Ascent of Granite Peak on 2016-08-02

Climber: Tye Scott

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Tuesday, August 2, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:4x4 Vehicle
Peak:Granite Peak
    Elevation:12799 ft / 3901 m

Ascent Trip Report

This was my 2nd attempt at summiting Granite Peak, and whereas last year I failed due to an unexpected snowstorm in August, this year I was worried I might fail due to a lack of time. Around the 4th of July I began looking for dates to get back out to Montana but quickly realized the majority of my summer was already spoken for...with the exception of one 3 day stretch. Yikes. At first I wrote it off and looked at what I could cancel or rearrange or anything I could do to add even one extra day in there. Ultimately though, now matter how I looked at it, if I wanted a chance to bag #49 that 3 day stretch was the only opportunity I was going to have this year.

Mentally I came up with my plan which turned out to be quite simple - make the 9-10 hour drive out to the trailhead and camp - hit the trailhead at daylight, summit, and be back by dark - begin the long drive home before going to work the next day. Yep, time was definitely not on my side. With only 3 days off to tackle the summit I knew it was going to be challenging, but whoever said this was gonna be easy, right?

The drive out was pretty uneventful. I met up with my friend Frank for a beer in Bozeman, sat idle in long lines of cars while people watched buffalo cross the road in Lamar Valley, and saddled up for another beer at the bar in the Miner's Saloon in Cooke City while I munched on a pizza. Eventually I cruised up to the Lady of the Lake Trailhead around 10pm where I camped in the back of my pickup.

I awoke at 6am where daylight was fast upon me, grabbed a quick bite, and hit the trail at a quarter after. Knowing the day was going to be long I kept a quick pace and avoided stopping to take in the scenery. At one hour I crossed over the Broadwater Creek and veered right to head up Sky Top Creek. At the 2 hour mark I stopped just below Lone Elk Lake to down some water and choke down a Clif Bar while chatting with 2 gentleman who had summited the day prior. By the time I hit my camp spot from the previous year I was just over 3 hours - I did take a moment here to chat with a couple older guys and snap a few photos of a mountain goat with Granite in the background. The 4th hour brought me to the bottom of the snow tongue where I was feeling a little puny and questioned my 1 day summit aspirations. I ate a couple pieces of leftover pizza, downed some electrolyte water, and started feeling better soon thereafter. I figured 30 minutes from the bottom of the snow tongue up to the start of the ramp, another 30 to get up to the gash, and maybe 15 to the summit from there.

Without wasting anymore time I set off and reached the ramp in 28 minutes. Good, right on pace. The ramp appeared shorter to me from the previous year although it may have just appeared less daunting without all the snow. The first chute was quite simple to pass (again without the snow) and the second chute revealed about a 25 meter length of snow which was more like an ice block. Having learned my lesson from the previous year about not being prepared for snow, this year I hoofed in alpine boots, crampons, and an ice axe despite the sunny and 70's weather prediction. As it turned out, I only needed the ice axe which I used for security while making my way up the side of the second chute. Upon reaching the top of the second chute I was as high as I'd ever been on Granite and it was the point at which reality set in in knowing that I was going to summit #49. I stayed to the right going up the top of the ramp until I hit the gash and then followed the ridge to the summit. It was along this ridge that I ran into Tony who coincidentally had just bagged #49 as well. Had a good chat with him and continued up to the top, summiting in just under 6 hours...Finally! For the next 30 minutes I soaked up the beauty offered from such a remote peak, refueled, and captured some great photos (proof) of the summit and surrounding mountains.

Initially I assumed the first half to be the hard part and had it in my mind that 'the hard part was over'. Granted, I wasn't naive about the remaining 14 miles but had underestimated how taxing they would become. From the bottom of the snow tongue to the summit took me about 90 minutes. It took 60 to get back down and it felt every bit as hard as going up. For one, I cut off into the ramp too early and came down more class 4 stuff than the class 3 I took to get up. Secondly, I traversed the rock to bypass the ice chute (I was being lazy and didn't want to remove my pack to get crampons/ice axe). Lastly, going down loose scree after all this way was the last thing my legs felt like doing. Eventually I worked my way down to where Tony was camped where I kicked my feet up and had a great 30 minute talk with him. He was also kind enough to pour me an extra liter of water for the trek out. I owe you a beer for that. In the back of my mind I knew there were still a lot of steps to be put forward so I said goodbye and pushed on.

The remainder of the hike back was mostly uneventful aside from passing by a few hikers who were looking to summit in the coming days. And then near the outlet of Lone Elk Lake I began noticing the toll the rocks had taken on my feet. My toes hurt from all the downhill bashing they had endured, the pads of my feet ached from all the miles of rocks they had crossed (I figure 8 miles of rock trail/boulder hopping), they were swollen from the long day, and all in all they felt battered but I had no choice but to keep going. From there it was just a slow slog back to the pickup, stopping twice to gulp down the last bit of water I had and choke down a chalky Perpetuem block. It was just after 7 o'clock that I strolled up to my pickup and wrapped up my one day summit of Granite Peak, almost 13 hours from when I had taken off earlier that day. While I can't say that I would want to do it over again the same way, I can say that I'm happy I had to earn this one.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4024 ft / 1226 m
    Route:Sky Top Creek
    Trailhead:Lady of the Lake  8775 ft / 2674 m
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Stream Ford, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Rock Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Ski Poles
    Weather:Pleasant, Windy, Clear
Blue Skies - Gusts of 30 mph
Ascent Statistics
    Time:5 Hours 58 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:6 Hours 57 Minutes

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