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Ascent of Bear Skull Mountain on 2015-05-21

Climber: Edward Earl

Date:Thursday, May 21, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Hi-Clearance Vehicle
Peak:Bear Skull Mountain
    Location:USA-Montana
    Elevation:4300 ft / 1310 m

Ascent Trip Report

Although Bear Skull Mtn is on BLM land, it is surrounded completely by private land. The most straightforward approach is from the E, across a ranch owned by Margaret Scoles. She is gracious and personable and welcomes most recreational use of her land. By day, she is the executive director of the Independent Organic Inspectors Association and can be found in that organization's office in "downtown" Broadus on most workdays. Her contact information can be found here. You should contact her when planning an ascent of Bear Skull Mtn.

On MT-59 virtual mile post 9.3, I turned W on an unsigned dirt road. The turnoff is 1 mile N of Biddle or ~20 miles S of the junction with US-212. High clearance is highly recommended, and 4WD would be needed in wet weather. There is a high grass center most of the time and occasional tire ruts. 2.1 miles from the turnoff I detoured around a mudpuddle. At 2.9 miles I went R at a fork. At 3.9 miles I encountered a wire gate, which I opened and closed. At 4.3 miles, I reached the ranch complex, where I parked just outside the gate. The most conspicuous structure is a house with a red roof. Margaret had advised me that some prairie dog hunters may be on the property that day, and they were on the range a short distance to my left. After shouldering my pack I had a brief and friendly talk with them. They asked me if I was the hiker (Margaret had told them I would be there), I told them where I would be and for how long, and then I was on my way.

I hiked WSW across the range, gradually approaching a barbed wire fence to my L (S), and crossing a couple of other fences along the way. Prairie dog colonies were everywhere, and I constantly heard their "barking" noise. Upon reaching the E-W fence, I followed it westward uphill until it ended at the base of a much steeper hill. I turned L and soon intercepted a drive line that traversed the hill above a maze of sandy rilles. After a few minutes, I encountered another maze of sandy rilles that extended higher up the hill. I worked my way up and left, staying mostly above the rilles but crossing a couple of them, until gaining the crest above. At this point the dome-shaped profile of Bear Skull Mtn itself came into full view, with a steep red face on its front side. From here the route was straightforward: head straight across a few shallow gullies, surmount the base of the N ridge, then climb the ridge to the summit.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:730 ft / 222 m
    Round-Trip Distance:3 mi / 4.8 km
    Trailhead:Patten Ranch  3570 ft / 1088 m
    Route Conditions:
Open Country
Ascent Statistics
    Time:1 Hours 



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