Ascent of Bear Den Butte on 2022-08-02

Climber: Gustav Sexauer

Others in Party:Janos Arnosky -- Trip Report or GPS Track
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Tuesday, August 2, 2022
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Bear Den Butte
    Elevation:5104 ft / 1555 m

Ascent Trip Report

I convinced Artski to drive out to Bear Den Butte after we spent the morning enjoying the developed part of Craters of the Moon National Monument. He was initially concerned about having only a quarter life left on his tires, and contending with lava rock gravel on the road, but then somehow got over his concerns. Despite reports of needing to drive on lava rock, we in fact did not have to, so it all worked out.

We went west from the visitor's center for 20-30 minutes, then took a left on Laidlaw Park Road. This is a good gravel road and soon brings you to a T intersection. We took a left here where you can find a variety of signage. I believe this was also called Laidlaw Park Road. The road ambles along and has some rocks strewn about on it, but only goes along, not over the lava flows. We then took a right on Dean Brown Road which was actually smoother than Laidlaw Park Road. Once we arrived at an intersection with a building nearby (you will notice it as there haven't been buildings since leaving the pavement), we took a left on an unnamed road. This road was a two track and had a few bushes that scraped our undercarraige at the start, but then the bushes mostly disappeared. The going was slower as there was loose or pointy rocks to avoid. We went around the end of the lava flow (marked as "Lava Point" on Maps.Me) then worked our way back north to the butte which we had started to see from a good distance away. Once we got close, we saw a two track leading up to the east summit, but the turn to that track wasn't obvious and we didn't see it going in either direction. Instead, we took a left at the nearby fork, then parked NE of the peak where another GPS track from Peakbagger started. There were also tire tracks only a day or two old that stopped here to do the same.

Hiking up, we followed the drainage which had the most open ground, but we also pushed our way through some thigh high grass. I hiked with poles as a defense against snakes. We then joined the two track just as it reached its steepest pitch and headed on to the summit that way. The rocks were loose on the pitch, so we had to watch our footing. As we reached the summit, we were blasted with wind from the other side. We then got to work determining if the east summit was indeed higher. It sure looked like it to us, but there was a fun looking spire on the west summit that we wanted to investigate. Janos and I went to look at it, with Artski staying back on the east summit for scale. We walked around the north rim of the crater which was a cool experience in itself. When we were getting close, we saw that the west summit was built up by a huge cairn made of lava rock, adding over 5' above the bedrock. We thought about taking down the misleading cairn, but saw that it had lichen growing on it, indicating that it had been long established there, so we left it. The wind was ripping hard, so we dropped down below the west summit and were instantly out of the wind. There were more lichen to admire, and also evidence of a fox living here. Maybe it should be Fox Den Butte?

On the way back, we went on the north rim again, then walked over the true summit and back down the two track to our bushwhack route to the car. Future hikers only need to hike the east summit to claim the top, but if you drove all the way out here, you might as well amble around a bit, and the crater rim is a fun walk.

We drove back out the way we came in, keeping a faster pace as we knew that there weren't any big surprises on the road surface. One final highlight was when a herd of pronghorn came running across the plains and ran across the road near us a full chat.

Janos had checked the elevations of the two sides of the crater with an app on his phone and got readings of 5070' on the west summit and 5100' on the east summit.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:454 ft / 138 m
    Total Elevation Loss:454 ft / 138 m
    Round-Trip Distance:1.5 mi / 2.5 km
    Grade/Class:Class 1
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Open Country
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Drizzle, Pleasant, Very Windy, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:234 ft / 71 m
    Distance:0.3 mi / 0.6 km
    Start Trailhead:4870 ft / 1484 m
    Time:12 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:454 ft / 138 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 234 ft / 71 m; Extra: 220 ft / 67m
    Gain on way out:220 ft / 67 m
    Distance:1.2 mi / 1.9 km
    End Trailhead:4870 ft / 1484 m
    Time:52 Minutes

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