Finally made an attempt on Carter Mountain on July 31, 2009 with J Pattyn of Riverton. This area of the Southeast Absaroka, while generally dry, remote, and barren, is classic spectacular Absaroka terrain and well worth exploring. It consists generally of vast grassy slopes topped by other-worldy breccia outcrops. The drainage bottoms are gorgeous with gravelly creekbeds banked by grassy slopes with lots of wildflowers. Pickett Creek in particular, as it flows out of the mountains, is one of the most beautiful narrow riparian strips I've ever seen, with small grassy meadows and cottonwoods, a wilderness into and of itself. If Pickett Creek was ever runnable, this would be such a gorgeous float.
From the Pitchfork Ranch, bear left onto the signed Pickett Creek Road. It skirts the ranch, then follows along the base of a bench for a mile or two before turning up along Pickett Creek on the dry cobbly bench above the cottonwood riparian area. Follow this road through several property gates, mud puddles, one small creek crossing, and past a couple spur roads for 9.5 miles to where it drops off the bench to the left and crosses Pickett Creek. Park your low-clearance 2wd vehicle here. High-clearance 4wd vehicles can continue another 1.85 miles to the end of the road at another crossing of Pickett Creek where the Forest Service has gated the road closed.
However, I would recommend parking your 4wd vehicle at the Pickett Creek forks about 1.4 miles from the first crossing rather than subjecting your vehicle to the .4 mile additional pounding where the road deteriorates considerably. From the forks, there are several options:
1: You can continue hiking the road as it ascends the right fork, with two stream crossings, and then contours back around the intervening ridge into the left fork.
2. It looks possible to hike directly up the left fork along the right side of the creek on animal trails that might be there.
3. When I go back, I probably will ascend directly up the nose of the intervening ridge. By doing this, you can avoid the V-shape of the left fork bottom, and either traverse into the left fork higher up on animal trails or continue up the ridge until you intersect Forest Road #209, which traverses easily into the left fork drainage.
In all three cases, you'll ultimately arrive in the creek bottom at a fine meadow, albeit with some cattle grazing damage. Hike up the gorgeous valley, crossing the small creek here and there to avoid steep banks. Just before the upper basin, cross to the left side and follow animal trails above a steep bank to gain the large cirque. Soon, cross back to the right side and ascend grassy slopes slightly to the right up to the final headwall below the summit.
All told, the hike/climb measures 5.5 miles on my TOPO program, so figure on about 6-7 miles of walking one way.
Also, there is an excellent trip report on Carter Mountain by Tim Schoessler on SummitPost:
Corrections and additions for Select Peaks of Greater Yellowstone.
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