08-12

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Petter Bjørstad
Date:Sunday, August 12, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Cloud Peak
    Elevation:13167 ft / 4013 m

Ascent Trip Report

Sat 11
After our Crazy Peak and Sacagawea Peak ascents we travel east along I-90 from Bozeman during the morning, stop at the small town of Buffalo for an early lunch then drive W along the S side of the main Bighorn range to Meadowlark Lake, turn R at Deerhaven Lodge onto highway 27 (good dirt road) then follow signs north to West Tensleep Lake trailhead (N44.26172 W107.21262).

We register at the self registration station (no fee) and start hiking at 1430. Almost immediately we fork L on trail 063 (signed) and in 2km we cross the creek on small stepping stones (N44.27538 W107.21470) calling for nimble footwork (although the water isn't deep) then keep R on 063. From here the trail continues wide and obvious, with little scope for error. The gradient is generally gentle with a few minor descents. The landscape is nice open coniferous woodland with clearings and attractive views. The afternoon starts with a few spots of rain before turning sunny.

Trail 097 comes down from the L (N44.31561 W107.22143) just before Lake Helen, where we pass a few camping spots. The lake is very attractive, as are Marion and Mistymoon, with grey rock contrasting nicely with green vegetation in the rich late-afternoon light.

On reaching Mistymoon Lake, there is a trail junction where we turn L on 038 (note there is a shortcut just before it, at N44.33990 W107.21582, which we don't think to use). We camp halfway along the W side of Mistymoon, on nice grass with a small stream just to the N providing a water supply. We arrive at 1710 after 2h40 steady walking. There's a strong cold wind but otherwise it's a lovely sunny evening. We cook dinner and get our heads down ready for an early start, to avoid possible afternoon thunderstorms which are forecast. During the evening the sky clears and Cloud Peak appears from under its cloud cap - looks good!

Sun 12
We're hiking by 0538 - first light. A cold morning with a slight frost: it remains chilly most of the way to the summit. We soon cross a pass (3195m, N44.34835 W107.21115), and just beyond, at N44.34945 W107.21167 we descend R, descend steepish grass and cross a wide valley bottom (4 tents) then on the far side pick up a small trail which crosses the creek then joins a larger trail following the NW side of Paint Rock Creek. An alternative is to follow Trail 038 a little further to N44.35018 W107.21466, fork R (downhill) on a smaller trail, follow it to approx N44.35347 W107.21591 (cairn) then boulder hop across the small creek and follow the trail along the NW side of Paint Rock Creek.

The trail forks L at N44.35872 W107.20930 and climbs a rocky slope into a side valley (there's another tent just before the fork). On the way up we soon lose the trail and find our own way up through bouldery slabby terrain; not bad at all to walk on; occasional cairns; plenty of water (we carry 1 litre each plus a filter). We keep generally to the L side of the rocky valley then angle up the bouldery headwall. However on the way back down we discover the main trail keeps more to the SE side, making its way fairly coherently across the boulder field above, following some sandy ground skirting the L base of the bouldery SW ridge of Cloud Peak.

The edge of a deep cliff girt bowl is reached with views of the fine SW face of Cloud, like a miniature of Mont Blanc's Brenva Face, perhaps. The route climbs R (faint trail through boulders) to reach the crest which it follows NE towards the peak. It's best to keep to the crest, both for the better rock and for the views. However if the fairly minor exposure is an issue it's easy to avoid by staying on the boulders R of the crest.

At the start of the climb to the summit there is a snow patch, easily bypassed on the R, which is what I did as I was wearing trail shoes: Petter walked across it in boots and we both did so on the descent when the snow was a little softer. It's easiest to take an approx beeline to the summit: there's a trail of sorts, and quite a few chaotic areas of big boulders which make for fun scrambling or can be walked around.

The summit, appropriately enough, is a large boulder (N44.38215 W107.17392, 4019m), with a few small cairns built on it, also a small flat stone paint marked with a clover leaf and "22". This being Petter's last CONUS Ultra, a few photos are taken. I wander around the edges of the small summit plateau to take in the spectacular landscape: E to Glacier Lake, N to Beartooth Mountain. Once aloof Cloud's heartland is finally reached, the rock architecture is very fine: well worth the longish hike.

We arrive at the summit at 0930 after 3h50 of steady hiking, spend 40 mins at the summit and are back at the tent in 3h10. As described earlier, we are more successful in finding the trail on the way down. We meet a few folk still ascending. The sky is quite cloudy but there is no sign of rain and we enjoy warm sunshine most of the way down. We get back to the tent at 1320, pack up and leave about 1400 and get back to the trailhead in 2h30 at 1630. We call at Deerhaven Lodge for drinks, admire the spectacular Tensleep Canyon from the comfort of US16 then head south to Casper for a motel.

This was the last of the 6 Ultras Petter needed to complete his set of 57 for the US Lower 48 States so we spend the last few days of our trip climbing a few P600m peaks, mostly in Colorado although we continue next day with Wyoming's Medicine Bow Peak.

Cloud Peak photo album
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4867 ft / 1483 m
    Extra Gain:427 ft / 130 m
    Round-Trip Distance:22.6 mi / 36.4 km
    Route:Mistymoon Lake
    Trailhead:West Tensleep Lake  9154 ft / 2790 m
    Grade/Class:Yds 2
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Snow on Ground
    Gear Used:
Tent Camp
    Nights Spent:1 nights away from roads
    Weather:Cool, Breezy, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Time:19 Hours 0 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:6 Hours 22 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. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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