During May 29-June 1, Scott McGee and I approached on foot and ski in Wiggins Fork and Burwell Creek, climbed Peak 12,635, and skied and hiked down Bonne Creek to the Greybull River, with the intention of floating out the Greybull River to our shuttled car at Jack Creek Trailhead. Unfortunately, the river was too low, and despite one three-mile stretch of scraping and bumping in our four-pound Alpacka rafts, we ended up hiking most of the 13 miles out the canyon.
On pages 276-277 of Select Peaks, I stated that Burwell Creek is the most direct and easiest approach to Peak 12,635. While it is the most direct, it is definitely not the easiest. Yet, it is still a good way to access some of Greater Yellowstone's most remote, rugged, and difficult-to-access country.
Here's a more detailed and first-hand description of the Burwell Creek approach. From Emerald Creek, turn up Burwell Creek, and hike directly up the creek bed or on either bank for over two miles past several tributary confluences. At the first major fork, there are impressive rock fins and a large pile of landslide debris. Take the right fork. At the next major fork, cliffs seem to block all options for further progress up the canyon. We ended up climbing 40 feet of 5.4 loose rock about 50 feet up the left fork to gain the narrow spine between the forks. However, along the spine above the cliffs, there were blazes and a possible horse trail.
Hence, we now believe that it might be possible to begin up the right fork (south fork of Burwell Creek), and then zag back to the intervening spine after a short distance, with much less difficulty than the cliff we climbed to reach the spine.
Once on the spine, follow a good trail as it veers gradually through forest into the main upper fork of Burwell Creek on the east flank. This trail eventually fades, but animal trails continue up the canyon remaining on the east flank. Eventually, after about two miles, the canyon floor opens up and no longer is rimmed by cliffs. It is then possible to drop into the canyon bottom, cross the creek, and follow trails on the northwest flank through sparse alpine forest. After another mile, cross the creek again to its southeast bank and follow a good trail across steep banks into the upper basin of Burwell Creek directly below Peak 12,635. Hike up a huge sloping meadow to the base of the headwall below the saddle on the right side of the peak. Two gullies lead up to the ridge. The left one looked more rugged, so we took the right one.
The climb along the southeast ridge was snow-covered and pleasant, although during summer one might expect steep and unpleasant scree trails.
Corrections and additions for Select Peaks of Greater Yellowstone.
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