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Ascent to Granite Peak-Steep chute on south slope above the snow bridge on 2015-07-26

Climber: Dennis Stewart

Others in Party:Marshall Stewart -- Trip Report or GPS Track
Date:Sunday, July 26, 2015
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
Point Reached:Granite Peak - Steep chute on south slope above the snow bridge
    Location:USA-Montana
    Elevation:12300 ft / 3749 m
    Remaining Elevation:499 ft / 152 m (100% left to go)

Ascent Trip Report

As I sit here typing this journal entry, I am nursing a broken #5 left metatarsal from a 7-foot fall above the snow bridge on Granite Peak. Despite my age of nearly 67 years old and an extremely active life, this is the first broken bone I have ever experienced. Unfortunately, the accident occurred 12 miles from my car far below at the Mystic Lake power station, so it was an extremely unpleasant self-evacuation to get myself and gear back to civilization. This was my second attempt for Granite Peak on this same backpack trip. The day before my son, Marshall, and I left camp at 6:00 AM from below Froze To Death Mountain and made the mistake of circumnavigating the Froze To Death plateau to the northwest instead of going up and over the saddle west of Froze To Death Mountain. We did not reach the cairn above the scree trail to the saddle below Granite until 10:22 AM and gave up our summit bid for that day. We did salvage our effort by bagging Tempest and Froze To Death Mountain on the return to camp. This morning we rose at 4:00 AM and reached the same cairn mentioned above at 8:08 AM with good weather. The descent to the saddle below Granite took longer than I had hoped, but we reached it at 9:15 AM and after a short rest we were on our way to the snow bridge which we reached at 10:30 AM despite a 15 minute route finding mistake that took us too far to the west of the actual route to the snow bridge. The bridge was in good condition and an ice axe made for a quick traverse. Of course, this is where the climbing REALLY begins. We climbed the steep wall above the snow bridge and were puzzled why a group ahead of us had chosen to continue up the wall instead of following the cairns to the south side of the mountain. I had climbed Granite twice before, but my last successful ascent was over 20 years ago and I could not remember the exact route. I chose to follow the cairn route. I was disappointed to see that this path forced us to lose several dozen feet of elevation to a very large cairn below a steep chute that did not look familiar to me, but there were no other cairns visible, the chute only appeared to be Class 3 and I did not want to retrace the route we just took to get back above the snow bridge. We climbed without difficulty up the chute about 100 feet when I reached a short Class 4 section. I made it up this ledge and just before my son was ready to ascend, it began to sleet. We waited for the weather to clear, but it did not. I knew I needed to descend this spot before the weather got even worse, but the path I just came up looked too intimidating to me now that it was wet. I climbed to the east side of the ledge, and even though there were not as many handholds as the original route I took, it appeared I could slide on my butt and then jump a distance of about 7 feet. I was placing my left foot on the wet granite to position myself for this maneuver when my foot slipped and I experienced an uncontrolled slide without my feet being prepared for the 7-foot free fall I was hoping to do with much more grace. I am not sure how I hit the ground, but I ended up on my stomach and then slid about 2 feet. After my heart rate slowed down, I felt like I had been lucky with no injuries, except a few scrapes. My son and I had no problem agreeing to give up our summit bid and we started our long 6 mile climb and hike back to base camp. Amazingly, I had no discomfort at all, except a damaged pride, but 10-15 minutes later I began to feel pain on the lateral side of my left foot, which got worse during the next several hours. I was eventually reduced to limping at a snail's pace, but fortunately, I had my ice axe to use as a crutch. Still, I did not reach the comfort of my sleeping bag until 10:00 PM. Once in the tent, I removed my boot for the first time and made a tentative diagnosis that I had broken my "pinky" toe metatarsal. I was actually a little pleased much later when I saw the X-rays and observed the midline spiral fracture of my lateral #5 metatarsal. I didn't need expensive machines or procedures to make that determination! Anyway, I ate a dinner of beef jerky and had a good night's rest. My son and I rose at 7:30 AM and had a very slow pack up. We were not hiking until 10:30 AM. Fortunately, I was able to get my boot on over my swollen foot and it provided enough support to allow me to travel, even with 55 pounds on my back, but I was glad I had ski poles for balance and relieving some pressure off of my injured foot. It was a long, uncomfortable 6 mile hike back to my car, but I reached it at 4:30 PM. I knew things could have been worse, so I was not upset. I was happy to be back at modern transportation. It was a 70 mile drive to Billings, Montana and I decided to get cleaned up first, take advantage of an "all you can eat" buffet" and get a good night's rest before seeking an urgent care clinic in the morning. The rest is history. I got a doctor's blessing to drive home and obtain treatment back home in Missouri. I am now on the mend, which is expected to be over 2 months, but I did not require surgery. As my injury heals, I am having a battle with myself as to whether it is time to give up big peaks like Granite at my Senior Citizen status, but it is very hard for me. If I had been successful with this climb, I would have been the first individual to have climbed the 48 contiguous state highpoints 3 times! I hate to "throw in the towel" when I am so close to such an important milestone. I do know if I make another attempt it needs to be next summer (2016). I can't wait for more age to dilute my climbing abilities.
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Ski Poles, Tent Camp



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