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Ascent of Trapper Peak on 2018-09-03

Climber: Evan Battaglia

Date:Monday, September 3, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Trapper Peak
    Location:USA-Montana
    Elevation:10157 ft / 3095 m

Ascent Trip Report

After visiting the Anaconda-Pintlers, Labor Day weekend was almost over. I had one last day in Montana before needing to return to Seattle. I was still a little tired, so didn't want anything too crazy, but still had some energy left in me. Heading west on Montana Highway 1, I considered two options: Abercrombie Mountain in Washington, or -- sticking closer to my original plan -- Trapper Peak in the Bitterroots. Without cell reception I couldn't do much to evaluate the options. I passed the turnoff for Hamilton and started heading back towards I-90, but a couple miles later I changed my mind, turned around, and took Montana Highway 38 west.

I didn't have a map or cell reception but I knew Hamilton was in the Bitterroot Valley, so I followed the sign. Highway 38 turned out to be gravel part of the way, which added to the adventure. There were lots of people camping at various points along the highway. When I pulled off side roads to find a campspot, I ended up going up a rough overgrown road quite a ways. I joked to myself about this being completely unnecessary unless I was trying to find a place no one would ever find me ("what are you hiding for government?") when suddenly I saw a truck parked off the road. What the heck was this person doing way up here? I immediately turned around, and found a spot on along the more major side road.

Fortunately I got reception in Darby to get beta for Trapper. Looking at my options, I decided to go up the Gem Lake Gully route and down the Baker Lake Ridge route. This meant less elevation gain than the "standard" route, some class 3 on the way up, and I wouldn't have to go up all the same way I came. All around a good deal.

The trail to Baker Lake is somewhat rough and annoying. To Gem Lake, there were multiple paths at some point, but it all worked out -- they probably all come together again. After Gem Lake was another classic "choose your own adventure" section, with some fun class 3 scrambling.

On the plateau, I picked up the main trail. It soon disappeared, though, and I was met with probably 20 minutes of obnoxious talus hopping. Really annoying. On the way down, I followed a cairn route mostly in the dirt that avoided much of the talus madness. However, it went way to the south, and when it eventually started going back contouring to the east, it eventually more or less disappeared. I continued contouring over, briefly over some more mild talus and briefly through the trees, until reaching the trail. I soon left the trail and followed the ridge down.

The ridge was one of the easiest and most pleasant parts of the hike. Mostly off-trail (a trail developed gradually as I descended), good views, and really mellow, with no brush. The trail along the ridge suddenly made a nosedive to the lake. Somehow, near the bottom if this very steep section, near a very large cairn, I lost the trail. Some routefinding with bushwhacking and scrambling was necessary to make it back down to the lake. All that was left was the rough trail down to the trailhead and the long, long drive back to Seattle, which I completed at 12:45am. All in all, a great weekend in the Big Sky State and three of its many ranges: the Cabinets, the Anaconda-Pintlers, and the Bitterroots.


About 2:40 up, about 2:10 (?) down.
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles



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