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Ascent of Wilson Peak on 2018-09-02

Climber: Mike Baum

Date:Sunday, September 2, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Wilson Peak
    Location:USA-Montana
    Elevation:10705 ft / 3262 m

Ascent Trip Report

This is rather long, but has some useful information. Did this over Labor Day weekend. It had snowed the weekend before, but a quick check of the Lone Peak webcam confirmed the snow had melted. Like other trip reports have said, this is a rather obscure peak unlikely to draw attention if it was not a Cohp.

Followed the Dudley Creek trail outside of Big Sky. The trail was rather uneventful and mostly well maintained except for the dozens of downed trees. However, 90% were so low I simply stepped over them. As of this writing, the Lee Metcalf wilderness boundary sign was completely missing or maybe stolen? The only trouble I ran into on the trail, and the entire reason I'm writing this report, is because a tricky unmarked trail junction at 45.31490N, 111.29530W. When you reach this junction one well beaten trail goes left and another goes right, crossing the creek. On September 2, 2018, when I reached this junction an orange blaze was tied to the left junction, leading me to believe that the Dudley Creek train goes to the left. After following this trail for a short time it simply vanished and turned into a not so well beaten game trail. Frustrated, I looked at my map and found the real trail veering to the right of a seasonal drainage. After a brief bushwhack over deadfall I found the real trail again and went on my merry way. On the decent I moved the the blaze and tied it to a tree indicating the proper trail which goes to the right at the junction and crosses the creek.

Shortly before reaching Dudley Lake and after passing another trail junction where Dudley Trail goes left (signed), I heard several branches breaking ahead of me. Knowing this was grizzly country and hiking by myself caused me to let out an audible arrrhhhhh!!! Much to my surprise and no doubt theirs, was a group of bow hunters that I walked up upon on the trail. We briefly exchanged greetings and I kept going, now trying to carefully balance remaining quiet enough not to spoil their hunt while maintaining my own self preservation from bears.

Within minutes after seeing the hunters, I arrived at Dudley Lake (where I met a group of horse packers) and followed a drainage up to the saddle and then up the east ridge of Wilson Peak. I sidehilled on the south side of the ridge to avoid the rocks and then made my way up between the second blip and base of the summit and was confronted with some mandatory scrambling. I stashed my trekking poles somewhere around here (more on this later). From here I had a couple choices: I could scramble up the exposed section right before me with what Adam Helman considered a single 4th class move or follow the climbers trail around to what appeared to be more gentle scrambling. I chose the latter which proved to be a good choice. I scrambled up some solid rock (Class 3) feeling safe and secure the entire way up and abruptly made the summit after maybe 80 feet, maybe.

The summit is small and I did not find a register but the views were awesome. Wilson has an fairly impressive north face. There was a rock cairn lower than the summit which got my attention. I peeked down past the cairn and noticed a worn climbers path in the rock that led down towards the west ridge. I was able to walk down this path, only using my hands once for balance with no exposure. I followed the path all the way to the base of the summit then strolled around the base of the summit on a game/climbers trail back to where I started bypassing everything I scrambled up. If you can find this way going up I highly recommend it if you want to be lazy or avoid the scramble/minimal exposure. But you might not find this way, but the scramble was still easy. You will find this way going down if you look for the cairn on the summit.

On my decent I went to retrieve my trekking poles that I stashed before reaching the scrambling portion. But being rather dense, I failed to mark the location on my GPS. I feverishly searched for my poles for over an hour but was unable to find them. I tried to follow my GPS track but it was really off that day. I honestly believe that taking that easy route off the summit put me lower than where I stashed the sticks and I simply did not go back up high enough to find them. I had them for 5 years, they were the cheapest ones. I got my money's worth. If someone reading this finds them, consider them a gift.

Overall I spent 10 hours doing this hike. That is a long time which includes breaks, losing the trail, BSing with the horse group, taking dozens of pictures, hanging out on the summit, and searching for my lost poles. A casual peakbagger will likely take 7-8 hours while a beast will no doubt take less time.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4300 ft / 1310 m
    Round-Trip Distance:11 mi / 17.7 km
    Grade/Class:Class 3
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Stream Ford, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:4300 ft / 1310 m
    Distance:5.5 mi / 8.9 km
    Start Trailhead:6405 ft / 1952 m
Descent Statistics
    Distance:5.5 mi / 8.9 km



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