Ascent of Rocky Mountain on 2017-07-29

Climber: Eric Higginbotham

Others in Party:Dustin Dickerson
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Saturday, July 29, 2017
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:4x4 Vehicle
Peak:Rocky Mountain
    Elevation:9392 ft / 2862 m

Ascent Trip Report

I followed Cedron Jones' driving directions from his book 'Peakbagging Montana' to get to the trailhead. Many thanks to Cedron for his directions and descriptions of the routes to the summit of Rocky Mountain. We arrived at the trailhead just before dark on Friday night and studied the sign at the trailhead stating "No Camping". Then we discussed if rolling out sleeping bags in the bed of a pickup met the definition of camping. At pre-dawn the next morning we were walking down a beautiful trail to Headquarters Creek Pass. The trail was lined with bear grass stalks that would bloom in a few weeks making the trail even more picturesque. The dog ruffed up at one point but we didn't see any bear tracks in the mud at the creek crossings and I suspected it was an elk. The dog doesn't like elk for some reason. We stopped for a break between the two waterfalls as you start the switchbacks up to the top of the pass. The trail is built for stock travel and is like a freeway for an old bushwhacker. We discussed which route to take up to the summit. The route up the drainage to our south that leads to the bowl under the east ridge looks as if most of the snow has melted and is full of brush and water. The trail is so nice we decide to stay on the trail, wrap around the peak, and approach from the west flank. We follow the trail up spotting a marmot and several ground squirrels. The trail is coated with Mountain Goat and Bighorn Sheep tracks as we switchback past the second waterfall. We lose a little elevation after reaching Headquarters Creek Pass following the trail southwest. Just before the trail switchbacks we turned off the trail heading southeast to the saddle between Rocky Mountain and the peak a third of a mile to the west/southwest of Rocky Mountain. At this point we spotted fourteen mountain goats across the hillside. We also stumbled across three Bighorn rams sleeping on the hillside about twenty yards away. Not every day you get a picture of yourself with both sheep and goats in the background. At the saddle we looked at the couloir that leads straight to the peak and decided it might have some slippery/loose footing so we took a route slightly to the east of the couloir. I am a hiker, not a climber and this last bit to the top was more of a climb than a hike. I would say minimal class 3 with a couple places of exposure. I used my hands quite a bit for balance but not for climbing. There was some exposure since a couple of time we commented that if we fell it would be for about ten feet. All that said, we didn't feel overwhelmed by the climb and found it fun and exciting. We spent almost an hour on the summit looking at the smoke from the fires near Red Mountain to the south and looking out over the Bob Marshall Wilderness. I found it interesting that with binoculars you could see the trailhead to the east. We then decided to descend by the east ridge then down the drainage to the trail between the two waterfalls. The ridge down was very straight forward and we even spotted two rock ptarmigan. Yes, I know Wikipedia states ptarmigan don't reside in Montana, but I have seen hundreds of ptarmigan and these were ptarmigan. When we left the ridge the route became very loose with slippery dirt and small rock. We did take advantage of a snowslide down the middle of the drainage for a few hundred yards. Then I discovered that the dog had tore up all of her pads on her feet on the sharps rocks. The creek bottom had lots of water and brush like we had guessed on the way in. The rest of the trip out became a bit of a soggy sandwich with trying to take care of the dogs feet and contend with the poor footing. The takeaway is: the drainage to the northeast then taking the east ridge to the summit is a fine route, but only in spring or early summer when you still have snow in the bottom of the drainage. After the snow melts, take the route up the west flank and return that way. Or check out Ken Jones' descent, this also looked like a great option and would avoid alot of the water and brush. We made it back to the truck more or less in one piece, cleaned and bandaged the dogs feet and headed home. A great hike into beautiful country. The dog healed up in a week and was ready to go on more hikes.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3981 ft / 1213 m
    Total Elevation Loss:3981 ft / 1212 m
    Round-Trip Distance:7.5 mi / 12 km
    Grade/Class:2 spots Class 3
    Quality:9 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Open Country, Stream Ford, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Gear Used:
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Partly Cloudy
Breeze helped with the heat later in day. Some dark clouds after noon.
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3793 ft / 1156 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 3594 ft / 1095 m; Extra: 199 ft / 60m
    Loss on way in:199 ft / 60 m
    Distance:4.2 mi / 6.7 km
    Route:HQ Ck Pass then West Flank
    Start Trailhead:Headquarters Creek Pass Trailhead  5798 ft / 1767 m
    Time:3 Hours 43 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:3782 ft / 1152 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 3594 ft / 1095 m; Extra: 188 ft / 57m
    Gain on way out:188 ft / 57 m
    Distance:3.3 mi / 5.3 km
    Route:East Ridge, drainage to trail
    End Trailhead:Headquarters Creek Pass Trailhead  5798 ft / 1767 m
    Time:3 Hours 6 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Eric Higginbotham
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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