Ascent of South Butte on 2009-07-28

Climber: Edward Earl

Date:Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Hi-Clearance Vehicle
Peak:South Butte
    Elevation:6994 ft / 2131 m

Ascent Trip Report

South Butte is remote, over 20 miles as the crow flies from the nearest paved road. I required some two hours of driving on a rough unpaved road to get near it.

On ID-3 at virtual mile 54.2 at Clarkia, I turned E on Poplar. Call this point mile 0.0. A sign says, "Welcome to Clarkia, population 50+". At 0.2 mile the road turns 90° R. At 0.6 mile, I turned L onto a gravel road just past a nearly abandoned red & white wooden building. A faded sign identifies the road as FR-301. At 1.4 miles I went R to remain on FR-301 and immediately crossed a bridge. At 5.0 miles I passed an RV encampment on my R. At 5.7 miles I crossed a bridge, then immediately went L at a fork to stay on FR-301. At 5.8 miles I went R at a fork, after which the road climbed and was occasionally washboarded. At 7.6 miles I entered NF land. At 9.7 miles I reached a junction at White Rock Springs. The main road turned R, but I went straight to stay on FR-301, which became narrower. At 10.3 miles I stayed L to remain on FR-301. After that the road had occasional protruding rocks and was littered with pine branches. Most of the pine branches were just small, soft tufts of needles, but a few were large enough to warrant some effort not to hit. At 11.4 miles I reached a campsite on my R and a sign identified Mountain Springs. At 12.8 miles I reached the the TH for Grandmother Mtn Trail #275. The road gets rougher here, and occasional protruding rocks are the norm from here to the end of the drive. At 13.6 is Freezeout Saddle, where the road turned R and there was a pullout on the L. At 14.6 miles is another saddle. At 14.9 miles is a junction where I went L to stay on FR-301. To the R is FR-384. At 18.1 miles I reached a campsite on a ridgetop SE of Crater Pk. At 18.8 miles is a triangle intersection with a road on the L. I stayed straight. At 20.8 miles is Orphan Point Saddle TH, trail #512. At 23.8 miles I stayed straight where a side road goes R. At 26.0 miles I made a sharp R onto FR-487. A sign says this road is not maintained for cars or trailers. The road got rougher and was occasionally littered with sticks. At 28.6 miles I turned L at onto FR-363. At 28.8 miles I decided that the benefits were not worth the risks of trying to drive any farther, so I parked and began hiking where the road topped out.

After about a mile on foot the road reached "Saddle 6437" between Moses Butte and Jug Point, where it made a sharp L turn and South Butte came into view. It then made a gradual R descending traverse, and after about ½ mile is an obscure jeep road heading uphill to the L. I turned up it. There are some occasional fallen trees across the road, and in one such case there are wheel tracks around the tree through a meadow on the L side. The road gets gradually more obscure as it veers R and climbs the W ridge of South Butte. At about 6600', the road makes a sudden R turn and an obscure foot trail heads between trees straight ahead. I missed this critical point on the way up and followed the road, which petered out. After some bushwhacking I located the trail, now strictly a foot trail, and followed it up a steepening hill between rocks until it topped out on the summit plateau of South Butte. It turned 90° L at a cairn and petered out a short distance N or E of the remains of the summit lookout tower.

In hindsight, I could have driven a little farther than I did. The optimal place to park would be saddle 6437, which has a wide pullout that could even be used as a campsite and there is also a trailhead here. I would not recommend trying to drive any farther than this point, as there is no reasonable place to park or turn around anywhere from here to the summit spur road/trail.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:854 ft / 259 m
    Extra Gain:80 ft / 24 m
    Round-Trip Distance:4 mi / 6.4 km
    Trailhead:FR 363  6300 ft / 1920 m
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Open Country
Ascent Statistics
    Time:1 Hours 30 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:1 Hours 20 Minutes

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