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Ascent of Edwards Mountain on 2008-08-02

Climber: Tony Brown

Others in Party:Richard Briles
Denise Grabowski
David Koel
Stephen Smith
Date:Saturday, August 2, 2008
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Edwards Mountain
    Location:USA-Montana
    Elevation:9072 ft / 2765 m

Ascent Trip Report

The GMS group met at the trailhead by Lake McDonald Lodge: me, Richard, Denise, David, and finally Stephen, our climb coordinator. Our goal was to conquer Gunsight and Edwards Mountains in one day. After a long trail hike (4½ hrs), taking care not to step in the many piles of Equus caballus scat, we stopped for lunch at Comeau Pass (the saddle between Edwards and Gunsight mountains). It didn’t take long for the brisk wind to cool us down, and we were soon scrambling to put on jackets and such.

While enjoying our break at the saddle, we took the opportunity to study the northeast ridge and east face of Edwards, and also to query Denise for details about the planned route up. After several minutes of studying the maze of features, and recognizing my inability to pick out route details that the others seemed to see, I resigned myself to being a follower and trusting that Denise would get us there and back. At any rate, I was glad that we were doing Edwards first, because the route up Gunsight seemed straightforward enough, and because a trip report that I got from Doug Mead before this climb raised concerns that route-finding could get quite tricky on Edwards.

Shortly after we got going again, on the lower part of the northeast ridge, we were faced with a sobering accident. Denise, with 12+ years of climbing experience, and the only one in the group who had previously climbed Edwards, missed a hand-hold and tumbled about 10-15 feet. David, Richard and I had already negotiated the notch and we were headed further up the ridge when I looked back and didn’t see the other two coming. I turned back to check on them and as I neared the notch I heard Stephen shout, “We’ve had a fall!” I peered over the edge to see Stephen approaching Denise who was sitting on a ledge with her hand on her head. My initial instinct was to rush down to help out, but instead, I turned to get Richard (an ER Doctor). They had heard and were on their way back, so I got out of the way and let Richard take care of things. He looked at the cut on the top of her head, and the goose-egg that was forming on her forehead. Denise was lucid, talkative, and humor was in tact. After about 30 minutes of recovery, and with the doctor’s clearance, she returned to Comeau pass assisted by Stephen while the rest of us continued our assault on Edwards.

The best way to describe the rest of the climb is that there are plenty options for route-finding, none of which are any good. At one point, while David and I were making our way across the face, I announced that I was at the edge of my comfort level, and that if it got worse I would probably turn back. At that point, several issues had combined to put me on the verge of abandoning this effort on Edwards. First, the sobering fact that a more experienced climber had fallen was fresh in my mind; second, we were rather unsure about our route and what kind of trouble might lay ahead; third, Richard had gone off to explore a different route and was no longer within shouting distance; and fourth, the climbing was getting more difficult in places with mild exposure. David was kind enough to listen to my concerns and let me know that he was not opposed to turning back right then, or at some future point if we ran into more difficult terrain. After a short break and a sip of Gatorade I decided to press on. After another ten or twenty minutes we rounded a bend and looked up to see Richard standing by the summit cairn. Ten more minutes of a leg-burning scramble put us up there enjoying the views too.

What a vantage point! We enjoyed great views of the many well-known peaks in the Logan pass area. Almost due north we could pick out the Iceberg Peak spire and talked about how we would have been standing there instead were it not for the trail closure. Grizzly Bear activity prompted the park to close the trail – not at all uncommon for that area – on July 24th. (Incidentally, but not known to us at the time, the trail had reopened Friday August 1st, and we could have pursued our original plan). To the south, we looked up to Mount Jackson through the gun-sight of Gunsight Mountain, to the west of that was the distinctive flat top of Mount Stimson, and further west, the obvious spire of Mount Saint Nicolas. Looking through Badrock Canyon we could see the Flathead valley, far to faint to identify any of the Kalispell landmarks.

After a snack and some summit shots with the camera, we yielded to Richards request to make our way back down to ‘his patient’. I was much more confident on the way back down. We had successfully found two routs up and I was optimistic that we would be able to follow one of them back down – and I was hoping that we would stick together. Unfortunately we got separated from Richard again on the way down. I think he has an aversion to taking a route that looses elevation when on the way up or that gains elevation when on the way down. Nevertheless, we all made it back to Comeau Pass without incident.

Back at the saddle, we discussed the possibility of climbing Gunsight but decided against it as it was already 5pm. After watching some climbers glissade and self-arrest on a large snowfield as they made their way down from Gunsight Mountain, we refilled our water bottles and made our descent, once again taking care to avoid the piles of horse crap that littered the trail.
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Exposed Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles



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