More detail on Crow and Pyramid

Corrections and additions for Select Peaks of Greater Yellowstone.

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More detail on Crow and Pyramid

Postby TomTuriano » Sat Aug 05, 2006 12:05 pm

On August 3 and 4, 2006, Tom Carter and I made a loop from Lambert Creek Trailhead and traversed the ridge between Crow Mountain and The Pyramid in the Western Beartooths. After years of speculating about how great these peaks are, I finally got a chance to see first hand. (See map at bottom of page.)

Several years ago, Joe Hartney, Jeff Burke, and I attempted a direct ascent of The Pyramid from near the mouth of Anderson Creek, but we were thwarted by heavy bushwhacking and were unable to intersect with Gallatin Forest Trail #221 (The Pyramid Mountain Trail).

This time, Tom Carter and I parked at Lambert Creek Trailhead at the very end of the road in Mill Creek. This trailhead is 21 miles from Highway 89 in Paradise Valley. The trail up Mill Creek starts off by crossing Lambert Creek, and then traversing up the canyon's right flank on an old logging road. Several trails take off up the mountainside from this old road, but ignore those and continue along it for about one mile to a small clearing with a large wooden post stuck upright in the ground (this is the third or fourth post you will encounter in that first mile). At this point, the Mill Creek trail forks left and drops a short distance to a Gallatin National Forest Snow Study Course, and then drops again to a crossing of Mill Creek.

Cross Mill Creek on logs or rocks, and then continue up the trail through a couple of switchbacks to a junction with Trail #221, which leads cross-country northward to upper Mill Creek east fork. This is the point at which we closed the loop during our trip.

Bearing right at this fork, we hiked through another crossing of Mill Creek for another couple of miles into the headwater basin of Mill Creek. The yellow line on Photo 1 shows the general line of the trail into the headwaters of Mill Creek.

Photo 1

On page 170 of Select Peaks, I mentioned that the south ridge of Crow Mountain could be gained with some Class 3 climbing on a loose breccia headwall. The green lines on Photos 1 and 3, and the red lines on Photo 2, show that route. While this route is the most direct, it is not easy. Just reaching the cliffband requires a long grass and scree slope (see Photo 2). The cliffband itself has a lot of scree at its base and the climbing is Class 3 loose rock. Photo 2 is a close-up of the southwest side of Crow showing two possible routes for reaching the south ridge from upper Mill Creek.

Photo 2

On page 170, I also mentioned that once you gain the south ridge, you should traverse under steep rock on the southeast face to the easier east ridge. This actually would require a considerable and perhaps unpleasant descent into the basin at the head of the south branch of Bridge Creek (yellow line in Photo 3).

Therefore, I would suggest that if you decide to take the direct route to the south ridge, that you actually continue up the south ridge to the summit (green line in Photos 1 and 3). In the book, I rated this ascent Grade II, Class 3. Now having been on this mountain, I must increase the Grade to III.

All that said, Jim Earl mentioned the possibility of following the red line (in Photo 1) to the saddle at the head of Mill Creek, and then traversing across the southwest face of Point 10,485 (peak left of Crow in Photo 3) on a goat trail to reach the gentle basin at the head of Bridge Creek. From there, it would be easy to cross the basin and make the gentle ascent of Crow's east ridge (red line in Photo 3).

Photo 3: Photo courtesy of Jim Earl

Now, do you think Tom Carter and I attempted either of those route options? Of course not. Once we reached the upper basin of Mill Creek, and I could see how easy it would be to reach the saddle on the northwest side of Crow (between Crow and Peak 10,583), I got it in my head that I wanted to try to climb the northwest ridge shown in Photo 4.

Photo 4

An easy slope topped by a short area of easy breccia cliffs brought us to the saddle. Tower 1 was easily passed on the right (south), but Tower 2 would have been 5th class to bypass on either side. There was a narrow sloping ledge that traversed around the south side, but it appeared too risky for us, travelling light and ropeless.

Now, perched on the northwest saddle of Crow, still with no summit, we decided to descend to Bridge Lake, drop our packs, and hike to the summit from there. This descent required some downclimbing through short cliffs, but mostly was easy.

Photo 5: our descent from Peak 10,583 to Bridge Lake

Once at the lake, we dumped our packs and followed the red line in Photo 6 to the summit of Crow, just dodging a big thunderstorm. We pitched camp that night at the red dot in Photo 6.

Photo 6

Next morning, our first challenge was a 1,200-foot ascent of Peak 10,717 (Photo 7), which put us back on track along the range crest toward The Pyramid.

Photo 7: Peak 10,717 and our route up from Bridge Lake

After 10,717, thunder clouds started to build. We knew we had to move if we were going to be able to climb The Pyramid. We skirted the southwest face of 10,211, and contoured to the pair of gem lakes at the head of Meatrack Creek. In going to the lakes, we also bypassed The Pyramid's southernmost summit--Point 10,204.

There at the lakes, we spooked 15 goats and a dozen elk from their slumber as we climbed a narrow chute on the south side of Point 10,240+, The Pyramid's second summit from the south. Descending the north ridge of this summit proved to be the technical crux of the ascent, with numerous exposed passages and one Class 3 downclimb.

Photo 8: Four summits of The Pyramid and our route from the crest onto the mountain.

Photo 9: Crux downclimb off north ridge of Point 10,240+

Point 10,502 proved to be no obstacle, but the final summit ridge of The Pyramid had a few exposed spots and short steep steps. I took note of the northwest ridge and it appeared more difficult than Class 1 as listed on page 169 of Select Peaks. There are some steep scree and short cliffs near the summit making it a Class 2.

Photo 10: Summit block of The Pyramid. We followed left ridge.

At the summit, we signed the original register placed during the first winter ascent of the mountain by David Wessel and Joe Gutkoski on February 16, 1975. On page 168 of Select Peaks, it says that pair climbed the mountain in February 1976. This is an error.

Given that there were few blank pages left in the summit register, and that the inscribed pages were deteriorating, I decided to take the register down with me. I plan to type up the registry entries, laminate them, and then have someone return the restored register to the summit. If you are planning to make the climb, please let me know, and I will mail you the laminated sheets so you can take them up. Thanks!!

Oh yeah....can't forget the descent. We summitted The Pyramid at around 3:30pm, and then retraced our route down the south ridge and over points 10,502 and 10,240+. Again, we bypassed Point 10,204, but this time across its northwest face to gain its southwest ridge. Once on the ridge, we moved west along the crest over several summits to Point 9,892. The last quarter mile of ridge to the top of Point 9,892 was tedious scrambling over and around numerous friable rock towers mostly on the south side of the ridge.

Photo 11: Our route down the southwest ramp of Point 9,892 taken from Point 8,822

Once on top of Point 9,892, we followed a superb forested ramp southwest off the summit for about 1,000 vertical feet to the saddle with Point 8,822. We then climbed over Point 8,822 and hiked its southwest ridge down to Trail #221, which we followed back to Mill Creek at the trail junction about 1.5 miles from Lambert Creek Trailhead.

Photo 12: Map of our loop from Lambert Creek Trailhead

Thomas Turiano

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Crow Mountain south ridge

Postby TomTuriano » Sun Oct 08, 2006 10:19 am

On October 2, 2006, my friends Forrest and Amy McCarthy climbed Crow Mountain via its south ridge. They provided an excellent description of that side of the mountain:

The ridge is most easily gained by following the left-hand option in Photo 2 above. There is an easy couloir that leads to a defined notch in the ridge. The right-hand option is steeper and less-defined.

Once on the ridge, there is fun scrambling on the ridge top for a ways. At a certain point, the ridge steepens and climbers are forced to traverse to the right across the east face for a couple hundred feet. The first reasonable option to continue upward is a 10-foot high Class 3 chimney. The chimney is not exposed. It leads to a 15-foot Class 3 slab and easier terrain above. It is then possible to traverse back left to the south ridge.

The green line in Photo 3 above more or less delineates the route.

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